One's first day in a new city or country is always rather tricky. First there is the physical grime of travel to wash away, the tiredness to banish and one's packing - once so familiar, now seemingly incredibly alien - to explore, but then there is the small matter of a different language and culture to get used to. In some ways Japan feels to be in a league of its own in this regard, and so far we have barely dipped our little toes in.
Yesterday was all about getting here - the eleven. Hour flight to Seoul and the hour long connection to Fukuoka, the latter spent predominantly completing the lengthy immigration and customs declarations to enter Japan. The journey itself wasn't bad as long-haul flying goes. Asiana hadn't been the easiest of airlines to deal with electronically, but once on board the seats were relatively comfortable, the crew unfailingly friendly, and the food remarkably good for aviation fare. Wehad expected formalities on arrival to take a while, but save for a little disagreement over how best to represent the seven hotels we will be staying at in a single box on the form, we were allowed in without too much trouble. Goodness knows if they will be able to make sense of Mark's cribblings, or indeed whether they would have been just as happy with something a little less comprehensive, so long as pen had been commited to paper in roughly the right places.
And now it is morning on our first day. The free hotel rahmen last night had been a nice welcome, saving us from exploring the city in our rather fatigued state, and the cans of lager from the very Japanese vending machine were truly welcome. The main objectives for the hours ahead are simply (I use the term cautiously) to become acquainted with Japan, to pick up our oh-so-precious JR rail passes, to book seats on around ten different trains, and to find lunch in what is regarded by some as the culinary capital of Kyushu. I can't wait to get going.