Back to Japan – Day 3 Part 1 (Hiroshima)

We woke up to the sound of multiple alarms at 5.30am, hoping to get ready for an early breakfast ahead of our trip to Hiroshima. Breakfast was more of the same yummy croissants and waffles drenched with maple syrup, and the pineapples were still, as luck would have it, sweet. Breakfast also involved us trying to demystify a mystery fruit, which, we concluded after keen observations of random Chinese tourists’ breakfast trays, was some form of lychee. This, in itself, meant I’d have to try it for breakfast the next morning, since I love all things lychee ^^

As we left breakfast, it had started raining outside. We armed ourselves with umbrellas and headed off in a new direction exploring the streets of Osaka. This morning’s discovery was a dance studio across from our hotel, and a vending machine which sold Tully’s coffee. I’m beginning to imagine a business plan here – which involves Starbucks branching out into on the go vending machine products. Too many banal thoughts for a lovely rain splashed morning. The weather forecast for Hiroshima was looking ominous with warnings of potential thunderstorms so we packed our raincoats, a change of shoes and were all set to go.

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Dance class will be held in the rain under the stars today!

We took a lovely walk under the cloudy skies to the Esaka station and bought tickets to board a train to the Shin Osaka station, only a few minutes away, from where we’d be boarding the Shinkansen taking us to Hiroshima. Our short train ride was filled with commuters, 99% of whom I can safely say had their faces buried in either their mobile or in a book, quite unlike the early morning zombies of Dubai metro, of which I had once been a member, all catching up on their sleep. How can we be in such close proximity to each other and yet be worlds apart? Separated by silence, mind-numbing mobile games, the allure of living vicariously through mangas and books and even sleep. What a treasure trove of opportunity lies wasted in our commutes- friendships undiscovered, stories unspoken and smiles unshared…

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Waiting for our train to roll in

We headed to catch the Nozomi 7, past posters announcing Tanabata celebrations, and watched the Shinkansens glide in and glide out of the station until ours finally arrived. The Shinkansen ride takes less than 2 two hours, and was filled with scenic views of bright green, broken only by the darkness of tunnels. It was a good opportunity to catch up on sleep, but I was too excited- no, maybe apprehensive is a better word. It is one thing to experience the horrors sitting in the comfort of your living room, behind the safety of a television screen. It is quite another to set foot on the land that has felt the atrocities and experienced the suffering.

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Aerodynamics at its finest

A bus was waiting for us at the station, which would take us to the site of the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Peace Memorial Park. Outside our windows, we saw life went on, trees towered, flowers blossomed and rivers flowed. It was a strong reminder that every moment in life is just that – a moment, a blip on the radar on the pathway to where you choose to go, or stay. There is nothing worse than staying trapped in and being overwhelmed by that moment. Hiroshima had had its darkest moment- and the people, the plants, the animals had collectively chosen to forge on. Kaoru せんせい  gave us a brief history lesson on the events of World War II that had led to the one of the most, if not the most, horrific moments in human history – the intentional use of the A-bomb on a civilian population knowing full well the ramifications of such an action on both human life and to the earth. On a personal level, what really gets to me though are three things.

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Life rising from ashes and reaching for the skies

The first, how completely disproportionate the response to Pearl Harbour had been. An attack on a US military ship by the Japanese military, should never have led to a reciprocation by the US military on innocent Japanese civilians whose only fault was being Japanese. A retaliation so severe at a time where waiting it out would possibly have served as the best way to end the war with minimum loss of human life on either side, as Japan had already run out of supplies and had openly begun asking citizens to donate pots and pans to the cause because there was no longer any metal to use for their air fleets. Most people say the US military was under pressure to show results, to justify all the money that had been pumped into the program for developing the A-bomb. Justification of the creation of a WMD came at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. Is that justification, or is that eternal damnation?

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Countless lives erased

The second thing that eats me up, when I think about it and the more I read about it, is how there was a complete media blackout in the US to ensure that the American population were kept in the dark about the holocaust that had been committed in their name. Not only did they ban the Japanese from filming the horrors, any films they found were confiscated, while the US went on documenting the misery only to keep it classified for decades to come. Even now, the public has not really witnessed the true of horrors of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The third thing that I wrestle with is that despite the atrocities, despite the uncountable, unfathomable loss of human life, despite the massive mental and physical repercussions for not just the Japanese people, but even the US soldiers who were subject to nuclear radiation poisoning , there has never been any real move by the world to actively pursue nuclear disarmament, which should have, in my opinion, been started by the only country to have used to the weapons and experienced first hand the incontestable devastation. Instead, the world moves on, trapped in red tape and fear playing on a chess board which no one is brave enough to flip over to make a fresh start. The world moves on, washing its hands off its accountability, determined to make its children pay for its sins. And we, as the inheritors to this chaos, have not done enough to break free.

Nothing really prepares you for setting foot on the Aioi Bridge, across the Honkawa river, the original target of the A-bomb (and only recently rebuilt in the 80s) and walking toward the skeletal ruins of the building once an exhibition hall, now called the “Atomic Bomb Dome”, the sole survivor in a sea of fire fuelled by burning wooden buildings. Every step towards the building brings back pictures you’ve seen of the rubble that once was where you are now standing. It is disconcerting to think that the only thing that separates you from the people who lived and died there, is the accident of your birth. Life, meanwhile, has sprung through the cracks and covered the devastation with its beauty. It was always believed that nothing could grow at the site of the bombing for around 75 years at least, but by the end of the year, trees and shrubs were already making their way through the destruction and red flowers bloomed through the rubble.

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View of the Atomic Bomb Dome from the Aioi Bridge

We walked on, in reverent silence for the countless lives that had been lost there, across the Motoyasu bridge, past the Children’s Peace Monument towards the Flame of Peace, which burns continually with the hope of peace for the generations to come. I could not bring myself to go to the Children’s Peace Monument, behind which hang countless colourful senbazuru.

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The Cenotaph, the Flame of Peace and the Atomic Bomb Dome in perfect alignment

We made our way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where Japanese people and foreigners alike shared a sombre silence as we relived the moments that led up to the fateful day – August 6, 1945. Even school children have been brought so they never forget and remember the words, “Never Again.” Not only could we see the pre and post images of the vibrant city of Hiroshima as it had once been, but we were also able to see well-preserved artefacts from the day of the bombing and the weeks to come. From glass bottles, fused by the heat released by the bomb, to the clothes worn by the women and children who had come to die. Most spectacularly preserved however, is a watch stuck in time at the moment of impact.

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Stuck in time

There is a small gallery, with some pictures showing the toll of the bomb on the human body – on men, women and children alike, and it was the one place I could not bring myself to go through. There were accounts given by children, some of which were never completed because the children tragically lost their lives. There we saw the popular story of Sadako who even a thousand paper cranes could not save, just one of the innocent child casualties of the war. I wonder how it will be when all these children ask for what crime they were killed. I wonder if thoughts of them ever haunted those who had been involved in the bombing. It’s a chilling thought.

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“They wanted water”

We headed to the museum shop, where we found not just the commemorative coin, but also a copy of John Hersey’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Hiroshima” which I had once read.

“They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything”

 John Hersey from Hiroshima

There are things that you read, people you meet and things you see that change your life. If this was not a call for “Never Again” then nothing else shall ever be, because it will be as though empathy had died and the world was again ready to sacrifice their children and their planet on the alter of fear.

Missed Day 2 in Kyoto?

Check out Day 3 Part 2- Adventures in Miyajima!

Back to Japan- Day 2 (Kyoto)

Rise and shine! We woke up to the sound of our 5.30am alarms and started the day by testing out our newly purchased pre-travel impulse buy – a clothes steamer – on our highly crumpled but summer friendly viscose shirts. Verdict – meh…

In the light of the day, we were truly able to appreciate just how spacious our room was, far more spacious than our double room at Kyoto or Tokyo during our last trip had been with enough room for 3 people to get ready without getting in each others’ way. By 6.30am, we were ready to descend on our breakfast buffet. There was plenty of bakery goodness to go around, so we filled up on an assortment of breads, croissants and waffles topped with a variety of jams and sugary sweet maple syrup to get us through the day – until we met our next halal meal.

But why waste time with mundane things like breakfast when there’s an entire city waiting at your doorstep to be explored? (Okay. Scratch that. If halal food isn’t easy to come by, please don’t skip breakfast- eat like the world can wait at your doorstep). We left breakfast and headed straight downstairs to explore the streets of Osaka before our Kyoto adventure began. The weather, as it had been the previous night, was divine, with a slight spattering of rain which was enough to prompt us to duck into the nearest 7/11 and arm ourselves with umbrellas. Z was already well-supplied thanks toオサマさん’s generosity from the last trip. Even his umbrella seems to have received army training, as we discovered when Z finally got an opportunity to use it – it’s enough to maim anyone who gets in the way. ^^

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Walking in the rain ❤

Umbrellas in hand, we walked down the street lined with trees coming to life after spring, watching the brick pavement turn a dark red with the soft drizzle. There were of course, the obligatory  vending machines and Pachinko Parlour across the street, but more remarkably, a solitary tree reaching for the sky in the centre of a mini green haven squeezed between the mass of buildings across from Tully’s Coffee. A sudden reminder that is there more to life beyond the concrete jungle.

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First vending machine spotted

We walked back to the hotel, enjoying our umbrellas and the rather empty streets at that time of day, to rendezvous with the group for a headcount before we boarded the bus to Kyoto. It was an hour long ride at best, but was enough to give some of us some much needed shut-eye, others the opportunity to take in the fleeting scenery trapped outside our windows and others some background about our first stop – the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, courtesy Kaoru せんせい who was our bona fide tour guide / source of historical information, myths and legends this time around. (Our guides from the last trip were apparently too unnecessarily verbose to handle a second time.) The last time we were here, I feel like I didn’t really understand the purpose of the shrine but this time we were treated to not just the history of the shrine, but the legend behind it.

An archer seeks to shoot a mochi which transforms into a beautiful swan and lands at a place where rice begins to grow in abundance. A sign from the gods to the archer, a shrine is erected dedicated to Inari, the god of rice. 

The shrine grew further in popularity when Toyotomi’s Hideyoshi’s (the first general to unite Japan) mother’s prayers for his success at this shrine were answered, as he went from peasant to ruler. More the sincerity of the person praying than the location of the prayer, I would think. The popularity of the shrine soared still when his mother fell ill and Hideyoshi prayed at the same place for his mother to recover, which she did, upon which he donated a large torii seen still at the entrance to the shrine. For every prayer answered, it seems a torii is donated, costing upwards of a million yen, and a winding path of bright orange toriis numbering in the thousands now lines the way up the mountain.

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The Romon Gate donated by Hideyoshi

While we didn’t make the long trek all the way up the mountain, we went through the first set of vermillion gates, each engraved with the name of the person who had donated it, along with the date of donation. Coming from a culture where giving is done in such a way that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand has given, I wondered then, for whose benefit the engraving was- the already all-knowing gods, strangers or a self-serving ego?

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The names etched in history

We managed to make our way up without a lot of rush, and were able to take some time to see the votive tablets with a variety of faces drawn on, most notably the one with the dollar symbol for eyes. Our path down was also nice and empty, which meant we had a lot of time to browse the souvenir stores at the base, something we’d missed before. I picked up some bookmarks, Z his staple crushed ice which he was loth to share with ma, and as they both got shoo’d out of the store for eating at the entrance where I was buying magnets, we concluded that we didn’t have much else to buy, apart from corn on the cob for ma ^^ We left everyone up near the shops and decided to make better use of our time by walking back down to the main torii, which was a long walk, and waiting for everyone at the base from where we could go together to the bus.

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At Fushimi Inari

We caught sight of some of the group shopping for drinks at the store opposite us, but there was no one else around. Z went back up to where we’d left everyone to investigate only to find no one there either. Not one to panic, he decided we’d just wait some more and he’d go check again. That too was to no avail. By this time ma was feeling unexpectedly unwell and we sat down at the base of a stone lantern next to some Japanese American tourists who’d brought their kids to experience Japan. We decided to callせんせい only to realize that we didn’t have a calling plan and she didn’t have a data plan. My data was switched off (force of habit thanks to exorbitant rates back home if you’re not on a plan like moi) and as soon as I switched it on, I got a message from せんせい’s daughter asking where we were. We came to realize that everyone had already headed back to the bus, without either of us realizing that we’d passed each other on the way. We quickly retraced our steps to the train line, which is where we met せんせいand her friend, a elderly student from university helping us out on Day 2, who were out looking for us. The bus was not too far away, thankfully, and we made it at last. One good thing that came out of the experience was that it prompted us to form a Whatsapp group, since most of us had gone for the data plan, where everyone could keep track of each other. ^^

The next familiar stop was the Golden Temple, Kinkakuji. If there’s one place I wouldn’t mind visiting again and again on any possible future trips to Japan, it would be the Golden Temple, in all its seasons. Luckily for us again, there wasn’t much rush, so we were able to not just enjoy the breathtaking golden temple sitting atop a lake, reflecting the grey overcast sky and the bright green foliage not yet back into its full summer swing, but also didn’t have to spend any effort in vying for precious photo space in the hope of catching a picture without random strangers in it.

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The crown that is the Golden Temple

The beauty of the temple, having now become a tourist attraction, is marred by the mindless babble of tourists and yet, there is still serenity to be found in the immaculately maintained gardens with their pristine landscaping. To me, the temple is simply the delicate finishing touch added to an incredible feat of landscaping that completes the picture of tranquility.

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The grounds of the temple

As we moved to leave, our attention was drawn to a rather secluded area with a relatively less worn pathway that led to a 600 yr old pine tree, being painstakingly shaped over time. It is a labour of love, knowing the tree will outlive all your plans for it and you will never know what it will look like when it’s ready to let go.

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The 600 year old dwarf pine tree still being shaped

It’s always to soon to say goodbye to this place and as we walked past the soothing sound of water breaking on rocks and a single maple with its leaves already rushing to turn red as though beckoning the autumn, I’m resolved to go back. We took a not-so-quick bathroom break, because this apparently is where all the tourists disappeared, and were finally ready to satisfy our bellies as much as we had our eyes, with a Persian/Asian lunch at a halal restaurant which ambiguously hosts belly dancing shows at night. As some of our group mentioned, the food’s halal and everything else is just iffy.

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Walking up to lunch ^^

The kebab and rice were just right and ma was happy to be having non-sticky rice, like she’s used to and we managed to nearly polish off both plates cue applause, only to find out that there was pizza next. Oops. Our tour guide stepped in to speed up the slow service by serving us herself, despite our many protestations to leave waitressing to the waiters and join us instead for lunch. A lively discussion ensued over lunch, with the two elderly gentleman from university who were accompanying us for the day, regarding the demographic diversity of the UAE. It seemed difficult for them to grasp the fact that despite 5/6 people in the UAE being foreigners from all corners of the world, we all get along rather well and our circle of friends is not limited to our own compatriots, but is as diverse as a rainbow. The discussion was then cut short as we began introductions. It turned out that the overwhelming majority of people were looking forward to going to Mt. Fuji the most. For me, however, the allure of this trip lay in visiting Hiroshima. For all the things I’d read and watched about the devastating impact of the bombs, I needed to see for myself the miraculous recovery of a city which stands as a reminder that while wounds may heal and scars may fade, the lessons learnt must never be allowed to fade from living memory.

Our next stop, after a filling lunch, was Nijo Castle, home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who laid siege to Osaka Castle and was responsible for the death of Hideyoshi’s son who he had once been asked to protect. The castle is famous for its Nightingale floors which creak and sing at the slightest step, a primitive and rather annoying, though highly effective, security system. As we walked to the castle gate, we crossed the water filled moat, where bright green algae had started to deceptively cover the water surface, making it look more like a lawn than a deep moat.

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Ornate carvings, and gold decoration mark the entrance to the castle

The walk to the castle entrance is short and we had to take off our shoes before we began roaming the corridors filled with musty smell of wood I love so much. An audio guide is available, but we were pressed for time, so we just walked through the halls, reading the descriptions about each room we came across. Despite our softest footsteps, the floorboards were not to be deceived, and after a while we got used to the chirping at our feet. The castle and its nearby buildings were under renovation, and a much needed renovation it is. The murals on the wall were visibly water-damaged, which is probably why photography has been prohibited- in an attempt to prevent further deterioration from flash photography. It was interesting to stare up at the ceiling as we walked, and we noticed that the ceiling in each hall and corridor was unique – carved in a different pattern, and painted in different colours.

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Nijo Castle surrounded by trees

While the paint has begun to fade, restoration efforts should be able to restore the castle to its former glory.  On that positive note, we went to the souvenir shop and rest area to hunt down our commemorative coin and with that mission accomplished, we resisted the temptation of absolutely delicious looking ice-creams, and headed back to the bus.

We were scheduled for a quick one hour shopping stop at Hanamikoji, before returning to Kyoto. Too much to see, too much to buy and too little time was the presiding sentiment, so we set off like runners on a hundred meter sprint to take in all there was to see. From confectionary stores with sweets so cute you can hardly bring yourself to eat them, to stores dedicated to hair accessories in a dazzling rainbow of colours to match your kimono or yukata, everything was super kawaii. Somehow I even managed to stumble upon the Papernano samurai model kit that was on my list of must-bring-back-from-Japan-or-else list, along with the tools. With that happy haul, we were all set to head back to Kyoto for dinner.

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Time to Okinomiyaki at Osaka Botejyu

Dinner was Okinomiyaki – quite a mouthful, both the name and the food itself. We all settled in, already excited at the sight of the large metal hot plate embedded in our tables, a collection of sauces waiting to be tried and the prospect of cooking our own dinner. Our excitement was suddenly dampened, when we discovered that the waitress had come out with the bowl for the okinomikyaki with pork strips on the side. Serious consultations ensued between both Kaoru and Kishida せんせい and the restaurant owner to establish if our meal was actually going to be halal or not. Dinner there looked like it was going to be off the cards, but after much discussion, to our relief, dinner was back on after assurances that that specific meal was meant for someone else, and that our meals would be completely halal.

We were now ready for some fun. Our bowls came out, filled with something white and shredded, a prawn (or was it shrimp? This is going to take me much longer to figure out than my childhood confusion of chicken and meat) and raw egg as a topping.

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Getting ready to get our hands dirty (figuratively of course) ^^

I realized that I shouldn’t be having any egg and with the help of Kaoru せんせい managed to get another bowl, sans egg. The white shredded “something else” in the bowl turned out to be cabbage, enemy of my fragile fidgety colon. Sigh. With that, it meant dinner had turned from a foodie adventure into a cooking experience for me, which I didn’t really mind seeing as how we had sandwiches left over from last night, with plenty of cheddar cheese. The waitress came and with Kaoru せんせい began to demonstrate how to make our exotic looking dish. It turns out, there’s a right way to make this- remove prawn/shrimp who is just getting in the way, stir ingredients in bowl exactly 10 times before scooping half the mixture on the hot plate and flattening into a nice round pancake, add pesky prawn/shrimp with his tail sticking out only to bury him under the remaining half of the mixture so you don’t dwell (rather I don’t dwell) on how many legs he has, then flip 3 times to ensure everything is cooked through and through before lathering the top with an exciting assortment of sauces, mayonnaise and optional dried fish flakes for maximum yumminess.

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The final product a la Kaoru せんせい

We had a lot of fun making our okinomiyaki pancakes, and even though our eggless cabbage batter failed to rise into a fluffy omelette like pancake we made it nonetheless, flipping et al, which was probably the trickiest part of the whole business, with pancakes falling apart and others falling on other people’s culinary works of art. Ma and I ended up just sampling the taste, ordered coke and were pleasantly surprised when the noodles came out. Now the noodles, we could eat, which was a welcome change for me since during my last trip I couldn’t even have that! Even though I’m not a seafood person, something I’m actively trying to change in our cat, I had the noodles carefully removing any suspicious seafood-y bits. Having filled up on the tasty noodles, we were presented with transparent jelly-like mochi dessert topped with some soy powder that mum loved and I found to taste again- suspiciously like seafood.

Despite the way dinner had started out, it ended on a high note, not just because of the experience, but just as we were winding down, we were offered complimentary orange juice to make up for it. Not just that, but the restaurant owner herself came out to apologize and even offered us complimentary bottles of tea to take home with us. I passed, because I felt so bad that she felt so bad.

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Heading home

Back at the hotel, ma and I had our sandwiches with cheese and the remainder of the night was spent unpacking for the big day – Hiroshima, another futile attempt at steaming out those stubborn wrinkles and much needed showers before we finally hit the sack at 11pm.

I’m beginning to miss Aegi and Haya ❤

Missed out on Day 1?

Check out Day 3 in Hiroshima

Back to Japan – Part 1

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.

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Two months of excitement and it finally begins

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.

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Wishing for a wonderful trip filled with beautiful memories 🙂

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.

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I’ve missed Japan’s long seemingly endless hotel corridors

Check out Day 2 in Kyoto