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NGO to ICN to LAX to SLC

Morning came far too early after last nights late night outing. However, things were already packed and all that was needed was being conscious enough and ready to grab the bags and head down to the taxi. On the way out, I was pleasantly surprised when an assistant at the desk came up to me and handed me a small envelope with money, telling me that I had overpaid the previous day on a package I shipped back to H loaded with characters for my nephews from the NHK character shop. How cool was that? Goodbye Nagoya Konko Hotel, I’ll miss you and look forward to returning. By the way, it seems almost anathema to dine at a hotel restaurant, but Escoffier, the French restaurant at the Nagoya Kanko Hotel served the best French meal I’ve ever eaten. It was spectacular with a subtle Japanese twist.


Its the little things, about Japan that I love and all the little things that I am going to miss. The detail, the care and the passion with which things are done simply amaze me. The fit and finish of materials from elevator doors and seat cushions to coffee cups to eating bowls all have an element of thought and refinement about them. On top of all that, the pride that people take in their jobs or tasks no matter how menial, the care, consideration and politeness that is extended to others makes Japan a destination that one should experience just so we know what is possible and desirable in society. To give an example of this, as I gathered myself together for the flight home out of Nagoya, arranging the laptop, journal articles to read and my belongings prior to the flight, I looked out the window and the ground crew that pulled our plane away from the gate were waving to the passengers. It was a lovely gesture and exemplifies the beauty of this country. Waving was a simple and completely unnecessary gesture that was likely not seen by many people at all, but it was charming and did inspire a feeling of genuine warmth. My thanks and genuine respect goes out to the ground crew in Nagoya.

The whole flight experience on Korean Air and traveling through the Nagoya airport has left me feeling just a little cheated by US airlines, airports, and the Department of Homeland Security. I guarantee that protectionism aside, if other carriers are allowed to fly in the US, there would be some real change in the industry. I’ve heard that it is a cheapest fare world and that some flyers will change carriers because the tickets are $5 cheaper. This may be the case, but there are also those flyers who will be willing to pay just a bit more to obtain a more pleasant experience and I would gladly hand over my money to the carrier who treats their passengers with respect, care and compassion over the carrier who simply views the passenger as a commodity. I’ve heard that this movement may be underway with airlines such as Virgin America, now flying select routes in the US.

Immigration was no hassle even though there will be biometric procedures in place starting November 20th in Japan. I suppose the added security, fears and available technology have made this sort of thing inevitable, but going through the security lines at the airport were nowhere near as much of a hassle as it is in the US. In fact, I am not looking forward to the prospect of having to enter the US, remove shoes, sweatshirt, empty out luggage, etc…etc…etc…

I almost did not get to make this trip because of a perceived lie when we were told that weather was preventing an overbooked flight from landing in LAX. Had we believed this story, we either would have 1) missed all of our connecting flights in LAX or 2) had to take a coach seat when we paid for a business class seat with no recompense. It is precisely this manner of business that makes flying on US carriers so unpleasant and it also serves as a marked contrast with the experience on Korean Air. As mentioned before its the little touches and the detail with which asian airlines like Korean Air and Japan Air Lines are going to be building their markets and all things considered, I would most happily fly the airline that treats their customers with care rather than the one who could care less.

That rant over with, the trip itself was rather nice if a little turbulent as we passed over the Korean coast. But it was also extremely quiet with just two passengers including myself on the upper deck of the flight. I slept for most of the flight before arriving at Incheon.


For those that complain about dual signage in the US with English and Spanish, just imagine what places in SE asia are like as exemplified by this warning sign on a moving walkway with pictograms and four completely separate representational texts.

Incheon airport was very pleasant, very modern and clean with all of the conveniences that modern airports provide including shopping, travelers hotels, cuisine and Internet connectivity. Unfortunately, Internet access seems to be limited to revenue generating resources, although it was free in the Korean Air lounge which also provided decent food, drink, comfortable seats and shower facilities for business travelers.

Also seen in the Korean Air lounge was the model below of a 747. One does not really see these models anymore, but I seem to recall seeing models such as this in travel offices in some of the larger cities and it always used to inspire a sense of travel excitement in me as a child.

Apparently there are some new security announcements by the US Government that have resulted in more required security checks before flights can enter the country. So, the South Korean military sent out a bunch of young, very stern looking folks to search through our bags. The young woman that searched my bag spoke no English, but within the space of 30 seconds, the two of us were laughing hard enough that their supervisor was looking at us pretty carefully. Why were we laugh
ing? I don’t really know, but it started off with likely her surprise at my small, but heavy for its size bag (Camera glass is heavy), then her taking the camera out of the bag and my offer to take her picture (apparently not allowed). After that it was uncontrolled laughter.

Once on the plane getting ready to fly to LAX, there was an announcement saying that passengers on flights into the US are now forbidden to congregate at any place on the airplane and that passengers have to return to their seats for the entire flight…. Excuse me, what? We are no longer able to socialize? We are not able to talk with one another? What is going on in the US? Where are our freedoms going? I can only see our ranking of freedoms in the world dropping even more than our current international ranking. It might surprise you to note that the US does not rank first in personal freedoms, nor does it rank first in business or economic freedoms according to a number of indices that rank economic freedom (currently 4th or 5th depending upon whether you subscribe to The Heritage Foundation or The Frasier Institute respectively. According to Reporters without Borders, the US ranks in terms of freedom of the press at 48th. Personal freedoms are not ranked that low, but given legislation such as The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, the NSA call database and others, we are in trouble. According to a white paper published by the admittedly libertarian Cato Institute, our country has been on a course that is “sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers”.

That rant about restrictions of personal freedoms aside, the flight itself was very pleasant and we again flew business class from ICN to LAX. We had a different kind of bibimbap this time and the service was excellent, just as the flight out had been, but I slept for a considerable time after we ate dinner only to wake up a short time before flying into LAX.


We have a marketing problem. Every time I come back into the country I experience reverse culture shock and am shocked at how rude Americans are and how we seem to be marching backwards in a number of arenas.

I just came from two of the cleanest, best run airports in the world (Incheon and Nagoya) to LAX initially in a pretty good mood as I flew business class and actually got some sleep only to have to enter my country into a dirty terminal with ceiling tiles falling down, filthy bathrooms with the plumbing coming apart and TSA people barking orders at entering passengers. My own experience was marred by the following exchange with a young immigration officer wearing an H&K sidearm, sitting hunched over his desk:

BWJones: Good morning.

Immigration officer: Passport and customs forms…

BWJones: Here you are…

Immigration officer: What was your business in Japan?

BWJones: Science.

Immigration officer: What?

BWJones: I am a scientist…. a professor.

Immigration officer: I did not ask you what you did for a living. I asked you what you did in Japan…

BWJones: <eyebrows raised> ……………… We were engaged in scientific research…………..

Immigration officer: What?

BWJones: Vision research… eyes. <me pointing at my own eye>

Immigration officer: Pass.

BWJones: This sucks…….

Note: Even in South Korea, I saw no evidence of weapons on any police or security. I don’t have *any* problem with firearms of any kind, but having all the people at the gateway to your country visibly armed does tend to change the tone a bit from open, welcoming country to one of a paranoid culture who’s citizens are both scared to express themselves or stick out too far for fear of being made an example of.

My good mood was failing when we then had the pleasure of going through security where we removed our shoes, belts, sweatshirts, etc…etc…etc… while my bags were checked more times in 30 minutes than they had in multiple airports for the past week. TSA agents pawed through all of my belongings, dirty laundry, papers, the electronic accouterments travelers haul around with them, opening pocket after pocket in my luggage and swiping every surface possible for residue while ordering passengers around.

I don’t know…. Are we any more safe? How much ar
e we spending on all this inconvenience? What is the cost to business, education and progress? You have to contrast this with the experience at airports outside the country where folks are not required to remove shoes or belts, are treated with respect and politeness. I am thinking of the waving ground crew while we were leaving Nagoya. Its all the little things…..

A shot of downtown Los Angeles.

The part of town that makes Los Angeles famous, Hollywood. In the background from Hollywood, you can see Beverly Hills.

This facility, the Hellendale cross sectional radar facility was constructed as part of the effort to investigate stealth technology back in the 1980s.

Sand dunes in South Central Utah.

The Intermountain Power Project coal plant in Delta, Utah. Interestingly, this power plant releases quite a bit of radiation into the air from the uranium content in the coal that it burns.

Categories: Travel.

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2 Responses

  1. I feel like Air Korea would be better then Air Canada to Seoul! I thanks for all this info!

    James DunavanOctober 12, 2011 @ 10:20 amReply

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