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Part 1 ~ The Opening Sequences
After spending months of planning on where to go to for the mid-year June school vacation, my parents finally decided to bring us on a mid-summer vacation to Japan. Over the weeks, I had grown very excited about the trip, since I had enjoyed most of my previous trips there in the many years of my travel experiences. This would be a special trip too, since we would be spending the first week in Osaka, and the remaining five days in Fukuoka, Kyushu, thus marking the first time I would ever visit Kyushu with my family.
On the morning of Saturday (30 May), we woke up at around 10.30 a.m. after having a well-earned good night's rest. Having a nice, hot shower and some lunch, we had some home made lunch prior to preparing our baggage. While we spent the rest of the day preparing our baggage for the upcoming trip, I ran some errands by following my dad to send his white car to the workshop for safekeeping at the same time. Only then it was after having dinner then that I had finally completed the necessary preparations for my baggage.
As for the in-bound flight to Fukuoka, we would be scheduled to fly non-stop with Singapore Airlines on flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka, which would be scheduled to depart Singapore Changi Airport at 1.20 a.m., and arrive at Fukuoka Airport at 8.35 a.m. the next morning. We were lucky since we had made our arrangements for a MaxiCab to transport us from home to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 9.30 p.m. later that night a few weeks in advance before the summer Japanology trip.
While waiting for our pre-arranged MaxiCab to arrive, we sorted out all our baggage in the living room, ensuring that nothing had been left unpacked. Soon enough, our pre-arranged MaxiCab finally arrived outside our doorstep at 9.20 p.m.. The MaxiCab driver, who was a Chinese gentleman, got out of his cab and offered to load our baggage into the cab boot as we got in for the short late night road trip to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3. We then finally left the house at 9.25 p.m. for a short MaxiCab ride of just 25 minutes to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3.
Soon enough, we finally arrived at the departures and drop-off area located just outside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 9.50 p.m.. While we went to grab just two baggage trolleys, the MaxiCab driver helped us to unload our baggage before we loaded them onto the trolleys. Paying our cab, we thanked the driver for his services, and headed inside the departures and check-in hall, where the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter was located. There, we headed to the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter to check in for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka.
Terminal 3 is one of the three major airport terminals operating at Singapore Changi Airport today. It is currently the newest airport terminal at Singapore Changi Airport, and sports a marble flooring and glass roof design. Like Terminal 2, the terminal is directly connected to Changi Airport MRT Station, which provides railway access via the East West Line (Changi Airport Branch Line), with connections to other regions via a change at Tanah Merah MRT Station. Terminal 3 houses the Crowne Plaza Hotel Singapore Changi Airport, making it the first airport terminal at Singapore Changi Airport to have a hotel in its vicinity.
The terminal was opened on 9 January 2008, initially used only by Singapore Airlines for its long-haul operations to the Americas, European Union, Far East and Oceania. However, on 25 March 2008, four foreign carriers, China Eastern Airlines, Jet Airways, Qatar Airways and United Airlines re-located from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3. Kingfisher Airlines also commenced its service to Singapore initially using Terminal 3 on 17 September 2009, but later moved its operations to Terminal 1 in mid-2011. However, due to its financial crisis, Kingfisher Airlines terminated all international operations on 25 March 2012.
Four more foreign carriers, which are Garuda Indonesia, Saudi Arabian Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and Vietnam Airlines, shifted their operations from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 on 22 February 2011. Asiana Airlines and Lion Air re-located their operations from Terminals 1 and 2 to Terminal 3 on 30 September 2013 and 18 October 2013 respectively. Air New Zealand resumed service to Singapore using Terminal 3 on 6 January 2015, followed by Oman Air commencing new flight service to Singapore on 29 March 2015 from Muscat, with its flights continuing on to Kuala Lumpur. China Airlines and EVA Airways will shift their operations to Terminal 3 from Terminal 1 from 2 July 2015.
Singapore Airlines (Japanese: シンガポール航空; Traditional Chinese: 新加坡航空公司) is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Republic of Singapore. Headquartered at the Airline House at 25 Airline Road, Singapore, the airline maintains its sole hub at Singapore Changi Airport, and was awarded the very prestigious 'Airline of the Year' award by Skytrax in 2004, 2007 and 2008, being one of the seven airlines in the world to be awarded five-star rating by Skytrax. The airline offers 62 destinations throughout Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe and the Americas, making it one of the few airlines in the world to fly to all six inhabited continents.
The airline operates a fleet of purely wide-body from Airbus and Boeing, consisting of Airbus A330s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, making it one of the very few airlines in the world to operate a purely wide-body fleet. Singapore Airlines is also notable for being the very first airline in the world to operate the Airbus A380, with the first aircraft delivered on 15 October 2007. The airline also once operated the longest non-stop flights in the world to Los Angeles and Newark, using a fleet of five Airbus A340-500s since 3 February 2004, ranging between 16 hours to 19 hours respectively.
Due to rising fuel costs and lack of passenger demand on these routes, the airline sold its fleet of five Airbus A340-500s back to Airbus, resulting in both long non-stop routes being terminated in late 2013. The airline has been a member of Star Alliance since 1 April 2000. Together with most fellow Star Alliance members, Singapore Airlines maintains codeshare agreements with some other non-Star Alliance members, such as Virgin Atlantic, Transaero Airlines and Oneworld's Malaysia Airlines. Its frequent-flyer program is known as KrisFlyer, and the airline owns a full subsidiary airline, SilkAir, and a low-cost subsidiary, Scoot.
|The departures and drop-off area located outside Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night|
|The iconic airport control tower at Singapore Changi Airport as seen from the departures and drop-off area located just outside Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night|
|The departures and check-in hall at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night|
|The departure flights information screens located by some airline check-in counters in the departures and check-in hall at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night|
|Finally arriving at the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter in the departures and check-in hall at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3|
|Checking in for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka at the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3|
After completing the entire check-in process for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka at the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter, we finally received our boarding passes at 9.55 p.m.. The check-in agent then informed us that tonight, Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka would be scheduled to depart from Gate No. B1. Boarding would also be scheduled to commence at around 12.50 a.m., approximately half an hour prior to the scheduled departure timing.
With that, we thanked the check-in agent for his services, and quickly grabbed our carry-on belongings before proceeding to the passport control area located aft of the departures and check-in hall. To clear the passport control area, we used the thumb fingerprint checkpoint, which is reserved exclusively for the local Singaporean residents and permanent residents of Singapore. Upon clearing the entire passport control area, we were finally in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at ten o' clock.
Given that we still had plenty of time left before Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka, we decided to head over to the Silver Kris Lounge to have some light bites and beverages first. With that, we walked along the airside through Concourse A and took the escalators up to the airline lounge level, passing the SATS Premier Lounge along the way. The entire walk linking from the airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 to the Silver Kris Lounge took approximately five minutes.
|My boarding pass for the in-bound segment between Singapore and Fukuoka|
|Finally arriving at the main entrance to the Silver Kris Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3|
After walking through both the airside and airline lounge level at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3, we finally arrived at the main entrance to the Silver Kris Lounge at 10.05 p.m.. One of the lounge agents came up to us, and inspected our boarding passes before finally allowing us to enter the lounge. Entering the lounge, we found an empty seating area just adjacent to the glass window overlooking Concourse A and took out our electronic devices for our own entertainment use and have some light bites and beverages.
At one point during my relaxations in the Silver Kris Lounge, I decided to change some of my Singapore dollars into Japanese yen. Leaving my belongings in the care of my family, I headed down to a nearby money exchange counter to change my currencies. At the money exchange counter itself, I changed a total of S$2,613.20, together with the remainder of my Thai baht left from my Chinese New Year trip to Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2015, resulting in me receiving a total of ¥255,000.
This eventually led to my total amount of Japanese yen in my pockets rising from ¥179,250 from my previous end-of-year winter trip there in December 2014 to ¥434,250. Upon doing my necessary currency exchanges, I headed back up to the Silver Kris Lounge and went on to do some things on my laptop and have more bites and drinks. In order to be truthful, the Silver Kris Lounge was better than the Royal Silk Lounge located in the adjacent Terminal 1 as it was much larger and not very crammed like in a prison or dungeon.
Part 2(a) ~ The Flight To Fukuoka
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Flight No.: SQ 656
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Fukuoka Airport (Itazuke Air Base) (FUK / RJFF), Fukuoka, Japan
Aircraft: Airbus A330-343X
Registration No.: 9V-STI
Class: Business Class
Seat No.: 16K
Date: Sunday, 31 May 2015
After spending approximately 2 hours 15 minutes of relaxations, having some light bites and beverages and charging up all our electronic device batteries in the SilverKris Lounge, the clock was finally showing 12.20 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka would commence in half an hour's time, I immediately packed up all my belongings and left the Silver Kris Lounge for Gate No. B1. My family agreed to catch up with me later on at Gate No. B1. The entire walk linking from the Silver Kris Lounge to Gate No. B1 took approximately five minutes.
Soon enough, I finally arrived outside the entrance to Gate No. B1 at 12.25 a.m., which was just in good time for boarding to commence in 25 minutes' time. With just a rapid check at the security checkpoint, I was finally in the passenger waiting areas at Gate No. B1 to B4 at 12.30 a.m.. Judging by the number of waiting passengers in the passenger waiting area at Gate No. B1, I could see that Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka would be having a somewhat light load tonight. My family then arrived at Gate No. B1 at 12.45 a.m., though I didn't see them at that point.
For tonight, Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka would be operated using an Airbus A330-300 aircraft, with the registration number 9V-STI and powered using two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines. 9V-STI was delivered as a new aircraft to Singapore Airlines on 5 February 2010 as the ninth Airbus A330-300 and the ninth Airbus A330 for the airline. The overall delivery would make the aircraft approximately 5.3 years old today, making the aircraft one of the youngest Airbus A330s in the Singapore Airlines fleet today.
After spending approximately 20 minutes of anticipated waiting inside the passenger waiting area at Gate No. B1, the first boarding announcements for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 bound for Fukuoka were finally made at 12.50 a.m.. The Business Class passengers, along with the KrisFlyer & PPS Club members and passengers requiring special assistance, were called out to board the aircraft first. Since I was among the first passengers being called out to board the aircraft, I rolled up with my belongings in preparation for the boarding process to commence smoothly.
Part 2(b) ~ The Arrival Into Fukuoka
In accordance with the Japanese Standard Timing, the seatbelt signs were illuminated again at a.m., approximately minutes in preparation for descent into Fukuoka Airport.
Fukuoka Airport (福岡空港) is a major Japanese international and domestic airport located near downtown Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. It is the main airport serving downtown Fukuoka, and the largest and busiest airport operating in Kyushu. The airport serves as the main gateway for foreign tourists coming into Kyushu via air, and is located approximately three kilometres east of Fukuoka's central railway terminal, Hakata Station. Under national Japanese law, the airport is classified as a second-class airport.
Fukuoka Airport is ranked as the fourth-busiest airport operating in the country, with about 17.4 million passengers passing through the airport in 2012, despite only having one runway measuring 2.8 kilometres in length. The airport has its business hours functioning between seven o' clock in the morning and ten o' clock in the evening daily to cater to the request of the residents. The airport is accessible via the Fukuoka City Subway Airport Line, which can connect the airport with Hakata Station in less than 10 minutes.
Fukuoka (福岡市) is a large major port city located in the northern part of the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. With a total population of 1,527,612, as of 1 June 2015, it serves as the prefectural capital of Fukuoka Prefecture, the largest and most populous city in Kyushu, and the sixth-largest city in Japan. Fukuoka serves as a major and important gateway to Kyushu via Fukuoka Airport and its central railway station, Hakata Station, both of which are located in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka. The city is also known for its Hakata Ramen and its lively and busy Tenjin shopping district in Chuo-ku, Fukuoka.
After I fly with each airline, each flight sector will receive a grade and score report to help me determine whether this airline is worth flying on with particular routes. This scoring system will be divided into five sections: Seat, Food, Service, Cleanliness of Aircraft and Legroom Space. Each of these sections weigh 20 points each, carrying the total weightage to a total of 100 points. To qualify for a passing grade, an airline must obtain a minimum grade of 'D', which means the overall aggregate score must be 45% or more.
Grades 'A+' and 'A' mainly denote quality passing grades, while Grades 'B' and 'C' denote acceptable passes and Grade 'D' being a borderline pass. Anything Graded 'E' or below is considered below pass, with 'U' being classified as ungraded. The airline grading system is as follows, as of 1 May 2015, with some slight modifications:
A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a very good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has a satisfactory rating and performance)
D: 45% ~ 49% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
E: 35% ~ 44% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
S: 20% ~ 34% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has failed to meet the pre-requisite for the minimum grade)
Singapore Airlines Flight 656 Score Report
Seat: 15 / 20
Food: 13 / 20
Service: 11 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 16 / 20
Legroom space: 16 / 20
Total: 71 / 100
Grade: B (Acceptable)
In the final score analysis, Singapore Airlines has obtained a total aggregate score of 71%, which means that they have earned a 'B' grade, which is rather acceptable. This would show that Singapore Airlines has made some slight improvements in most areas. Though this long overnight flight was sufficiently pleasant, there is still room for improvement, particularly in the in-flight service sector, which I saw that was somewhat slow. With more than sufficient effort being put in, I am confident that Singapore Airlines can attain a better customer rating in future.
Part 3 ~ The Journey From Fukuoka Airport To The InterContinental Hotel Osaka
Shortly after disembarking from Singapore Airlines flight SQ 656 from Singapore, Belt No. 2.
Hakata Station (博多駅) is a major railway station located in the lively hustle and bustle of downtown Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan. It is the central railway terminal serving the bustling city of Fukuoka, and the largest and busiest railway terminal serving the southern island of Kyushu. The station also serves as one of the major gateways for passengers coming into Fukuoka via train, with most high-speed Shinkansen trains in shorter 8-car formations going as far as the Kyushu Shinkansen line to Kagoshima from Osaka.
The station serves as the western terminus for the Sanyo Shinkansen line, and the northern terminus for the Kyushu Shinkansen line. Hakata also serves as a major interchange station for the Kagoshima Main Line and Nagasaki Main Line, as well as the Fukuoka City Subway Airport Line. Between 2009 and 2011, the station underwent a major renovation process in preparation for the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen line from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Shin-yatsushiro on 12 March 2011, with the renovations completed on 3 March 2011.
According to the departure information board, the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 546 bound for Shin-osaka would be scheduled to depart at 10.43 a.m. from Track No. 14.
SAKURA (さくら) is a major high-speed Shinkansen train service operating on the Sanyo & Kyushu Shinkansen lines in Japan. Slower than the limited-stop MIZUHO service but faster than the all-stations TSUBAME service, the SAKURA is the fastest train service on both the Sanyo & Kyushu Shinkansen lines that is covered under the Japan Rail Pass. The service is capable of reaching a maximum top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), with an average journey duration from Shin-osaka to Kagoshima-chuo taking approximately four hours.
The service commenced on 12 March 2011, in collaboration with the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen line extension from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Shin-yatsushiro, using special 8-car N700 series sets painted in a distinct livery intended to evoke images of Kyushu and better promote direct access between Honshu and Kyushu at a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). Like the 8-car 700 series sets used on HIKARI Rail Star services from Shin-osaka to Hakata (Fukuoka), the reserved seating cars are arranged in a 2-2 seating configuration.
Green Car (first class) accommodation is provided in half Car No. 6, seating up to a total of 24 passengers in a 2-2 configuration. Certain services truncated to the Kyushu Shinkansen line use the existing 6-car 800 series sets, with the maximum top speed limited to 260 km/h (160 mph). No Green Car (first class) accommodation is provided on services operated by 6-car 800 series sets, given that the trains are completely mono-class. There is no smoking permitted on these services, except on 8-car N700 series sets, with smoking compartments available for smokers in Cars No. 3 and 7 of the 8-car formation.
The Sanyo Shinkansen (山陽新幹線) is a Japanese high-speed Shinkansen railway line that connects the major cities of Osaka in Honshu and Fukuoka in Kyushu, Japan. Operated by West Japan Railway Company (JR West), it is the second-oldest Shinkansen line in Japan, and was opened in stages from 1972 to 1975. The line passes through sparsely populated areas between Osaka and Yamaguchi Prefectures, before crossing the Shin-kanmon tunnel between Shin-shimonoseki and Kokura Stations, and competes with major domestic airlines between Osaka and Fukuoka. The line has a maximum top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).
From the start of the revised timetable on 12 March 2011, more direct access to other areas in southern Kyushu commenced with the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen line extension from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Shin-yatsushiro, although opening ceremonies were cancelled in lieu of the Great East Japan Tsunami the previous day. This then allowed new MIZUHO and SAKURA services between Osaka and Kagoshima to commence, using special 8-car N700 series sets in a distinct livery intended to evoke local images of Kyushu. The line celebrated its 40th anniversary on 10 March 2015.
As of 14 March 2015, the 500 series, 700 series and N700 series sets operate in both 8-car and 16-car formations on the various NOZOMI, MIZUHO, HIKARI, SAKURA and KODAMA services at top speeds ranging between 285 km/h (177 mph) to 300 km/h (186 mph). While there is no Green Car (first class) accommodation available on HIKARI Rail Star services and most KODAMA services, this accommodation is available in half of one car (Car No. 6) on MIZUHO and SAKURA services, which can seat 24 passengers. NOZOMI and MIZUHO trains cannot be used by foreign tourists travelling with a Japan Rail Pass.
After spending approximately 15 minutes of anticipated waiting on both Tracks No. 13 and 14, an 8-car JR West N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. S13, operating as the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 546 bound for Shin-osaka, finally arrived at Hakata Station at 10.41 a.m. on Track No. 14. Once all the train doors were opened, we quickly boarded the train via Car No. 6 and went into the Green Car (first class) cabin to stow all our baggage before heading to our assigned Seats No. 14C, 14D, 15A and 15B for the early afternoon journey duration of 2 hours 41 minutes to the lively hustle and bustle of downtown Osaka.
I was to be seated with my younger brother, who would be seated in Seat No. 15B, for the entire trip from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Shin-osaka. Once the clock struck exactly 10.43 a.m. sharp, all the train doors were closed, and the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 546 finally pulled out of Hakata Station for the remainder of its long morning journey of 4 hours 22 minutes from Kagoshima-chuo to Shin-osaka. We were then on our way for an afternoon journey duration of 2 hours 41 minutes to the lively hustle and bustle of downtown Osaka in the centre of the Keihanshin metropolitan area in the Kansai region.
After an early afternoon travel duration of 2 hours 41 minutes from the very lively hustle and bustle of downtown Fukuoka in Kyushu, we finally arrived at the Shin-osaka terminal station at 1.24 p.m. on Track No. 25. Checking to see that none of our belongings had been left on board, we alighted from the train and proceeded to the nearest elevator to head down to the Shinkansen concourse. Taking the nearest elevator to the Shinkansen concourse, we finally arrived at the Shinkansen concourse by 1.30 p.m..
Shin-osaka Station (新大阪駅) is a major interchange railway terminal located in Yodogawa-ku, Osaka, Japan. It is as one of the major railway terminals serving the lively Keihanshin metropolitan area and downtown Osaka in the Kansai region of Japan. The station currently serves as the western terminus for the Tokaido Shinkansen and the eastern terminus for the Sanyo Shinkansen. It also serves as a major interchange station for the Tokaido Main Line and the Osaka Municipal Subway Midosuji Line, and will serve as the western terminus for the Osaka Higashi Line from 2018.
The station was opened on 1 October 1964, in collaboration with the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen line, in view of to construction problems in the city centre for Shinkansen trains. Other than serving as a major terminal station for most Shinkansen trains, the station serves as a major starting point for certain limited express trains bound for the Kii Peninsula via the Kisei Main Line (Kinokuni Line) and the San'in region via the Fukuchiyama Line (Takarazuka Line). Shin-osaka is also a mandatory stopping point for the Kansai Airport Limited Express Haruka linking to Kansai International Airport.
At Shin-osaka, many Shinkansen trains coming from the Tokaido Shinkansen offer through service to the Sanyo Shinkansen as far as Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata (Fukuoka). All Shinkansen services offering through service to Kumamoto and Kagoshima-chuo in shorter 8-car formations via the Kyushu Shinkansen start and terminate here. On 16 March 2013, an additional eastbound platform bound for Nagoya and Tokyo, Track No. 27, was opened for service. This platform was built to relieve overcrowding at the other eastbound platforms during busy rush hours, and is fitted with half-height platform screen doors.
The InterContinental Hotel Osaka (インターコンチネンタルホテル大阪) is a 32-storey five-star luxurious hotel owned by the InterContinental Hotels Group located close to the Umeda business district in the hustle and bustle of downtown Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan. Opened on 5 June 2013, it is the first InterContinental Hotels Group branch, and is situated in the Umeda Grand Front Osaka. The hotel is easily accessible via a short walk from Osaka Station, and is located to the former Umeda Freight Terminal, which was closed on 16 March 2013.
Room No. 3106.
This officially brings the first segment of my special mid-summer birthday vacation to Japan in June 2015 to an official conclusion. Just like all the other blog reports, questions and / or comments will be more than welcome, and I will reply to them to the best extent possible. As for the remaining for segments of the summer blog report, they will be published once I have selected the highest quality photographs and videos for them. Please do be patient as they require time and effort to be published.