Japan — Of Elusive Things — Like Passports, Luggage, And Bus Reservations

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 27, 2015      
Chasing the ultimate powder dreams.

Chasing the ultimate powder dreams.

I smirk when I complain (or hear others complain) about the difficulties of international travel. It’s the equivalent of complaining about your cold face on a powder day, or how hard it is to choose skis from your massive quiver. So, take the following post with a heavy dose of “You’re lucky to be doing this at all, buddy.”

It started a few days before my flight from Vancouver to Japan. Compared to Seattle, Vancouver often has cheaper fares to international destinations, particularly Asia. Accordingly, I booked my flight out of Vancouver, careful to schedule it late enough so the Seattle to Vancouver bus would get me there before the flight. However, when I called to make the bus reservation, they informed me that their posted schedule was months out of date, and the earliest bus got there hours after my flight left. Ugh, whatever, I scrambled at the last minute to find a ride, and was inundated with offers from several friends (thanks guys!). Minor mishap, but next came the passport snafu:

As I was packing the morning before the flight, I looked in my glove compartment where I keep my passport. I was a surprised and a tiny bit worried to find that it wasn’t in its usual spot. I figured it would turn up and didn’t fret too much about it. A few hours went by and I began to get more anxious. I started looking in all the likely spots, still no passport. It took me another few hours to completely tear apart my house, shed and car, with no success. At that point it was getting to be evening. I thought the only possible spot might be my storage unit in Bellingham, a few hours drive away but luckily on the way to my flight out of Vancouver airport.

I packed my luggage in the car, crossed my fingers, and started the drive from Seattle to Bellingham. I arrived at my storage unit in the early evening, and proceeded to tear apart every box, bag, and bin in the place. An hour later I had searched everywhere, still with no luck, and I started really freaking out. As I was getting ready to postpone my flight, and get an 8am appointment at the US Consulate in Seattle, I had an epiphany. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen an old backpack that I used on my last trip, which had a good chance (relatively good at this point, maybe 10%) of holding my passport. Although I hadn’t seen it, I was sure that it had to be somewhere. It was getting close to midnight.

I jumped in my car, and made the 2 hour drive back to my house in Seattle, and within minutes found the pack (tangled up inside a duffel bag). My precious passport was inside, just like I had hoped. I nearly wept at the sight, then got a few hours of sleep before heading off to the airport at 5am.

Whew! First crisis averted. I made it to my flight just in time, and got on the plane for Japan. What an incredible feeling! The whole flight I couldn’t quite believe that I was really heading for the winter dreamland of Japan.

The spotless (and humongous) Tokyo Airport.

The spotless (and humongous) Tokyo Airport.

Once at the Tokyo airport, I was approached by a nice employee of Japan Air Lines. She bowed and apologized profusely, many times, until finally telling me that one of my bags had been delayed by a day, and wouldn’t be waiting for me in Sapporo. Although somewhat of a bummer, I was blown away by the politeness and customer service of the Japanese. Pretty cool.

After a quick flight I arrived late in Sapporo, the biggest city on Hokkaido. There I ran into my next set of problems. Because of the passport snafu, I hadn’t had time to look into lodging or transportation options for my first night. I landed in Sapporo in the evening, and needed to meet up with the rest of the crew the next morning. I thought I’d just figure it out when I got there, but that proved more difficult than I expected. Most of the bus transportation needed advance booking, and I couldn’t find cheap lodging near the airport. Also, I learned that the airport closes at 3am, so sleeping there wasn’t an option. Eventually I found info about a capsule hotel, and made my way to the train station. Unbeknownst to me, the last train was just about to leave, and I barely made it through the doors with my heavy ski bag. Whew again!

Somehow I figured out what subway line to take, and after a quick wander through the early morning streets of Sapporo, made it to the capsule hotel. I crawled into my little cubby, and immediately passed out. I woke well rested and relaxed, had a morning onsen session (incredible), and met everyone else at the airport. The rest of our travel to Niseko was snafu-free, and we arrived ready to shred the area the next day. We found some great skiing, but I’ll save that for the next post. Until then, here are some photos from the travel adventures:

The legendary capsule hotel, a Japanese experience if there ever was one.

The legendary capsule hotel, a Japanese experience if there ever was one.

Snow clearing is a gargantuan undertaking on Hokkaido. It seems to run like a well oiled machine most of the time, but this guy looked like he had his work cut out for him clearing this entire roof by hand.

Snow clearing is a gargantuan undertaking on Hokkaido. It seems to run like a well oiled machine most of the time, but this guy looked like he had his work cut out for him clearing this entire roof by hand.

Enjoying some delicious ramen soup in Niseko. Level one on the spiciness scale (out of 15), and I could barely handle it. Wow.

Enjoying some delicious ramen soup in Niseko. Level one on the spiciness scale (out of 15), and I could barely handle it. Wow.

The famous Fridge Door bar in Niseko. The entrance is through this diminutive re-purposed refrigerator door.

The famous Fridge Door bar in Niseko. The entrance is through this diminutive re-purposed refrigerator door.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


16 Responses to “Japan — Of Elusive Things — Like Passports, Luggage, And Bus Reservations”

  1. Coop January 27th, 2015 10:00 am

    Haha! Classic Dawson. You’re a gem buddy. I’m eternally envious of the copious amounts of ramen. Looking forward to your photos!

  2. Lou Dawson 2 January 27th, 2015 10:15 am

    The stories of Louie’s passport are endless! I like the time his car got broken into and all sorts of stuff stolen, but for some reason they left his passport in the glovebox! The only theory I could think of was the thieves didn’t know what a passport was (I won’t mention where the trailhead was). What a cool trip so far, looking forward to more reports! Lou2

  3. Lisa Dawson January 27th, 2015 10:22 am

    Louie, I feel guilty; you inherited this from me. After 50+ years on this earth, I am continually surprised when I open my wallet to find my driver’s license or credit card missing. More amazing to me is when they actually are there. And my passport often goes on adventures of its own.

  4. David Hackbarth January 27th, 2015 12:14 pm

    Fyi in Sapporo airport there is a Onsen with a relaxing room. With sleeping pods a bit like business class in airlines. Great to see you found the “Fridge”. I hope you tried some of the exceptional japaneese whisky! Looking for your mt. Yotel trip report. We were there the week before you arrived. I will FB PM you some other info on a potential addition to your future posting.

  5. Carver January 27th, 2015 12:22 pm

    So very stressful!
    Thanks for the reminder. On Sunday, I bought tickets for Bali. I just checked and my passport is where it belongs and doesn’t expire until 2020.
    Amazing how it all worked out perfectly, especially the capsule.

  6. Kate January 27th, 2015 1:39 pm

    Louie, you and I could be related but I am not brave enough to admit to such foibles. I’m convinced that sticky finger gremlins are stalking me.

    I know that showers are required before the onsens, but I’ve always been curious if the water is treated. Are they chlorinated like our American Jacuzzis?

  7. DavidB January 27th, 2015 3:50 pm

    Hang on a minute, is anyone else still stuck on the fact that Louie keeps his passport in the glove box?

  8. Julia January 27th, 2015 4:50 pm

    Oh the passport adventures…makes me laugh now as I read about them.
    Japan looks awesome!

  9. Tristan January 27th, 2015 5:10 pm

    Glad you made the flight!
    I can say I’ve made the same Seattle to Bellingham, back to Seattle then Whistler, Buhler-shortcut due to a forgotten passport. Right Hashi?

  10. Tom Gos January 27th, 2015 10:52 pm

    Ah, foibles of youth. As you age you’ll come to appreciate that well planned travel is much more enjoyable and dosen’t diminish the adventure. Nevertheless, I’m glad that luck has been on your side.

  11. gringo January 28th, 2015 2:23 am

    passport in the glovebox?

    My god, that’s a rookie move if there ever was one. The single most important document that a person can own, with global validity, and one which has a huge demand on the black market…..sorry dude but you are insane.

    @ Kate. onsen water is typically not treated.

  12. gringo January 28th, 2015 2:30 am

    …in addition I would like to say have fun on Hokkaido. looking forward to some more posts…

  13. Louie III January 28th, 2015 5:16 am

    Haha, i guess the glovebox could be seen as not that secure of a place for a passport. However, the convenience of being able to go up to Canada whenever I want is nice, and I’ve never had any issues with it being stolen (knock on wood).

    As far a Onsens, as far as I understand, they don’t have any treatment chemicals of any sort, and have a continual flow of water to keep it clean. Also, I believe many are emptied and cleaned every night. Showering is required beforehand, in order to keep the water clean. Also, swimsuits or any other clothing is prohibited, in order to keep the water free of any dirt as well as any chemicals that might leech out of nylon swim wear. The commitment to detail and cleanliness seems typical in Japan, and is pretty cool.

  14. Frequent Traveler January 28th, 2015 8:18 am

    I wouldn’t sweat it Louie III. I keep mine in my car too. If you are driving
    across international borders more than a couple times/month , it’s really
    the best place I have found to keep it. When I kept it in different
    backpacks/luggage, etc, I invariably couldn’t find it or thought I had
    it–only to get to the border or airport and find I didn’t have it. In the
    EU, you can sometimes get away with this for a week, but eventually you will
    get stopped going through Switzerland and you will find the guards there are
    not so accommodating.

    I used to guard mine like crazy too, but honestly its ridiculously ancient
    technology, and it would probably be easier to make a fake one then scalp
    one on the black market. Seriously…I can triangulate my position from cell
    towers or satellites, then email my pictures to my friends on the other side
    of the world, but we are still using paper passports in this day and
    age?!?!? “???? ?????????, ??????????” (your documents please…)

  15. Matt Kinney January 28th, 2015 8:48 am

    Enjoyed the read. Looks like a clear case of “ski-mentia”. It appears to run in your family and their is no cure. 🙂

  16. Rachel Bellamy January 28th, 2015 11:37 am

    Hahaha if only your passport could talk. Its probably been to a few places that none of us will ever go to. Nice work finding your way around that first night. Please keep posting inventions that baffle us Americans!

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