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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

An epic tale

Hi guys! I haven’t updated in a while for two reasons. Firstly I have been just exploring, experiencing, and enjoying Japan!  The second and main reason is the events of my third day in Japan.  Imagine a day so incredulous, so unbelievable that it could only be a Hollywood script written my leprechauns imps and unicorns. If there was ever a tale then  this would be it.

Morning after the night before
So from last night partying adventure I wearily woke up and got ready for my next stop in the Japan tour Fukuoka!  I’ve been there a couple of times but always as a guest of someone, never on my lonesome.  After packing I googled the mode of transport (train) from Osaka to Fukuoka leaving at 1.45. it was going to take 3.5 hours and 1 change. I checked out quite early and realised that I could actually get the 12.45 train if I was quick enough.  And quick enough I was, arrived at Shin-Osaka at 12.30, purchased my ticket to Fukuoka Station and was ready for my journey to the next city.

As so it begins
First of all the train was 45 mins late. Now from all the people I know who have been to Japan and from my prior experiences, public transport is ALWAYS on time!  This should have been a sign that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. The delay meant my plan for arriving for 4 had been dashed and looks like the original plan of 5 still stood.
Took the Nozomi (bullet train) to Kanazawa (just under 3 hours) changed and then got a standard train to Fukuoka station.  Along the way I was saying to myself ‘this is looking really rural, I’m seeing trees mountains rivers and stuff, I’m sure Fukuoka is a quite urban city’  but 2 stops before Fukuoka Station civilisation started to return and shops and buildings appeared.  Arrived at Fukuoka station and it looked really really small.  I thought this must be a station in Fukuoka that I’d never been to, handed in my ticket and looked on the map hmm couldn’t see a connection to Tenjin.  So I asked the station guard “ Tenjin wa Doko?”  (Where is Tenjin?)  He looked  at me blankly.  I then asked him about another station I knew called Hakata.  The guard gasped and had a horrified look on his face.  He brought out some big timetable book and showed me Shin-Osaka  the station where I started off.  He then pointed out Hakata station that was South West of Osaka.  Then he showed me Fukuoka station….. Which wasn’t in Fukuoka.  Actually it was North East of Osaka.!!!  For my UK peeps this is akin to travelling from Birmingham to Liverpool Street station in London , getting there and then realising you should have gone to Liverpool Lime street station in Liverpool.  Oh yes I had travelled for 3.5 hours carting 42kg of luggage in the total opposite direction and was  in a station with ticket guy who speaks no English at all. This was not going to the script i had transcribed in my head   Firstly the station guy got on the phone and was frantically speaking to someone about the situation.  He then in Japanese instructed me what I had to do next, return back to Kanazawa, get the nozomi back to Shin-Osaka and then get on the Shinkansen(bullet style train) to hakata station in Fukuoka.  Estimated arrival time of arrival 2359!!
One thing I have to give Japan props is the customer service.  The station guy at Fukuoka station printed out a the route I had to take and the times of the connecting trains.  As the train back to Kanazawa was approaching he locked up his office, came to the platform carried my backpack and took me to the train driver,  explained the situation to him and gave me a written explanation that I could show to the any station staff I would meet along the way.  Once I got off at Kanazawa the train driver again went over what route I had to take, explained the situation to the station guard and took me to the correct platform explaining the situation to the new train driver and this process was replicated throughout my entire journey to Hakata in Fukuoka.  !

Thank goodness the madness was over.. Or was it
Went from the train station down to the Subway, only to be told that the last train had just gone.  Great ok so its going to be taxi time.  Showed the taxi-driver a print screen of my accommodation address on the laptop and we were good to go.  Within 7 mins I had arrived at destination.  I thanked the taxi driver and wheeled my luggage to the glass automatic doors - that didn’t open.  Now there should have been a person on duty 24/7 but they were nowhere to be seen.  After 10 minutes of knocking on the glass and trying to find another entrance to the building I decided I might as well go to an internet café.  These cafes do a lot more than the UK ones, you can actually take showers there or play play station as well.  I was just about to leave when one of the residents came to the door.  They input their key card and open sesame, automatic doors open!  Like a thief in the night I went in with them.  Looked around the lobby for a person or telephone but found nothing.  Again after another 10 mins I was gonna go back to plan B internet café plan when a Japanese guy around the same age as me, entered the building - who happened to be the porter! What a relief! So with his broken English and my broken Japanese I tried to explain that I had a room at this place. And I was delayed.  The guy looked confused and beckoned me to sit down. While I was sitting down he opened a side door pulled his cigarettes and put some Mary j in my hands!! Damn it if I smoked I could have so done with that after the day I had!  I respectfully declined and instead showed him a picture of the address and map I had previously saved on my laptop.  I then heard the words I dreaded - I think your in the wrong place!!
The porter said wait one moment and then disappeared leaving me to curse the taxi driver,  curse the day and curse the Japanese for having a station called Fukuoka that’s not in Fukuoka!!  The porter then returned with an English speaking guy from the café across the street.  His parents were both American  but he was born as raised in Japan. He looked at the picture on my laptop and confirmed that I was at the wrong place but he said that the actual place was just round the corner. So porter, café guy and myself took my luggage and went round the corner to what I was hoping was the right place.

You can’t be serious
30 sec  later we were at the new location.  This time was able to get in through the automatic doors and there was a phone to call down the night porter.  Café guy spoke with him and he confirmed this was the right place - YESSS!!!! I sat down an heaved a huge sigh of relief….however…  Although this was the right place he had no record of my reservation.  The person who worked the earlier shift had my arrival time as 4-6pm ( I was at the other Fukuoka Station at that time)  They heard no news from me so had me down as a no show, so the night porter said I couldn’t stay.  With another 25 mins of negotiations, it was agreed that I’d pay the room rate for the night 5000 yen and then square up the rest of the sum with the day staff the next morn.  So after 13 hours, 5 train journeys,  3 prefectures, 2, accommodation buildings and 1 taxi ride I finally Got from Osaka to Fukuoka!

Tune in next time for how life in Fukuoka is.

Japanese word of the Day - Doko -Where?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

First Day in Japan!

First proper Day in Japan started at 5.30 am! This early start was used to skype with a couple of peeps in the UK and to create the first blog entry.  It was a bit weird with the skype chats as UK peeps were saying good bye to  the day while I was saying hello to a new one.  After publishing the first blog entry which was around 1100am it was time to explore Osaka!

Exploration begins
My initial plan was to visit Osaka Castle, but i was waylaid on the way there.  While taking pictures en-route i stumbled upon U park.  It was cute but very small.  Took another couple of snaps when i heard applause coming from the tennis courts which adjoined the park.  On further inspection two kids were playing a tennis match.  Actually it was a whole lot of kids playing in Osaka's Mayor junior world tennis championships. I decided to watch a few points, which soon became a few matches!  the standard and quality of tennis was excellent.  I think the age ranges were from 13-18.  A bit disconcerting was the amount of aggression being displayed from both the guys and the girls. They were like mini john McEnroes and Monica Seles at times.

While watching the tennis, I decided to postpone the Osaka castle trip for another time.  My thinking was Osaka castle will always be there, one in the bank you could say, whereas i could uncover another hidden gem like the tennis and that I did!  Near Osaka Umeda was a shopping centre that has a huge red whale as set foot inside hanging from the ceiling.  If that wasn’t enough the top two floors were like a games arcade - think trocodero.  As well as playing video and pachinko games, there were also rides and a ghost house!!   The icing on the cake was a massive red London eye like wheel at the top of the building outside.  Unfortunately I couldn’t go on it since it was closed for maintenance but you could still go outside to view it and it was immense!

After my exploration of the city I returned to the hotel skyped and MSN a little. You may see a lot of mentioning of skype and co in my blog but don’t think its because I’m being anti social.  These messaging apps will be used a hell of a lot to keep in contact with friends and loved ones back home while I’m still adjusting to Japan life  After the messenger chatter it was time to go out.  There were two options, or Sam and Daves.  Even tho was nearer i chose Sam and Daves.  was playing reggae all night.  i do like reggae but i prefer a variety of music which Sam and Daves were offering. Unbeknown
to me  Sam and Daves also had a bboy crew -rapping and dancing. Couldn’t really comment on the rapping since it was mainly Japanese with a bit of English.  Dancing was decent but they got a lot of props from the crowd for doing basic warm up moves.  They were only there for 10 mins then the club started to kickoff party wise.  Japan has no smoking bans in clubs so it was odd and uncomfortable atmosphere to be in.  What made it worse was that the smokers seem to congregate by the AC so you couldn’t escape.  Music wise it was a good mixture of pop, urban and Euro techno( japanese went crazy wild over euro techno).Midway through the night music started to be really hot so i started to buss a couple of moves(from my dancing etiquette book my former boss bought me).  Moments later I found myself in the middle of dance battle!  One guy had been watching me dance and thought he would try to show me some of his moves and make me look silly.  I don’t want to sound big headed but he was basic and i relished wiping the floor with him.  What i didn’t know is that he had 3 other friends who were really good and kept on jumping in to battle me as well!  Exhausting but good fun!

After the Party..
Left the club around 3am but the adventure didn’t stop.,  On the way back to the hotel I befriended two Americans guys  from Detroit.  They were going the same direction so we ended up walking and talking.  It was quite jokes they were both tipsy and one of them for a good 20 minutes kept on asking how Canada was even tho on multiple occasions I told him i was from England! The talk along the way varied from how safe Japan is, how dangerous Detroit is, how bad Americans are but how they will defend themselves if any other nation criticises them especially against some aussie blokes they met earlier in the night!

Ze Germans
Got to the area my hotel was, said goodbye to the Yanks but was in a dilemma I didn’t recognise where i was.  Japan subways have multiple exits which can be sparsely spread out. I visited 3 of the exits but still couldn’t work out where i was suppose to be.  Was tired and hungry and spotted a 24 hr mcds so i went in there to nourish my stomach. In the queue were two Germans guys.  Again tipsy but very friendly,  I asked them if they knew where my hotel was, - it didn’t ring any bells for them.  I showed them the name and they said that the last part was an area to the left of the McDonalds.  Hope came flooding back to me, all i needed was the mcmuffin in my stomach and it would be perfect.  But as with football 1990 world cup, Euro 1996 and 2010 world cup nothing is so simple with the Germans.  I had ordered my muffin directly after the German guys. I then moved to the left side while my order was being prepared.  then the germans got their orders and left.  Then the person behind me got their order, and the person behind her and the couple behind her!  So I’m left on the side thinking what about me. The person who took my order looks at me and asks what in japanese.  I show her my receipt and then she points at the exit, she then says friends?  I was like no I don’t know them?  She then had a look on her face like she had just been stuck by lightning.  After a quick discussion with the person serving the orders who also copied this look, a fresh sausage mcmuffin and a million apologies were quickly dispensed to me. I left with my brekkie and was able to find the hotel

And finally
An end to another long blog entry, I know its just so much has happened and I have so much time to do it.  I’m sure that during my stay the blog entry will have better quality control in terms of content and length!  A special shout out to Jellyhead, Si and Philip who were the first to leave comments, I’m appreciating the love from the Hong Kong Chinese community.  Also a special thanks for the shout out and salute from the Eloquently Saying Nothing boot camp!  Wahala and the boys are providing good entertainment with an African twist - Salute!!

Japanese word of the Day- Kagi= key

Thursday, 21 October 2010

First Post!!!

First of all, welcome, Akwaaba, Irasshaimase, Bienvenue to Only D Brave dot JP!  On here you will gain access into the mind, feelings, viewpoints and see what I see as I encounter a year in and about Japan!

The Journey
If there was ever a sign that this Japan adventure needed to be done, it was found at the airport departure gate.  Only my Lancaster Uni crew will appreciate the significance of this departure board pic, 1425 Dubai flight.

First journey was from London to Dubai on Emirates.Flown with emirates before so i knew what to expect. Nice service, decent food, very comfy seats and big entertainment selection.  My only issue was the guy sitting next to me and his lack of understanding of the concept "personal space."  Normal airplane etiquette dictates that when you and a stranger arms touch but you have enough space for this not to happen, that one or both retreat to their own zone.  This oaf was going past the neutral armrest zone and encroaching into my area, not once but on many occasions.  This lead to a lot of armrest shoulder barging.
After a 3hr stopover in Dubai where i encountered McTasty McDonald burger(mmh tasty) and some free wifi for fb update and words with friends playing it was time for an 8 hr flight to Osaka!  This was a more pleasurable experience.  Had a three-seater to myself and made the most this excess space and lack of territorial barging dispute.

Enter the Osaka!
Arrived in Osaka 5.30pm local time! Took a shuttle to the main part of the airport and made my way through immigration.  Pretty straight forward, asked a couple of questions, they took my photo and  index fingerprints (standard procedure at Osaka airport) and stamped my 1 year Visa and I'm good to go!  Got out the airport about 615pm and got the train to Osaka Namba.  There was an option of the express train or normal train -I chose the normal and 1 Hr 30mins later i arrived at my destination.  Next time when carrying 42 Kilos of luggage im going for the express option!!
Had to get the subway when i got to Namba and met my first good Samaritan.  I was there looking lost and confused and this guy called Mine or Mene directed me to the subway and even helped carry my 29 kilo suitcase down the steps (which he regretted when he realised how heavy it was)  One stop on the metro and 5 minutes walk from the station was my accommodation the Hearton Hotel! Hotel room was nice clean and compact. No wifi but free internet with network cable. Toilet has a bidet button and clean your bottom button!!

A quick shower and I went out to explore the nightlife of Osaka. It was a nice 20 degrees so i was fine walking about in just a hoodie no coat!  One glaring difference between Osaka and London is the size of roads and buildings. Osaka main roads and buildings are huge compared to London.  It is very akin to roads in the states and you get a kinda spacious feeling when walking along the main street.  However when going down side roads or entering buildings you get the opposite feeling since space is at a premium. One building i went into had 4 different businesses in it whereas if the same building was in the UK it would only house the 1.

First night in Japan, had to eat a Japanese meal.  Found a lil place not far from the hotel and ordered the meal at the bottom left corner of the menu.  They didnt have a English menu so i had to resort to pointing.  I guess that is going to be a popular method for me in the short term.   Food was fast, well cooked and extremely tasty.  Service was efficient and very polite, from their welcoming greeting at the beginning to there thank you for coming when you leave. Its gonna take me a while to get used to all this good customer service!!

After the meal I just walked about Namba just taking random pictures of the city. Im trying to work on my night time photography(needs a lot more practice) and this year will give me the perfect opportunity to do so!  Took pictures for about 20 mins and then I went back to the Hotel for a good sleep!

Well there you have it my first blog entry!  Apologies if it seems long or random, im still working on the format layout and all that!  Thank you for taking time out to read, take care and till the next update!
P.S.  I'm having problems uploading hence only one pic at the moment, this will be corrected as soon as possible.
P.P.S.  I gonna add to each blog ending a Japanese word of the day, a new one which will aid me and maybe help you learn a couple of Japanese words!  Word of the day today is Toriniku= Chicken!