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Published: October 11th 2015
I'd gone out to Hamburg airport the previous day to check up on seats. I was able to organise two exit row seats for us to Osaka which, as it turned out,meant that we were only two seats, with stretch-out room for our legs and nothing in front. In the event of a crash we had to be able to open the exit door but as I lied to the Lufthansa person, "Yes, we are able bodied." But really, in the end, would it really matter if you were plunging from 11,000 metres?
However, a good relaxed, in airplane terms, flight of 11 hours arriving at Kansai Airport in Osaka at 20 to 7 in the morning. I didn't sleep but watched two movies, diametrically opposed in their target audiences - 'Jurassic World', formulaic, predictable, superbly made - loved it, always been a sucker for Jurassic Park et al; 'Amy', the doco about Amy Winehouse, who I didn't really know much about but whose story gripped, saddened and angered me. Also brought me to tears a little bit (but that's because I'm almost 70 I think, and they seem to come unbidden more easily than they used to). See it, if you have the opportunity. Lyn had taken a half a sleeping pill, much more sensible, and had slept for a while. She had to work on the day we arrived so she needed the sleep.
We got the 'Rapid' train from Kansai airport but maybe we got lost in translation as it stopped at every station and took 70 minutes before it arrived at Osaka Station. Previously unknown to us though was a Westin Osaka Hotel free bus, which left from the station every 15 minutes. Woo hoo! On board and only a very short distance to the hotel where the staff were very, very polite and sympathetic but it would not be possible to register us as our room wasn't ready. This was 8.30am and the room was to be ready at 2.00pm. Lyn's seminar started at 2.00. A bit of cajoling and pleading was called for - Lyn's very good at that - so a promise was made to get us in before 2.00. We dropped our bags and walked. Not a lot to see in this area but we eventually at 11.30 stopped at a small, side street Japanese eatery and had a delightful lunch of miso soup etc. Back to the hotel, sitting in the lobby at 12.30 and a softly spoken, very polite, desk clerk approached and told us we could go to our room. Yay.
It may seem that I'm caricaturing the Japanese by talking about quiet politeness but I'm not. Everywhere we have been it has been the same. Politeness and a desire to assist along with impeccable manners and service. Bowing sure, but that's a cultural thing which is like us saying 'Yeah right" but much more attractive . The seminar was right next door (36 floors up) so Lyn was able to freshen up, get her stuff together and walk across in plenty of time. I accompanied her and then left to look for a birthday present for her, the birthday being the next day. Talk about stress! I walked and walked into one of the city shopping areas, and all I could see was young Japanese girls/women's stuff. For the blokes reading this, they will know that it's not an easy task to get your beloved something that is
c) awesomely attractive
e) not a kitchen appliance
So I was a bit stumped. Came away with nothing. However, having done the same thing in Hamburg and actually having bought something there, I wasn't totally stuffed. By the time I'd got back to the hotel I'd been on the go for 30 hours (my fault for not sleeping on the plane) so you can imagine the effort for Lyn (albeit that she had had a few hours sleep on the flight) doing her thing at the seminar - being bright and upbeat, charming the attendees and enquirers, presenting the best face that she can for HVHS. I have to say that she is remarkable in that she is like a good actor - it'll be alright on the night. When she returned, it had gone well. An hour's rest then back to the venue for a social couple of hours with the Japanese agents and vip's (deliberate lower case) where I was lucky enough to be able to join her and scoff the free wine and food on show while also trying my best to be a charming and personable advocate for NZ education (State education). Yay.
We returned to our hotel room ready for not much else than a lie down. Our biggest regret - that we hadn't realised earlier that Lyn's nephew, Campbell, wife Yuka and their three kids were also in Osaka visiting Yuka's family. We tried to make contact, eventually did, but it was too late to meet up as we only had the one night there.
Osaka to Tokyo
Next morning we had to be up early and off to Osaka Station for the Shinkansen to Tokyo. The trusty hotel bus took us to the station. We got on the right train, finally, having waited on a platform and, only after being told by a local realising we were up one floor and about 10 platforms wrong. However, we'd left plenty of time and got on with relative calm. The Shin rocketed along for two and a half hours through mainly urban landscape, emphasising to us just how densely populated the east coast is. We both commented that it wasn't as smooth as we remembered, not as much as the German high speed trains. and not as comfortable. All relative though and still pretty damn good.
Tokyo station - mad. People far and wide all going somewhere. No mucking around for us at this stage so into a taxi and destination the Intercontinental, which was a little bit more expensive than we would usually stay in but we had decided to 'treat' ourselves for the last three days and so were paying a chunk of it out of our pwn pocket rather than HVHS's. It had a swimming pool, one of the reasons we booked it. The pool was shut - only open in summer......... :-(
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