The ticket we booked required us to fly out of Takamatsu, a small city. I had no real agenda for that day, though we had to check out of our Osaka apartment at 11 am and our flight was only at 9 pm so I belatedly tried to identify some points of interest to while away the hours.
Nene had gotten it into his head that he wanted to ride a Thunderbird which I wasn’t hugely keen on because I knew Nene’s interest was in the speed and the look of the train (it had a bigger head than normal) but that it actually wasn’t faster than a shinkansen. Ultimately, it turned out that Mimi didn’t want to budge that morning so V took Nene for a ride while Mimi and I hung out at home. This suited me as the gymnastics came on the telly. I had missed the Olympics till then but the Japanese men’s team had won the team artistic gymnastics final and there was non-stop coverage, so at least I got into the Olympics mode (though I had missed a couple of days) and I got to see some gymnastics events.
After Mimi got bored with the TV and cutting up pieces of paper, I took her down to the local park. The kids had been asking to go to a park since Day 2 of our trip, ever since we passed a park while in the train and I pointed out a sandpit. Here’s what a typical park looks like. Reminds me of the parks in India; Hong Kong parks tend to have more playground equipment and a padded floor, never mud.
Park and sandpit in Osaka.
The park was deserted though later another boy came along. Mimi was quite lost until Nene arrived from his ride, which as expected, had not entirely wowed him. Also, apparently that train is reserved for passengers going to the airport and V was questioned by the conductor.
We got home, had a bath, checked out and took a shinkansen to Okayama from where we changed to another train to Takamatsu. This was probably my favourite train journey because we got to see a lot of beautiful Japanese rural scenery (and if we were to return, this would be the area we would like to explore).
Pretty much standard posture of kids in trains
Takamatsu is a small town with a friendly tourist office in the station. Our plan was to leave our suitcases in a coin locker, have lunch and wander around. I had identified a Japanese garden that was supposed to be good (with tortoises one could feed) while V had found an onsen (or traditional Japanese hot spring bath).
After lunch, however, we had a series of mishaps caused by me. First, we decided it was hot and there wasn’t enough time to do the gardens. I was fine with skipping them in favour of the bathhouse. However, I decided we needed to waste a bit of time because I was pretty sure we wouldn’t need more than an hour in the baths.
Square outside Takamatsu station. Somewhere to the left of this photo is the notorious fountain.
The kids had seen a fountain in the main square which had fish in it and they were desperate to play there. I had promised they could return for a runaround, and so while V checked for how to get to the onsen, I let the kids run around the fountain. Now V was not in favour of it, warning that they would fall in, and at the last minute told them to remove their shoes and socks. In fact, he told me to do it, and I told him to do it. Instead, they just ran off and lo and behold, within five minutes Mimi had fallen in.
I was more pissed off with Mimi (for proving V right and me wrong) and myself (for letting them risk it), and of course there was the matter of her bottom half being sopping wet.
So I had to go off to the locker and retrieve our suitcase and Mimi’s clothes. Unfortunately, once I had lugged the heavy suitcase out of the top locker, got the clothes, repacked and tried to put it back in, I realised the key was stuck. That’s when I realised that there was a separate smaller keyhole presumably for unlocking the locker in between. Arrrrrgh. So basically, I had wasted 700 yen, AND I didn’t have enough cash on me to re-pay the locker. So I had to slouch back in defeat and get cash from an (understandably) frustrated V.
After I had found another (slightly cheaper) locker space and V had identified a closer public bathhouse because now we didn’t have time for the more elaborate onsen, we set off in a cab. When we stepped into the bathhouse, I was nervous because it was soooo local. There was this ancient woman at the counter who didn’t understand English and was just staring at us like we were aliens dropped from outer space (which we kind of were, this was not a tourist joint, but the neighbourhood bath). However, V was determined to enter, and kept talking to her and she finally called another old man, who was super friendly and told her to give us what we needed. Which was basically a coupon and a small towel and soap each.
Then we entered – males to one side, females to another – and it was another awkward staring session. The outer room was full of ancient ladies stark naked who all turned to us and stared in utter amazement (again understandably – I don’t think two brown people had strayed in there before). I got my things into the locker and Mimi and myself undressed and we went in.
From then onwards, the unexpected happened. Old ladies kept telling us what to do. I knew the basic – strip nude, shower before entering the baths, shower if changing baths. It turned out the bath was super hot. One old lady then pointed to another (probably medicated) one with yellow water that was not as hot, but also showed us that we could add cold water. We preferred to stay in the yellow bath. After a while in the bath, it was getting too hot, so we went back to the shower. Again, the lady told us to use cold water on our legs to cool off. Also she kept insisting that I need to scrubber to scrub Mimi. But I didn’t have one. Finally, she gave me hers. I was shocked! She literally let us – nay insisted – we use her washcloth. Which we did. I did another round of the bath, while Mimi played in the shower. We could hear V talking to some people in the male section.
The other ladies in the changing area tried to talk to us, but I couldn’t really say anything except nod and smile. The one that kept persisting was actually the one that I had thought was the most unfriendly initially. Which just goes to show…
We emerged refreshed and the friendly old guy at the counter had called us a cab and even came outside to make sure we got it.
Scenery en route to the airport. There are these amazing looking wooden houses, fields of green which are obviously farmed, but sometimes right next to them, a concreted plot with say a Toyota showroom.
We took a bus to Takamatsu airport, where we had a very very hurried dinner. Apparently, all the restaurants there close at 7.30 pm. We pretty much slurped down our soba noodles at record pace, quite inelegantly.
Then, of course our flight was delayed by an hour. The kids ran riot a bit, but I basicalled confined them to the back of the seating area. I knew I’d have to give them some screen time on the flight and I refused to have another hour of it in the airport, even though this was pretty much what every other parent had done. Finally, they boarded and we were off.