Once again I find myself sitting in Tokyo's Narita Airport, something I've been doing for 31 years! I seem to have plenty of memories and stories that are centered in this place.
My first transit through here was in 1979, as I was returning home from a summer internship in Hong Kong. I had stopped in Seoul for a week to visit college friends. We all flew back to Minnesota together, via Narita, Honolulu, and Los Angeles. My main memory of that trip was a marathon UNO game.
Even though I have floown through this airport anywhere from two to five times per year since then, only once did I actually exit the airport to see Japan. In 1984 I visited a friend teaching English here. We bought JapanRail passes and travelled all over the country for two weeks.
My most Narita memory was in January of 2001. I was flying from Minneapolis to Bangkok after having spent two terrible weeks at home following my father's suddent death. A snowstorm had delayed our departure out of Minneapolis, so we all missed our onward connections in Narita. Fortunately, Northwest Airlines put us up. As I was sitting in the gate area the next day, waiting to board my flight to Bangkok, I suddenly heard someone call out my name. It was so surprising, because I was feeling so very alone. I turned to see the pilot of the plane that had just pulled up walking towards me–he was a friend of my sister and had been at my father's funeral the week before. He came over and gave me a much-needed hug. I will always thank God for that angel in a captain's uniform.
And a year ago (in December) I had the fun (??) of being pushed through Narita in a wheelchair. I was heading back to Minnesota for Christmas just 4 weeks after my knee surgery (which was one year ago this week).
I don't mean this in a negative way, but Narita kind of reminds me of pergatory–it is full of people who are coming from one place, on their way to somewhere else.
It looks like my plane is being pulled up to the terminal. Onward to Culvers!!!