Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Japan, Osaka and Kyoto

Since the United flights to Bangkok route through Japan, it only made sense to stop over on the way home for a couple days. It is about a 6 hour flight to Osaka and then another 10 hours flying to San Francisco from there.

We were in for a bit of an unpleasant shock when entering immigration in Osaka. I passed through with no problem but then Gena was held up. Her passport was flagged so they took us into a holding room while they sorted it out. Being a holiday in the US as well as in Japan, everyone was concerned that no officials could be reached to figure out the problem. Because of the language barrier, it was a very upsetting interchange with us having no clue when and if anything would be done.

In case we were not allowed into Japan, we started looking into flights back to the US but the last one was gone for the day.  There was only a flight to Guam, about 4 hours from Japan that was leaving an hour and a half hence.

Finally, Gena was called to the phone and got an earful from Mr. Brown at the US embassy in Osaka,  telling her she was in big trouble. Once she explained she was blind he lightened up. Turns out that Gena was using a passport she thought was active but was in fact one she thought was lost and replaced. Hard to figure out why she had been through 6 passport checkpoints prior to Osaka without issue. Finally, after being detained for 2 hours, we were hugely relieved to be allowed into Japan although I was a bit disappointed not to be going to Guam.
Toilet control with Braille labels 
Our time in Osaka was mostly around the two hotels where we stayed, the Ritz Carlton and Swissotel. We were duly impressed by the heated toilet seats in both hotels. One even had a push-button panel with Braille labels.

Mike and Gena in front of the Osaka CastleOutside the hotel, there was not much English Spoken; I did not have GPS maps so navigating was a challenge. A lovely young woman in the Ritz, who was from Kyoto, wrote down directions to the train and to various places to visit in Kyoto. We used this and the points of interest aspect of the GPS to find our way to Kyoto and back on the train as well as going to the castle inOsaka. The train stations were huge and packed with lots of people. It wasn’t easy but we managed between all our alternative tools and techniques to get where we wanted to go.

view of Osaka buildings from the CastleOn our return trip, we came out of the wrong exit and found ourselves taking a very long way around. We made it in time to check out and catch our shuttle back to the airport.
 Gena, Mutsuki and Mike at bus station

I have always said that “the people make the places” and that was true of Japan. Our favorite was our friend Mutsuki from the Ritz. Our waiter at the Italian Cantina was wonderful, not to mention another waiter, Tomach, who was actually Hungarian. We had fun with a few folks who didn’t speak a word of English like one of the guards at the Osaka Castle, who ran up 6 flights of stairs in search of us. He really wanted us to take the elevator. We enjoyed the ladies in a women’s clothing store called Scream. They even let us feel the super high heels and leggings they were wearing.
Restaurant in Japan 
We had a good time despite the problem entering the country because of the warmth of the people. Next time, we will make sure we don’t go there on a holiday, which made a very crowded place even crazier.

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