And so the journey began- a day after Eid, back to Japan, but this time with ma and Z. Much like our first trip, it all began with an email, rushed attempts to polish our rusted language skills crammed in working hours, shopping for rain gear to beat the potential rainy season and this time getting ma travel-worthy (read- turning ma into a walking machine despite both the weather and lethargy of Ramadan).
The flight was long but we landed sooner than the anticipated 8.5hrs. Seeing as how we had to cushion our bums with blankies owing to the uncommonly hard seats that seemed to have lost all their padding, we were definitely happy to be up and about. The food on the plane had been, for a change, quite nice, in fact nice enough to tempt me to eat everything, but not quite. Day 1 at least requires me to exercise self-restraint if the rest of the trip is to go smoothly.
We had been warned that we should expect additional security checks at the airport, owing to our green passports and some others owing to their blue passports, so Kaoruせんせい decided to preempt all this by taking us straight to security and asking them to do their thing, instead of wasting time in the line. They must have been so impressed by our forthcomingness that they sent us back to the line saying there was no check required. Luckily for ma, Z and I, we managed to escape immigration without having to exchange pleasantries and itineraries with the immigration officers as we had to do in Korea, and by the time we were out, our luggage was already waiting neatly for us next to the carousel. Finally out, we breathed a sigh of relief and went straight to business- getting connected via vending machine data SIMs and meeting up with our group.
We ended up meeting more than our group at the vending machines, though, as a plain clothes airport security officer, who we mistakenly took for a telco employee eager to help us with our purchase (we were decidedly confused as we were presented with an array of options that hadn’t been there in 2015), decided a group of youngsters of different nationalities travelling together from the UAE, with a shared interest in Japan and the Japanese language was just too good to be true. He was in fact so intrigued that he insisted on meeting each and every one of us as part of a “random” security check (I think his sampling methods are quite questionable), inspecting our passports and stalking us until せんせい came through immigration, which was over an hour later because our fellow blue passport holders had been held up as their passports weren’t “authentic” enough and せんせい had stayed with them to make sure everything was okay. (Our passports lurk at the bottom of the envy list and anyone dumb enough to forge these passports should just be given time for their stupidity, a view shared by the lovely ladies who’d been held up). The officer hung around our group, at times both visibly and vocally annoyed at how おそい せんせい was, but nothing would deter him from getting to the bottom of this grave non-mystery, despite having met our tour guide who had patiently answered his questions too. Much waiting, much pacing too and fro, much craning to peep inside and a quick Starbucks cake later, they finally emerged. I declared this was enough to warrant a celebration, and the officer at this point would probably have concurred. After satisfying his seemingly insatiable curiosity, he thanked us for our cooperation, showed us a picture of his son in a possible attempt to ward off our suspicions that he was only hanging around to flirt with one of the members of our group which he may or may not have overheard, and we were all set to go.
We were ushered into the waiting bus and the weather outside came as a pleasant surprise. For those of us who’d been on this trip before in the summer of 2015, we’d been expecting more of the same summer madness but were instead met with a cool breeze and temperature in the early twenties. It was enough to make us forget our wait and tempt us to stay out all night. The bus ride was spent setting up our SIMs and watching the Osaka skyline through windows lit with our reflections, as we had seen it two years ago, complete with brightly lit up rainbow coloured ferris wheel. By the time we reached out hotel some 45 minutes later, we were well and truly exhausted and even the cool night air couldn’t keep us from our beds, especially when faced with long and gruelling Kyoto day trip planned. We got our rendezvous time, talked through the itinerary and picked up our packed dinner from the lobby while admiring the tree of wishes they’d set up for Tanabata, incidentally also my birthday.
We stayed up just long enough to drag our luggage through the long carpeted corridor to our room, appreciate just how huge our room was even by UAE standards and eat our sandwiches for dinner, saved by the cheddar cheese we’d packed on the plane (the things we learnt from the Korea trip sigh ) with which we replaced all our ripe red tomatoes. After unpacking just enough to get by on Day 2 we called it a night.
Check out Day 2 in Kyoto