Leaving Japan (via the Skyclub!)

I did a great many things during my five weeks in Japan.  There are a few last things that I wanted to do, but I couldn’t schedule everything.

I wanted to go to the Ueno Park and Zoo. I was close to it many times, since the Ueno station was a major pivot point for my metro travels during the city.  I also had dinner once at the Hard Rock there.  I usually try not to eat food when I travel that I could easily get back home, but sometimes you have to make an exception for the local Hard Rock.

I wanted to stay one night in a capsule hotel.  Capsule hotels are all over Japan, and they’re most commonly found close to train stations.  When the trains stop running, someone who has been out to Nomikai and Sanjikai might want to stay out a bit longer.  If you’ve missed the last train back home, a capsule hotel is an inexpensive way to get some sleep before the morning trains start up.  Each capsule is a tiny space, and the hotel will have shared bathroom and shower facilities outside of the “room.”  If you’ve ever seen the movie The Fifth Element, then you have an idea of what these are like- little horizontal places to sleep without many frills.  Some capsule hotels have televisions inside the capsule, and they almost always have privacy screens on the door.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Daa Nell

I wanted to attend a Sumo match. I was in Japan during Sumo wrestling season.  I thought it would be fascinating to see a match.  However, many of the matches were sold out before I found out about them, and those that were not sold out were prohibitively expensive.  Luckily for me, the matches were often broadcast on television, and I was able to watch a series of matches on the television in my hotel room.   Sumo is really neat to watch, as it turns out, even though I don’t know much about the rules.

I wanted to attend a formal tea ceremony.  There were a few places I found in Japan where I could do this, but most of them were in hotels on work-days.  As it turns out, most of the people who want to attend formal tea ceremonies are tourists, which is why they were all in hotels.

That about wraps it up for my time in Japan, though.  All that’s left is the flight home.   I’m not one to resist a good instructional sign.

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One of my colleagues in the Otemachi office gave me a day-pass to Delta’s Skyclub for me to use on my way out of town.   (Thanks, Chiba-san!)  Since it’s a 24 hour pass, I was able to use it to get away from the airport noise both in Tokyo and also on my layover back in the US.  Tokyo’s Skyclub was better.

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This is a peaceful oasis compared to the noise of the International terminal.  Lots of places to sit, eat, read, or just stop for a bit.

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Of course there was food and drink available.

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If you have a flight longer than about twelve hours, I heartily recommend buying a Skyclub daypass-  the food alone makes up for the cost of it.  There were little salads, crescent rolls, fruit, and other edibles.   In Japan, there was sushi.  On my US layover, there was soup and meatballs.

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In Tokyo, there were also little meat skewers and bananas.  I enjoyed the banana…  Bananas are good!

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Isn’t this tiny bottle of soy sauce just the most adorable thing?  It’s a tiny salty capsule of squee!

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The beverage selection was fantastic.

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There were even little automatic beer pouring machines that tilt the glass to get the correct amount of foam in the finished pour.  Food automation is always fascinating to watch.

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Have you ever seen such an adorable tiny container of soy sauce?

Munich Flughafen Besucherpark

Almost every time I’ve gone to or from the Munich airport in the last few years, I’ve used a route that includes a train between Regensburg and Freising, and bus 635 that goes from the Freising Hauptbahnhof to the Munich airport a few times each hour.  One of the stops on bus 635 is the München Flughafen Besucherpark, or Munich Airport Visitor’s Park.  I could see from passing by that it had a bunch of old aircraft to look at, and an observation hill that looked over the airport, and I made a promise to myself to actually stop when I had time, instead of just noticing it on the way to or from the airport.

That opportunity finally struck in July, when I had a ticket to go into Munich to see Sarah from Regensblog in the ESME summer concert.   The show was in the evening, so I set out a little bit earlier in the day.  Instead of taking the train all the way into Munich right away, I stopped in Freising, got on the old 635, and hopped off at the stop for the Besucherpark.

The bus stops are next to the S-Bahn stops, and there’s a little bit of a walk between public transport and the visitor park.  If you drive there, you get to park closer, but you miss out on some of the groovy trail decorations.  I especially like the nod to the Statue of Liberty in this one.

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Getting a little bit closer, there’s a helicopter on a stick!  I wonder if this exhibit is sponsored by a roadside assistance company of some sort… maybe ADAC?  This air rescue helicopter was stationed at the Munich hospital 36 years ago, and was retired here in the visitor’s park.

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This is the bit that got my attention from the bus as it passed by-  the Lockheed L-1049 G Super Constellation.  This is an original Super Constellation from 1955, with Lufthansa’s classic livery colors.  This was the first aircraft to have a pressurized cabin, and it was the first aircraft that Lufthansa used for transatlantic flights.

For a euro, you can go up into the aircraft.

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Passengers had quite a bit more room in the 1950s!

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There are fewer seats than in a modern aircraft, but the space per seat is much greater.

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They left the auto pilot on!

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Next up, there’s a Swissair Douglas DC-3.   This one was closed up when I visited, but the DC-3 has a reputation for being a great cargo plane.

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The Junkers Ju 52 was used for airmail service to South America and for exploration flights in the 1930s.

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This is the back of the Junkers Ju 52, also referred to sometimes as Auntie Ju.  The obseration hill and stairway are visible in the background.

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There were historical broadcasts playing inside the Ju 52, but I didn’t stick around to hear them.

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This is the cockpit of the Junkers Ju 52.  Vintage 1930s technology!

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At the top of the observation hill, you can see all the aircraft from above.  You’ll need another euro to get through the turnstiles at the bottom of the hill.

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From the observation hill, you can also see the entire airport spread out in front of you.  Lots of people brought their kids up here, and there are coin operated telescopes to get a closer view.  I saw one guy with enormous binoculars and a notepad writing down every aircraft type he spotted.  Interesting hobby, I  think.

I watched several aircraft taking off and landing before I climbed back down.

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The Besucherpark is designed to be family friendly.  It even has a pretty good sized play area for the smaller children.

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Naturally, there’s a restaurant and a souvenir shop on the premises.

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The restaurant is named Tante Ju’s, which is the German for Auntie Ju’s, named after the Junkers Ju 52 aircraft pictured above.

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Once I was done at the visitor’s park, I walked back to where I started and took the S-Bahn the rest of the way into the city for a nice burger and a concert.  That’s another story, though.

The Visitor’s Park can be reached by Bus 635 from the airport or Freising, or it can be reached by the Munich S-Bahn (S1 or S8 to Besucherpark, about 40 minutes from the main station.)

The Visitor’s Park and viewing hill are accessible around the clock, year round, and the information center, shop, and historical aircraft have the following hours: March to October, 9:30am-6pm.   November to February, 10am-5pm.   Tante Ju’s Restaurant is open daily 9:30am to 6pm.

And according to the website, there’s minigolf there too, but I never saw it.

Have you ever been to the München Flughafen Besucherpark?

I’m On My Way

This post is being written at 37,000 feet.  In-flight Wi-Fi is a nifty, nifty technology.    I’ll write up a proper trip report after I’ve gotten back home to Regensburg, though-  I haven’t yet sorted my pictures or my thoughts from the last two and a half weeks.

In another five hours, I’ll be back in Munich.  Another two hours after that and I’ll have collected my luggage, taken the 635 bus from MUC to Freising, and hopped a train from Freising back to Regensburg.

After that, I just have to try to stay awake until around bed time to stave off jet lag.    Maybe I’ll finally get around to doing the homework from my German class that I’ve been putting off all vacation long.

Longer posts coming up, now that I’ll be back in town, and it’s snow and Glühwein season!