Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 1 - Getting to Japan

Konbanwa (Good evening) lovely people! Writing in to you from our tiny AirBnB in the heart of Osaka in an area called Nishi - Shinsaibashi. Before I tell you how wonderful this place and its people are, I'd love to tell you how we got here from Bombay. Pardon my drab reportage since I'd like to pack in as much information as I can to help you plan your trip here..which you should sometime in life!
We chose the All Nippon Airways or ANA that have non-stop flights out of Bombay to Narita airport,Tokyo everyday. Our flight left at a decent hour of 8.30 pm IST and we were at Narita in 8 hours that's 8.30 am Japan time. 
Aha! I may add that we bumped into cute pooches that can be pet and cuddled while you await your flight. They are trained therapy dogs that help relieve stress while you're waiting. We were lucky to catch them since they only come over the weekends. What a delightful addition to our Bombay airport.
Our aircraft wasn't all booked and had mostly Japanese passengers who are very quiet and great co-passengers. The air hostesses are the warmest and the friendliest I've ever seen. There are hardly any announcements on the plane and if at all there are any, they sound like music to the ears. The food is great and if you love fish, you're in for a treat. I've never ever managed to sleep on a plane, but this time I did peacefully catch 5 hours of undisturbed sleep. 
Once you get off at Narita, the only time taking procedure is the immigration. Being the Sakura season I think it took us more than the usual time. The staff at the airport is so welcoming and helpful, they have people to help you around every corner and yes they speak great English too. Immigration at the Bombay airport is quite un-nerving with the officer on duty asking me why I'd married a Hindu boy being a Muslim! 
After immigration, we first made our way to collect our JR passes. JR lines are a private railway service across the country and can only be bought from travel agents outside of Japan. We debated alot before buying these since they are very pricey, but after advice from friends we went ahead and got them. Get them for sure if you're planning to travel across cities and make short day trips. They can be used on all JR lines and some Shinkansen ( High speed bullet ) trains too. You can buy them as 7 day/14 day/21 day passes. Armed with our 21 day JR passes we made our way to Shinsaibashi using two bullet trains.

The trains are extremely methodical, punctual and zip through like crazy. The staff is extra helpful, but signs in English and arrows are all you need to follow. The staff on the platforms are a delight to watch with their dramatic routine before and after a train on the platform. The trains are sparkling and I even found the magic button they use to change the direction of the seats :) I'd once watched a documentary on the cleaning of the trains. 
Food, snacks and beverages are all available on the trains. If you're a pure vegetarian, make sure you don't touch the bentos and ask for sandwiches and nuts. 
The stations have great bakeries and stores where you can get food packed to carry along. Also make sure you're carrying enough yen in cash as that's the preferred mode of payment at all small stores. A tiny coin pouch is a must to ferry around the tons of change you'll accumulate. They have coins for every possible denomination. It was tough the first day fishing into my wallet for coins to pay. 
This is what is home for the next 12 days. 







Osaka was never our preferred place to stay, but with no accommodation available at Kyoto, this was our best bet and I must tell you, it's a lovely place to stay. Kyoto in the season time is highly overpriced and jam packed with tourists. Our AirBnB hostess Mariko is a super host and look how cute the place is! Its tiny yet functional and has everything possible we'd like to have in a home. There's even a small washing machine to get laundry done while we're here :) Mariko left us a lovely note with directions on how to use all the appliances around. 
Mariko was kind enough to leave a portable wifi device that we can carry around while we're making our day trips. How thoughtful is that! 
Our apartment is on the 6th floor and the moment you step out you find grocery stores, small cafes, bars and shops where you can pick up almost anything.
This looooong book store is just below the apartment. Though the books and comics are mostly in Japanese, its fun to just spend some time admiring the artwork. 
It's just been so wonderful thus far and the people and their warmth is like nothing I've experienced before. Amsterdam was the friendliest place so far but Japan beats every place I've ever been to :) 
Kyoto and the Cherry blossoms are planned for tomorrow and the excitement is hard to contain heehee! Hopefully you're travelling along with me here and will enjoi all that I have to share. Thankyou so much for all the love and wishes you're sending me on my Facebook and Instagram pages..I feel so loved! 

Jā matane! (See you later :) )

Much Luv,

Runa

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