Getting Here

A statue at a local shrine where people can pray for children who were miscarried or stillborn.

Flying nonstop from Chicago to Tokyo takes 13 hours, plus the hour and a half drive from Milwaukee to Chicago, plus the 3 and a half hour bus ride from Narita (where you actually fly into when you fly into Tokyo) to Ota-shi means that you have committed to 18 hours of travel, nonstop.

Get ready for some neck cramps. 
I’d highly recommend flying on an airline that is not United. Of my 7 international flights, this was by far the worst (though not the longest). First, know that a 17 inch seat with a 31 inch pitch on an aircraft that is filled to the brim with people is going to be heinously uncomfortable. Each time I flew to/from Europe, I flew on Lufthansa, which had larger seats and individual screens so that you could watch the movie and/or flight progress on the back of the seat in front of you. Much nicer. Additionally, the United check-in kiosks did not recognize my flight confirmation number. Talk about a $1400 heart attack. When I spoke to a United clerk about it, she was flippant and rude, which is irritating when you’ve spent that much money, and the mistake is not your fault. Lastly, United is cool, because when you book online you get to reserve a specific seat. I chose a window seat, so I could see Tokyo and also take a nap and drool all over the window and not the person next to me…United ignored the seat which I reserved, and stuck me in the middle of a row. 
All in all though, the pilot didn’t crash the plane. Not even once. So bravo there, United. 
The Japanese in the airport and at the bus stop were very helpful and friendly, if mostly lacking in the English department. The porters looked at the bus ticket which I had purchased, and indicated that the first two buses I was eager to get on were not, in fact, my bus. So thanks to them. Likewise, the poor young Japanese man who I attacked with English on the bus managed to help me figure out which stop was mine when I showed him my destination address. 
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