After our long layover in Kuala Lumpur, we made it Osaka, Japan. We successfully navigated immigration, grabbed our bags, and figured out how to buy a metro ticket into town. There are so many rail lines in Japan that you really have to pay attention to which lines go where! Google maps has been pretty helpful, and we’re not afraid to ask questions (which normally ends in a lot of pointing from the helpful railway staff). Jeff’s note: so far the Japanese people aren’t afraid to talk your ear off and explain everything, even when they clearly know you can’t understand a word you’re saying. My favorite so far was the train station attendant that greeted us with a cheerful ‘Hi’ and then it turned out that was the limit of his English, but definitely not the end of the conversation. Even with the language barrier, the people are extremely friendly and we haven’t had any real issues finding out way.
We found our Airbnb, and headed out to find some food. We ended up walking into a small diner. No one seemed to speak English, and they didn’t have any English menus- but they did have pictures! We had a good meal at a restaurant I would call ‘the Denny’s of Japan’ and we did so without being able to speak any Japanese. We did say ‘Arigato!’ ‘Thank you!’ Note: always learn how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in the language of any country you travel to - it goes a long way!
The next day we bought day tickets for the local trains and headed to downtown Osaka. We got off the train near the Tenjinbashisuji shopping arcade - it was 2.6 kilometers long. We also walked around Osaka Castle and found that the plum and apricot trees were blooming! We saw a few cherry trees in early bloom, but for the most part we seem to be here a few weeks early.
Once we started to get hangry, Jeff took me to get conveyor belt sushi. It was our first time at a place like this, but I had been looking forward to eating sushi for months! After a short wait, we were seated at the conveyor belt. We tried to watch the locals and see what they did, and then followed suit. You could either pull plates from the belt, or order sushi from the fancy ipad they had at each seat. I did some of both. It was kind of a surprise when you ordered on the ipad, since it was all in Japanese and the pictures didn’t necessarily look exactly like what you got. Each plate was 100 Yen, or a little less than $1, which is a pretty good price. We only spent $16 and were pretty full when we left. Considering how much we used to spend on sushi when we went out in Virginia, this was an extra good deal.
We then walked around the Dontonbori district in Osaka- which seemed like walking around Times Square. There were just as many lights and people there! Jeff was a trooper and let me go shopping. I needed to buy mittens and leggings for our 2 weeks here. Call me a sissy, but I got used to hanging out in my bathing suit in 90-degree weather in Cambodia, so 40-50 degree weather is frigid!
To cap our Saturday night off, we headed to the arcade. Japan has a large gaming culture (I think my mind is going to be blown when we get to Tokyo), and it was impressive to watch some locals play video games. Jeff and I took a stab at Mario Cart. If you are looking for other ways to spend your money in Japan, there seem to be slot machines and pachinko games on every corner. Jeff and I aren’t gamblers, but if you are - I found your place! Even the quiet neighborhood we were staying at had 2 pachinko places on one block. The photos below are from the arcade. The picture with the most pink in it is a 'girls only' room. Not sure what was going on in there, but I'm pretty sure it was just a bunch of photo booths where you could heavily edit yourself to look more beautiful...
Since we had another full day in Osaka (we stayed there for 3 nights), we bought another day ticket for the local train and headed back downtown. We walked around a few local parks and explored Sumiyoshi Taisha Temple.
Then we went to Kuromon Ichiba Market and ate some takoyaki (a ball shaped snack made out of wheat batter with diced octopus) and okonomiyaki (savory pancake- ours was egg based with cabbage and pork). They top these snacks with barbeque sauce and pork floss. You can’t go wrong when it’s topped with bacon- they were delicious!
So far, we have been extremely impressed with Japan. I’m not going to lie- it’s really, really, really nice to be back in a developed country. We feel extremely safe here and it’s so clean! We have been chasing summer around the globe, so this is the first dose of winter (ok, ok- it’s really like early spring weather) that we have had in about a year. Most people seem to speak some English, and those who don’t, seem very receptive to my smiling, nodding and excessive hand motions. We are looking forward to spending 2 weeks in Japan!