As usual we rented a car at nearby Lewis University airport and drove ourselves to O'Hare rather than taking a limo or imposing on our friends. It seems like you should go to the international terminal when you are taking an international flight, but this is often not the case. We traveled on All Nippon Airways which shares its counter space with Luftwaffe, a pairing that works well since they share the same approach to life - efficient and well organized. We were surprised how many ANA employees appeared African American and spoke fluent Japanese. Perhaps they learned while they were stationed overseas???
ANA is a partner with United, which allowed us to use frequent flyer miles for a free round trip. Sadly, we didn't have enough miles for the first 2/3 of the plane where first class, business class, premium economy, and all other classes that allowed them to charge extra were seated. We were way in the back in economy class which was totally full. Service was good and the airline trusted us to use real silverware and was generous with wine and other drinks. Chops sticks also came with the food and were used by most of our fellow passengers. We passed the time fairly quickly with a good selection of films we could select from our consoles and watched the monitor to keep an eye on the route which took us over the same route to Alaska we drove a few years ago.
We landed about 8:30 on Tuesday having lost most of that day crossing the International Date Line. The airport was quiet and immigration and customs formalities went fast. This is the first time we have been fingerprinted and photographed as part of the passport procedures. I imagine we are doing the same thing to our visitors these days. Originally we had planned to take the airport shuttle to Tokyo, which is over an hour drive away from Tokyo. But the shuttle did not run that late so we booked a personal pick up for nearly the same price rather than the $200 taxi ride. It felt so good to see the man holding a sign with our name on it as we came out of the terminal. In the Japanese way he wore white gloves and doilies covered the head and arm rests of his limo. Lots of bowing ensued. The roads were virtually empty until we got into the city. We couldn't help but compare it all to our arrival in India last fall. There was no comparison. No horns honking, traffic lights that were obeyed rather than advisory, no animals in the street.
We fell into bed in the smallest hotel room we have ever had. When the waste basket is as big as a milk carton that tells you something. More on that tomorrow.