The long-awaited vacation has arrived! My dream of wanting to visit Japan happened in the sweet spot between Christmas and New Year.
I had to wake up at 5 am to prepare for all the last-minute items I didn't remember to pack. Thankfully, my brother was there to remind me. After almost exceeding the check-in baggage limit, we got into a cab he had pre-booked the night before and headed to the airport. I don't remember the procedure, but my brother did, so we had a burger for breakfast and smoothly boarded the plane.
Fun fact: I had to remove my winter boots for the item scanning, but my brother's safety boots made it safely past the scanning on his feet.
The flight was long and surprisingly crowded. It was a budget flight, and apart from a sea of clouds, there wasn't much I could entertain myself with. I ended up reading three
chapters of the cognitive psychology textbook that was part of my course materials for university next year and discussing it with my brother.
When we spotted the first edges of Japan after an announcement from the pilot that sounded as if he was eating the microphone, I snapped a picture. We were landing at quite a special airport in Osaka as it was built in the middle of the sea. My brother marvelled at the engineering miracle and nerded about it while we touched down.
We had our fair share of confusion arriving in Japan, and after a long queue and several checks, we finally reached the exit. Here, we found the limousine bus service from the airport heading for Kobe-Sandomiya station and bought the ticket after I broke a machine from Japanese illiteracy. The bus was fully packed, and here, we learned how Japanese buses make 25% more per trip by adding seats to the aisles.
Not gonna lie. We were clueless for a good 2 minutes until the bus driver demonstrated. You won't believe how comfortable this actually was. They have something similar on their trains too!
After about 90 minutes on the bus, we had to transfer to the train to get to Himeji. Due to the train delay and breakdown in service on this unfortunate day, we had to stop as a train had to re-route from its original destination. As the announcement was in Japanese, my brother and I had to take a gamble on whether to follow the crowd out of a nearly empty train department or not. We did, and thankfully, our hunch was right. However, when we finally arrived at the station we meant to alight, my brother lost me in the crowd of tired Japanese salarymen wanting to go home.
Thankfully for mobile roaming data, we found each other and cussed a lot.
On the way from the station to the hotel, we walked past a lane full of shops, where we later had dinner after checking in.
Due to the late hour after sunset, which was at 5 pm, many shops were closed. The temperature was also 5 degrees Celsius.
Cosy little shops lined the area, but we couldn't visit them all. My brother essentially refused to enter a shop without English.
Eventually, we settled at a tiny store managed by two ladies and a machine counter with English to help us order. My brother was happy with this shop because of the quality of food, budget-friendly options, generous portions because we missed lunch and most importantly, ENGLISH MENU without any risk of having to speak with Japanese people.
The machine was kinda fun, and the atmosphere was cosy. There was a mix of Japanese and foreigners, excluding us. Nobody cared, and we were just happy to eat there.
I ordered their special menu duck soba with a salad side to complete the meal. They gave free wheat tea to go with the food. The soba broth was lighter than ramen but also full of flavour from the duck fat. It also contained some kind of herbs that made me feel nauseous after a while. Overall, it was an authentic taste that was worth the trip.
From the portion alone, you can tell how hungry my brother was. He ordered a chargrilled chicken Oyako don with cheese and an additional mayo topping. Then, to complete his set meal, he added an udon and salad side. Similarly, he enjoyed the wheat tea and finished everything.
We left to scout for Suica cards, if there were any because buying the train ticket using the machine counter wasn't as convenient. However, none of the convenience stores had them. Moreover, it was rather difficult to find cough-drop sweets. Being an introvert with a useless sense of pride, my brother refused to ask anyone if they sold cough-drop sweets. So we ended up window shopping. I spotted Oden in the Lawson store but didn't buy it as I was too full. However, I want to try Oden somewhere during my stay in Japan.
As it was Christmas, there was a beautiful light display outside the shopping mall across the train station. Someone was singing there, but we didn't check it out as it was nearing store closing time. We had to hurry to get breakfast.
After grabbing and paying for two sweet potato pies that looked like bread, we headed back to rest as the weather was getting colder, and I was feeling light-headed.
The hotel we are staying at is Hotel Wing. It had a lovely view of Himeji Castle, lit up at night from their rooftop terrace. We had a look at it, and I tried to get a picture, but the resolution of my camera was simply too poor to do it justice. We'll be heading there tomorrow to tour the castle.
Hotel check-outs are at 10 am in Japan. It is rather early, so we will be leaving our luggage with the receptionist to tour the castle after checking out before collecting it.
The room is rather small but has a generous toilet with a bathtub and a bidet. I love how it was designed with care and comfort in mind. Although all extra amenities are free, you have to collect them from the lobby, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, body sponge, q-tips, hair ties, or razors. The hotel also includes instant coffee and tea as part of your options. However, all rooms come with bath towels, face towels, face and hand soap, body shampoo, hair shampoo and hair conditioner. Their mirror has antifog for the section you brush your teeth at. I thought that was a rather neat and cool thing to do.
One thing to note is that there aren't too many street lights in Japan compared to Singapore. Despite that, it feels relatively safe to be walking in the streets. My brother and I took a shortcut to get back, and that was fine. I'd say to avoid pachinko parlours and bar lanes to be on the safe side.
There are still plenty of things we haven't figured out, but I'll update again on day 2 of my trip! Can't wait to see Himeji Castle. Too bad there isn't any snow.
After note: After realising that Wix can't host all my pictures, I decided to upload them onto Instagram. A lot of the blog won't make sense now without pictures, but I will slowly try to rework everything, including past blogs part of the e-course!