14 Jul 2014 day 1: Flight, arrival & getting to Osaka from Narita
Our flight departure time was 11pm. We were worried about having to check-in at a time Fletcher would normally be in bed. It’s over a 3 hour drive from where we live to our closest city, Melbourne. Tim’s Mum drove us again, my Mum came along as well. We left in the afternoon after Fletcher had already had a nap at home. Our mothers had to check into the hotel they were staying in for the night and then we had tea in the hotels restaurant before heading to the airport. Unlike when we flew with Malaysia Airlines where we were able to take our stroller right up to the aircraft, with Jetstar we had to check our stroller in. We had to take our stroller to the oversized baggage area and after saying goodbye to the two grandmothers, we made our way through international departures. I walked through the detector, carrying Fletcher, forgetting I had a handbag over my shoulder. I got called back through to put my bag through x-ray and then became tangled in my bag strap and scarf, while trying to balance a toddler on my hip. After leaving red-faced, we headed to our gate.
We didn’t get priority boarding like we had the last trip, so lined up with everyone and boarded the plane. We fitted the CARES harness onto Fletcher’s seat and strapped him in. He was much more comfortable in it now that he was bigger. The last year he was slightly too small and slipped down in the seat, making the top harness buckles dig into his face/neck. This time the straps all sat out of his way and he was able to sleep in his seat. I was hesitant at first to watch a movie in case he woke up. After a while, I relaxed and was able to watch a movie on the iPad that was handed to us. Fletcher did wake up but was easily settled and after an event-free flight we touched down in Tokyo on time at 7:20am.
When arriving in Japan they don’t hand out the arrival cards on the plane so we had to sit down and fill them out. I knew this and was prepared with paper and pencil so Fletcher could ‘write’ as well. We got through immigration and baggage collection quickly and proceeded into the airport to find the Citibank ATM to withdraw some cash. We had to wait for the airport post office to open and then collected our WiFi device. We then headed to the JR ticket service centre to exchange our JR pass voucher for the proper pass. We joined the end of a long line, that continued to get longer after us. The service was extremely slow, with only one counter open for pass exchanges. Once we started getting closer to the front someone handed us a clipboard and form to fill out so that it would be all done by the time we reached the counter. Fletcher was kept occupied with a packet of sultanas but soon became restless of the long wait. When we finally reached the front, we had our passes exchanged and selected for them to start that day and got our Narita express tickets to Shinagawa station. We then went straight through and onto the platform to wait for the train.
Getting to Osaka
Once we arrived at Shinagawa station, we made our way to the JR ticket office to reserve seats for a shinkansen to Osaka. We thought we may as well since seat reservations are free with a JR pass and we might be able to get a row of three with a spare seat beside us. The lady at the counter informed us that the shinkansen leaving in 15 minutes had only single seats available. She showed us the available seats on the screen, showing that they were not near each other. She then showed the next train and said she would be able to book us a row of three seats together. I decided to go for the seats together, although this meant waiting 40 minutes. We sat down and shared a cup of soft serve ice-cream with cereal flakes and bought lunch to take on the train. Fletcher was now old enough to enjoy the train ride and had fun saying when we were entering and exiting a tunnel. After about 2.5 hours on the shinkansen, we arrived at Shin-Osaka station.
Our Osaka hotel
From Shin-Osaka station we needed to transfer to the midosuji subway line to reach Honmachi station near our hotel. We had booked the Arietta Hotel and their information stated that it was just a 3 minute walk from Honmachi station, using either exit 1 or 3. We had our suitcase and stroller, so instead found an elevator, which took us out a different exit. After finding out where we were, we crossed the road and walked to the hotel. We checked in and were told breakfast was served in the lobby area. Our room was a superior twin with a double and semi-double bed. The bathroom was quite large for the room size and had a full size bath and empty floor space. The bathroom was opposite the entrance and had a large wooden sliding door. A narrow hall led past the bathroom and the foot of the beds. The larger bed was against the bathroom wall with a small gap between it and the smaller bed. At the end of the room was a desk with a chair, TV and bar fridge underneath. We had to leave the stroller by the entrance door and I ended up moving our suitcase into the bathroom as it had more floor space. The room was very small but it was clean and still functional.
It was raining outside but we wanted to get out and go for a walk after such a long transit. We put Fletcher into the stroller with the rain cover on, took our umbrella and went out into the street. Osaka Castle is 2.8km from the hotel and there is a small park just over 1km away. I think that was a reason why I thought the location would be ok. The rain was getting heavier so we just walked around the area of the hotel. There wasn’t really anything interesting to see as we had mistakenly booked accommodation in a business district. The other problem with the area was that we couldn’t find anywhere to purchase nappies. We had only bought enough with us for the first few days, thinking we would be able to get them at a nearby drugstore as we had found a large pack during our last trip. The drugstore near the hotel didn’t have any at all, mainly selling cosmetics. We went back to the hotel, out of the pouring rain, later heading to the nearby convenience store to get prepared meals for an early dinner. The next day we had planned to visit Himeji Castle before heading to Hiroshima, we were worried about the weather forecast predicting rain and several thunderstorms for the day.