Day 90. We both woke us with the same realisation. Even though we were booked on a flight for Monday 26th April out of Tokyo, whether or not we were to fly was completely down to forces of nature. The internet is a mine of information and what is clear is that (a) the airlines are very optimistic and (b) the geologists are very pessimitic about flights getting back to normal soon. Seeing as it’s a volcano stopping us flying, were inclined to go with the geologists’ assessment! BBC News Online is on the whole is both impartial and philosophical about the whole affair. One entertaining article encourages us to see this episode as a glimpse into our futures and learn from the experience. That’s easy too say if you’re tucked up at home!
Rather than wait for a week to see whether the airlines or the geologists were right, we decided we’d try to get home incrementally. We’ve booked a flight to Cairo leaving Tuesday evening! Our reasons are:
- It’s slightly closer to home.
- It’s a lot warmer than Tokyo which is experiencing freak changeable weather from snow to torrential rain to heatwave.
- The flight was comparatively cheap and by far the cheapest on the internet heading towards Europe! (Other flights cost silly thousands of pounds).
- They do the best stuffed pigeon.
We booked our flights on the internet in the lobby of our hotel. We were sat near another British couple who were also trapped in Tokyo. They had no onward flight booked and no idea to get home. They had tried to catch their Emirates flight as far as Dubai even though their onward flight cancelled but were told that Dubai was not permitting this. We suggested they try our flight to Cairo. Within minutes, when they tried to book it, our flight was full. The next available flight to Cairo was on the following Saturday costing silly thousands of pounds!
Let’s hope the ash doesn’t reach Egypt! Apart from the fact that we’d still be stuck in Japan, it would be quite Biblical:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days.”
— Exodus 10:21–23
Our flight leaves from Osaka so we boarded a Shinkansen (alas still no Mount Fuji) headed there. For the first time on this trip, we’d managed to plan our cash exactly to the last few pennies, only to find we had no money to buy lunch for the train! (Credit card is not as widely accepted here and you often see people pulling out wods of cash from their back pockets.)
A noticeable proportion of the general public wears a surgical face mask. We’re not entirely sure whether this is to protect them from germs, to protect others from germs, or perhaps both. We thought we’d take the opportunity to see what it meant to wear a surgical mask in public. Nobody batted an eye at us.
We checked into our hotel in the Nanba district of Osaka whereupon Annie was given “gifts” including:
- Firming hot pepper body sauce “so you can mix with the celebrities”.
- Anti-wrinkle milk.
- A moisturising face mask.
After Annie had been beautified, we went out to explore the area. We like Osaka! We weren’t expecting much more than an industrial port city with concrete carbuncles, but were were pleasantly surprised by the virabrancy and character of this town. And Osaka is known in Japan for its food, so we felt right at home.
We tried the local delicacy of takoyaki, octopus pancakey balls:
Then by accident, we found Rikuro’s, arguably the most celebrated cheesecake shop in Japan and had to queue to buy our cheescake. Customers are limited to buying a maximum of two cheescackes and the reason is very clear. After we had devoured our cheesecake, we were tempted to go back and buy a lifetime’s supply.