It was for both Katie and I our second trip to Japan, but the first time we had been there as tourists, rather than students. Between that difference and the fact that I'd never planned a vacation before, there was something strange about it. As a gaijin, you are quite literally an outsider, but my studenthood had offered a small buffer from really feeling it. Still, the trip was largely a success and a much-needed break from work. I also felt that overall my Japanese hadn't gotten any worse; my conversation had suffered a bit, but I wasn't quite as illiterate.
We made the decision to spend most of our two weeks in Kyōto, since Katie had never been and I was more than happy to visit again. The nearest airport was outside of Ōsaka, so we booked a few days there as well.
All in all, the trip there went pretty smoothly, though I had this little bundle of anxiety that didn't leave me until we were safely at our hostel in Namba. Typically when I'm travelling with someone, I leave the details up to them, but this time I tacitly declared myself the leader. I'd had help and input planning everything, but I'd still made the reservations and communicated with the renters myself. I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure Katie and I arrived safely.
Our complimentary in-flight toiletries included a miniature toothbrush, towel, and one-size-fits-all slippers.
China Airlines was my introduction to the latest in in-flight entertainment. The last time I took a long flight, we hadn't had personal TV screens, so it was a novelty, though I soon discovered that my headphone jack wasn't working. Katie and I had just devised a solution wherein we would twist her headphones inside out and sit awkwardly close as we watched the same movie--when they decided to reboot the entertainment system. Afterwards my sound worked, and we were each able to watch two full movies before they started having the real issues. The system was subsequently rebooted at least 30 times between then and the end of the flight, without successfully restoring the movie functionality.
We passed some time chatting about how these difficulties spoke of an alien abduction we couldn't remember (the reboot also reset the take-off point of the flight in the system, so for a while it showed that we had taken off from the middle of Alaska and been in the air for all of five minutes). The rest of the time I spent on my DS or listening to music curled up under a blanket.
Our flight got into Kansai International a little before 6 PM local time. The airport was surprisingly empty; most of the people on our flight were continuing on to Taipei, so they didn't disembark with us. We bumbled our way through customs and currency exchange, and even managed to locate the trains out of the airport, where at last we encountered one show-stopping impossibility: making a phone call.
At first, the only problem was my jetlagged brain thought coinage wasn't needed to initiate a call. Then when I got that right and dialed the number we have, it kept telling me to "correct my dialing." At a loss, I flagged down one of the attendants near the ticket counter and asked if he could help us. He explained that the number we had had too many digits, and took the printout I had to go look up our hostel on the internet. He returned with a different number, which he dialed for us, and someone picked up. I announced to the voice on the other end that we were just about to leave from the airport and he replied that he'd be waiting. Thinking this difficult task accomplished, I hung up the phone and thanked the attendant. We got on the train secure in our knowledge that we were almost done.
When we reached Namba station and met the hostel manager, he informed us that we in fact had never called.
It didn't create any problems, as he still met us there and led us to the hostel, but it was incredibly confusing. I have no idea who it was that I called and who confirmed that I had dialed the right place. My brain refused to shut up about this mystery for some time even after we got into our room, and I had trouble getting to sleep right away.
The unassuming entrance to our hostel.