When V suggested we plan a family trip to Japan, I was skeptical. Apart from (or because of?) our annual trip to India, we haven’t been overseas with the kids. While I was ready to venture forth into the world with the kids, I was thinking more on the lines of a beach holiday in the Philippines or Malaysia, or even a minibreak to Singapore. However, V has been wanting to go on a Japan holiday for a while, and we figured that Southeast Asia was doable if and when we moved to India as well.

The holiday did not get off to an auspicious start, however. First, I went out to dinner a couple of days before we left and the next day I came down with the worst diarrhea. It was a Sunday so I couldn’t see a doctor right away. That night was awful, non-stop running to the loo with two hours of sleep in between, until I got to a doctor. I had one day in between to recover, and I barely did.

Except that when my waterworks stopped, the skies opened. Typhoon Nida hit Hong Kong and though we managed to make it to the airport that morning, our flight was delayed to the next day. Even then we had a scare: when we woke up at 4 am, the airline website said the flight was on schedule for 9:15 am but the airport website said 2 pm, and we were confused whether to go or not because the most updated information was the airport website and that would mean we’d be be waiting around in the airport for hours (again). In the end, we decided to compromise and go in to the in-town Airport Express check-in, so that we could come home easily if the flight wasn’t taking off. Turns out it was on schedule, and we’d have missed it had we gone with the airport website information!

So after all that drama, the one hour delay in flight take-off didn’t seem a big deal and we landed in Tokyo exactly a day after we had planned. Which meant I had to abandon a whole day’s worth of planning, which included trips to the Shinjuku and Harajuku area. We were too knackered, having had an early start two days in a row and after checking into our Airbnb, we had a quiet dinner of excellent and cheap ramen in our neighborhood and did a walkabout.

The next morning, we were due to check out of our Airbnb at 11 am, but since we woke up at 6.30 am, we had a bit of time to kill. So we decided to take the train down to the Imperial Palace gardens and do a walkabout. Unfortunately, we landed up in the trains during rush hour and it was not pleasant, not so much because of the crowds but because of the dour and unfriendly attitude of the commuters. It was hard keeping the kids under control, especially since they were part tired, part excited and part frustrated at not being able to sit down or look outside. Everyone was in shades or grey and looked unhappy to be there. Compared to this, Hong Kong commuters are a positive font of joie de vivre. Later, we had a coffee at a convenience store with a seating area and again we found the office goers quiet and isolated, not wanting to be disturbed.

The Imperial Gardens were just what we needed, enough space for the kids and not many people there so they could run around and talk as loudly as they liked. Of course, the gardens were beautiful, but kids tended to focus on the (dead) earthworms along the path and later the koi fish.

Headed back to our apartment and then off to the Shinkansen station for our ride to Osaka where we would be spending the main leg of our trip. Had a very nice lunch of teppenyaki chicken and rice; thankfully, the kids were really taking to Japanese food and its muted palate meant that it is probably the best option I could have hoped for with a stomach upset.

The Shinkansen ride was smooth with a few hiccups in actually buying the tickets, keeping the kids in check while V bought the tickets, and then finding the right compartment (compartments 1 to 3 are for unreserved seats). The train itself is Japan’s famed bullet, not cheap by any standards but an experience. One of things I’ve noticed in Japan is that they always leave more than enough leg room. The shinkansen is like taking a flight, without all the extra security, but it’s much more comfortable. Like a plane though, you don’t get to see much outside, and we had to resort to screen time to keep the kids quiet.

Found our Airbnb easily enough, we chose it as its close to the station. The sun is out in full force in August in Japan so we were glad to get into the A/C comfort of the apartment (though A/c in Japan is much less cold than we’re used to in Hong Kong and our apartment didn’t cool as much as we’d have liked). Our apartment was larger than the one in Tokyo, and the kids really enjoyed both “hotels”. Airbnb worked out well for us, as we got more space, a little kitchen, and pocket wifi that we could take out with us.