Ever wondered how a hippo gets to Japan?
Well, I cannot speak for the whole species but here is how Bernard, I and the human made it.
First off was a train from Sheffield to Manchester at 3.45am. We had to stand outside the station waiting to be let in, there was a few scary people just hanging around and a few people also waiting for the train and a nice city centre ambassador type person (do they never sleep?? What is wrong with them??) came and chatted with us about the weather (and how we were lucky we weren't there the night before, apparently there had been torrential rain!) and then came and let us know when the station human had opened the doors so we could get in.
Three other humans got on the train and we all sat in the same carriage (which I think the very tired-looking conductor appreciated). Time for a snooze for me - it was very late for a sleepy hippo! The train got into Manchester at about 4.40ish and we were told that the connecting train was in fact a connecting bus. We arrived, on the connecting bus, at the airport at about 5.20am. The flight was at 8.35am and many airports now want you to arrive 3 hours early for international flights.
Not KLM. Their desk didn't open until 6.30!!! Still, a quick vending machine cup of tea, a couple of learn japanese podcasts later and we were checked in and then through the bag checking things. The first time I was put through an xray machine I thought I was dying! Now, I quite enjoy it.
When we were in America and went through two baggage checking ladies grabbed Bernard and myself (terrifying Freyja, perhaps they thought we were full of drugs and tried to rip us open!) but it turned out they just wanted to give us a cuddle and talk about how cute we were. Although, they did say that Bernard needed a new name - they obviously didn't know Bernard! And a friend of ours, Harry Mantle, was being put through the same thing in Paris and got felt up by a strange man "with a very cliched French moustache" who declared that there was no bomb inside him! (Lucky thing too, I'd be rather upset if Harry was s'ploded up!)
Anyways, no such excitement for us this time, just through and out. We went and looked around the shops, got some money changed, bought a couple of magazines for Austin (the human's brother), a present for Kaori (the human's brother's girlfriend) and a present for Kaori's family (the human's brother's girlfriend's family). We also went to the little Hamleys store where the store woman was watching the movie Penelope and we sneakily chatted with the toys and had a ride on the giant horse (no photos sorry!)
Then onto the KLM plane to Amsterdam (don't be naughty). It was very much like an Easyjet plane (three on each side and all squished in like sardines) only much less orange. No television screens. They did come through with a breakfast snack but it was egg sandwiches so we all said no thank you. Another quick snooze for me on the plane and we were in Amsterdam!
We had a four hour wait in Amsterdam so again, a quick look around the shops, another snooze for me and a very rude lady at the noodle store who avoided serving the human for ages until she finally served someone else. Then it turned out the vegetarian noodles weren't vegetarian because they were cooked in pork. Still, every one says we'll find it difficult to eat in Japan, so we might as well get used to it!
On to the next plane. A big jumbo jet from Amsterdam to Osaka. Freyja says some of you will want to know what movies were on the plane - there was loads! I slept for most of the flight, but from what Bernard and the human tell me, there was Get Smart, Meet Dave, What Happens in Vegas, Sex and the City, Ironman, Indie 4, Baby Mama, An American Girl, 21, 27 Dresses, 300 and loads and loads more. Far too many to watch in a 10 hour flight, I think. There was also television shows and games and things. The food was quite nice. There was a vegetarian curry type thing, a cup noodle, some yummy chocolatey desserts things, some snacks and a scary looking breakfast that not even Bernard would try!
Osaka!!! From Osaka we had to get to shin-osaka. We were looking at all the funny ticket machines and were just about to take the plunge and have a go on one when a very nice Japanese man asked where we were going, "Surely you take the plane to Tokyo?!" when the human said we were definitely getting a train he pointed us to the ticket office. No funny machines for us yet :(
Then when we put the wrong ticket in the machine to get into the train station, another very nice Japanese man came to help. Then, whilst we were looking at the train map trying to work out how many stops, the same very nice Japanese man came and tried to help. He wasn't sure if we could get on the train we were about to try so called over the station man who said it was fine and that we had three stops.
At shin-osaka station we bought some m&ms and got on the shinkansen. Luckily for us, Frannie had explained that it is much cheaper to get non-reserved tickets, so we had and Austin had sent information on getting the trains and told us to get either the Nozumi or Hikari bullet train, not the Kodama. We got on the Nozumi and after a bit more snoozing from me, arrived in Tokyo at about 4.30.
It then turned out our train ticket from the airport actually took us further than just getting to Tokyo and would get us out to Ikebukuro (which is where the hotel is). We managed to get on the right train and a very nice television screen told us what each stop was in Japanese and English. So we knew when to get off!
Another very nice, very old looking Japanese man was on the train. He looked like he was going home after a loooong day at work. In England, whenever we've travelled on the tube in London or on the bus in other places, we've noticed that younger human's get up for older humans. Here the old tired looking business man (Bernard said he felt like he had a lot in common with him!) stood up and tried to give us his seat!!! We thanked him kindly but refused. We'd been sat down all day and had so much to look at out the window!
The out of the station, follow the easy map to the hotel (past the KFC, past the Family Mart, up the big street, past the other Family Mart, turn at the drug store) and we arrived at the hotel! Hooray!
For those of you interested we are staying at the Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro.
We'd all been practising the greeting and how to check-in from our Japanese podcasts, but sadly she was on the phone and just handed us a form to fill in and then when she was off the phone spoke to us in English. Maybe next time.
And so, with a lot of thanks to the very nice Japanese men who helped us out, that is how these two hippos got to Japan!