Mar. 5th, 2017

Having arrived at Manchester Airport in very good time, I checked in and got my boarding passes for the Amsterdam and Osaka flights. However, it was not long before I realised that the need to get up early was rather futile, as my flight had been delayed. Looking at the new departure time I did wonder whether I'd make the Osaka flight and, justifying my suspicions, connecting passengers were called to the information desk to check. It seems the plane had not been able to leave Amsterdam because of poor weather and would definitely not get back there in time to make my onward flight. For some reason, they could only issue me with a new boarding pass for Amsterdam and another for Shanghai, not for the final leg to Osaka. "Don't worry," they assured me, "your luggage is booked all the way through to Osaka. You just have to get the ongoing boarding pass for a Japan Airline flight to Osaka when you get to Amsterdam."

When I arrived in Schiphol I searched out a transfer desk and asked about the final flight. I was given number and flight times, but they couldn't, for some reason, give me a boarding pass. Still, the flight to Shangai was not full and I was able to move to a seat by the emergency exit with infinite leg room, a luxury I don't think I've had before, so that leg of the journey was rather satisfactory.

In Shanghai I had a couple of hours before my flight left, so wasn't worried as I made my way to the transfer door. However, just before I entered, I asked a man with a computer screen if he could confirm where I was going. I handed him my passport and the schedule sent by KLM. "This says 'Osaka'. Why are you in Shanghai?" I told him the story and he typed a few keys. "OK, you need to go to the JAL check-in desk. Not this way, go to the other end of this hall." So I went. There were passport control desks but, right at the far end, a 24-48 hour Transfer queue. Although only hoping for an hour or two, not 24 hours, I joined the queue. I think I had a trainee, as there was a man standing behind the young woman offering advice as she scanned the documents of the folk in front of me. Progress wasn't quick, but I still had time. Eventually she got to me. "This says 'Osaka'. Why are you in Shanghai?" I told her the story and she handed my documents to her colleague and asked me to wait, so she could deal with other passengers. Her colleague then disappeared for about 10-15 minutes. On his return, she stamped my passport with the requisite Temporary Entry Permit and told me to go to the 3rd floor and find the JAL desk, which sounded straightforward enough. Past the baggage claim then out via an X-ray security check and up to the 3rd floor.

Thankfullly, this queue was short. "Ticket please." I explained that I didn't have one and presented my documents. "This says 'Osaka'. Why are you in Shanghai?" So, once again, I related my story. "So, where is your luggage?" I told them it was booked through to Osaka and I didn't need to collect it. "Oh no," she patiently explained, "you do. You must go back to baggage claim and bring it up here." So, back down 2 flights of stairs and escalators to try and find a way IN to the baggage claim. "Speak to the woman at the staff entrance." I was told. Fortunately, entry was not a problem but, as expected, no suitcase. The conveyor was practically empty by this time, but I waited until the identifiable case desappeared and reappeared to confirm that my case was not there. A quick peek at the pile of cases in 'Lost Luggage' and I headed towards the exit. Again. "It's me again." I called cheerfully to the women at the X-ray machine. Either they remembered me as the only passenger without a case, or they were past caring, but I emerged unmolested. And back up the the 3rd floor.

This time the JAL check-in queue was huge. I tapped the shoulder of the woman in last place, "Are you going to Osaka?" I asked, hopefully. No, she wasn't. Neither was Osaka on any of the information screens. Begining to panic a little, I had to barge to the head of the queue, catch the eye of the check-in clerk I'd seen before and said, "No bag." She called over her colleague who looked at my passport and tapped a few keys on the keyboard. "Oh, you missed your connection and were diverted via Shanghai." she said, almost surprised. Finally the penny was beginning to drop. "And you don't have your luggage?" I assured he I didn't and would have to board anyway and hope it had made it onto the flight. So, finally I got my boarding pass and made my way to Osaka without further complications.

I've done it before and quite why I'd forgotten, but I'd put my address book in the suitcase. So, when I arrived at Japanese passport control and had to fill in an entry card, I realised I didn't have my address in Japan. Still, I could remember part of the address and it looked passable. However, I had to admit, when the officer asked for the telephone number, that it was in the suitcase in baggage claim and he let me through. As I was one of the last off the plane (my hand luggage being placed in a locker a good few rows behind me) the baggage claim was almost deserted. And my suitcase was nowhere to be seen.

So, another half an hour was spent in the company of a delightful young woman who filled in the appropriate forms. "Your address in Japan?" Er, that's in the case, I rather shamefacedly (is that a word?) admitted. However, I was able say that the address was written on a label on the outside of the case. Having handed her the luggage tag, she was able to tell me that the case had never left Schiphol airport and wouldn't get here until Monday evening. So, armed with a copy of the claim form and a promise to phone them and supply both address and telephone number, I finally left Kansai Airport.

I had told Junko that, on arrival, I would telephone her so she could meet me at the bus stop and accompany me back to the apartment by train. Obviously, I couldn't do that, so I got the airport bus to Kobe Sannomiya Station and hoped I'd see her at the bus arrival stop. No. I tried the bus departure stop. Not there either. Just in case she was keeping warm inside a shop and I'd missed her, I crossed over once more to the arrival stop. Nothing. Still, I'd done the journey dozens of times last year, when attending the language course, so made my own way.

I had been able to contact Junko in Schipol and give her the JAL flight number, which landed at about 16.45. "Half an hour to get out, he should ring about 5.15-5.30." she'd thought. In fact it was almost 6pm when I finally got on the bus and more like 8pm when I finally rang the Kuramoto mansion door bell (and yes, they do call them mansions). "You forgot the telephone number." Junko said on greeting me. Guilty as charged, sadly.

Still in the greater scheme of things, this is the first time I've had any real trouble in the years we've been coming to Japan, which only goes to highlight just how good the service usually is. Besides, when you think of people who have been bombed out of their homes, paid everything they have to a smuggler for a failed attempt to cross to Greece or beyond and languish in a Turkish refugee camp, my little difficulty is really nothing much to complain about.



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