Japan is the last destination of the mega trip and we have decided to do it in style. Why? Why not?! Japan is somewhere Jake has always dreamed of visiting and as soon as I started reading guidebooks and travel websites I too became obsessed with the culture rich, beautiful, crazy country.
We flew to Osaka from Seoul ICN airport with peach airlines on a nice (as it gets) smooth flight and landed at around 4:30 pm local time. After going through immigration (we were STILL not asked to prove onwards travel despite this being a noted visa requirement) we collected our bags and headed for the airport station to try and find our apartment. This is where we started to realise that travel around Japan was going to be a very confusing experience. To get from KIX to our apartment in Shin-Osaka we needed to take only one train. Because of the language barrier, it took us about thirty minutes to get ourselves sitting comfortably on the right one. The train was incredibly fast (it wasn’t even a Shinkansen – still awaiting THAT experience!) and got us to our station in around 45 minutes. We then had to locate our apartment. Although it was just a three-minute walk from the station, the fact that nothing is written in English, not understanding the three, very confusing Japanese alphabets and the fact we are generally rubbish with directions) made the process very, very painful. We reached our apartment, threw down our things, showered and hit the sack.
The next day we woke up refreshed. We decided to spend the morning doing general life admin that no one wants to really take responsibility for whilst travelling, namely washing, finances and booking onward travel. When we eventually made it out of the apartment it was about three-thirty pm, which still left us three hours of sunlight to do some sightseeing. We decided to head to Osaka castle and boy are we glad we did.
The castle was absolutely beautiful and the grounds were full of autumn plants. There are lots of information boards written in English with a detailed description of the castle’s history and its restoration. We stayed at the castle and watched the sun set. From our vantage point on the castle wall we could also see the cityscape, which provides an amazing metropolitan contrast to the natural atmosphere that surrounds the castle. When we had had our fill of history we hopped on the train and headed back to our district.
On our first day we discovered that Japan is king of the convenience store. We popped into our local supermarket, expecting it to be like any normal co-op or 7 eleven experience. We were wrong. It is common in Japan to grab your dinner from the local ‘Konbini’ and take it home with you – ready to eat. Our local Familymart provided a full coffee service, a choice of several chicken dishes and many variations of the classic bento box. The checkout staff the heat up your chosen meal in the microwave or one of the fryers that bizarrely sit behind the till. Despite the initial weirdness of this situation, we soon realised it would play to our advantage, as we were both rapidly running out of money! We ate dinner at our tiny dining table and then headed to bed early, ready to head to Universal Studios the next day!