Friday, October 31, 2014

:: japan trip (part 1) ::

Two weeks ago our little family went to Japan for 6 days vacation. The flight tickets were bought earlier this year during one of many Air Asia promos and after many months, Sunday, October 12th finally arrived.

Despite the early bought tickets the real preparation only started a month away. We did not engage with any travel agent so I was the self-appointed-agent-in-charge. The next item bought was the 7-days tourist train pass or known as the JR (Japan Rail) Pass. The pass is only sold to tourists and allow us to ride any JR line train including selected shinkansen bullet trains, JR bus services and JR Miyajima ferry. We bought return tickets to / from Kansai Aiport, Osaka as it was cheaper than arriving / departing Tokyo; and with JR Pass we still have a good option to travel to Tokyo. My BFF, Nor was kind enough to help buying our pass (and also went through slight trouble) during the previous Matta Fair. Each pass cost Y29,110 for adult and at other times it can be bought from Japan Travel Bureau at Amoda Building KL located opposite Berjaya Times Square, in between Melia Hotel and Imbi Plaza.

One reason why we chose Japan as destination was to bring Ady to the Disneyland, as he was very happy with his visit to Legoland in January this year. We already went to Hong Kong Disneyland last year but Ady was nearly two years old back then and has not learn to appreciate theme park, so the next nearest Disneyland is Tokyo. Being the 'tour agent' I planned the entire itinerary, before proposing to my other half. The itinerary is purely for family (with a little, active kiddo ^_^).

Outline of the itinerary is below. There were two options actually; whether going straight to Tokyo after arriving Osaka or start at Osaka then go to Tokyo. We chose the latter one bearing in mind it is a 6 hours flight + 3 hours journey between Osaka and Tokyo.

Day 1
- Depart from KLIA2 - Arrive Kansai Aiport - Check-in hotel at Namba, Osaka - Tour around Dotonbori / Shinsaibashi area

Day 2
- Trip to Universal Studio Osaka

Day 3
- Check-out hotel - Travel to Tokyo via Shinkansen - Check-in hotel at Shinjuku, Tokyo - Tour around Shinjuku

Day 4
- Trip to Tokyo Disneyland

Day 5
- Check-out hotel - Tour around Harajuku & Shibuya - Travel to Rinku Town, Osaka - Check-in hotel at Rinku Town

Day 6
- Depart from Kansai Airport - Arrive KLIA 2

Thanks to the internet, I just Googled any info I wanted, bought our hotel rooms via Expedia & Agoda and also bought the Disneyland tickets from their website. Universal Studio does not sell any online ticket so it has to be bought from the counter or their affiliate hotels.

Sunday, October 12th: we departed home for KLIA 2 at 5:00 am and my parents-in-law was kind enough to send us. Our flight was scheduled at 8:00 am and I'm telling you, don't mess with KLIA 2 yo! Not counting the time since we stepped our feet at the building but time taken from the moment we entered the departure hall to the boarding gate was not less than 45 minutes. It was a very long walk *phew*.

The 6 hours plus flight would be less boring if we travelled via non-low cost airline (obviously) but  we had no problem with Ady because he loves transportation and loves being inside an airplane so he behaved really well. Arrived Kansai Airport (KIX) around 3:30 pm but finally out of the airport building about an hour after that.
*Note: Japan time is 1 hour advance from Malaysia. Example: 4:00 pm in Japan = 3:00 pm in Malaysia.

First task we had to do was to change our receipt with the official JR Pass. The JR office is located at the 3rd floor of the building opposite, connected to the airport and this is what we got in return:

From KIX we utilised our JR Pass for the first time to JR Namba station. The lady who gave us the pass printed out the stations we need to change train so we just followed it, being newbies. It took us 45 minutes to reach Namba and after long travelling hours we really look forward to settle down.

We checked in the Monterey Grasmere Osaka hotel. It has the perfect location, above the JR Namba station. The main key of my research for this trip in Google Map is "hotels nearby XXX station". Thinking of the train ride, our luggage and Ady Rifqi, we really have to settle down as fastest as possible at one place. Monterey Grasmere is a nice, comfortable hotel. Although the room was not as huge as the usual hotel room in Malaysia but apparently it was the largest among all hotels we stayed throughout the trip. Our room was at 29th floor and we got to see clear view of the city.

We did not take long break. It was already 7 something and it was already dark... and we were hungry so as planned we went 'jalan-jalan' to the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi area; almost 15 minutes walk from the hotel. It was windy and quite chilly. We stopped by at one of the bridge there watching the colourful lights and hundreds of people around us. A Japanese guy who was probably drunk suddenly came and vented out his anger at a homeless uncle who was sitting on the bridge. As he was cursing in Japanese he then opened his pants' zipper and peed the uncle! I was disgusted with the scene. Was that a "warm welcome" from the land that is well-known with courtesy and culture? Hrmmm...

Well anyway we went off walking along the alley full of restaurants with gigantic models such as crab and sushi, and finally found a halal indian restaurant for dinner. We continued strolling around the area. There were lots of eateries, drug stores, shops selling clothes and shoes, karaoke and shops that could not be defined. We returned to the hotel empty ended and called it a day.

Monday, October 13th: It should be a day spent at USJ (not our housing area but Universal Studio Japan) but we were informed by the hotel during check in that a big typhoon is coming to town so USJ might not open for business. We were quite frustrated but that morning I woke up to this view:

A beautiful, bright day - no sign of typhoon coming. We decided to follow our plan and went to the USJ. From JR Namba we had to change train at Shin Imamiya for Nishikujo and changed to another train for the Universal City station, almost 30 minutes journey in total. We were informed by the staff at the station that JR line train will stop its operation at 4:00 pm due to the typhoon.

Entrance fee for an adult is Y6,980. We were so excited we still managed to arrive Universal Studio Japan and the first ride we went on was the famous JAWS ride. Ady likes watching shark videos on youtube so he was not afraid of the shark. We thought of experiencing the Jurassic Park ride but it was not suitable for young kids and by that time Ady has started nagging us to visit Elmo and Cookie Monster, whom he called "Am Nyam Nyam". We spent few hours at the Sesame Street indoor area as it has started raining.

Raining was on and off. When it stopped we went to the Harry Porter area, which is the latest attraction at the USJ. I am not a Harry Porter fan and I only watched the first movie but I was impressed. The area was like a set from the movie with the huge Hogwarts School castle, row of shops selling weird stuff and even the Hogwarts Express train.

Lesson #01: when travelling with kid/s it is quite challenging to have camera in hand all the time, hence the best option is to rely and snap photos with mobile phone's camera. Ensure the battery is always sufficient and set the photo quality at high megapixels.


At 4:00 pm the day was getting darker, windy and wet but we did not bother much as the park was still open so we strolled around and even watched the Terminator 3D show. We were informed that the park is closing at 5:00 pm so at 4:40 pm we left the park as the rain was continuous. We reached the Universal City station looking at sealed barriers. Ok that happened because we did not take the announcement seriously. JR line already ended their operation at 4:00 pm and we were stucked. We walked around that area in the rain finding taxi but all taxis were reserved via phone calls. There were many of "us" around there, finding solutions to go back. It was cold and very windy. The area is next to the sea and we came across two tv station vans with satellites (just like what we normally see in Hollywood movies) setting up to capture the typhoon coming. We walked to the nearest hotel drop-off area and asked the concierge to call for taxi. Few people have started to ask the same thing and from the call we were told that no taxi is available. We were stuck.

Hubby went smoking to find a solution. As I stood near the concierge I have been observing and listening to people around me. When hubby returned a taxi arrived and appparently it was for a guy and his son. Actually I overheard him wanted to go to the Nishikujo station and Namba, which were similar to our destinations so when he was about to enter the car I asked him to consider the three of us too. Luckily he was kind enough to allow us in the taxi. What a big relief! Apparently they came from Korea and stranded because their flight was cancelled due to the typhoon. They had to find a hotel to spend another night and since his wife was waiting for him in Namba we told the taxi driver to drive us straight to the JR Namba station. Alhamdulillah, thank God for the assistance. It was a win-win situation for two parties as later we brought the Koreans to our hotel and they got a room for a night there.

Lesson #02: when travelling to other country, do not take for granted any local announcement and keep updated on their weather condition.

Most of the shops were already closed so that evening we just stayed in the hotel room watching tv. A bit later we decided to try our luck to find any covenient store that may still open and we were amazed that the supermarket at the JR station was not closed. We spent time at the groceries area shopping for food, fruits and since we were in the land where sushi belongs, I insisted to 'tapau' local nigiri sushi for dinner (they tasted good I tell you!). We left when the supermarket was almost closed and outside, it was raining with heavy wind. That ends our adventurous Day 2 in Osaka. be continued.

*keywords: what to do in osaka, where to go in osaka


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