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September 26th 2014
Published: September 28th 2014
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We left Hiroshima for Osaka on our last shinkansen (fast train) of the trip. About two hours later we arrived at our guest house in the area near Shinsaibashi station known as Amerika-mura. Amerika-mura got its name as after the war a lot of shops sprang up selling American products such as zippo lighters. The name stuck and there are now a lot of funky restaurants, shops and bars (as well as a few pachinko venues too).

After dropping off our bags at the guest house we headed out to grab some lunch. We, strangely, decided on a burger restaurant called Mos Burgers which is a Japanese chain. We ordered our food and sat down at a table and waited until our freshly cooked burgers (teriyaki beef for Scott and chicken for me) were delivered. The burgers looked more like the photos on the menu than they typically do in a fast food restaurant and weren’t too bad.

After lunch we ventured into a nearby mall and then made our way to one of the main shopping areas in Osaka, Shinsaibashi-suji. Shinsaibashi-suji is an arcade with a mixture of malls and shops selling probably 80 - 90% women’s clothing and accessories as well as a few restaurants. We made our way through the arcade towards Dontonboribashi bridge which is a famous bridge in Osaka. The bridge attracts a lot of tourists using their ‘selfie poles’ to take photos of themselves in front of the huge neon billboard displays.

We continued walking through the arcade towards Namba Parks, which is another large mall. Near Namba Parks I spotted a Loft store (the wonderful shop I had discovered in Tokyo) which we had to go into. After Loft we made our way back to our guest house to check in before heading out to dinner.

Osaka is considered to be one of the best foodie destinations in Japan. While I Hiroshima I came across a restaurant called Kushiya Monogatari which I thought sounded like a fun way to try one of the local specialities kushiage. Kushiage is essentially seafood, meat or veggies on a stick battered and then deep fried. The restaurant I discovered was an ‘all you can eat’ (in 90 minutes) place with mini deep fryers at your table so you can cook the kushiage yourself.

We found the restaurant without too much trouble and were shown to a table; once seated we were given an instruction card which included recommended frying times for the different items. We then ventured up to the buffet area to choose our first round of items to deep fry. There were plenty of different types of meat, seafood and vegetables on sticks to choose from as well as a variety of dipping sauces, rice, noodles and salads.

It was a really fun night, but 30 skewers later (40 for Scott) we had had more than enough fried food for a while! I managed to fit in a few pieces of pineapple as well as a mini cream puff covered in chocolate for dessert before I had to stop myself from eating anymore before I made myself vomit… We left the restaurant just before our 90 minutes was up and wandered back to our hotel to lie down on our futon and rub our bellies.

The following morning was our last full day in Japan. We made it to UNIQLO just as the roller doors were being lifted; as we entered we were faced with a wall of employees furiously bowing and saying IRASSHAIMASE (Welcome). Even after we made it through the initial front, every time we saw a staff member it would provoke the same furious bowing / IRASSHAIMASE routine. Apparently being one of the first few customers through the door in the morning means you are treated like royalty (?) – very amusing!

After UNIQLO we made our way towards Umeda, which is another shopping precinct. Along the way we picked up another kitkat flavour to add to our collection (roasted rice) as well as a few random things from Daiso. Once we arrived in Umeda we ventured underground into the massive maze of shops around the subway station and eventually found our way to one of the cheaper malls, HEP Five.

We wandered around the mall for a while; I tried on clothes while Scott tried not to die of boredom. It was worth the visit as we saw one of the strangest outfits of our whole time in Japan (a big call); a guy (?) dressed in a very short puffy tulle skirted dress, full makeup and perfectly styled hair with an oversized fluffy diaper… Only in Japan.

After the mall we made our way to another Loft store before heading back towards our guest house for a late lunch. After lunch we ventured back out along Shinsaibashi-suji to do some final shopping before heading back to our guest house to pack up our bags and relax before dinner.

For dinner one of the staff from our guesthouse, Hideko, had recommended a yakitori place nearby as well as a few dishes we should try. We managed to find the restaurant without a problem and sat down right in front of the coals. The chefs spoke a little English but there was no English menu. We managed to order the dishes which had been recommended to us without too many issues and sat back and waited while our food was cooked in front of us. The first dish that arrived was namafu which is a type of tofu from Kyoto. Scott described the texture as foamy snot blocks, but I thought it was really nice and very different to other tofu I have had. The next dishes were chicken meat balls and chicken and spring onions. As we were finishing our food the other couple in the restaurant ordered a few more things including what looked like chicken skin, chicken tails and chicken liver as well as pumpkin. We ordered some pumpkin skewers but passed on the other items… The pumpkin was our favourite of the night, it was slightly caramelised over the coals and served with butter and sesame seeds – delicious. After the pumpkin we ordered an onigiri (triangular rice ball) which was absolutely massive but yummy. By then a few more people had come in; raw chicken breast and raw chicken liver seemed to be quite popular, but we weren’t keen on that so I ordered a chicken breast skewer (which came with plum and a seasoned salt) while Scott ordered another chicken and spring onion stick. We decided to finish with another two pumpkin skewers. The food was all delicious and we were very full. With two drinks each it cost us under $50 – a bargain.

After dinner we headed towards Dontonbori bridge and Dontonbori street to check out all the massive billboard screens and oversized crabs, octopus, sushi and various other things suspended on the sides of buildings. The streets were incredibly busy despite it being a Thursday night and everyone seemed like they were out for a good time. After a while we wandered back towards our guest house.

On our return we gave a review of the yakitori restaurant to Hideko who invited us to join her and a few other travellers and one of the staff members for some sake. We accepted and spent the next hour and a half or so chatting, comparing stories from Japan and talking about all the amusing little Japanese quirks that would never happen in our home countries. We had a really good time and it was the perfect way to finish off a really great trip in Japan.

The following morning we set out at 7am to catch our train to the airport. Of course everything ran perfectly on time, even boarding commenced at exactly 10:20am as it said on our tickets! After just over 6 hours in the air we touched down in Kuala Lumpur. Not long after we had landed it hit us that we were definitely not in Japan anymore; no one bowed, people didn’t stand to one side on the escalators, people pushed into lines and the toilets were…less than spotless!

Our flight to Australia wasn’t until the following day so we had one night in KL to catch up with our friends Mira and Khalid that we had met during our trip to Malaysia in 2008. We caught the monorail to Bukit Bintang and checked into our very nice hotel, had a shower and ventured to Lot 10 to check out the shops. Mira and Khalid arrived at our hotel at about 9:30pm; we hopped into their car and headed to one of their favourite Thai restaurants.

We had a nice dinner catching up on everything that had happened since the last time we saw each other after our trip to India in 2009/2010 including our respective marriages and Mira’s pregnancy (due in just a few weeks!). We then hopped back into their car and headed to their house in Cyberjaya where we chatted until just before 2am. Mira and Khalid kindly dropped us back at our hotel where we tumbled into bed exhausted from a very long day.

We had a wonderful holiday in Japan; it was a very easy and enjoyable three weeks and we’re sad to be heading back to reality. The sights, food and culture were all excellent. We can’t really pick out a favourite ‘thing’ as it was all enjoyable but some of the highlights include the ryokan in Takayama (for the baths!), Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, the scenery at Kamikochi national park and the yakitori restaurants (particularly the one in Kyoto).

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