A few years ago I started to learn Japanese but ended up putting it on hold in favour of Korean. In a twist of fate though, I ended up putting my dream Korean vacation on hold over the last few years and ended up visiting Japan this July. It all started with an email from my Sensei, then a call, and then a yes followed by much excitement, attempts to refresh my rusty language skills and a shopping spree for all things cotton.
The plane ride was uneventful enough and my brother and I were lucky to have an empty seat beside us which meant more precious leg room! Yayy! We had to fill out customs forms but I can’t quite make up my mind whose customs forms are stranger- New Zealand or Japan. The Japanese form asks how much perfume you have on you and New Zealand is looking for soil under your shoes. The purpose of these questions really stumps me. In any case, after filling out the forms at 3am, we flew over China where you could actually see the huge rivers from the plane, but South Korea was clouded over so I couldn’t even manage an aerial view :(
China, South Korea and First View of Japanese Islands
We landed at a very Dubai-esque (read posh) Kansai airport
in Osaka in the evening to a long line at immigration, made up mostly of Chinese tourists who we had been told were figuratively flooding the country during the holiday season (a bit like NZ I suppose). Luckily we only had to queue up for about an hour before we were greeted with an unexpected Salaam from the customs officer as we left arrivals with our baggage and waited outside to rendezvous with the rest of our group made up mostly of former students at the UAE-Japan Centre.
Right outside the departures gates is a vending machine selling SIM cards with data packages
from so-net so we all used whatever cash we had on us to get ourselves connected, an easy enough process. For those who didn’t go to an exchange in the UAE or didn’t have change that the machine could take (1000 Yen notes) , they were confronted by a snake like queue at the money exchange and in the end gave up, because it required filling out even longer forms. Instead, they got change by ordering something from Starbucks- a much smarter and more filling way, if you ask me, of getting change.
Connecting to the world with something so small ^^
It was a long bus ride from Osaka to Kyoto and I kept drifting off. On another day, I’d probably have felt guilty about having fallen asleep, but since it was night time, I didn’t miss much scenery. We reached the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel
, only to find the reception unmanned, or so it seemed. It turned out though that the reception was not on that floor and that we had to go downstairs.
Kyoto Tokyu Hotel
We found our way and were handed over our room cards and a box filled with our dinner – yummy vegetable sandwiches and chips.
The rooms were not exactly small as we had been led to expect which was great since it meant all our luggage fit in rather nicely. We dug into our sandwiches while simultaneously unpacking to get ready for the long day ahead, setting up our SIMs and trying to figure out how to set up the enigmatic wifi.