Monday, 6 June 2016

Week 8.1 - Osaka

We had a rough nights sleep before heading to Osaka. A guy we nicknamed, Big G, or Graeme to everyone else, snored all night long. I mean we’ve had our fair share of snorers in dorms, but this was unreal. He kept all 5 people awake, I’m surprised you couldn’t hear him in England.

So feeling sleepy, we caught the express train to Osaka, and found our Hostel, Toyo, pretty quickly for a change. We had a wander around our area, Shinsekai, and headed through Jyan Jyan Yokocho (a market like street filled with standing restaurants), towards the Tsutenkaku tower. Here we had tea in a traditional Japanese restaurant, sitting cross legged on tatami mats…not the best idea as Kyle had pins and needles within 5 minutes. But the food was nice and well priced for Japan.

We planned on having a casual stroll on our second day in Osaka, but ended up walking 6 miles around different prefectures. Our first stop was Kurmon market, literally filled with food or stalls selling food…we wished that we hadn’t bothered with breakfast as we were too full to sample everything! So loud and busy, but interesting to see the different food available. I got excited as we found some grapes, which I have been desperate for, however it broke my heart to see that it cost £30 for a box that would cost £2.50 at home, maybe next time then.

From here we went to Nippombashi, like Tokyo’s Akihabara, this place is filled with games, gadgets, cosplay and maid cafes. This time though Kyle managed to avoid buying anything, and woefully returned the GameBoy colour to the shelf. We got caught up in the bright lights, huge shops signs, and giant crabs, dragons and lobsters and ended up in Doguyasuji shopping arcade. This arcade is known for the shops selling high quality and authentic kitchen tools, and are where most of Osaka’s renowned chefs stock up on their equipment. 

Next we stumbled onto Dontonbori Street, known as THE Osaka, and totally what you would expect from Japan. The river is lined with streets plastered in neon lights, bright signs, giant animals, sreet food vendors, and shops selling everything you could think of, from make up to pets, and trainers to vegetables. Although crowded, we loved walking along and exploring all there was to offer.

After a much needed coffee break, we walked back down Mido-Suji street and window shopped in stores we couldn’t afford…even before packing in our jobs. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes and the likes line this street with car showrooms in-between. So after you’ve bought your new Fendi handbag and Dior shoes, you can take them home in your new Bentley or Lamborghini. 

We went back to Shinsekai for tea, and afterwards had another walk around before we found a bar with a lot of young Japanese hanging outside, feeling curious we decided to head inside. We were greeted by rap music and a young girl DJing, so we ordered a drink and stayed sat at the bar. Whilst the music was playing people took it in turns to MC, next a young girl took to the stage to sing some songs, including Justin Bieber, she was amazing! This was followed by two guys MC’ing, and the final performance was by a guy who mixed Japanese with Jamaican music…he was well good! We enjoyed good music, a friendly atmosphere and cheap drinks! One of our favourite nights in Japan, and definitely better than your average karaoke bar.

Day 3 was lazy laundry day, like a typical Sunday at home. We got talking to an American guy in the hostel common room, who was telling us about Osaka’s seedier side. On his adventures he had found shops selling used knickers, the red light district, and stores where girls had left half naked (or more) photos of themselves in return for a discount on items which they had purchased. After he’d protested his innocence, for far too long in my opinion, we headed to bed and watched A League Of Their Own on tour. If you haven’t watched it yet, you definitely should!

The next day we woke early as we planned to head to Osaka Castle and gardens, little did we know that they shut on a Monday! So instead we went to the harbour and Osaka aquarium. The Aquarium is huge and the building itself is amazing to view from the outside, with silver dolphins and a blue red and structure. Although a little busy inside, with patience we were able to see, Dolphins, Sharks, fish from around the world, otters, crabs, Dori and a whole host of other sea life. My favourite were the seals, they had a huge tank so you could see them swimming and lazing around, or watch them sliding on the ice! The aquariums main attraction though is the whale shark, and it is massive. Living in the centre of the building, the whale shark has the largest tank of all, which it shares with many sting rays and hammer head sharks.

We’ve learnt that the Japanese love animals, but most of their homes are too small to accommodate a furry friend. This is why the cat cafe was created, which has since evolved to include owls, reptiles and dogs…such a genius idea. So, as you can imagine, I was buzzing when we came out of the aquarium and spotted a dog cafe. We headed straight inside and spent a good hour playing with the dogs. What I especially liked about this place was that they weren’t all puppies and the older dogs got some attention too. I spent most of my time with a cute cocker spaniel wearing a bandana. 

This cafe was also home to cats, turtles, owls, a lama and kangaroos…we weren’t too sure how fair it was to keep the kangaroos cooped up all day, and allow children to chase them round, so didn’t enter that part of the building. 

An early alarm woke us on our last day for our trip to Osaka castle, and the forecast, rain! Usually the rain only lasts an hour and is pretty light, so we donned our waterproof coats and headed to the station. What I should also mention here, is that we left our waterproof trousers and shoes at the hostel, and opted for shorts and trainers…you can imagine what happened next. The rain didn’t stop, it in fact got worse. But still we trekked from the station to the castle, and it is a beautiful site. Osaka castle is huge and decorated in white, black, gold and green, the surrounding gardens are a lush green filled with plum trees. I just wish the weather had been better so we could have appreciated it all more. But with soggy feet we headed back to the hostel to dry out. 

Tomorrow we make our way to the final stop in Japan, Hiroshima. We haven’t figured out how to get there yet, so this evening will be spent watching old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies, and planning our train route. (Kyle will do the planning, whilst I do the watching).

Love Carrie xxx

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