Why do people travel with children who are too young to remember the experience?
Some say it’s for making memories; this makes sense especially when the travel objectives include spending time with family or good friends.
Some say that the experience of spending time together as a family in a different setting is somehow superior to that of time spent together in the usual daily grind.
And some say these people are just masochists whose idea of a vacation is anything but relaxing…
… guess where I’m going with this.
We spent 10 days in Japan last month with our friends Tricia, Eugene and Emma. It was, without a doubt, a great trip. We showed everyone some of our old favourite places in Osaka and Kyoto, narrowly escaped an earthquake elsewhere in Japan, and puttered around areas in the Kansai region which previously didn’t hold that much appeal to me and James. And we did it all with Katy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, the journey. Katy was an absolute rockstar on the flight out: she spent time with stickers, ate a goodly portion of the in-flight meal, and I generally tried to use up the limits of her analog-based patience before plugging her into the KrisWorld entertainment system for the rest of the flight.
It was the land transfer from Kansai International Airport to our hotel that proved a bit of an ordeal. We landed at Katy’s usual bedtime, and James and I had naively hoped that she would stay asleep till we got to the hotel. First there was our long bus journey to the city terminal, then a 40-minute wait for taxis that eventually wouldn’t take us to the hotel due to late-night road closures, and finally a power walk through downtown Osaka in the middle of the night. Katy struggled and whined a lot and eventually decided sleep wasn’t happening. The result: two wide-awake toddlers at midnight Japan time.
We all got to bed before 1 am, but the late night proved to be much more of an ordeal for Katy than for Emma, who is older and also considerably less reliant on regular sleep schedules. When morning rolled around, Katy woke at her usual time, and was thoroughly grumpy and fragile throughout the day.
James and I, meanwhile, were busy replying to a flurry of concerned messages from friends who heard about the earthquake in Kyushu the previous night, and who knew Kyushu was on our itinerary. Fortunately for us, Kansai and Kyushu are very far apart, and we weren’t convinced that the earthquake was major enough to disrupt our onward journey. As for Katy, she recovered enough to enjoy herself at Osaka Castle, the first of our scenic spots. And she had the kind of fun that only a very small child will have on a vacation, doing the same kind of thing she’d do in any park back home. Heh.
The rest of our first (and only) full day in Osaka is a bit of a blur. We tried to get a little downtime all round but couldn’t convince Katy to take a proper nap, and later in the evening we reconvened with the others to have a ramen dinner at my favourite ramen place in Shinsaibashi.
Tenka Ippin is a chain restaurant but from what I gather online, not all outlets offer grilled short rib meat as one of the ramen toppings. It was so tasty on that chilly evening, and I regret only that Katy was too tired to eat any.
The next day started bright and early with a cafe breakfast at Honolulu Coffee along Dotonbori, supplemented with crab legs from the famous Kani Doraku. (Crab legs: breakfast of champions.) The kids had pancakes and enjoyed them very much.
We went back to the hotel to send our luggage onward to Beppu before we took a side trip to Kyoto, and that was when we found out that a 2nd earthquake in Kyushu had been far more disruptive than the first, such that Ta-Q-Bin couldn’t give us a guaranteed date for our luggage to arrive in Beppu. It became apparent that continuing on our originally-planned itinerary of road-tripping through Kyushu would be imprudent from a safety and practicality perspective, so we set up the girls with iPad-based entertainment while we quickly extended our stay in Kyoto by an additional night to buy us some time for further planning.
And then we headed onward to Kyoto!
Katy enjoyed the train ride, though that may have been a function of the extra screen-time we gave her to ensure good behaviour en route…