I am so excited to present this series of travel diaries to Japan. We are going to put online numbered travel diaries throughout our stay in Japan. The idea is to share our discoveries with you as we go along, because there is so much to tell about Japan that the usual three articles per destination aren’t enough
So we chose to spend a month and a half in Japan, including a month in Osaka (and surroundings) and two weeks in Tokyo (and surroundings)
Part 1: Travel Diary
Da Nang => Osaka
After a month in Hoi An and 2 days in Da Nang (Vietnam), we fly to Osaka. There are direct flights but they are expensive, so we have to take two planes from two different companies: one plane to Busan (in South Korea), go through immigration, get our luggage and then do the check-in again to Osaka. As we have a 4h30 stopover, the fact that the Da Nang – Busan plane is 1 hour late didn’t cause us any problem. As we did not stay in the transit zone, we were entitled to a South Korean stamp on our passport. An appetizer because it is our next destination after Japan
Being on the porthole side I didn’t miss anything of the sumptuous landscapes below. I realize only by looking at the almost frozen water of the ocean, that it is super cold in Busan. Oops! 3°C ! Fortunately the airport is well heated because my comforter is still in the suitcase in the hold
Look at these mountain peaks covered by a thin layer of snow! Magnificent!
Unfortunately the “city” part seems to me very industrial, I did not see any trees
The landscapes approaching Osaka are beautiful too !!!
I must confess that I am very apprehensive about these trips to Japan (and soon to South Korea). These countries aren’t yet hyper accustomed to tourists (especially western tourists). With my Asian face, they will surely expect from me that I am of Japanese/Korean origin, that I speak and understand their language. In these countries where there aren’t yet many mixed marriages, a Vietnamese woman traveling with a French man is a bit unusual. Moreover, in these countries, the physical aspect is very important, you have to be impeccable all the time because to be pleasant to look at is to respect others and to respect yourself
I’m really afraid of unintentionally creasing them. I am told that Japan is like another world blah blah blah blah. I’m also very embarrassed by my fancy clothes, my multi-colored complexion due to different sunburns (whereas at home, white skin is the standard) etc. I’m also very embarrassed by the fact that I’m not wearing any clothes that I’m used to wearing
So, like a denial, I avoid thinking about it and it’s only one day before our trip that I start to read the travel books… to discover that we absolutely need tickets, otherwise they won’t let us take the plane
So it is in express mode that JB reserves us an exit ticket (to South Korea). Fortunately because the exit tickets were requested each time (to South Korea and Japan)
And then, our owner of Airbnb also puts pressure on Line (the most popular instant messenger in Japan) : oh you haven’t booked your bus yet ? us : what bus ? him : the XYZ bus, here is the link for the reservation. us : thanks but everything is complete. Here we are stressed to death 2 hours before the departure, thinking we will be stuck at the airport, and have to take a cab at 200€ just because we didn’t think to book THE bus
And then, once I arrived in South Korea and Japan… I realized that I put too much pressure on myself. You have to observe the locals even more carefully than in other countries, to imitate them, but it’s not too difficult. As for the physical aspect, indeed everyone looks impeccable, but it’s not like in Korean/Japanese films either. They are also human, and not all of them are bombs on legs. I just need to trade my fox sandals for my beautiful Geox sneakers and that’s it
As for the transportation from the airport to our airbnb, it is of a facility without equal
Arrival at Kansai Airport
We arrive at Kansai Airport on time. As in South Korea, there is a “bio-security” form to fill in. It isn’t as strict as in New Zealand or Australia, but the principle is the same: you should not come with plants, fruits… or animal products. Otherwise, they should be left in quarantine, or thrown in the trash
This is an opportunity to test the Japanese toilet with a lot of features. You can send a water jet (cold or hot) – on the buttocks, adjust the intensity of the water jet, put on music (louder or softer) to cover any unpleasant noises. I took a picture of the instructions (translated into English), it’s GIFT! (click on the picture to zoom)
We buy two SIM cards from distributors (JB explained how to do it here)
And then we take an express train (rapi:t) with a furutist look to Namba station
We walk 15 minutes to our Airbnb
The owner is already waiting for us there. He shows us very quickly, with the help of gestures (he doesn’t speak a word of English), where to empty the trash can, how to turn on the light, where the washing machine is etc
Here is the tour of our airbnb in video.
I confess to being a bit disappointed by this apartment. There is no direct light, so the apartment is a bit cold. There is no famous heating blanket that we often see in the movies. The only heating that we have is the reversible air conditioning which is hot/cold. The draught near the bed is likely to make us sick. All this for 2000€/month. On top of that, the rare storage spaces are full of the owner’s stuff. We knew perfectly that it would be small (welcome to Japan!) but we hoped that it would be more functional like our previous Airbnb
But it is the most spacious apartment we found, with an extra work space (the dining table). And the area is very central, 5mn from the most commercial street of Osaka, the Namba train station at 15mn walking distance, hundreds of restaurants at 5mn, several subway stations nearby..
After the first moment of disappointment, we get on with our lives: We move the bed to put it as far away from the window as possible and put the sofa near the window to block the draught. We also go to Uniqlo to buy two comfortable and warm pyjamas. Finally, we put away the owner’s ugly trinkets in the closet to create more space for our personal belongings
Things are already much better 😀
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Exchange rate in March 2018: 1000yen = 7.7€
- Airbnb : rented at 2000€/month. If you stay several months, the monthly rent is actually much less for a similar surface (about 700€/month) but there are various fees to be paid (and not refundable) when you rent an apartment on a long term basis
- SIM Card: 5500 yen for 30 days, 3GB (42€)
- Train rapi:t : 1270yens or 9,8€
- French citizens are exempt from visa requirements for stays of less than 3 months
- However, an exit ticket from Japan is mandatory and will be requested by the airline and Japanese immigration. If you don’t know your return date to France yet, buy a cheap ticket to South Korea for example (or any other cheap destination)
- Unless you arrive in Japan at a really late hour, you shouldn’t have any trouble taking public transportation to get from the airport to the city center, no matter what the city is
- Buy absolutely a SIM card at the airport, free wifi is quite rare. Some people rent a “pocket wifi”, which is reserved rather for large Internet users (or who do not have Internet in their hotel or airbnb). Read our article on the 4G SIM card here.
- The SIM card reserved for tourists does not allow to call, send or receive SMS. But don’t worry, the Internet is more than enough.