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Published: November 26th 2014
We hopped on the Shinkansen for our last bullet train in Japan, we had loved all our train journeys in the country and we were sad that the super-easy travelling was coming to an end! Our last stop was Japan’s third largest city…Osaka and we had just about 24 hours to see the city. Covered shopping streets, 808 bridges and some dodgy areas
Although there wasn’t much we wanted to see in Osaka, we hit the ground running (mainly because we were hungry) and headed straight out to the Shinsaibashi covered shopping street to find some food…Donna only got a little bit snarky due to us walking around in circles (she’s like a bear with a sore head when she’s hungry!). We thankfully got food and had a browse around the shops, still marvelling at the strange obsessions of the Japanese – socks, gloves, weird sweets and covered shopping streets 😉.
Next on our list was the famous Dotombori area and it was absolutely packed with Chinese tourists. We find it’s very, very easy to tell Chinese from Japanese because the Chinese are so LOUD…and we mean LOUD, really yelling and shouting to each other. Whenever there are
Chinese tourists around we find that the decibel level goes up a few notches ! There were loads of restaurants along the Dotombori street with huge crabs as signs, which we took to meaning the restaurant sold crab; we were more puzzled by the dragon as a sign on one restaurant…did this mean it served dragon?! 😉
Osaka is quite a unique city in Japan in that it’s where a lot of large Japanese companies are based and because it also has the nickname of the city of 808 bridges. The majority of the Tokugawa-era bridges that were built are no longer there or have been replaced by more modern bridges, but there are still a couple of the bridges you can see and the Dotomburi area is built around canals which are really pretty when they are lit up at night. An interesting fact is that the Japanese Mint (i.e. the coin making facility) is still located in Osaka.
To us, walking around Osaka, it was one of the most rundown Japanese cities we had been to – it was certainly the cheapest as well. It was strange because one minute we would be walking on a
Pimp my bin truck
Look at the groovy disco lights on the bottom between the wheels...they flashed different colours!
nice, pristine street with modern office buildings and then we’d turn a corner and be on a bit of a dodgy street…complete with massage places and pink (red) lights 😉. While we were wandering around the Dotombori area we stumbled on the British pub chain we had enjoyed so much in other Japanese cities, guess what? It was happy hour so we had some cocktails…it would have been rude not to 😉. Osaka castle
We originally really wanted to visit Himeji castle but we learnt it was under reconstruction and it’s outside had been completely wrapped in tarpaulin and scaffolding. We decided to skip it as the outside of Himeji was one of the reasons we wanted to see it. One thing to note when going to attractions in Japan is to double check they aren’t under reconstruction; sometimes it doesn’t matter if they are but others, like with Himeji, an important feature may be ‘under wraps’. So we made do with Osaka castle!
Yet again, our last day in Japan was like being in a furnace and the walk to the castle almost killed us. The castle was really impressive and we do hand it to
the Japanese, they know how to rebuild things so they look old! The moat and walls were huge, the castle towered over us and we were really impressed until…we turned the corner and saw the huge glass lift shaft stuck on the side of the castle! We aren’t quite sure why the Great Glass Elevator Shaft was required and it completely spoiled the look of the castle from the park area. We sat for a while in the shade (a necessity!) admiring the castle, blocking out the lift and were amazed that we could hear people walking inside the castle, even though we were quite a way from it (Chinese we bet!). Vending machines
The many vending machines in Japan really were useful as it meant you didn’t have to go searching for a supermarket or shop. It is something we got used to very fast! Some of these vending machines were located in the front porches of houses which led us to wonder if the companies paid people to have vending machines on their property and if so, how much?!
Most drink vending machines were a standard price of ¥100-110 (57p-63p) for water or pop, some
though were quite a bit more expensive (we can’t remember which brand now) but these were about ¥200-250 (£1.14-£1.43). There were even vending machines which sold beer – these had a button you pressed to say you were over 18 years of age. That made us laugh, in the UK there is no way that these vending machines wouldn’t be abused by underage drinkers! Kit Kat supermarket
Not only did we find a Kit Kat shop in the Shinsaibashi covered shopping street and Donna almost wet herself, the supermarket across the road (literally 5 steps away) from our hotel also sold Kit Kats! So to add to the citrus flavoured ones we had already bought in Hiroshima, we added Japanese milk pudding flavour (or crème brulee to you and me) and crispy raspberry flavour. We really didn’t fancy the green tea flavour so skipped them. The crème brulee and raspberry flavours were amazing! The thing that amazed us most is that they didn’t taste fake or like they were full of additives, it was as if we were eating crème brulee or raspberries…don’t know how they do it but those Japanese food scientists are geniuses! Ethnic diversity
After we had been in Japan for a few days, we started to notice that the Japanese are very ethnically homogenous, there really isn’t a lot of ethnic diversity in Japan at all. Doing a quick Google, it seems our observations are proved right. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, ethnic Japanese make up 98.5%!o(MISSING)f the total population (Koreans account for 0.5%!,(MISSING) Chinese 0.4%!a(MISSING)nd ‘other’ 0.6%!)(MISSING).
The only other country we have been to where we have noticed this kind of ethnic homogeneity is China. We wondered whether this has something to do with both countries being ‘closed’ to foreign influence until relatively recently. We know that Japan has very strict Immigration quotas as well so not that many foreigners live there. Pachinkos
Pachinkos are the gaming arcades which are so popular and ubiquitous in Japan. The pachinkos ranged from slot machine arcades to proper video gaming arcades. What surprised us though was the type of people we would see going into them. Rather than it being younger adults (i.e. in their 20’s) or teenagers going in these places it was mostly people in their 40’s and older. It was quite funny actually to see a
Ok, the Japanese are obsessed with weird things...
socks as well as gloves. This shop was everywhere!
Japanese business man in his 50’s sitting playing video games in an arcade. Getting to the airport and Kansai International Airport (KIX)
We caught the JR Kansai Airport rapid train to the airport. First of all, Osaka station so confusing and it took us quite a while (about an hour!) to figure out where and how to buy tickets. We then had the task of finding the platform, which was made even more confusing by the fact at some point along the route, the train split in two...one half went to the airport, the other half well, we don’t know where that went!
Anyway, once we found where to go and got on the correct half of the train it was a relatively simple journey. It cost ¥1190 each (£6.83) and took about an hour and 10 minutes.
KIX isn’t a great airport…it’s a bit lacking in several areas. First of all (not the airport’s fault admittedly), we had an argument on check in with the Cebu Pacific staff…grrr, we hate this airline. First we had an argument about our onward ticket, then an argument about our hand luggage (100g over the 7kg limit). It was
so farcical that taking out our thermos from the bag and holding it in our hand instead satisfied her enough so she could give us the stupid ‘cabin bag approved’ stickers! We really hate jobsworths! Once through the interrogations and Immigration the gate for our flight was in the arse-end of nowhere (that’s cheapo Cebu Pacific for you), at least half an hour walk away from any vending machines, coffee shops or toilets! Hotel for Osaka
We stayed at the Hotel Mystays Sakaisuji-Honmachi for ¥6300 (£36.20) for our one night stay. It was a business orientated hotel, very quiet and clean. The staff were really helpful and spoke good English and even helped with the washing machine when we couldn’t figure out where the detergent went as all the instructions were in Japanese. There wasn’t much around the hotel apart from the Kit Kat supermarket, but we didn’t really need much for our stay. So we say さよなら(Sayonara)
We had wanted to visit Japan for years (for at least 19 years!) and this summer everything aligned perfectly so we could fulfil a real travel bucket list.
Our time in Japan really was amazing and we
loved every minute of it, we talk about Japan every single day and little memories make us smile and miss the country. It’s very strange, we only spent 3 weeks there but we miss it 😊.
When we do have a chance to go back, we will be there…so maybe it’s not sayonara but see you again! VIDEO
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