Love from Japan


It’s the second night of our already totally amazing trip to Japan, and truth be told I’m rather sleepy. I was holding together fine until my onsen-style bath, but now I’m almost ready to crash.

Alongside the cheap Air NZ auction airfares we scored between Auckland and Osaka, we’ve managed to do as much else we can with maximum cost efficiency. This began with getting up to Auckland International Airport by doing a Rental Car Relocation through Avis. The deal is that you take a car which needs to get from Wellington to Auckland airport, and pay $10 a day, plus petrol (we added the $26 insurance surcharge too).

As we had to be at the Airport by 3am, the theory was to stop in with my folks in Hamilton and get a few hours sleep. I think I did achieve some level of reduced consciousness in the end, but I have no idea for how long. After much waiting at the International Terminal, we boarded our 11 ½ hour flight during which I once again got plenty of shut-eye, but minimal sleep.

So anyway, that’s why I’m occasionally drifting off as I type this – only to lift my head again and continue typing. We’re relaxing in our small Japanese-style hotel room after a rather active day. There is room for the two futon mattresses, television, refrigerator, suitcases and very little else – and it is totally perfect for our needs. The place is called Hotel Taiyo, and I’ll no doubt go more in-depth into what it’s like to stay here in a later post.

After checking in yesterday (our first challenge in communicating with almost zero Japanese language skill) and having a little rest, we went for a wander around the immediate area. Just to the east of the hotel is a long covered arcade, full of restaurants (which were all open) and shops (which were mostly shut). We ordered dinner at a tiny restaurant through the power of plastic food, had our first go at the wildly confusing and noisy Pachinko, and did some shopping at the local “Tamade” supermarket.

Day two of our holiday began with breakfast in our room (of things we picked up the night prior) and then going for a walk Northwards up the city to Nippombashi – or Den-Den Town. It was over this little journey that the reality of where we are really began to sink in. One of the first things we discovered was that most of the shops don’t open until after 10am, and the quiet streets were a welcome ease into what was to come later on.

We stopped off for a bloody good coffee, purchased some stunning prints from a tiny shop and had our first unforgettable meal of the trip at a curry place called “Sun Bridge”. By the time we’d finished lunch the Nippombashi Street Fiesta was well under way. This yearly event on the first day of Spring sees the main street of Den-Den Town shut off to traffic and filled with people making the most of big sales at the local stores, watching performances on multiple stages, and mostly taking photos of a multitude of cosplayers who really make the event what it is.

Many photos and explored Den-Den Town shops later (such as “Super Potato” retro game store and “Super Position” figurine shop), we were ready for a break. We taught ourselves how to use the ticketing machine at the nearest subway station, and headed back to the hotel for some rest. Being a Friday, it’s No-My-Car-Day – where unlimited subway passes are only 600 yen (rather than 850) in an attempt to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

To make the most of our passes, we finished the day with a trip out to the other end of town – the area around Umeda & Osaka Stations. In comparison to the second-hand shops and Pachinko parlours of Nippombashi and the Tennoji district where our hotel is, Umeda is surrounded by five star hotels and luxurious department stores (with prices to match). We had set out in the hope of visiting the Gyoza Stadium – but quickly realized we weren’t exactly sure WHERE it was, and without internet access had very little hope in rectifying that. We cut our losses, and after exploring a couple of the big stores we headed for the rabbit warren of restaurants and bars we’d discovered on our way out of the subway.

Cue the second unforgettable meal of the trip – at a little place where we had to queue to get into (as we did the “Sun Bridge”, I guess a good sign). We shared a mixed yakisoba and a pork & kumki okonomiyaki, and washed them down with a couple of Kirin beeru. We were able to watch the chef making each dish on a large section of hot plate, and then they were placed upon the slightly cooler strip of hotplate in front of us to dish up for ourselves. Suffice to say, both were extraordinary and left us unquestionably inspired to make more Japanese food at home once we return.

Which (barring a stop to purchase of a box of English Breakfast tea), saw the close of our second day of outings here in Osaka. Tomorrow we take our first day trip out of the city – to Kyoto for a temple market, a nighttime lantern festival, and a world of possibilities in-between…

Published in: on 21 March 2009 at 3:27 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds like you guys are having a great time – can’t wait to take a peek at all of your photos. Kyoto is beautiful, I am sure you will love it!

    Oh, and look out for my favourite Japanese comic character – Bad Batz-maru. He is a slightly angry/evil looking Pengiun, from the pepole that brought you Hello Kitty!

  2. Hey guys,

    Wow! Sounds incredible! I’m hanging out for the next post already! Night time lantern festival! Wow!

    I am also really looking forward to this inspiration of yours to cook more Japanese food!

    Lots of love

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