Hi Japan Travel Blog | Chapter 1

r.j. kushner
4 min readMar 9, 2024


I’d never been on an airline that also makes you weigh your carryon luggage before boarding. For our flight to Taipei, we were informed at checkin that our carryon bags had to be 7 kilograms for “safety reasons.” As luck would have it, our bags were 9 and 10 kilograms and dangerous. We pulled to the side and tossed some of my underwear around for a bit and that seemed to do the trick; when we got back to the counter our bags were deemed safe. I don’t even know what a kilogram is.

We then walked toward TSA and passed three frat guys huddled around a garbage bin and pulling an insane amount of Diet Dr. Pepper cans out of their bags and disposing of them. One poor fool was trying to chug them. Another said, “I brought so many, this sucks.”

An older gentleman was seated next to me in the aisle seat on the plane and decided the armrest was his. I felt fine with this; he’d earned it. He tried to watch Oppenheimer but kept falling asleep and it ended up taking him around 10 hours to finish.

There was some normal turbulence in the middle of the flight. It’s crazy how you can go from eating a roll and dozing to suddenly going over what you’ll say to your loved one on the way down to your watery graves. I decided if we did go down I’d let the guy next to me know how Oppenheimer ends.

It seemed like it was dark outside for the entire 20 hour flight. I witnessed several passengers running in place in the bathroom line. While waiting for the bathroom myself, I watched an older woman put her foot up on the counter where the flight attendants prepare drinks. She stretched like that until a crew member came and closed the curtain.

I tried to wear a neck pillow because Nhi said every time I fell asleep my head would “bob around.”

I spent the two-hour layover in Taipei resisting eating delicious-looking custard treats to protect my “sensitive tummy.” Somehow managed to hold strong.

We lined up for the plane (Zone 3) and as we approached realized it was actually a bus. It drove us to the tarmac, where we schlepped our carryon luggage (7 kilos) up the stairs into the plane. It was nice to experience Taipei outside. It was chilly and not a shred of the sky was visible behind thick gray clouds. I tried to take a picture of the plane on my way in but struggled to get my phone out of my pocket and the photo turned out unimpressive. It was another Boeing 777, which I’m told is the good one.

Nhi crocheted a chubby dragon doll during the flight and kept tapping me on the shoulder, holding up the chubby dragon and saying, “This is such a chubby dragon.”

We arrived in blue Tokyo skies and took an escalator that passed two massive Mario Nintendo murals — familiar gods.

At customs, we were escorted to pink machines and instructed to place our pointer fingers into little scanners, take off our glasses and look into a camera. I wanted to take a picture of the pink machine, which was about the size and shape of a photocopier, but there were big signs that said “No photos.” I enjoy pointing out the irony of such things after the fact, but I am no rebel. We brought beef jerky to snack on in the plane and I sweated profusely when I began seeing PSAs about the importance of not bringing animal products into Japan (all the pigs are dying from a disease — at least I think that’s what’s going on. There were a lot of big red Xs in the commercials and a cartoon pig with a tear on its cheek showed up). I considered stuffing the last five jerky sticks into my mouth before deplaning but Nhi convinced me she could just throw them away in the bathroom.

We took a train to Tokyo Station. The train was gorgeous, as were the fields and trees we zoomed by. I put on my new sunglasses and dusted off the ol’ “pretend-my-glasses-case-is-a-phone” bit. Still works.

Walked to the hotel and checked in, fumbling with the light switches for a while before realizing we had to put our room key in a little slot to activate the lights.

Later, we had incredible sushi at a sushi bar called “Standing Sushi Bar.” I was too nervous to use the Japanese I learned for the trip, so when I bowed to the master chef at the end, I, unfortunately, said, “Thanks a bunch.”



r.j. kushner

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