Well, I'm back.
Not that I wanted the convention to be over- that was fabulous.
But the plane ride home?
Shinshu- Matsumoto is a small airport.
JAL is doing so badly here they're pulling out altogether at the end of March.
In the meantime they have downgraded their planes to:
And I took that picture from my seat. Yup, I was seated next to the propeller. Made me feel personally responsible for checking the propeller was turning as it should, doing it's spinning thing without incident- quiet a cross to bear really and the longer you stare at a propeller without blinking the funnier your eyes get- like a magic eye book or something - and you lose confidence that the propeller is still turning properly and you need to stare harder. Doesn't make for a very relaxing flight!
The plane itself was tiny- two rows of two seats. Not quite as small as this one but pretty close:
The funniest part wasn't that we were bussed out onto the tarmac in Sapporo to walk up the stairs and onto the plane, or that the flight attendant didn't need to move to check we were all sitting down and count heads or even that there was a conversation-interruptingly loud roaring wind sound of the propellers the entire flight (that wasn't very funny at all actually) no, the funniest bit was when we arrived in Matsumoto.
Mastumoto is a very small airport surrounded by a very big park. (SkyPark- imaginative, huh?) there is about a flight a day out of Matsumoto at the moment. To either Sapporo, Osaka or Fukuoka. Signs telling you about these flights are all through the park.
As are signs and a huge banner informing you that the observation deck on the roof of the airport is free to enter (isn't it everywhere???).
Today was Sunday. We started circling to land and noticed masses of people on the rooftop. We got closer and closer and realised they weren't shooting a scene out of Independence Day, the airport hadn't flooded and it wasn't a hostage situation. Nope, they were families there to watch a plane land. And we did- to applause and much waving. So, in a re-enactment of the Beatles landing in Tokyo (only without so much screaming) we walked down the steps of the plane, across the tarmac and into the airport (think big bus shelter with a 5m long baggage carousel) standing tall, looking VIP-style serene and waving at our 'fans'.
Almost worth the terrifying propellor plane flight there.