North to Japan

In 1995 on our first trip around Europe (with Hannah, then aged 16) we had a chance meeting with an expatriate Australian couple travelling with grandchildren. Majella was inspired and in 2006 we did our first travel with a grandchild when Emily accompanied us while Majella attended two conferences in Italy and Greece. In 2008 and 2009 I managed to find conferences in Europe and we took Joel in 2008 and Sam in 2009 as they each turned 13. Ten years on and we are off to Japan with 13 year old Sophie.

Because we had allowed more than enough time to drop Jane and Lucas in town we made it to the airport earlier than I had planned or expected. Car return was simple and once we found the poorly signed check-in area that process went smoothly and we headed upstairs for immigration and security.

Passport checking was automated and we had no issues there. I was randomly selected from the security line for a full body scan that required me to remove belt but not shoes. The RFID secure pocket on my new shirt was detected and was a new enough feature to need explaining. I moved on and collected my gear from the conveyor only to be randomly selected for explosives testing. I scored a ‘double’ and then Majella and Sophie were both selected for explosives tests. We must look dodgy or be lucky.

Inside the terminal we had coffees and juice with a sandwich or croissant. After lunch Majella and Sophie checked the shops while I watched our gear and wrote my final FNQ post.

Before long it was time to board. That was quick on a lightly loaded plane and we were soon settled with the entertainment operating or, in my case, a thesis to read.

The Jetstar flight to Osaka was uneventful and a little faster than scheduled. We were served our dinner meals a bit more than an hour before landing. They were OK but Majella was pining for Qantas service standards.

We landed at Kansai Airport almost 30 minutes early. Despite our lack of Japanese language skills we made it through immigration and customs without difficulty or serious delay. Everyone was helpful and we arrived at baggage to find our bags taken off the belt and waiting for us.

I had done some research before we left and found that the Icoca card & Haruka pass combination should be our best bet. The card would give us credit for travel in the Ōsaka area before we activate our 7 day JR passes from Friday and having a card (or buying one) gets a discounted rate on the Haruka express to Shin-Osaka Station near our hotel. My problem was I could not immediately see where to buy those. I asked at the information desk and was told to go to second floor. 

We found the right sales office there and bought our cards and tickets. I was surprised that payment was cash only but fortunately I had picked up enough to cover that cost and a bit more in Toowoomba a week ago. I can see I’ll be frequenting the ATMs while we are here.

Tickets in hand we negotiated the entry machines and found our way down to the platform. We stood there for a while before asking which platform we needed and finding it was the other one. As we stood waiting to board Majella was surprised to see the seats all pivot automatically to face the direction of travel. With that, and the toilets she and Sophie used earlier, she is becoming excited by all the Japanese gadgetry.

Our train has free WiFi which I am using as I work on this. We had already found free WiFi in the airport so connectivity has not been a problem yet.

The train made one stop on the way to Shin-Osaka and arrived there just a little after 9:00 pm. It took us a while to find our way out of the station. I was concerned that we get out the intended exit which required just a short walk to our hotel but initially Maps.me (useful when disconnected) was showing a 1.2 km route estimated to take 20 minutes to walk.

Once we found an exit on the right side of the station we got down to ground level and followed the directions around the corner. Reception at the hotel officially closes at 9:00 pm so I had paid in advance and came armed with codes for access but it was attended and we were quickly signed in and up to our room.

The room is small but well equipped and comfortable. There is a double bed and a futon which Sophie will sleep on. We have a separate toilet with a control panel, a shower room with bath, washing machine, gas cooker, microwave and small refrigerator.

My portable WiFi had been delivered to the room but the hotel has free WiFi so I will not need it until we are out tomorrow. We slipped out to the corner store to buy something for breakfast and then came back to prepare for sleep. Eriko is promising to be here at 9:00 am.

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