Safe and Efficient Shuttle My A$$

We decided to do our first “vacay” for the last 18 years to Japan from May 11 to May 22. Instead of paying $35 a day for 11 days parking we opted to hire a shuttle van at $40 per person (3x there and 2x back) at a total savings of $185. Good deal? Good God no and a half! Here was the joke of a promise from Prime Time Shuttle:

“Peace of mind when you travel to Los Angeles International Airport – LAX. When you are traveling, whether it be for business or pleasure, you already have enough on your mind to worry about. A Shared Van is the most economical way to travel to and from LAX. Often half the cost of a taxi, and always a more professional and pleasant experience. Our computer assisted dispatch assures you that those riding with you are traveling to the same part of the city. You will always receive a safe and efficient route.”

BULLSHIT!! Professional my hind end. Pleasant my hind end.  Efficient my hind end. Kiss my hind end.

We arrived from Japan on time at 10:25 a.m. and cleared customs at 11:30 a.m. Our reserved shuttle was supposed to meet us at the curb by 11:45 a.m. At 2:00 p.m. we were STILL waiting. According to PrimeTime dispatch “we” were the issue since there was no one else except us traveling to the Riverside area. Oh well excuse me, jerks! I paid you and told you where we were going to and from months in advance. Not my fault your “computer assisted dispatch system” has its head up its collective URL. We did not leave the airport until 2:25 p.m. and arrived home at 4:15 p.m. … 4 3/4 HOURS LATER!  I could have walked this faster.

As far as “safe and efficient route” … ha and what a joke! Our driver ran 3 red lights, was texting while driving the entire 90 miles and almost hit 10 people while changing lanes at the last second in rush hour traffic. You sir are the reason I middle-fingered people during my 50 mile, one-way commute to and from Riverside to Fullerton/Orange for 15 years. In addition, you as an arrogant twatwaffle relied on GPS, but could have easily shaved an hour off of the time if you had known the area or at the least LISTENED to your passengers who drive the area daily.  (Flash to “Van” from the movie “Cars”:  I don’t need directions!  I’ve got the GPS.)  So Mr. Driver … thanks for that and a waste of my time.

Example re: a better way?  Were it me I would have taken the 105 to the 605 to the 91 (drop off 1 at Beach in Buena Park by Knott’s Berry Farm); back to the 91 to the 5 South to Katella to drop off 3 near the Anaheim train station and/or Disney area; then, take the 57 to Yorba Linda, drop off 2 more; then reverse back to the 57 to the 91 and use the toll roads to Riverside.  But nooooooo … instead, our driver flexes his collective steering wheel muscles and takes the 105 to the 110 to the 91 to Beach Blvd., back onto the 91 to the Brookhurst exit to Katella (and hits every light red along the way) to Anaheim Stadium past Disneyland (which is a tourist nightmare you want to avoid) to Kraemer to Yorba Linda to Imperial to the 91 (non-Express Lanes) to Green River; then proceeds to go 85 mph whenever possible because he screwed up. OMG … and he then gets mad at me when I give everyone the “Disney Tour Guide” program about the area:

“Hello all .. thank you for joining us today.  While we wait for the street lights to synchronize and our driver to get his act together, I’d like to direct you to the bowling alley to our right.  Linbrook Bowl was and still is a local hangout, and back in the day, Linbrook Hardware was a weekend escape for Do It Yourself weekend warriors.  As we travel down to Ball Road, you will see on your left Mama Cozza’s which is still considered one of the best pizza parlors of the area.  (turn on Katella) … and now at Katella and Euclid you will see on the right a shopping center that was Albertson’s and Payless drug stores, plus on the left the liquor store where many local children would ride their bikes and purchase penny candy.  As we approach Ninth, we enter the “Disney District”.  I lived about a mile north on Ninth and we would “bum” tickets from tourists leaving Disneyland from 1960 to 1980.  Many of my fellow classmates still work for Disney and the Anaheim (NOT Los Angeles) Angels baseball team.  As we approach the “Pond”, I hope you will all be cheering the Ducks to the Hockey Stanley Cup Finals this next week.”

Said driver told me to “zip it” and “stop with the crap”.  I was a tad childish and stuck my tongue out at him behind his back, and the woman in front of me from Fullerton-Placentia laughed and thanked me.  Later when I mentioned to the driver that the new 91 Toll Roads via Corona had changed the game commute-wise and that he needed to bear to the right at the 15, he proceeded to rip my face off for being a “back seat driving bitch.” Yeah buddy? Shove your steering wheel and your arrogant attitude.  You wouldn’t last two seconds in Japan … they truly despise American idiots like you.

I will NEVER again hire out Prime Time Shuttle. It would have cost me about the same for a private limo, and my blood pressure and sanity would have been the better for it.

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Japan 2017 – Intro

Background

My youngest daughter, her husband (my son-in-law) and their daughter (my grand-daughter) are stationed in Naval Base Yokosuka, Japan (since November 2015).  We decided we would visit them at least once during her 3 year duty station stint.  Since Japan is so large and we only had 11 days to enjoy the country’s hospitality, we decided that we would focus our tourist travels around the Yokosuka, Yokohama, Tokyo, and Urayasu (Disneyland) areas (the southeast side of the main island).  Although I worked for Mitsubishi Electric America in the early 1980’s and knew some Japanese traditions and culture, this was our first trip outside of the United States, and we found it to be fascinating in comparison to what we’ve been told and have read.

Japanmap

I’ll try to cover as much of the culture, transportation, sites, food, and some of the military aspects via pictures and comments, plus a comparison of Disneyland Park and California Disney (Anaheim) to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.  During this journal of our journey, I’ll also post up about a zillion pictures of my cute kids and grand kid.

First Things First – Planning

Number 1:  Get your passport.  You will need to carry this with you 24/7/365 when you are in Japan.  It is your I.D. to enter EVERYTHING … immigration and customs, hotels, military bases, and many tourist sites.   Subsection 1.1 … if at all possible, put in for Global and TSA precheck so you won’t have to deal with the lines.  However, Global is currently running 6 months or so behind schedule on interviews and this may not be doable.  Example:  We applied for it in March and the earliest interview we could get is/was August 2.  Since our trip was mid-May, we were SOL in that respect and had to stand in the cattle herd line.

Number 2:  Get all immunizations up-to-date.  You will not need any special ones if you are only there for less than a month or not in areas that have issues like rabies or Japanese encephalitis or amoebic dysentery or malaria, but you will need to be up to date on the basics like MMR, HIB, DPT, flu, CHxP/Shingles, or any others your doctor recommends for your age (like pneumonia).  If you are anti-vax, that may be an issue.  Start the immunization check at least 6 months before traveling since some (like HIB) are a series and you must have at least 1 or 2 in the series before traveling.

Number 3:  If you are staying on a military base or military housing, get your sailor ALL of your information (passport # and Date of Issue and Expiration, copy of birth certificate, social security #, immunization record copy, driver’s license, etc.) so he/she can put in for a gate pass for you during the period of time you will be entering the base.  He/she will need this information at least 3 weeks or more before traveling so the paperwork can be approved.  You will need to carry the gate pass with you (along with the passport) 24/7/365.

Second Things First – Travel

Number 1:  Pick an airport.  Narita is the largest airport in the area, but it is also the furthest away from Yokosuka.  Haneda is about an hour closer and near a direct Express train line to Zushi (near Ikego Housing).  Haneda’s immigration and custom’s process flowed well and they complete the check in to gate waiting process in less than 2 hours.  If your sailor is in Iwakuni or Okinawa or Sasebo or Misawa or a base other than Yokosuka or Atsugi, you will probably have to transfer to a connecting flight since those are further north or south.

Number 2:  Make yourself aware of the train system.  There is one major train line in Japan – JR East.  However, there are numerous minor lines that run parallel and criss-cross to JR; plus, just to make things interesting, there are hundreds of smaller locally owned lines and subway systems and not all of them have English signs.  Also, some stations can connect several of these various lines at a time on numerous levels – from 3 above ground to 5 below.  Not only that, but there are different types of trains including:  Bullet (no stops for hundreds of miles); Express (limited stops which skip about 5 stations at a time); Local Express (limited stops skipping about 3 stations at a time); and Local (which stop at all stations along the line).  You can purchase a PASEMO card that will work on all trains, subways and taxi services for about US$5, then you can put on as much as you wish on the card indefinitely or as needed.  Our typical daily train fare was about ¥900 (US$9) so we set aside US$100 for the 10 days we were there and added to the card at each station.  At the end of the trip, we traded in our cards and got a refund on the remaining credits. There are definitely times of the day you will want to avoid (especially the last train) … here’s why … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7kor5nHtZQ  I’ll cover specific trains and issues more in my various blog posts but here is the Wikipedia explanation:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_transport_in_Japan

JRP_tokyo_metropolitan_map-1

(Map of JR East lines)

Number 3:  Order ¥ from your bank and be aware of the exchange rate.  It took our bank 7 days to mail us yen.  The conversion is easy on the most part … simply divide ¥ by 100 to get the US$ equivalent.  Example:  1000¥ = US$10.00   Anything below US$10 is in coin … 500¥ = US$5; 100¥ = US$1; 50¥ = US$.50, etc.

Last Things Last – Tourist Choices

Number 1:  You will not be able to do everything.  Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are at least a day each and even at that you will not have enough time to see everything there.  The various shrines and temples will easily take a day or more … not only to get there but to walk around the area.  Make an itinerary with a plan A and B … then stick to it as much as possible.  Also, check the local holiday schedules and do as many as you can (i.e. Fertility Festival, Cherry Blossom Festival, etc.)

Number 2:  Many popular sites will require a reservation.  An example is the Kirin Brewery in Yokohama.  Another example, which may seem a tad racist but actually is quite bluntly a way to allow native Japanese the ability to experience their own country, is that you as an American (or non-native) will not be allowed to make reservations.  There are about 127 million people in Japan with 13 million plus in the Tokyo area (a population density of 10,000 to 15,000 per sq. mile in some cases).  My suggestion?  Find a small, local popular place to eat and order via photographs or “fake food” plates in the front window.  You will get more out of the culture by doing so in my opinion.  Then again, many small local shrines and restaurants are not open between 3 and 6 p.m., nor during the week, and only on weekends or special days.  Do your homework!

Number 3:  Leave the American “rude”tude at home.  The people of Japan are friendly, accommodating and on the most part curious about American culture.  What we consider “rude” (crowding of personal space) is common place for them.  What they consider “rude” (not moving to the left side, saying please/thank you, and picking up after not only yourself but others) may seem strange to us but is actually just good manners.

More tomorrow about our specific experiences.