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Reisverslag Osaka part one
14 oktober 2014
Osaka part one
There was another long weekend that appeared on my calendar, and since it had been almost 2 months since I’d been out of the country, I booked some to tickets leave Taiwan for a bit. Having recently visited the closer options to Taiwan I treated myself and decided to go to Japan. It was almost 10 years since I was Tokyo but rather than going back there I decided to go somewhere new. The best option to me, seemed to be Osaka, so why the hell not.
Tickets were booked and even after my fiasco in Korea with no accommodation I told myself that his would surely not happen in a city of the magnitude of Osaka. With only 3 days until departure I checked the internet and expected to find a hostel with no problems what so ever. The first check came up empty-handed but that must have been a fluke, I’d check later that day in the evening when I had some more time.
When the search yet again came up empty I started to go to different websites from the ones I usually use to book hostels for that important first night. As it turned out it was no fluke, there wasn’t a single bed available within 30km of Osaka, and much to my surprise the only accommodation left was in the luxury hotel segment of the market. Needless to say I wasn’t prepared to pay 200 bucks a night, however on the site I was checking even those hotels were filling up. The site would tell you how many people were looking into those hotels and when the last booking was made and how many rooms they had left, this did not do my nerves a lot of good as those rooms were counting down fast. Trying to reach out to whoever I could contact in Osaka did me little good, the only question I repeatedly got was “why are you coming here when there’s a super typhoon on the way”.
Great, so I would go to Osaka when the city would be under attack from a typhoon and I’d be homeless on the streets soaked from torrential rain.
Luckily a conversation with my friend Mike from Tokyo helped my regain my calm and get my adventurous head back on my shoulders and basically stopped me from acting like a little bitch.
Mike told me that he had missed the last train back on a number of occasions and he would just crash in an internet café and that was a pretty normal affair. I remembered having seen this in a documentary once about how Japanese people who couldn’t afford an apartment would actually live in these sorts of establishments. Other than calming me down I immediately thought it be a cool thing and was keen on trying it.
It did mean that I would travel sans suitcase, I’d just bring a daypack and keep that with me at all times. After extensively checking the weather forecast it seemed that the typhoon wouldn’t reach Osaka until I would fly out again so that wasn’t an issue anymore either.
On the morning of the flight I enthusiastically went to the airport and was happy to learn that my flight hadn’t been cancelled unlike an unlucky Taiwanese dude who I ended up talking to. His flight had been cancelled without notice and he now to wait 24 hours for the next flight that was available at a somewhat reasonable price, on the downside he was already supposed to be in Beijing to meet his soon-to-be in laws if he got their blessing to marry their daughter. These things have a way of putting things in perspective. The hour delay I had before departure didn’t seem so bad anymore and let’s be honest that plane had to divert its normal path because of some silly super typhoon.
The flight was pretty damn bad but that’s what you get for flying with a budget airliner. The airport (even though it was the budget terminal) proved very efficient and clean and modern. I was greeted by the fully automated toilets that somehow seemed like the only acceptable toilets in high tech Japan. With little to no knowledge about Osaka I went to the tourist information and asked them how they would spend less than 48 hours in Osaka. Having gotten their version I thought it sounded reasonable enough so I proceeded following their plan. A very efficient and clean train took me to Osaka city and after another visit to the local tourist information I was on my way to start exploring this city. The local tourist information told me that for accommodation I could always try capsule hotels or in case of emergency the internet cafes or even a karaoke place. Staying in a capsule hotel had always intrigued me so I would probably do that for the first night.
Leaving the station and walking into the city I was reminded of the wonderful weirdness that is Japan. It’s hard to explain but after mere minutes I knew that I hadn’t seen this environment since I last left Japan. The stores, the people, the buildings, the food there’s just something unique about it, but I loved being back again. Having missed the on board meal since it was a cheap airline I didn’t make it through the first street without visiting a sushi bar. It was one of those places with a tiny conveyer belt with an endless supply of mouth-watering sushi. This would be the first of many fantastic eating experiences. It was hard not to go mental and stuff myself with all the delicious sushi but I wanted to be able to eat again in an hour or so.
I started my exploration in the Namba area and headed straight for the Dotonbori area where all the restaurants are with its famous facades. In an order to quickly learn something about Osaka I had watched an Anthony Bourdain episode dedicated to Osaka, because of this I now knew of these famous facades and was less surprised to see absolutely everyone take pictures of it (me included).
As it was already late in the afternoon and I had been a little tired I decided to stay in that area and just wander around the main street, side streets and tiny alleys to get a good idea of what the area was like.
This is also where I had some takoyaki an Osaka classic, they’re the octopus balls. Now I have these every once in a while at my local night market in Taipei but these were very different. There was a lot of actual octopus and it was served so piping hot that I am still enjoying the blisters in mouth this very day (4 days ago). More food was sampled and I also went to a few bars to check out the nightlife scene where I met some long time expats who gave me some pointers about what to do tomorrow. After asking a few times I had to conclude that all the names they gave me where drinking establishments, I didn’t have the heart to tell them I would probably not go out on a bender so I thanked them and left to go find myself a capsule for the night.
I stood neatly in line with the Japanese business men, some of whom clearly had enjoyed a few Friday night drinks after work. You put your shoes in a locker, hand the key over to the receptionist who gives you a key for another locker where you’ll find a bathrobe. The second locker has the same number as your capsule which was remarkably comfortable and fitted with a TV and ac and outlets. My capsule hotel also had spa facilities so before turning in I relaxed in various hot baths and different saunas and steam rooms.
In order not to make this entry too damn long I’ll cut it in half here and leave the next adventures for another day.