I parted from my parents at a surprisingly reasonable 9.30am, leaving an hour for security and all that guff. We double-checked the noticeboards before I headed through, spending a fairly moderate five or ten minutes in the queue. I was briefly concerned by notices about placing electronics into trays, because about 80% of my hand luggage was electronics, but thankfully this turned out to just mean laptops really.
I emerged on the other side to see the schedule boards now reporting that the flight to Amsterdam will be delayed for 1 hour, which would cause me to miss my connection to Japan. Not Okay. Nobody at information desk. A friendly co-victim with a pleasant northern accent says he's reported it. I wait.
Eventually someone actually turns up and says they've checked the connections and there will be no problems. We remain sceptical, but accept it. When we arrive, "no problems" translates into a dash across Schiphol, skipping any chance of lunch or even grabbing something to eat later - luckily the warning at Manchester gave me a chance to pick something up there.
The flight to Fukuoka is long and very boring. I was surprised how primitive the plane seemed. Despite having the aisle seat, I was restricted in movements by inability to fold the arm, which made it almost impossible to leave the seat on the many occasions when a tray of food had been placed on my table. A minuscule screen offered a sizeable selection of films, none of which could be seen clearly from any conceivable angle, let alone when the bloke in front tilted his chair back (which is to say, always). Following my plan, I tried to catch forty winks in the later part of the flight so as to make it through a day in Fukuoka, but despite spending several hours in the dark and feeling sleep hover tantalisingly about my consciousness, it would never quite take the bait. As I write this I am knackered. Also soaked with sweat and rain, because it's 28C and raining heavily in Fukuoka.
I'd arranged to rent a phone at the airport when I arrived. I duly grabbed the map and went to the designated location. Nothing there. Hmm. Ah, it seems to be on the third floor, not here. Arriving at the marked point on the third floor, I saw only an ordinary shop, where I was met with bewildered helpfulness. Helpfully, the rental company had explained that their counter wasn't marked with the name of their company, but failed to say what it was called. I went downstairs to the information point, who sent me back up. The upstairs information point had no idea, and sent me downstairs again to look for a stall marked with the name of the company who delivered rental phones to your house, which as far as I could tell was unrelated to the actual rental company; I tried anyway, but couldn't find anything in the location she'd indicated. Here, I talked to another couple of phone rental booths, who knew nothing, but did so very politely. Returning upstairs, I made another run around various shops before returning to my friend upstairs, who phoned the delivery company and confirmed that yes, they did handle G-Call phones and had a phone for me. Heading back downstairs for a victorious final trip, I discovered the reason I hadn't found it was the information desk map was misleading. So, the information provided by both the phone rental company and the information desk was wrong, and nobody in the airport knew anything about the arrangement or the company except the lady who actually provided phones. Gold stars all round, then. I made a point of passing the word on to the other information desks I'd consulted, to make up for their effort and perhaps help out next time a confused tourist turned up.
By this time I thought I was tired, weary, hot and sweaty, but that was before I'd dragged my own weight in baggage into a shuttle bus, down several escalators, across three stations, across town for 10 minutes between two of said stations, and round to the apartment block in pouring rain. A pleasant rental agent soon showed up to introduce me to my "mansion" - of which more later.