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Yohei-san (pirang) dan Masanobu-san (hitam)

The Tiring Journey To Japan

Story about travelling to Japan for the first time before I study and live in Japan to achieve my dream.

October 8, 2013. That is the date I go to Japan the first time. I use the Korean airlines for the Journey, from Cengkareng to Centrair, with a little transit in Incheon. I depart at 22.05 Jakarta’s time. Here is a little bit story about the monumental to first step to make my dream comes true: studying, living, and working in Japan. (Not that it has come true already).

The journey is very exciting but physically tiring. I have to take 4 hours ride from my home at Tanjungbalai, North Sumatra to the airport in Kualanamu Airport, Medan. And then, 2 hours flight from KNO airport to CGK airport. And then, stays for one night and taste the traffic hell of Jakarta to the airport the next day. Next, 14 hours flight from CGK to NGO which includes 3 hours transit in ICN. That’s not all. Then I have to take the train from airport to Toyohashi city, and the to the campus.

Here is the detail. Buckle up, because it will be a long post.

Preparation: Bandung

I lived in Bandung before I received the happy news that my scholarship application come through. The timeline from there are very tight. I got the news end of August and had to prepare everything in less than a month. I remembered that I did not even have the time to told anyone of this plan, just my article in my blog ” At Last My Days are Numbered” which detailed the plain. This of course made many of my friends upset about the sudden move.

I left Bandung at September 26. I had to leave a little bit earlier before the departure date for two reason: my room contract expiration and visa application. I wanted to apply in the Japanese embassy in Jakarta but with further inspection I have to apply the visa to the general consulate in Medan because of my passport address. Thus, it was best for me to pack and get home first before departing abroad.

My room right before packing for good to leave Bandung to Japan
Bye-bye my indekos…

It should be noted that my home is not in Medan. It is Tanjungbalai, a port city 4 hours from Medan. To cut some time, I have to go to embassy the day I pack all my belonging from Bandung and step outside the airport in Kualanamu, Medan. While tiring, it is better that to have to waste 8 hours round trip just for the application.

In order to apply for visa though, I have to wait for two things: Certificate of Eligibility and the Plane Ticket. Both should be sent by the authority that provide me scholarship in Japan.

I set the CoE to be sent to my home in Tanjungbalai. I got the tracking number, the documents were already in the Kualanamu cargo airport at Monday but when at Tuesday morning, it still did not move. My flight from Bandung to Medan would be Thursday but my father had a two days meeting in Medan from Wednesday morning. That means if Tuesday the letter were not arrived yet, I would be screwed. I won’t be able to apply for visa in Thursday.

I panicked but I phoned the DHL offices. They responded very quick, surprisingly. But I was not convinced and still worried about it. Additionally, I also had not heard anything about the plane ticket from the scholarship authority.

Thanks god, came Wednesday and both the CoE and ticket problem were solved. I got email about the ticket, seem like my Japan journal should start at October 8. At the same day, my father got the CoE mail right before he drove to Medan. Giri-giri safe.

Preparation: Tanjungbalai / Medan

There are some things that I have to prepare at home. First are the visa. Second are yen. Tanjungbalai is a small town, yen here are very expensive. Well, at least it exists, but very very un-affordable. 1 JPY = 250 IDR. On that regard, I have to exchange in Medan. I have one chance on the day of taking my visa from the consulate. Little that I know that Medan also has high price for yen. The bank rates are 120 IDR, most places set much more than that. The first shop that I went asked for 200 IDR. The second asked for 185 IDR. Because I do not have much time and options, I reluctantly take it.

I have ten days at home. The whole time, I do not feel good. When I went home from Bandung, I slept most of the time. At the flight, right after the flight, and the whole days. That was not me, I did Bandung-Tanjungbalai travel for several times but I never felt like it before. I felt dizzy and sick, a bit nausea. I thought that I just feel heavy to leave Bandung, my beloved city for 5 years. But maybe that was not the case.

The Dolphin Monument in Tanjungbalai
The Dolphin Monument in Tanjungbalai

Right after I get to home, I have myself massaged. It is normal for Indonesian people to go to “massager” (tukang urut) when they feel sick. I feel better after that, but the symptoms get worse and worse nearing the departure date. I feel dizzy like car-sick, or sea-sick.

Well, car sickness or motion sickness, they says, are a psychological problem. Your subconscious feels something or worry about something. Something that you do not know, or not want to worry. I don’t know exactly, of course. Maybe about the immigration, baggage allowance, typhoon, living far from home country, or something.

Long long time ago, when I was in primary school, I usually got motion sickness whenever I ride a bus. I even felt the sickness hours before I step into the vehicle. When I smelt the special odor of a bus, I would vomit. I would get worse if if the bus took mountainous road. Over time, I finally able to get rid of the bad behavior. I think I just get used to travel more often. At least, I can lessen the sick feeling by sleeping while travelling.

However, this time. I don’t know. My old self seems to come back. Come back worse. Not hours, but days before the travel I can smell the special odor of a vehicle that makes me dizzy and nauseous. The massage is not effective after all.

My home in Tanjungbalai is 4 hours from Medan. From this point to my new university in Japan, will be a very long travel.

  • 4 hours ride from Tanjungbalai to Medan.
  • 1 hours boarding. 2.5 hours KNO to CKG.
  • At least 1 hours boarding at Cengkareng.
  • 7 hours Jakarta to Incheon
  • 2.5 hours transit in Incheon
  • 2 hours flight Incheon to Centrair, Nagoya
  • 2 hours train from Centrair to Toyohashi
  • That would we 23 hours total travel time

That is not counting the in between time and delay.

Because it is very though travel, and considering my physical condition, I do not have confidence that I have the ability to go through all that on one byte. I want to at least divide it to two separate travel. Thus, I decide to stay in Jakarta a day before the Korean Air flight. I buy October 7 ticket to Jakarta so that I can rest comes night time. Or so I thought.

I depart not by train. This is because Medan-Tanjungbalai trains have only 3 schedules a day: 08.00, 12.00, and 15.00 with 5 hours travel. The flight departs from Kualanamu at 14.00 and taking the trains from Medan to KNO have to be 2 hours before flight. That means, those schedules will not work for me.

I also have to buy some more yen in Medan. I did not exchange enough money when I took the visa. After that, I got email instructing to at least bring 84.600 JPY for admission fee + 30.000 JPY for dormitory + one month living cost.

I depart by car with my families and my father’s end, Om Edy. My father are not driving because he will go to Jakarta with me. We also rent Om Edy’s car from time to time. In their number plate, there is a Pampasres logo (the secret service). Om Edy also wears full uniform when he drive for us. Thus, he seems like a staff inside the airport (some troubled foreigners approach him to ask direction). Oh by the way, my father sometimes can go to the baggage claim area when he picked me up in the KNO airport wearing the Paspampres hat from Mr Edy.

Departure: Jakarta

My plane to Japan departs at Tuesday, October 8, 2013. I arrive at Jakarta afternoon of October 7, specifically 16.30. I plan to stay at nearby hotel, because I wanted to rest and want to avoid the infamous Jakartan trafiic jam. But. BUT. The nearby hotel is unreasonably expensive. Thus, long story short I stay at the sister in law of my father’s brother. Her house are rumah dinas (home office) of Indonesian air force, so not that far from the airport. But Halim airport, not Cengkareng.

My pick up is Mr. Edy (different Edy from the one that sent us to Kualanamu). He also brings many families because they also just sent someone to the airport. Thus we have to sent them all home first. And just like that we goes around all over Jakarta. And guess what? The infamous Si Komo, makes the Jakartan streets full of cars. My much needed rest have to be postponed at least up until 11 pm that night.

My flight are the at 10 pm the next day. In the morning, I cannot get up. Just resting and sleeping. Comes noon, I don’t know, that motion sickness feeling comes again. Is it a cold? Or just a psych thingy? Or maybe because I have so many things to think about. I have to separate my baggage because of overweight. The Korean Air only allows up until 23 kgs but my suitcase is 28.4 kilos. Hmf…

I get an advice from relative that have long distance travel experience to US to put some of the stuff into hands held small bag. I ask my dad to buy it that morning. Fortunately, I can move some of the stuff there. I hope it does not exceed 6 kilos, because the cabin allowance only 12 kgs (I have another bags with laptop inside). But my father bought me small suitcase. I did have small suitcase at home, but I never thought I need it! What a waste… I repack everything while worrying whether they will allow me to bring a suitcase to cabin.

To avoid Si Komi, we depart from the sister in law house at 5 pm. We also gave to visit another uncle for a small goodbye (he is the common family of us and the family that host us). As predicted, my physical condition are not good. The rest from yesterday plus morning does not giving me any effect.

After a little bit more rest at my uncle’s, we depart to the Cengkareng airport at almost 8 pm. I feel much better.

I arrive at the airport and search for Korean Air check in booth. With a little bit of air force authority from Mr. Edy’s wife (the sister in law of my uncle), she also get in inside the airport parameter to help me bring my baggage and find the booth. Note that in Cengkareng Airport, only the passenger can get inside the check in area. If only her friends have the shift at that time, my father and the whole family will also able to get inside! If only…

I nervously check in, because of the overweight concern. And then how much is it? Right at 23 kilos mark! Well, the scale’s needle is moving with +- 0.2 kilos but the the staff give me an okay. Yeah! I can forget one concern from my mind.

Cengkareng Boarding Room
I can hear Hamsa Hamida even before boarding

After check in, I go outside a little bit to say goodbye to my whole extended families, while waiting for the departure time. I would not be able to see them for a while.

At precisely 9 pm, I get in once again and directly get pass the immigration. I worry that it will be a long queue, but I reach the boarding room at 9.20-ish. While waiting, I can already hear several hamsa hamidas. Bored waiting, I then sends several short message to friends that I forgot to say goodbye. (Yappari, I cannot bring myself to not say goodbye).

Quick Fact: I later realized that I was sent to the Kualanamu airport by Mr. Edy and picked up at Jakarta airport by Mr. Edy. One with affiliation to the secret service and one with the air force. What a coincidence…

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