I was fortunate enough to visit Japan this cherry blossom season (late March/early April) and I’m hoping to share some tips and impressions of the of places I’ve seen. However, before I get into that, I would like to talk about the most lasting experience of the my trip; Japanese hospitality.
It may sound as a generalisation, but our experience has been that more often than not, Japanese people will go the extra mile to help you and make your day just a little bit (or significantly) better. Funnily enough, the two moments when this materialised most prominently were at the very beginning and the very end of our trip.
We had to transfer twice on both the journey to and from Tokyo – once at Amsterdam airport and once in Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu. Eager as can be, we booked our flights approximately half a year in advance and somehow, by a twisted leap of fate, we managed to pick the day when all of Holland had a power cut for our outgoing flight. This resulted into us sitting on a plane which may or may not depart for a couple hours, as Schiphol was not accepting flights. Luckily both the cabin crew and most passengers took it with good humour and eventually, just when we were about to be offboarded from the plane, we were allowed to take off.
Naturally most flights to and from Amsterdam were affected by the power cut and our connecting flight left with a quite a bit of a delay, which on one hand meant we managed to make the flight, but on the other hand gave us very little time for transfer in Fukuoka. Add to this the fact we had to transfer between the international and domestic terminals, jetlag and general confusion… long story short, we arrived at the check-in desk at the domestic airport in Fukuoka approximately 20 minutes before our flight to Tokyo was due to leave.
To make matters even more exciting, it turned out our flight had been overbooked. Queue our saviour, a dedicated lady who works for Japan Airlines. She barely spoke English, but she told us to stand aside for a moment, and 15 minutes later she somehow produced two boarding passes for us. You might be thinking that so far, this is quite lucky but not quite of the ordinary, the lady was just doing her job. Well for those of you counting, keep in mind that this was 5 minutes before our plane’s departure – not boarding, but departure.
The lady proceeded to accompany us on a mad dash to catch the plane, she got us through security at light speed and ran all the way to the gate with us (all the while wearing high heels). She wished us a pleasant journey as the gate closed behind us and a few minutes later our plane departed, somehow with us on it.
I am a frequent flyer and have experienced various airport struggles, from overbooked and rescheduled flights to missed connections and lost luggage, but never have I seen any airline employee do everything in their power to make sure they get their passengers where they need to go. We experienced many more cases of people going above and beyond on our trip (our journey back for one is a story I’ll also need to share with you), but Japan has certainly welcomed us warmly from the get go.