New Aspire lounge at EDI

Japan in Winter (2020): Diary Prologue

Before I launch into the main trip diary, this post gives a brief summary of how I got from Edinburgh to Abashiri.

Thursday 30 Jan

Bruce had spent the previous week in Edinburgh, in the 2020 version of what has become a tradition of visiting me around the end of January. Normally his visit includes two weekends, together with the working week in between. This year was a little bit different: the arrival of Thursday brought an early rise for both of us, to catch a tram to the airport. I was accompanying Bruce on his early and transient return to Bristol. Later that same day, after having reorganised our luggage, we both travelled by GWR train to Reading in Berkshire and spent the night at the Malmaison, directly opposite the station.

Friday 31 Jan

Apart from the initial move from Reading to Heathrow, all of today was taken up with the trip’s Featured Flight, BA7 from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda. If you’re reading through the trip in the recommended order, you’ll have encountered this flight already. If not, and you want to see it, scroll to the foot of this page and click on the ‘back’ arrow embedded in this post.

Saturday 01 Feb

As mentioned in my review of BA7, our outbound long-haul flight delivered us to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport shortly after 0730 in the morning, local time. As we were transferring to a domestic flight and had a five-hour layover, it was just as well that we had access to the JAL lounge (JAL being one of BA’s Oneworld partners).

The lounge was busy, but as tends to be the case in Japan, incredibly civilised: no cellphones, no shouting, just classical music playing over the PA system. I remembered the beer-dispensing machine that tilts your glass from my previous visit here in 2018. I’m not going to claim that a five-hour layover passed quickly, but it was perfectly survivable.

Following our arrival in Memanbetsu, we took the airport bus to our hotel in Abashiri, which was located directly opposite the town’s station. We settled into our lodging for the next two nights, Route-Inn Ekimae. This was fairly basic and decidedly old-fashioned, but other than that it was essentially fine for our purposes. As tomorrow’s first highlight was scheduled to be an ice-breaker cruise, we walked – and slid! – to the terminal, to get some fresh air and a bit of exercise, and to ensure that we would know what we were doing the next morning. Later, we found dinner considerably closer to the hotel. With all that accomplished, including long-haul and short-haul flights, we were happy to surrender to the increasingly irresistible attraction of a good night’s sleep.