Time to go home. I’m packed and pre-boarded for the 4:00 p.m. flight out of Osaka.
My first train is the subway to meet the 9:10 bullet train to Shin-Osaka. It arrives at 12:05 and I have a forty-five minutes to until I board the JR train for the one-hour trip to Kansai Airport in Osaka. This leaves me time to shop. I pick up some sweets and other things that fit in my daypack.
I feel sad about leaving, but I admit I’m tired. It’s time to go home. I’ve seen so much and yet there’s so much more to experience. Nevertheless, I think I have a better understanding of Japan.
One thing I will be glad for: the chance to be still, and not be in constant motion.
I arrive at the airport at 1:35. Checked my backpack, so I have now is my day pack and my camera bag. Perfect! Passport, boarding pass, empty pockets, et cetera and so on.
“Excuse me, miss, is this your bag?” a young security guard says in halting English.
“Please come with me.” He motions me to a table away from the queue.
Oh, they must have found my walking stick or my tripod. No problem. I got this.
The young security guard gingerly pulls out my Leatherman tool. The one with the knife. That I had carefully stowed in my shoe in checked luggage on my way here, and utterly neglected to repack with the same damn care.
I attempt to explain. His limited English fails him and he pulls a more senior guard over, one who presumably speaks better English. This fellow also has more authority, as he sports a security hat, pressed shirt, and white gloves. I’m not making light of the situation, as I’m fully aware that this man has, in this white-gloved hand, not just my tool but the power to make my life hell—or at least make me miss my plane, which is the same thing right now.
“Why do you need this?”
“Just in case I needed to fix something.” I explain that I didn’t pack my bags properly coming home and that this is my mistake.
He looks baffled. “How long have you been in Japan?”
“What did you do?”
“Travelled around as a tourist.”
“Where do you live?”
“Who do you work for?”
Oh here we go. “Myself. I’m self-employed.” Yep, there’s the look. Gonna be here a while.
“What do you do?”
“I edit books.” That look again. “I fix them. Make them better. No errors.” Stop now, Carol.
“You don’t work for a company.”
My tablet! I have access to email! “Here! I can show you letters, invoices, jobs I have waiting for me.” Don’t fail me now, Wifi!
He looks at the screen, satisfied I am who I say I am; that I’m not a respectable office lady; that I’m some weird, camera-wearing, sloppily dressed Canadian woman who carries a Leatherman because she doesn’t have a husband, poor thing.
“Can I take that on carry on now?” I gesture to my tool.
“What can we do about this, then? Because I have to be on that flight. If my knife is stopping me from getting on a plane, you can have the knife.” I’d rather not because my parents gave it too me and it wasn’t cheap and it’s a great tool. Sigh. Poker face, Carol.
He considers. He looks at me. I don’t budge.
“Okay,” he says, “Go to check in and put in your checked luggage. Go through this door.” He hands me a pass. “This will get you back in.”
“Domo arigato! Thank you so much” I bow a lot, all smiles.
I make my way to baggage check where I’m greeted by a poised, polished clerk.
“Konichiwa! I wonder if you can help me. I need to check this in my backpack. Is that possible?”
“Have you checked you bag?”
“Oh, few minutes ago.”
“Do you see it?”
“I’m sorry, but I cannot retrieve it. For security reasons.”
I explain my problem, emphasizing that this is totally my mistake.
“You’ll need another bag.”
“I have to buy another bag? Here?!” My heart leaps at the price of bags at an airport.
She considers this. “One moment.”
I anticipate another international negotiation with well-pressed, white-gloved official.
She hold up a pink shopping bag. “Put it in here.”
YES! I could do a dance right now! “So you’ll tag it and tape it and it will get to Vancouver?”
“I hope so. Then you put it in your checked luggage in Canada.”
And so it is done.
I return to the boarding lounge satisfied that I negotiated my knife back from Japan airport security, but worried that I may never see it again.
Two hours and a bowl of rice later, I’m aboard the Air Canada flight to Vancouver. Middle row with one other person. This is bearable.
Roughly ten hours later, we arrive in Vancouver. Retrieving my pack is a breeze. And as I stand at the conveyor belt, I catch sight of a little grey plastic box with my humble, taped-up paper shopping bag. My Leatherman!
As I navigate my way around the airport, I’m struck by how rude the staff are compared to Japan. At one point I try to shove the tool in my pack when a male clerk barked at me to get in line. In fact, there is no line; I’m the only passenger there. Even the customs officer/pseudo cop is abrupt, snapping passports out of peoples’ hands. It isn’t busy at all. I shake my head and find a Tim Hortons to prepare for an eight-hour layover.
Books, coffee, and the inevitable nap make things . . . better. Landing in Toronto, I’m a little sad and grumpy. Typical after a trip. I have warned my friends that I’ll be all, “In Japan they do this” and “In Japan, I saw that.” It seems I’ve already started.
Rereading my notes now, over a year later, reliving this remarkable trip, I remember how my mind was ablaze with planning another. Of course, reality settled in: bills had to be paid, work had to be drummed up, money had to be saved. But I had a blog to update and (more than 2,000) photos to edit. So plans? Yeah, I still had them, but they’d be closer to home. And they continue to change my life.