The Beginning (sort of).
We made it! We had 5 things to achieve today and all have been successfully ticked off :
- Get to Brisbane airport on time, check in for BOTH flights (i.e. Brisbane to Seoul then Seoul to Osaka), ensuring our bags are checked straight through to Osaka too. This bit was actually harder than expected with the rather dumb and unfriendly Australian lady from Korean Air ground-crew struggling with the concept of checking us and our bags in for TWO flights in one day. Fortunately she at least had the good sense to call her supervisor and both humans and luggage arrived safely in Japan.
- Survive an aggregate of 12 hours of flying without killing each other (or any other passengers), or dying of boredom. This bit was easy – butt-numbingly boring, but easy. We watched a heap of movies, read a bit, ate some plastic airplane food, went for some pretty boring walks up and down the aisles and enjoyed that unique experience called “using an airplane toilet”.
- Land in Seoul, find the transfer point, entertain ourselves for a couple of hours and make it on to our flight to Osaka. All airports are pretty much the same so this was all easy done. The “entertaining ourselves for a couple of hours” bit was super-easy – Incheon International Airport in AWESOME! Very modern, clean and efficient with lots and lots of shops; and man were people SHOPPING! Every duty free shop was teeming with people, all apparently desperate for cheap perfume, alcohol and electronics. I’ve never seen airport shopping done with that level of intensity!
- Arrive in Osaka and successfully clear immigration and customs. Since we arrived so late, Kansai International Airport was virtually empty so we got straight through very quickly. We were digitally fingerprinted and had our faces analysed with facial recognition software at immigration, cleared customs no problems and were out in less than 20 minutes.
- Navigate our way to the hotel, check in and get some well earned sleep. Kansai International Airport is 54 kms from central Osaka – which is a LONG way! There are buses, trains and taxis that can get you into town, but only the taxis take you to your hotel front door. Given we were 16 hours into a transit day, and I had been awake since 4:30am (to excited to sleep apparently), I voted for the taxi option. Expensive? Hell yes! Worth it? Totally. Cost us 15,000Yen to get here (exchange rate is about 100Yen to 1AUD), but at least we were checked in, showered and in bed by 11:00pm Osaka time (midnight Australian time).
The hotel we are staying in for the 4 nights we are here is called Hotel Kinki. It’s 250m from Osaka Central Station and smack bang in the middle of the suburb of Umeda – Osaka’s answer to Fortitude Valley or King’s Cross. Less dodgy, but still very urbanised and typical of inner city Japan. The hotel entrance is down a small alley, with nearby shops occupied by tiny little restaurants (seating capacity of 10-20 people), Panchinko* parlours and “Lady Bars*”.
*Some definitions for the uninitiated:
- Panchinko parlour: Japan’s version of Pokies. A pachinko machine resembles a vertical pinball machine, but has no flippers and uses a large number of small balls. The player fires balls into the machine, which then cascade down through a dense forest of pins. If the balls go into certain locations, they may be captured and more balls are released. The object of the game is to capture as many balls as possible. These balls can then be exchanged for prizes. These parlours are huge, noisy, smokey and crowded on weekends -as we saw today.
- “Lady Bars”: Term I use euphemistically to describe the very odd Japanese invention of bars catering just to men, where all the staff are female, young and pretty. Shane assures me these ladies only provide their customers conversation and company for the evening, but I am not so sure… The best thing about having these “Lady Bars” nearby is seeing grown women walking around dressed as sexy versions of Little Bo Beep or French maids. Very odd, but very funny.
It’s a great neighbourhood from a convenience perspective and there are heaps of great little restaurants within easy reach. The staff are great, they have 24 hour reception (handy since our flight was landing at 9:30pm) and it only cost us 24,000Yen ($240AUD) for 4 nights! We are definitely going to have get used to how much smaller hotel rooms are over here in Japan however. Our room is TINY – like 3mx3m tiny (including bathroom). Lucky we aren’t big people! All in all, a good day. Unfortunately, despite it being Shane’s birthday, we didn’t get a free upgrade to Business Class, but the flights were good and we arrived safe and sound which is the main thing. Tomorrow the real adventure begins when we venture out into Osaka proper….