Touchdown Japan: First impressions

I’ve always thought that I’d fall to my knees and kiss the ground the moment I’d step on Japanese soil (or carpet, as we were in an airport after all), so overwhelmed would I be that I’d burst into tears. Fortunately, I didn’t (how embarrassing would that be, haha). As a first-time tourist without my family, I discovered that I had to hit the ground running (or walking fast, at least) while being suspended in awe of Japan.

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What can I say about Kansai International Airport? Well, for one, it’s HUGE. And clean. I’m sorry but I think pretty much any airport is an upgrade compared to Philippines’ own NAIA, so I’ll just stop there, harhar. R and I followed our fellow passengers, pretending we totally knew where we were going. We all rode on a train that would bring everyone to another part of the airport (I thought that was really cool, haha), then fell in line to have the immigration sorted out.

After all that was done, the first thing R and I did was to look for a Lawson’s convenience store to buy tickets to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. There was one right inside the airport, but we didn’t get to buy tickets as the dates we’d be in Tokyo were already sold out. (Travel tip! If you want to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum, make sure to purchase tickets at least a month or several weeks ahead. Ask someone you know who is in Japan to buy them for you.)

The next challenge was riding the train and getting off at the station nearest Hotel Taiyo. I showed our Agoda hotel voucher to the ticket-selling men, who pondered on it for some moments as the address on the voucher stated “Nishinari-ku, Tennoji / Uehonmachi” before deciding for us that we should get off at the Shin-imamiya station of the Nankai Railway (they were right, which brings me to another travel tip that we stupidly did not do: before traveling, Google your hotel locations to find out where they are, especially if your hotel vouchers are from Agoda.com hahaha).

ImageFirst ever train ride! Hwee!

It was a loooooong ride (about 35-40 minutes) with one train transfer (at Izumisano, if R remembers correctly).

When we finally got off the train, dazed, slightly confused, tired and definitely looking every inch of the tourists that we were with our baggage and the lost expressions on our faces, we couldn’t even find the right exit to exit from haha. I remember we sort of followed this one Japanese-looking girl who appeared to be as lost as we were. She’d asked the assistance of a train station personnel who seemed to be manning the general area and then went on her way. Said train personnel took one look at us and approached us – I remember having a vague conversation about what we plan to do in Osaka and where we’ll be staying, mostly in English, yes, his English was surprisingly impeccable – and proceeded to guide us to the right exit.

Then, before we parted, he sort of scared the sh&^&* out of us by saying, “We’re actually in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Osaka” (exact words in English!) and cautioned us to keep walking without minding anybody else, and if we needed to ask for directions we should go inside the nearest convenience store we see and ask the staff inside. R and I were grateful for the advice, though, so we thanked him and went on our way with knees (mentally) slightly knocking against each other haha, both from fear and the cold.

Soon heeding said advice after walking for a few minutes, R and I went inside the first convenience store we saw, which was a Family Mart, to ask where exactly our hotel was (and funnily enough, to buy shampoo and conditioner, as we weren’t aware then that all public bathrooms in Japanese hotels have them in huge bottles without any extra charge – blame it on being used to small bottles provided by hotels in the Philippines).

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Since my supposedly-conversational level Japanese seemingly shrunk back into barely beginner’s, I couldn’t remember what I asked but I remember not being able to understand the directions given to us, haha. Eventually one of the staff pulled out a map, pointed out where we were, then pointed out where our hotel was. We thanked them profusely and left. After walking for a bit, huzzah! We found it! Thank you, Family Mart!😀

R and I decided to go back to the same Family Mart after checking in and settling in, this time to buy food. As if to make train personnel-san’s words earlier come true, we encountered a possibly drunk salaryman-looking person on the way, angrily kicking the rows of bicycles parked at the sidewalk. Hahaha. We were slightly scared (okay, we were scared) and hurried inside the convenience store. Aside from the man, though, the neighborhood was pretty quiet. (Relating this story later in my Facebook, most of my contacts reacted ‘lol obviously dangerous neighborhood in Japan is different from dangerous neighborhood in the Philippines’. Well… trust us, the difference is huge, haha. But bicycle kicker-san still scared us!)

The moment we stepped inside Family Mart again, the cashier recognized us and greeted us with a cheery, “Oh! Thank you for come back!”

So as you can see, R and I were pretty much showered with Japanese hospitality from the very first night of our arrival. It made us feel very welcome, bicycle-kicking men aside, and it was something we would experience constantly and without fail (save for one slightly irate taxi driver, but that’s another story haha) for the rest of our stay.

Visit my Japan page for more of my misadventures (and information, of course)!

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