There are no direct flights to Narita International Aiport, Tokyo or to any other major international airport like Kansai in Osaka or Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture. To fly to Japan, the best airlines to use are those with the home country in the Middle East, where they make a stopover (for five hours or so) before flying to Japan. You can also fly to Europe, then start the journey East, if you pick a European airline. I will be flying Emirates.
The other airlines popular for flights to Japan from Kenya are Qatar airways with a stopover in Doha, and Etihad which I think also stops over at Dubai. It takes 5 hours to Dubai, and then 9 hours from Dubai to Kansai Aiport in Japan. If you fly KLM for example, you will have a stopover in Amsterdam, then fly for like 19 hours to Japan. Turkish Airlines will take you to Instanbul, before taking a journey just as long as if you flew KLM. So Etihad/Emirates are your most efficient flights. Return tickets from Nairobi cost anywhere between 100-150 thousand shillings.
On Tuesday afternoon, my luggage checked in and my backpack containing my most precious documents and some money (in American dollars), I shall board an Emirates flight heading to Dubai. It will take about 5 hours to Dubai. ETA 9:30pm Kenyan time, which will be 10:30PM in Dubai. The stopover is just 5 hours, meaning we will not leave the airport. I will alight with my fellow scholars, there are 3 of us sharing the same itinerary. I will get out dazed, ready to search for wifi signal, to check up on my family via whatsapp. My son will probably have gone to bed, these days his bedtime is at 9PM.
After confirming our next flight and the boarding gate, I will probably persuade my colleagues that we ought to try out Starbucks at the airport. Coffee & croissants. Paid for in strange green bills. Most bureaus in Kenya are just like banks, only dealing with major currencies: the American dollar, British Pound or Euro. So you find yourself changing your shillings to dollars, then changing the dollars to the Japanese Yen on arrival.
And so we will while our time at the Dubai airport, sipping coffee, walking around and waiting for the next flight. I hope I will find some sleep in the long flight to Japan. Arrival time at Kansai Airport will be 5:30PM local time, which will be 11:30AM back here.
From Kansai I need to make my way to Kanazawa City, some 4 hours away by train or 5 hours by bus. Sure, there was a chartered bus for the foreigners by the university, but it leaves the airport at 11:30AM, some six hours before I land. I will need to take a Japan Railway (JR) train, transferring at Shin-Osaka. I have all these detailed directions printed out in both English and Japanese, so I am not anxious about getting on the wrong train.
On arrival at Kanazawa Station, I will probably hail a taxi to the hotel where I will spend the night before checking into the university hostel the following day. I have already booked the hotel online. I have printed out the address in both English & Japanese. Hailing a taxi is easy, taxi in Japanese is “takushi”. I hope not to oversleep.
The following day (Thursday) 9am I will report at the Kanazawa International House (Morinosato), to get my assigned room. From there, I will attend the international students opening ceremony. We are to wear appropriate clothing, but I am not sure what that is. In case they mean national dress for each student’s country, I am armed with a couple of kitenge dresses. In the afternoon, I am to register as a foreign resident and get a resident card with which I will use to open a bank account (for the monthly scholarship stipend 😀 ), and also obtain my student ID. I have already sent the picture they will use. When they asked for a picture, I sent one of my better looking ones, the only one I have makeup on 😉
Just when you think I can now relax, I have my first class on Friday at 9:30AM, Introduction to Japanese. And on Friday evening, I will attend the orientation for International Students. I will probably spend all of Saturday sleeping! And thus my Adventures from the Land of the Rising Sun will begin.