2016 // 12 // 25
After months of waiting, the day came.
I spent hours on JapanesePod101.com learning the basics. Even a lazy ass like mine learned how to read hiragana and katakana within the ber months. If idle time at work existed, I spent it on Googling everything related to Japan. There were sites dedicated to the country’s quirks that baffled foreigners. Only Japan can be a fascinating, beautiful, and weird country all at once. Anyone I knew who’s been there always talk about how the country is heaven on earth.
Of course I was excited. My parents went there three years ago and went back home with tons of praise. Now, it’s my turn to experience Japan’s beauty. For once, I’m taking a break from the mess of my homeland’s society. Also it’s been 3 years since my last flight. Hello, airline food
and in-flight entertainment!
Before the Arrival
Our flight was on Christmas afternoon. We left our aunt’s house at 11 AM. Since it was years after my last flight, I forgot some of the rules in checking in luggage. Electronic devices, such as power banks, were not allowed inside the luggage. S***! My cousin easily unpacked his luggage and got his power bank, but I didn’t. My luggage was the biggest among ours. Not to mention, I also had a cute baggage cover that took time to remove and put on. Luckily we were early for our flight so it wasn’t that inconvenient.
I made sure my outfit both suited Japanese and Philippine climates. Initially I wanted to bring a very long cardigan for my trip. My mom turned on her mom mode when she saw my cardigan. “Ano ba ‘yan, anak, giginawain ka niyan! Dalhin mo nalang yung jacket na dinala ko sa Europe!” (“What the hell, child, you’ll freeze! Bring the jacket I wore to Europe!”)
Because I am a good daughter, I got her jacket instead. It was smaller but heavier than my initial choice. And purple. So much for my neutral fashion streak. Just in case it’s freezing though, right? And also because I love the cold, I only wore socks up to half of my leg. Hehe. It was gonna be my first winter and I want to feel the wind against my bare legs. Kinda weird to have my upper body covered up while 15% of my lower body is exposed to the cold.
After short delays, we finally boarded on our plane and took off for Kansai International Airport (KIX). Biggest regret of the flight? Not downloading the myPAL player. Now I got bored outta my wits. I just read the in-flight catalog instead to brush up on my reading.
The flight took shorter than I expected, even with the delays. There were a lot of officers assigned to the stalls so the entry process was pretty fast. It’s a given that no photos are allowed inside the immigration area. I also learned that video calls are considered a form of photos, so they’re not allowed to. We got called out for Facetiming our aunt back home, LOL. Lesson learned. (And damn that’s a sign I should travel more to familiarize myself again with these.)
We then went to the Nankai Namba station. My cousin’s wife got our tickets to Namba and we soon boarded on the train. My niece and I went live on Facebook to show our friends our train ride. However, I felt like we were causing some noise so I immediately took the livestream down. Ayy lmao.
It wasn’t long before we reached the Namba station. But finding our hotel was not easy. It was inserted in along the covered plaza near the station, so it was easy to get confused.
Now Japan isn’t really into the Christmas spirit in the same way Philippines or Western countries are. So the festive spirit was not as loud as I was used to. I took the time to lounge, as that huge ass luggage at the right corner in the photo above is as heavy as it looks. (:
Once we settled in our room, I made it a priority to check this out: the toilet! Yeah! I was very excited to see a toilet for the first time in my life. Not just any toilet though. It’s the Japanese toilet with the built-in warmer / bidet! It’s one of those things that exist only in Japan, but I don’t mind having one in our home ;).
Since it was dinner time, we headed to the nearby McDonald’s for some appetizers (aka fries) while we searched for Dotonbori Street in Google Maps.
At first, we couldn’t find it. In the middle of the walk, I already consumed one medium-sized set of fries. (So much for maintaining my body while traveling, TBH?) Anyway, we tried asking locals where it was but some of them didn’t know English. I tried translating for my cousin’s wife, but to no avail: I didn’t understand directions in Japanese back then. Yikes. Luckily the taxi driver we asked directions from used hand gestures so we understood, anyway.
We did find it after, as if that drug store Sugi Kusuri wasn’t big enough. That, and the huge sign saying DOUTONBORI STREET too.
Sadly, a lot of restaurants were either full or closing for the night. But we did find this ramen place in a corner. We only ordered through an electronic machine where you have to pay first before selecting your meal. Think of it as a vending machine for your order, that’s what it was like.
The restaurant didn’t have an English menu. I ended up ordering whatever had a picture and a price. Typical, right? From what I understood, it was mild ramen with pork slices? That’s the best I could guess.
After dinner, we went shopping along the open stores in the street. Japan apparently has a lot of tax-free drug stores, but it only applies when your purchase is at least Y5,000.
Follow The Cowboy
Our way back to the hotel was interesting. So again, thanks to Mercury Retrograde, we got lost from Dotonbori. Even if we got a copy of a map for Osaka (for free at the drug store), we were still confused as heck. It didn’t help that there were no street signs. So imagine a confused family with one child and some college girl (pfft I only look like one) in one corner discussing where they were. Yep, that was us.
Then out of the blue, this guy entered that corner. It may be the holidays… But it was random seeing a man in a cowboy attire wandering around late evening in the street. Also, an Asian cowboy at that. But then again this is Japan… There are a lot of things there that we can’t truly explain. He immediately knew we were lost… So we asked him where our hotel was, and he actually led us to the hotel itself! He went all the way to help us and sacrificed a bit of his time. Later on did I learn that this was common among the Japanese. I cannot thank them enough for that.
Only in Japan, you guys. A Japanese cowboy savin’ the night. ありがとう!
My Christmas in 2016 was indeed an interesting tale to tell. But this was only the start of my interesting trip…