I typically don't give much heed to the means by which I travel; so long as I make it from A to B, I am satisfied (except for that one time).
And I generally don't like airplanes (manned flight is nothing short of sorcery).
Despite Japan's being connected by an incredible railway system, the price of moving oneself along said rails is often a barrier to doing so. So what are the alternatives? Well there are always buses (or my personal favorite, hitchhiking), but in a jam, there is also Peach – Japan's discount airline.
Peach is based at Kansai International Airport (KIX), just outside Osaka, and if you're looking to fly anywhere other than Kansai, chances are that you will need to pay a visit to KIX first.
I am currently on my way there from Fukuoka (FUK).
Our flight's departure time still reads 12:05 as our boarding time is finally revealed to us: 12:00. Through what absurdly efficient Japanese boarding process do they expect to make this departure time? Surely, we will be late arriving at our destination (discount airfare at its best).
I get in line.
Working my way to the front, the moment of truth finally arrives and I surrender my boarding pass to the gate agent. She swipes the barcode and hastily hands it back to me (what, no small talk?). Immediately behind her stands another employee who hands me a rectangular, hot dog sized (with bun), piece of plastic with a large “15” emblazoned on either side.
This is the number of my boarding gate.
Slowly I parade down the corridor, marching alongside my fellow travelers, each with their own uniquely numbered (and colored) gate assignment in hand.
A mere thirty seconds later I arrive at my gate and am greeted by another employee who has assumed the job of collecting the gate assignments from passengers. What was the point of my being given this in the first place? Whatever, Japan.
I walk out onto the tarmac and towards the big purple machine that I expect will whisk me safely through the air to my destination.
Making my way to row 14, I notice the exit row, row 13, has an exceptional amount of legroom.
Turning to face my destination row, I realize that the aforementioned legroom has been subtracted from my own row instead of being added into the plane's overall legroom (budget airline strikes again).
I sit (or at least I try).
For the first time (in the context of an aircraft), my knees are pressed tightly against the seat in front of me. My heart goes out to all you tall folks who are expected to silently suffer through this on your every plane ride (note: first-class prices still cannot be justified).
As they pressurize the aircraft I feel myself growing sleepy. I lean my head against the window and lose consciousness.
I am awoken by the plane accelerating down the runway – the time is 12:40.
Across the aisle I can see an empty row of seats. In front of me, only one out of three is occupied. Immediately next to me sit two other passengers. Why my companions in row 14 opted not to move into the far more luxurious row 13 (or the other side of row 14), I will never know.
This is why I book aisle seats (except when doing so comes with a fee – as was the case for today's flight – budget airlines).
The seat back in front of me is stuffed with advertisements for everything from SIM cards to “sightseeing tickets” (did I mention that this is a budget airline?).
As the flight attendants come through the cabin I do not even bother asking for a drink, as I am certain that it will cost something of monetary value.
Forty minutes later and we safely land at KIX.
Fun stuff, right?
During this trip a few things about the domestic flight process in Japan struck me as being different from my experience flying within the States:
- THE NO ID | I had to show my ID a total of zero times.
- THE DEPARTURE LOBBY | You do not go to your gate straight away – you do to a “departure lobby” where you wait until your flight is boarding and you then pass the ticket counter and proceed through your gate and onto the plane.
- THE SECURITY | Security did not require the removal of my shoes or my hat.
- THE LIQUIDS | I was permitted to bring seemingly unchecked amounts of liquid through security (although they did want to smell what was inside of my water bottles – it was urine).
- THE TERMINAL | Most of the fun to be had in the terminal was outside of security. Once I entered the departure lobby through the metal detectors I found myself left with only a small convenience store (what happened to all the shops and restaurants?).
On the whole, my experiences with Peach have been positive, and I will continue flying them in the future.
Despite Japan's trains being far more comfortable, convenient, and reliable, sometimes they simply aren't worth the money; and for these times we have Peach to turn to (at least until the volcanoes decide to wipe Japan off the face of the Earth).