Ohayo fellow readers! ‘Tis I, Geo, ready to embark on a new adventure. Over the next two weeks I will be traveling around Japan and hopefully sharing a new post every day or close to every day with all the latest developments.
I am in Japan for two weeks. I flew from Midland to Phoenix, to LA, to Osaka and then took trains 2 hours down the line to Okayama. I’m in Okayama until Monday the 10th, then chilling in Osaka until the weekend, flying to Hachijojima for no good reason on my birthday the 15th then back in Tokyo for a few days until I leave on the 19th.
I’d put together a handy dandy map with Indiana Jones-style arrows and aircraft montages, but I didn’t bring a mouse, so… enjoy this generic map of japan. Good luck.
It was a long day of traveling, probably the longest one of my life so far. My first connection to Phoenix was jam packed full of people ready to get Tuesday Morning Vacation Fever!!!
American Airlines, being a cost-conscious and efficient air carrier, opted for new low-grip Qwik-release sticky tape to hold the emergency exit door covers in place. This is for your safety AND peace of mind.
Thankfully my neighbors in the other exit row seats resisted the urge to pull the handle, and my domestic flights deposited me in Los Angeles without incident. My flight to Japan was on Japan Airlines, and their brand new Boeing 787 aircraft.
It’s not like it was a game-changing flying experience, but we did have bigger windows with fancy tinting adjustment and seats that recline a little too much for the comfort of people behind you. The kid behind me kept pushing and kicking on my seat when I did 100% recline, so I had to keep it more vertical and didn’t really succeed in getting any sleep. At least the food was nice, and the flight attendants were so stereotypically wonderful. Pretty, sharply dressed, and they spoke Japanese in this delicate, choreographed, singsong way.
It was about 12 hours from LA to Osaka. I didn’t get much sleep, but I did watch Star Wars: Rogue One in Japanese and another movie which I really enjoyed called (translated) “Fueled: The man they called Pirate”, which is a semi-based-on-a-true-story drama about a Japanese oil businessman in the early 20th century.
There was nothing to see out the window until we landed, but that part was kind of cool since Kansai airport is actually on a man-made island off the coast of the outskirts of Osaka. Nice easy taxi to the gate and we were off the plane in minutes. Very efficient, as I would expect. When I got through customs and into the main lobby, I knew I had landed in Japan.
Also had my first experience with Japanese vending machines. They’re awesome. Modern, easy to use, and ubiquitous, you can get pretty much anything you want with a handful of loose change. They carry all the big names, like “Pocari Sweat” and “Wilkinson”.
I settled for something semi-familiar and got some tea to keep me going for the final leg of my journey that day.
The next part of the trip was the part I was dreading. “How the hell do I buy the right train ticket to get me to a city 90 miles away?”
I’ve never been one to use public transportation much throughout my life; Just getting on a bus is an anxious experience for me under normal circumstances, and now I’m in a strange new land! Thankfully it wasn’t too bad. Little automated kiosk thing lets you find the trains you want, buy tickets and get on your way. It was a 45 minute light rail train from the airport to Shin-Osaka station, where I connected with my first ever bullet train to take me to Osaka!
The hardest part for me were the ticket turnstiles that you have to get through to get down to the track. I got three tickets: A ticket for each train and a trip receipt type thing. The first turnstile, I put in my train ticket leaving that station, and BZZZT- rejected. Tried the receipt and VIOLA, it works! Ok, easy enough, but then I got to Shin-Osaka and I had to get to the bullet train area.
I tried my receipt again, thinking I know the secret trick. WRONG. Ok, how about my bullet train ticket? ALSO WRONG. I kind of stood there in confusion for a few moments wondering what to do. An older Japanese conductor watches me from about 30 feet away, seemingly reluctant to rush to my rescue. Thankfully a pair of girls notice that I’m a white boy staring dumbly at the tickets in my hand and the simple device in front of me and they offer some helpful advice. “Zenbu, Zenbu!” (You need to use all of them!)
A-hah! I feed all three of my tickets into the reader, and the gates open. I’m a free man once more. I shout my thanks after them as I make my way through, but they don’t stick around for me, rushing off to catch whatever train they themselves are seeking.
The trains were comfortable, quiet, and on time. Not too crowded, but the few people in my car are all sharply dressed business people. This first time of many, I suspect, where I think I will feel under-dressed during this trip.
Not much of a view from the trains as it was dark outside and the interior brightly lit, leading to a lot of glare on the window. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but more should be forthcoming later on.
My hotel was just a 2 minute walk from the train station in Okayama, where I get my first taste of the accommodations on offer in Japan. It’s a small room by Western standards, but plenty of space for just myself. The futon and pillows were firm, but I find them to be comfortable.
And last but not least, the part everyone was waiting for. The Japanese toilets. Yes, this has a fancy mega-spray heated seat deluxe model. Enjoy.
The heated seat totally threw me at first because for not being used to it it has that “someones ass has was just here” feel to it, but once you come to simply expect them to be heated, it’s quite nice. What I find funny about the “washing jets” is that the english label says “spray” but the Japanese word is much more direct: “Butt”. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details, but let’s just say it’s a uniquely refreshing, but slightly wet experience if you ever give it a try.
The reason why I’m in Okayama is because of a big SuperGT race this weekend, but I have no idea what I’m doing with myself until then. The weather is gray and threatening rain the whole time I’m here so I’ll see what I can find to do in spite of it.
More updates to come later, but for now, take care folks. Thanks for reading!