Journey to Japan, June 2015


My day began with the awful drive along Number Ten Highway to Boundary Bay where I deposited the car in the hangar under the wing of the Airvan.
I was supposed to be picked up at 09:30 but plans had changed... If I'd known I could have taken the 10:02 bus and easily arrived at Vancouver Airport in time.
It was a hot sunny morning and I almost turned around and went back to Langley, but instead I phoned for a taxi.

The taxi drove past me on it's way to the terminal... I had told him I was at the bus stop by 72nd...
Eventually I got picked up.
We drove down 72nd and the driver was about to turn right onto Number Ten Highway and drive three miles, 5km, in the wrong direction to get on the highway.
He said it was quicker, but on a Sunday morning there's little traffic, though there are a couple more of the aggrevating traffic lights they love so much here to contend with. There was no reason to not turn left and go the direct route via 17.
You pay for distance in a taxi, so beware of the added 10 kilometres or so additional charge if you let the taxi driver take you the wrong way.
Still, the cost is the best part of $50 for a taxi from Boundary Bay to Vancouver Airport, potentially $60 or more if I didn't know where I was going!


The Air Canada Rouge flight took off at 12:27 (19:27z).
The cabin crew were young friendly flight attendants who had not yet grown into the stern annoyed flight attendants the parent airline might be reputed to have.
We were given iPads with which to watch enroute entertainment with terrible ear buds with which to listen. I recommend that you bring comfy headsets with you. For once I didn't have my aviaition headsets with me, I did not expect to fly in Japan on this trip and so my baggage was minimal.

Service was very good on this flight, not as good as Air Canada I was told, but much much better than my experience on Air Canada from Hong Kong to Vancouver a few years ago, though that flight was compared with the Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong that preceded it.
I can recommend
Air Canada Rouge.

On the iPad I watched "The Second Best Marigold Hotel" which was said to be not as good as the first one. While not quite as good, I thought it was still very very good, and I would recommend seeing it.
Then I watched "
Treasure Hunter" where a solitary Japanese girl took the company credit card and travelled to the USA in search of a box of money she had seen buried in a movie.
It was a lonely search for something hoped for perhaps, with generous and sometimes touching help from people in the American mid west.
Finally I watched and American movie, the title of which I do not remember, it was a sort of comedy about a sales man chasing an account, and travelling to Germany with his two partners. It was amusing.

The ear buds were uncomfortable.

22nd June, Arrival

We arrived on time at Osaka Kansai Airport on Monday morning having missed the night by crossing the International Date Line.
I only had two pieces of carry on, cabin size baggage, one of which can be unzipped and expanded into checked baggage!

There was a shortage of Immigration agents at Kansai and so it took a while to get through.
It's better than Thailand however as you get a 90 day visa on arrival.

Stops enroute to Omeda

Around 100 Yen = $1 Canadian.

Travel in Japan is easy and efficient with a few snags to contend with.
We walked to the airport station and caught a train into the centre of Osaka, (Omeda Station). The cost was 2,380 Yen for two people one way.
I'd booked two rooms in the North Hotel which was a 15 minute walk from the station, but where?
Unlike many places I've been in this World there are no Local Maps displayed at the railway stations... Properly placed local area maps are very useful for travellers.
I was hoping the iPad I'd brought would work in Osaka and display the maps, it wouldn't! It need to go onto the web before it would do this... Later it did work but now when I needed it most it let me down.

C had an iPhone, and this did work, so we navigated to the hotel using it.
I had studied the map before leaving for Japan and so I knew the general direction to go, but there's always more assurance with some sort of map.

The room in the North Hotel was cosy with a single bed and the usual all in one plastic loo with a toilet featuring a warmed seat, and a bottom spray system to clean up after your business.
The shower bath is deep so you can squat in the water or stand and shower, there's no room to stretch out and take a relaxing hot bath.

I'd booked the room through Agoda.
A scan of hotel rooms online put's Agoda as one of the cheapest, and sometimes there are cheaper rooms, but without breakfast. The room at The North Hotel was without breakfast.
For two single rooms for two nights the cost was $267.96 Canadian ($207.20 USD).

The fox is an important diety in the Shinto religion

Click for larger image

1st Evening

It was now Monday evening, checked in, and time to eat.
We walked by a Thai restaurant, which is as difficult for me as walking past a decent pub!
But, I'm in Japan and Japanese food is the order of the day.

There was a small restaurant with the Chinese Kanji characters meaning "100 Years" restaurant with a Japanese lady outside who invited us in.
Her husband was cooking up the food, and they were both a friendly couple and this was a homely restaurant.
We ate noodles and a little sashimi tuna.
I had a
Suntory MALT'S The DRAFT beer, followed by a large (though I didn't ask for a large) glass of Suntory Whisky.

Our first evening began in a friendly little restaurant.

Kotaro is an old friend of C, and he turned up after his long workd day in a nearby office building to introduce us to Osaka.
We walked around a bit, visited a Shinto Shrine, and then ended up at a Japanese fast food restaurant with a lot of unhealthy looking stuff, if you click on the link you will see the menu.

23rd June

Breakfast on Tuesday morning was at the nearby Monami Cafe
It was a cold boiled egg with toast and tea.
I asked for and received some jam

Walking back to the hotel we saw these tuna heads, at least I think they're tuna!

Osaka Castle

Tuesday was for touring and today's objective was the Osaka Castle.
We walked down to cross two river bridges and catch a boat to the castle.
I thought that these boats were used for transport like the ones on the Chao Phraya river, but in fact they are simply tour boats.

The boat ticket

Mind your head

There were two ticket prices one was OAP and the other was simply Osaka Castle.
OAP does not stand for Old Age Pensioner!

As a teenager I'd escape into the Willow tree on the front lawn
'Hide in there to read a book, and be at peace with the World

Osaka Castle is an impressive building representing Japanese style contrasting with the tall purposeful modern high rise buildings of the city that surrounds it.

It's a scenic walk from the boat dock climbing up and up after crossing level upon level.

Everywhere you glimpse Kimono clad brides with their new husbands also clad in more conservative Japanese attire.
They're out for photo opportunities using the gorgeous backdrop of this Japanese haven in the middle of a busy city.

Lunch was small fried prawn filled dumplings from a van in the large square in front of the castle, this was followed by ice cream from another van.

We paid the entry fee, 600 Yen each, to tour the castle.
The history of Osaka is depicted in artifacts and murals, and these are described by video presentations.
There's a lot of bloodshed involved, and there are images of headless bodies as it was the Japanese way to lop off heads.
I remember some of my father's pictures taken in Malaya as the Japanese were being routed at the end of the war (1945). Some pictures showed severed heads on tables as the Japanese had executed people in this way before they retreated.

The Japanese seem to be a fun loving peaceful people these days, hard working, though perhaps with an undercurrent of sadness.
I see this in all hard working, long hours working, peoples, whether it be in Japan or elsewhere.

Japanese children appear to grow up swatting away at their studies, long hours, preparing for the long days of working, striving to survive. But they're communal, out in groups laughing and taking lots of 'selfies' between times.

Japanese adults work hard and play hard.
There are plenty of "Love Hotels" where you can have an illicit affair, or affairs... It's a strange place where obvious indiscretion is tolerated.
Many Japanese businessmen end up in bars.

Superb views are to be had from the castle

Click for larger image

The gift shop at the castle is filled with fascinating souvenirs
If you're a shopaholic bring a big bag and plenty of money


In the castle grounds


Japan is about shopping and there are plenty of enclosed streets like this where you can find everything you could ever desire and many things you never knew you wanted!

It was warm, temperatures in June rise into the 30s (Centigrade), and so a dose of air conditioning is required.
Problem is that everything was in Japanese Kanji! Katakana and Hiragana scripts can be translated, but Kanji (Chinese characters) is a little more difficult.

It's also about food, but this evening I wasn't so hungry
I ate some of Kotaro's noodles

This Kanji I know "Nihongo" Japanese,
click and you can select English

We had walked a lot in Osaka and my legs were aching, but there was more in store for them.

On to part two