Japan Autumn 2012 – Day 1: The Mad Rush to Osaka
Flying direct from Singapore, this would herald my 4th visit to Japan and I was no less excited about it as I was before my 1st visit! I had drawn up a rough plan as you can see here which continued to fill as my departure date grew closer. This time around, I would be spending about 3.5 weeks in Japan, mostly involving a student internship in Tokyo but with a brief venture to the Kansai region at the beginning. This time, I would be travelling alone. Photos were taken with a Sony SLT and Sony Xperia S cameraphone so image quality will differ considerably at random times.
I took a morning flight which would arrive in Japan some time in the late afternoon. The plan was to take the Airport Limousine bus to Sheraton Miyako Hotel and await my student internship liason, and then be taken to wherever my accomodation would be. Time constraints were a real issue as my bus for Osaka would leave at 945pm that very night. Arriving at Narita Airport slightly early, I forked over the 3000yen for a bus ticket to Sheraton and quickly boarded the bus.
The bus ride turned out to be fairly long, about 2 hours all up, and I took this time to properly figure out my plan and come up with contingencies in case time constraints proved to be more of an issue than I thought.
Reaching Sheraton Miyako hotel, I realized that I had probably taken one bus too early and so the student internship liason was nowhere to be found. I wandered into the hotel itself and was urged several times to check in by the friendly and slightly naggy staff. It probably wouldn’t be all that wise to let them know I was not planning on being a guest at the hotel so I brushed them off with the excuse that I wanted to go to the toilet first. About 20 minutes later, the student internship liason arrived. We exchanged greetings, established that my Japanese was extremely poor and her English wasn’t that great, then packed into a tiny van for a short drive to the clinic. I was shown around the rather high-tech clinic and said hello to the staff and owner before realising the student internship liason had beat a hasty retreat, disappearing completely. Fortunately, one of the technicians had been given instructions to take me to my accomodation so we packed into the tiny van again and set off.
I was rather amused when we drove up to a branch clinic out in Kugayama (~40 minutes from Tokyo) and my accomodation would indeed be the 2nd floor. To top it off, I was to share my living space with a cat! At that time, the little room I was to be housed in was occupied by a different cat and furnishings consisted of a 3 level scratching post, a litter tray, and the musty odour of ammonia. The technician assured me that by the time I return from Osaka, there would be a bed and it would all be cleaned up and prepared for me. Thanking her in advance for the hospitality, I quickly pushed my luggage into a corner, opened it up, and lifted out my pre-packed backpack which contained everything I needed for my visit to the Kansai region.
Doublechecking that I had everything, I left the clinic together with the technician who had driven me there. Now I had to take the train from Kugayama to Shibuya, and then to Ikebukuro where the bus to Osaka awaited. However, there was still a little bit of time to spare so I decided to make a brief stop at Shinjuku’s Bic Camera to purchase a data simcard. I had previously been told that I would be charged an inflated fee to get the simcard activated since I was without a Japanese phone number. I let the shop staff know of my predicament, to which she unexpectedly lent me her iphone to activate the simcard with. Thanking her numerously, I then left the electronics mall and headed to Ikebukuro.
Now, the bus terminal was much further away from Ikebukuro station than I had originally thought. It was easily a kilometre away and hidden at the back of a shopping mall which was closed for the day. Thankfully, I had reasonably accurate coordinates to the place so following the gps led me close by enough to figure out where the bus would be. At the stop, I met a Swiss couple who were travelling to Kyoto that night as well. We talked for a bit before boarding the bus.
The night bus to Osaka was surprisingly comfortable. Each seat had a decent amount of leg room, reclined quite far back, and was equipped with a hood which effectively covers your head to allow you to sleep without being disturbed by lights from inside and outside. There would be a few pit stops made, about every 3 hours, and each resting area had a convenience store and an extremely large toilet complex. It was quite a fun and refreshing to step off the bus to purchase and drink an ice cold bottle of my favourite brand of milk tea!
That’s it for day 1. Tomorrow, Osaka!