Ocker in Okayama

Strewth, I’m a bloody drongo. No photos tonight because the daypack with my computers and rechargers is in Kyoto while I am in Okayama. Fortunately, this is Japan, so hopefully it is safe and intact in the lost luggage centre.

The reason that I am still able to post is that we are staying in a Toyoko Inn. No real luxury, but free computers, free internet, comfortable rooms and, most importantly right now, a coin operated laundry. Oh, and a vending machine that supplies grapefruit Gokuri Juice.

We have a real problem with the weight of our luggage. Fortunately, Cathay Pacific have not complained that one of our bags is almost 8 kilograms overweight, but maybe that’s because Alex gets his own 10 kilogram limit. But lugging around our bags is a real hassle, especially in travel-light Japan.

Today was the first opportunity that I’ve had to actually wander around Hong Kong’s International Airport. It’s quite impressive, with some seemingly decent dining options after security (of which there was a lot).

Cathay Pacific both sent us to a special infants, elderly and disabled queue to check in and we were among the first to board the aircraft as well. Another 747-400, which I was pleased with. No bulkhead this time, we were two rows further back, but the leg room was surprisingly good and the entertainment controls better positioned.

After take-off we had spectacular views of Hong Kong and its many islands through breaks in the cloud. Alex had fallen asleep and we were free to enjoy what was on offer.

As we cruised through the cloudy skies I programmed the excellent entertainment system to play music from Avatar. It was magnificent having a chance to listed that wonderful music and relax while sleeping Alex lay beautifully on my lap.

He woke up after an hour or so and we ate a staggered lunch. B had chicken, me a Japanese style beef curry. Cathay’s food leaves much to be desired, even their fruit salad is pretty ordinary. Can’t go wrong with the Tim Tam on the side (or so Alex thinks). He was given bottles of baby food which was really too young for him and an entertainment pack that was not for under 3’s.

All in all he was pretty well behaved until close to Japan. More great views of the southern parts of Japan, Kyushu, Shikoku and finally Kansai international airport. I realised that I have never seen this airport in daylight.

Immigration took a little while, with the machines having a lot of trouble taking B’s fingerprints. The Japanese only speaking official was rather amusing in his frustration.

Once we exited the airport we exchanged our vouchers for rail passes, then waited to catch the Haruka Express to Shin-Osaka and from there a Hikari Shinkansen to Okayama. B was hungry, so we bought a bento box from the platform kiosk.

Big storm clouds billowed up over Osaka as we raced towards the city. From our elevated track we had wonderful views of Japanese suburbia. Rooftop gardens, rundown units and apartments, shiny skyscrapers. A couple of young ladies riding bicycles, one holding an upright parasol. Rivers and rice paddies squeezed in between the encroaching suburbs.

At Shin-Osaka we went to buy Alex a snack, but got sidetracked (thanks to a free sample) of delicious Japanese cheesecake.

Soon after we departed in the Shinkansen I realised that I had not taken my bag out of the Haruka, burdened by trying to drag out everything else while B carried Alex in her arms.

Nothing to do but wait until Okayama and seek help there.

We’ve been to Okayama a few times before, but only in transit and never staying there. It has the beautiful Koraku-en garden and a reconstructed castle. Right then the only thing we were seeing was the Japan Rail ticket office while we waited for one of the helpful staff members to chase up our missing bag. After a long wait we were told that we need to go to Kyoto, the terminus of the Haruka, in order to pick it up. Guess I know what we’ll be up to tomorrow.

After checking into the hotel we returned to the station precinct to eat tonkatsu. Then back to the hotel to wash clothes.

Despite all that, it is good to be back in Japan. It’s so clean, especially in comparison to Shanghai, and it really feels like a second home.

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