My brother David had encouraged us to spend a few days in Kyoto to see the incredible temples of old Japan. For this reason, we decided to buy airline tickets to Osaka instead of flying directly to Tokyo. Little did we realize that the Golden Week holidays being celebrated in China were also being celebrated in Japan at the same time and hotels rooms were next to impossible to come by in the tourist haven of Kyoto.
When we told Amit Dutt of our plans to visit Kyoto, he asked if we had made arrangements for a hotel. He tried calling from the Canadian Embassy for us, but the only hotel available was over USD 500.00 per night and they had only one night free. You would think that seasoned travellers like us would have looked into holiday periods more carefully, but this seems to be something that continually escapes us.
Instead of paying a service fee to change our tickets, we decided to carry on with our plans to fly to Osaka, but instead of visiting Kyoto and sleeping on the streets, we would take the bullet train, the Shinkansen and make our way to Tokyo at high speed. Too bad much of the three-hour journey was after dark and we couldn’t see the landscape we passed through. We were told on a clear day, it’s possible to see Mount Fuji from the train, but the weather wasn’t clear anyway and in fact, it rained part of the way.
Editor’s Note: Top speed of the Nozomi Shinkansen is 285km/h.
We landed in Osaka late on a Friday afternoon and managed to get our hands on some Japanese yen. Very few of the ATM’s accept foreign cards and credit cards are not commonly accepted for payment, but we did locate a Post Office ATM and voila, we had Japanese yen in our pockets. Now to purchase a train ticket.
The train station was pretty bewildering with thousands of commuters scurrying in all directions and no signs in English. Luckily there was a counter where we could get our Shinkansen tickets with the help of an English attendant. This was one place that would accept credit cards but the machine liked Audrey’s card but didn’t care for ours. Thank goodness we were able to get some cash earlier. Next, we set off to find something to snack on during the three-hour train journey.
The station was full of places to buy food but we could hardly decipher the Japanese signs. Most of the vendors had plastic models of the foods they sold but we were wary of ending up with fishy foods. If you can believe it, we ended up buying some gourmet ice cream and bottles of water before hurrying off to the platform. A train was waiting and we ran past dozens of cars to the ‘unreserved’ coaches at the end of the platform. I guess we should have opted for the extra charge for a reserved seat, but in the end we were all able to sit together for most of the trip. We settled in, the ice cream was consumed and we were pretty pleased with ourselves.
We were in another new country for the first time and we had managed to get money, get food and get from one place to another without falling flat on our faces. What could be sweeter?