Home Other Countries Japan The Nerve-Racking Start to Our Kyoto, Japan Trip

The Nerve-Racking Start to Our Kyoto, Japan Trip

November 4, 2015 – My friend Arcel and I were bound for Kyoto, Japan. Our tickets required passing through Manila before reaching Kansai Airport. The first leg of the flight was scheduled to leave Cebu at 10:30 AM. Since this was a weekday and Mactan area traffic is notorious, we agreed to be at the airport by 7-8 AM. Real life always tries to screw around with plans however…

we almost didn't make it to Japan

Almost Missed the Flight!

7:30 AM and I was at the airport. Arcel, however, was nowhere in sight. I just chilled, but seeing as we had to check in an hour before departure, I started to worry when she still did not show up at 9AM. Texted her and learned she was stuck in traffic in the Reclamation area. It turned out there was an accident where a huge truck ended up on its side and blocked almost the entire road. She couldn’t get through!

As we kept texting, I heard the last call announcement for our flight’s check-in. The counters were closing, OMG! I called Arcel several times to inform her of what’s going on. I also decided to just process my check-in first. Fortunately, I already used the web check-in the night before, so we actually had seat numbers already. But for some reason, we still needed to go to the check-in counters to get the physical tickets.

view of the sunset out the plane window
The beauty and peace in this photo is in no way reflective of the first day of our Japan trip.

I got to the counter and it was closed! With my panicked face, I showed the CebuPac counter attendants who were lingering there my printed copy of the web check-in confirmation. They waved me through to the boarding gates. I got in and found out the flight was delayed for 20 minutes. There was still hope for Arcel!

I sat there at the waiting area with no other thought running through my mind: Will I leave Arcel behind??? Missing the flight means I’d be backing out from fulfilling my number one dream in life at this point, which is to travel to Japan by age 30. If I leave Arcel however, that means all my travel costs would instantly double and I didn’t have enough budget, what to do?

Captured on the News…Probably…

10 minutes before departure, Arcel texted that she was finally at the airport but couldn’t get in! She didn’t have a printed copy of the web check-in confirmation. I had it. So I had to exit. This was the first time I got to run around in the airport, whew! I ran all the way to the first entrance gate just to give her the ticket copy. I attempted to hand it to her near the scanners, but security told me to go away. Even funnier, there was an ABS CBN news crew there reporting about the bullet planting issue.

Security told me to go out the exit and get away from the scanners because I was practically wandering aimlessly behind the newscaster. We were running out of time however, so after a bit of pleading by me and Arcel, they finally allowed me to hand her the paper. She finally got through the first scanners.

All of our drama was more than likely captured by the news camera!

We ran back to the second scanners. By the way, we were carrying heavy bags all this time, so I was huffing and starting to sweat. Fortunately, in the end, we made it on time for our Cebu to Manila flight. PHEW!!!

clouds outside the airplane window
Here’s another cloud picture because irony.

Blunders Everywhere!

Nope, our sorry start of the trip wasn’t over yet.

We safely arrived at NAIA, but this was the time when the bullet planting issue was in full swing. So even if we were already stressed, we forced ourselves to be hyper-vigilant.

That didn’t work quite as expected.

Nope, we did not encounter bullet planters (thankfully) but here’s what happened. We paid the travel tax and proceeded to the check-in counter for the KIX flight. Once there, Arcel discovered she lost her travel tax receipt, which was needed for check-in. Oh no! She went back to the travel tax counters, which is a few minutes of walking away, hoping the receipt was there. I, meanwhile, did my best to talk to the check-in counter lady to be patient and wait for my friend. Fortunately, Arcel was able to retrieve her receipt.

Laglag Bala Scare!

After check-in is boarding. We became even more hyper-vigilant because those planted bullets always get found at the scanners and we were stressing over going through. We even rehearsed what to do if our bags get stopped for inspection. Oh and we already saved all those lawyer phone numbers given by Pacquiao and Duterte just in case. Yeah, we were totally paranoid.

protection for laglag bala scam
anti-laglag bala packing

The night before, I made sure to protect my bag from tampering. Meaning, I took pictures of how I arranged the contents in my bag. I then wrapped the bag with cling wrap and finally encased it with its rain cover. Thankfully, my luggage went through the X-ray scan process without a hitch.

Then it was Arcel’s turn. She didn’t use cling wrap so the whole time I helped her guard her bag. Then the scanner lady stopped Arcel’s bag! Oh sh*t! The lady did not touch her bag though so that was a relief. It turned out Arcel was carrying duct tape, which according to regulations must not be carried inside a hand luggage. She just told us to get rid of the duct tap. PHEW. SIGHS OF RELIEF!!!

Duct-tapeMore Craziness

While waiting for our time to board, Arcel told me she accidentally went inside the men’s toilets. Good job! HAHA!

Finally, it was time to board our flight to Japan. We were so happy to get inside that plane for our dreams were about to come true 4 hours later.

As I settled in my seat, I couldn’t help but notice something – my area smelled like feet! Ugh!

smelly-feet_memeSeriously, when it rains it pours 🙁 I sat there for the next 4 hours bravely bearing the horrible smell. I survived by reviewing our Kyoto itinerary over and over again in my head.

At around 8PM Japan time, we touched down at the Kansai International Airport! Immigration process went smoothly. After all the stress we went through from Cebu to Manila, it was such a relief to see everything done in an orderly manner.

Journey from KIX, Osaka to Kyoto

For those who don’t know, Kansai Airport (abbreviated as KIX) is in Osaka – on an artificial island to be exact. Since we were headed to Kyoto, we had to ride an express train from the airport all the way to Kyoto Station. We purchased a JR West Kansai Pass beforehand for the HARUKA train so we had to find the JR counter to get our tickets. Next step was to find the train platform.

train from KIX to Kyoto Sta.
riding the express train HARUKA from Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station

Since this was our first time in Japan, all of that was obviously confusing. But we managed, mostly due to Arcel’s excellent directional skills, and finally got on the train. Travel time was around 76 minutes. We got off at Kyoto station when it was almost midnight. We then had to find a bus to get to our accommodation.

After wandering for a bit looking for the buses, we found out that the bus ticket counters were closed and that there were no more buses at this time! By this point, I think Arcel and I have already achieved enlightenment. LOL. Or maybe we just didn’t have energy left to get stressed further.


Anyway, we approached a salary man (Japan speak for a company worker, usually dressed in a suit). I tried asking where the buses were. Bus-wa doko desu ka? Eigo-ga hanashimasu ka? (Where are the buses? Do you speak English?) He shook his head in the universal gesture of no. He proceeded to explain stuff in Japanese. We totally did not understand a word, haha. So we smiled, bowed and thanked the guy.

We hailed a taxi because we had no choice. Language barrier got in the way, which led to the taxi driver dropping us off at Teramachi street where our hostel was supposed to be. Wallet damage: 1000 yen. Ouch. Since we were not dropped off in front of our hostel, we actually had to look for it. Fortunately, it was just a short walk away.


very late dinner
Oh, and we finally got dinner. After midnight.


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