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Trip to Tokyo - Prelude

It was early December and neither winter nor the upcoming holidays had yet hit us in Stockholm. So, Tim and I decided to go for a five day trip to Tokyo to see what it was all about, and visit Sofia who was staying there for a while.

We decided to fly with Swiss Air as the cheaper flights with Airoflot and Air China had excruciatingly long transfer times in Moscow or Beijing. Particularily the Moscow airport didn't seem like a fun place to spend 12+ hours in without being able to leave the transfer zone.

With Swiss however, all we had to survive was a 45 minute transfer in Zürich. Too bad we didn't count on the first flight being a bit late, ending with us rushing through the entire terminal dead certain we'd miss the important departure for Tokyo. What a great start.

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As the departing flight to Tokyo was technically in the same terminal we didn't think much of this dilemma at first and started our walk through the 60 or so gates in area A towards the so called area E that we had to get to. After five minutes of walking we realise there's another 60 or so gates in area E and, well, how the hell do they fit all that in the same building? Getting to some kind of dead end-looking area I spot a large countdown timer, just hitting under 2 minutes and I still didn't quite get it.

Rushing down a long excalater however - we finally got it. It was the countdown for the intra-terminal transfer train of great noises from the Alps, headed for area E.

Recalling a few minutes earlier, we spotted the other part of the terminal outside a window, several kilometers away. At that time we thought it was another, unrelated terminal. Yeah, right.

Here's a video of the train ride and some of the sounds you get to listen to while trying to catch your flight in Zürich.

Arriving with the train in the mysterious area E we had to patiently queue for yet another security control which took all the ten minutes or so we had before our flight would leave us behind.

Mind you, with us we had a gentleman visiting his daughter in Tokyo, who told us of her tales trying to transfer like this in Zürich and being just a few minutes late completely missing the flight to Tokyo, having to live through hell to get there by other means. We didn't really have time nor the wish to do that ourselves but security is security these days at the airports so we had to calmly get ourselves through it.

At last, getting through the security control unscathed, we started rushing past the gates. The numbering started at 1 and our gate was number 67. The area had a grand total of 67 gates. In other words, we had to get to the very end of the rather long building which we managed to just in time and got waved through by the gate personnel. Thinking back, we arrived at gate 60-something in the A area and had to pass all the gates down to 1 before getting to the train station. Somehow we still believe we got set up.

Inside the Airbus A340-300 the insane heat and humidity struck hard and only by repeating "it will get better once in the air" did we get to our seats alive without collapsing. We found our place in the last row on one side with noone behind or beside us except some cute japanese girls across the aisle. The 12 hour flight ended up being rather relaxing. The entertainment system worked and the economy seats were quite ok to doze off in - much better than Air France, comparable to American Airlines but of course nowhere near KLM standard.

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Flying against the sun we got ourselves a 16 hour day that day - leaving Sweden early in the morning arriving 16 hours later the same time next day in Tokyo. It was pouring down and after taking some time getting downtown we had to spend most of the day on foot until three PM when we could check into Hotel Villa Fontaine Hakozaki and collapse. Luckily this was the only day it rained and the rest of our stay featured a clear blue sky and a nice warm sun.


Around two oclock in the night Sofia called us asking us where we were. It was time to get to Shibuja and Club Atom to kick-start our stay and celebrate our safe arrival.

by Oskar Duveborn - 28 revisions
Published 1/8/2010, updated 4/28/2011