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PostA Close Call with Fate: "Diamond Princess" (Edward Jajko, USA, 07/24/20 4:21 am)
Edward Mears noted that, having arrived back in Japan and being quizzed by immigration officials, he was asked if he was "SOFA personnel," i.e., US military or other personnel presumably entitled to enter the country. Wisely, he said no. This reminded me of my one and only visit to Japan, in July or August, 1967.
I had flown in on Pan Am Flight 2, starting in Vienna. I had gotten out of the plane in Beirut and Hong Kong, visiting the transit lounges, and had set foot in India, leaving the plane, which seemed to have been parked off in the wilds, to visit a souvenir shack just off the pavement. Otherwise, I witnessed several changes of crew and had the same chicken dinner several times. We arrived at the old airport of Tokyo late at night.
At immigration, the officer at first assumed I was a military person. Although laden with the travel bags the airlines used to give away, I was young, 26 or 27, and fit and trim (yes!). At Japanese immigration control, I at first couldn't understand why the official was asking if I was military; then I realized that he probably thought I was entering Japan from Vietnam. I momentarily thought, what an easy way to get in; then I realized I would have to produce proper ID cards, etc. All of these thoughts came in a flash before I said "no" and wound up in the regular immigration line.
In our house we regret but at the same time are grateful for a trip to Japan that never came about. My wife Pam has wanted to travel to Japan for years. When she was still working, she was going to go for meetings at her employer's large installation in Yokohama. She was looking forward to that trip and was planning to take extra vacation time to spend an extended period in Kyoto. She was working with a travel specialist, was doing a lot of studying, etc. I was planning on accompanying her on that trip. At the last minute, her boss cancelled it.
My wife's dream of visiting Japan persisted, especially of spending considerable time in and around Kyoto. Finally, last year, she proposed a trip to one of her younger sisters, a now-widowed semi-retired physician, who did a round of her medical training in Japan many years ago--a sisters' trip. This husband would remain home.
They, and in particular my wife, did extensive planning, working with a travel agent, devising itineraries, choosing airlines, etc. And buying travel insurance. An important part of the planning was watching numerous programs on NHK, the Japanese public TV channel that we get on our ATT UVerse cable television. I was watching the sumo highlights program just last night.
The trip was to take them from San Francisco to Narita, then briefly to Tokyo, then to Kyoto for about two weeks.
Then my wife and sister-in-law were to take a cruise around the islands of Japan, stopping at various ports, ending in Tokyo Bay.
We are sorry that this trip never happened, that Pam and Terry never flew into Japan, and in particular that they never went on that cruise. But we are grateful that this all did not happen. They were to travel last March, when the pandemic was just beginning to show itself. And the ship that they were to take that cruise on was the Diamond Princess.
JE comments: Ed, Pam and Terry have a "near-brush with disaster" story for the history books! Did they cancel the trip because of the nascent coronavirus pandemic? Had they traveled, they would have experienced more than their share of the same chicken dinner--a month's worth or more.
A curiosity: Did Carnival charge the passengers for their extended quarantine on the Diamond Princess? I presume not, although many tourists stuck in different corners of the globe are now dealing with massive food and lodging bills. Just yesterday I read of a New York couple who returned home after a five-day trip to Turks and Caicos turned into a five-month lockdown: