Sunday, May 28, 2017

Travel: Osaka - Kyoto

Kate and I wake up early, check out and make our way to the train station for the trip to Kyoto. By the way, I was saying Kyoto incorrect for 5 months before someone corrected me (it’s Key-oto, not Kai-oto).

Anyway, we make our way to Shinsaibashi Station. Gone are the bright lights of the night before, and we are confronted with the little alley streets of the city. I am amazed with the electricity poles, I really expected to see everything really neat and organised. I’m not disappointed by any means, just surprised.

We get to the station and we are soon on our way to Kyoto station. We find a couple of lockers for our suitcases at the station. After a bit of a chuckle over the forbidden items, we go in search of food. We walk out of the station and the first thing we see is Kyoto Tower. It is magnificent and again, I can’t believe my eyes! I am so excited to be here.

Kate of course spies a McDonalds and so we decide that is what we will have for breakfast.

After breakfast, we make our way back to the station to go two stops to go to Inari Station to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Travel: Sydney to Osaka

Kate and I left home about 10.30pm the night before we were due to fly out and drove the 5 hours to Sydney. We stopped halfway for a little nap, but we were too excited to sleep. Our flight was due to depart just after 6am. We got there with plenty of time to spare, and so we tracked down some food and ate breakfast.

The first leg of our trip takes us to Cairns, where we disembark and switch to the International terminal for our flight to Osaka. We have a 4 hour stopover which is pretty boring, to be honest, but I have a little bit of a nap to catch up on the sleep I lost driving to Sydney. 

We finally board and Kate and I are so excited to be on our way to Japan.

The flight is very smooth and it feels like it goes quite quickly. The Dreamliner is a fantastic plane, quite comfortable and the food is decent enough. We watch the sun set on the first day of our trip and we know we are getting closer to our destination.

We arrive at Kansai Airport at 7.30pm and the first thing we do after we collect our baggage and make our way through customs, is go to go and get a data sim card. There’s a little outlet at the airport and we pick up a sim each, we put them in and we are ready to navigate to the hotel near Namba Station. We walk to the train station and we work out the ticketing machine much quicker than we thought we would. We get our tickets and hurry to the platform.

We catch the wrong train, but it’s ok, as it’s just a slower train as opposed to going to the wrong destination. We get to Namba Station and open up Google Maps to find our way to the hotel. Along the way, I am just walking in absolute awe. I can’t believe that I am actually here in Japan and seeing all these sights with my own two eyes. The colours and lights are amazing. I just want to drink in the atmosphere.

We are staying at Osaka Fujiya Hotel. I found the hotel on It’s small, but comfortable and it’s all we need for our first night here.

After we check in, we decide to head straight back out again and explore Dotonbori. I just have to keep pinching myself that we are here!

I had read about Okonomiyaki before I left and I knew I wanted to try them out. So after wandering around a bit, I decided to get some from Dotonbori Konamon Museum. There is a bit of a line up but it doesn’t take long to get them. Bearing in mind, I had no idea what Okonomiyaki actually was before I left for Japan. I found out pretty quickly after my first bite – squid. I was not expecting that and to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. There’s six in a box and I eat two before deciding that was enough for me!

Afterwards, Kate decides she would like some ramen noodles, so we find a little restaurant and order some. The shop is so small, but the food is dished up so quickly, the diners cycle through quite quickly.

And then we go back and sleep. Heavily, because we’re both exhausted.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Travel: Japan Planning

I’ve always wanted to travel but starting a family early meant that has been out of the question for some time now. I always told the kids that when they turned 18, I would take them to a destination of their choice. Then because I was getting a bit antsy, I lowered the age limit to 16. But I couldn’t even wait that long.

In April 2016, I was talking to a friend at work who mentioned she was looking at flights to Japan as Jetstar were having a free return flight sale. I thought this might be the perfect destination for Kate, even though she really wanted to go to South Korea. So, I hopped on the web and ran the numbers. It was doable, the flights would be a little over $600 each including food and baggage. I spoke to Steve about going and before I knew it, I was hitting the booking button.

Now, Japan is somewhere that wasn’t on my radar. Of course I have all the fancy places on my bucket list, France, Peru and Vietnam, but I’d never given Japan a second thought. Cue the research, because all I knew was that I’d booked flights to Osaka and that we were going to be there for a total of 13 days.

So I set myself up a spreadsheet and got to work. I Googled all the main tourist locations and refined my itinerary just a little bit every time. Kate had some input as to what she would like to see also, but I knew I was travelling with a 15 year old so I had to make it appealing to her also. In the end, she was excited with a lot of the things I had found to see.

It was obvious from the start that we would need to book a Shinkansen ticket. The options are for 7, 14 or 21 days. I decided that 7 days was enough and we could build our itinerary around that, knowing that the 7 days needed to be consecutive. I ordered the tickets from Japan Rail Pass Now and a week later, they arrived in the mail. As you can imagine, working in the rail industry, I was super excited to be going on my first bullet train!

I decided to go with AirBNB for most of our accommodation, mostly because I’m a tightass, but also so we could choose a location that was close to the things we wanted to do, or would make our lives easier to get around. Speaking of getting around, the Hyperdia website and app are a must if you are using public transport!

So with all this planning, I also decided that I needed to learn a few basic words. I spoke to a friend of mine who’d lived there a while and she thought the best ones to learn would be whatever I could remember along with hello, goodbye, thank you and excuse me. And I must say, these are pretty much all I used too!

In the end our itinerary looked a little like this (you can tell that the word planning is in my job title, can’t you?):

Our itinerary did change a little bit and what we ended up with was:

Day 6 – Okunojima Island (Rabbit Island)

Day 7 – Nara

Day 8 – Tokyo

Day 9 – Nagano – Snow Monkeys

Day 10 – Tokyo – Disneyland

Day 11 – Tokyo – Hakone

Day 12 – Osaka

Day 13 – Osaka

Now all we needed was the day to roll around so we could fly out and actually get to experience Japan in real life and not just through the screen of my computer!