It has been a while since I last posted.. and with good reason! In August I went on an epic journey across Japan, visiting some of the major cities with my friend from the UK. However.. we did so in less than 2 weeks and on a shoestring budget! We spent around 3 days in each city – Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Fukuoka.
So.. I wanted to make a post about our epic adventure and give you an idea of the kind of things you can do in a really short space of time. For the first post, I’m going to write about Osaka!
Osaka was a little bit of a mixed up visit for us, as we initially stayed for one night, before heading to Kyoto for 3 nights, and returning for 2 more. I booked this way so that we’d be in Osaka during Obon, as the prices of Kyoto hotels were way out of our range. It worked out really well as Osaka and Kyoto are 30 mins-1 hour apart by local train!
We stayed in Doubutsuen Mae – an area of Osaka that was incredibly rough and ready. I felt bad for Su, as it wasn’t exactly the nicest place I have visited in Japan. There were quite a few homeless people and the streets were a little dirty, but it was within walking distance of places we wanted to visit so it worked out well! It certainly had a lot of personality however – little street vendors selling boxed lunch items for 80yen through to grown men walking around in girl’s jinbei and knee high socks.. we certainly saw a different side to Japan in this area.
(An aside note though – even though it was one of the roughest areas in Japan I have seen, I still felt safe!)
Our first hotel was Business Hotel Taiyo, which was a charming little hotel in the middle of refurbishments. Our room was super clean, and more than comfortable for us for the night. As poor Su was jetlagged, I took her for her first katsu curry at Coco Ichiban Ya, Daiso for glorious 108 yen shopping and DonQuixote! Now.. if you haven’t been to DonQuixote, I highly recommend it. It is absolutely insane and sells everything from stationery to food, to children’s toys and *ahem* some toys for adults too (if you catch my drift..). We spent a good evening there before wandering back and attempting some sleep.
When we returned to Osaka, we stayed in Hotel Diamond – which definitely was not the fanciest of hotels. The room was small but comfortable enough. However the highlight of this hotel by far was their two beautiful Golden Retrievers, Rex and Momo! We LOVED making a big fuss of these two.. look at his lovely little face!
In our second visit, we went to Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori for some tasty street food! Su discovered her favourite food was takoyaki, which is really delicious in Osaka. We also had plenty of yakitori and some yakisoba too. We enjoyed the views with a cheeky can of Suntory Highball, and walked back towards our hotel through DenDen street – where we checked out some anime good stores, a capsule machine store and retro game shops.
We also visited Osaka Castle and the surrounding park which was absolutely beautiful! The park had a fun atmosphere and some street performers. A rather odd experience was seeing a girl singing (she must have been no more than 18/19 years old?) which a rather large, excitable fan group which consisted of 40-50+ year old men adorned in her yellow shirt and throwing around an inflatable watermelon…
We were also lucky enough to be staying for a pop up show in a department store – the Zombie Gallery! This was a terrifying experience actually.. at first you’re ushered in to a dark room with a lab assistant who runs you through the rules (in Japanese!) which are along the lines of no photography, don’t hit the zombies.. wait, zombies? I thought this was an art gallery..?
You’re first lead through this narrow corridor displaying some awesome, grotesque original paintings of zombies and horror images.. until you pass through some medical curtains and there’s a zombie. Chained to the wall. Trying to grab you. So of course you run through.. so a zombie who is LOOSE and chasing you. Into a room full of body bags. Where a zombie then gets out from under a gurney and CHASES you. Into a horde – who blocks the exit.. and a GIANT zombie then appears who chases you out. My heart was pounding, screaming was heard pretty much the whole time.. but it was great fun. I don’t think I’ll be heading back to anything like that anytime soon as my poor heart can’t take it – ha!
Leaving Osaka was an interesting experience however. One thing that I really struggled with was the train network! Lots of people, foreign and Japanese, have expressed that Japanese transport can be a little confusing at times – but nothing compared to Osaka.
We decided that since our flight was at 7am the next day, we’d stay in the airport overnight.
(Osaka airport has a number of 24hour facilities and plenty of comfortable seating that you can sleep on. If you’re on a budget, this is a viable travel option if you don’t mind the lack of privacy! There’s also an airport lounge with showers and sleeping areas for a fee.)
However.. we made a mistake. The train which we took had said on the sign it was heading to Osaka Airport.. however it was via connection. Not realising this, we stayed on the train until I heard a familiar station name.. to my horror we had ridden the ENTIRE OSAKA LOOP LINE! A lovely gentleman used Google Translate to inform me we’d indeed missed the last train and a taxi was out of the question.
However, using the best Japanese I could muster, I was able to talk to a train attendant who gave me a route to the nearest airport station which a taxi could be taken from. 30 minutes and a 5000yen (ouch) taxi ride later we made it to Kansai International, hit the 24 hour Sukiya for donburi and found a comfy airport seat to nap on until our flight was boarding.
So if you ever get stuck in Osaka and have missed the last direct airport train – take a train from Tennoji (in the city) to Hineno Station! A taxi from there is much cheaper than from the city itself..
So overall.. Osaka was one interesting ride! It was great to see such a different side to Japan and in 3 days I feel we barely scratched the surface – I hope to head back one day and check out a few other landmarks. But for now.. I’ve had my fill of crazy times!