Osaka. Wow. Upon first stepping foot in Japan I immediately noticed this was not like other Asian countries I have previously travelled.
An orderly queue took place at the bus stop and my luggage was labelled and was carefully placed in it’s rightful compartment on the bus by the luggage man. We arrived at the Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi Capsule Hotel at 1am and although late, I was super excited to be staying in a capsule.
I can only describe a capsule hotel as “out of this world”, it reminded me a little like a mental asylum – not that I’ve ever been in one – but in a good way. Shoes have to be kept in a locker at reception, bags in the locker room and you must wear your PJ’s.
There’s a powder room with sterilised hairbrushes and all sorts of face products to use and a huge bath tub and sauna, no clothes allowed of course. There’s a games arcade, a manga (Japanese comic) room and vending machines selling hot food and drink, underwear, ice cream – the lot. Capsules are big and include just about everything you need including TV and temperature gauge. These hotels pretty much sum up Japan.
Joanna and I couldn’t wait to explore Osaka, a city alive all night. Even at 2am the city was bustling but in a quiet kind of way. No sign of rowdiness, drunks or seedy looking alleyways. People were just going about their business in a respectful kind of way. I immediately noticed the quirky architecture around the place, like the street lamps shaped like people and cute characters on street signs.
We stopped off at a local Ginza-Zushi restaurant at 5am for some food before heading back to our capsule. It’s true, sushi in Japan is exceedingly good.
Osaka is a city known for it’s food and I certainly made the most of it. I particularly enjoyed Osaka’s signature dishes Okonomiyaki (pancake) and Takoyaki (octopus balls) along with some new and slightly less popular dishes like a surprisingly good plate of raw horse.
I had one night to kill before heading to Imabari to meet my couchsurfing host so me, Joanna and our new friend Jeff from America returned to Osaka after a few days together in Kyoto. I was drawn back by the wacky, fun vibe I got from Osaka and wanted to experience what the city had to offer in terms of nightlife.
I created a CouchSurfing event online and was joined by Robert from Spain and Mark from England. We had a crazy night wandering the busy streets of Dotonbori, ending up at an all-you-can-drink Japanese club come 1am.
The provision of unlimited alcohol is very popular in Japan and the selection of alcohol in shops is far greater than soft drinks. You can also grab a beer or some 9% vodka mix in vending machines throughout the city but despite the laid-back alcohol rules, not once did I witness any fights, people being sick or shouting – common in most other countries namely England and Australia. Japanese people get drunk pretty fast but their good manners never diminish.
The morning – or should I say afternoon – after the night before started terribly. I couldn’t find a locker at various tube stations to store my bags before my ferry that night. I was sweltering carrying the four bags I’ve managed to accumulate over the past few weeks.
Like an angel from heaven, Jeff randomly appeared from an alley with a Japanese guy he had just met at the market. They soon saw my trouble and Jeff kindly grabbed me a cold Asahi beer whilst the Japanese man spoke with a stall owner who agreed to look after my bags. Leaving my worldly possessions unlocked with a stranger next to a busy market stall didn’t worry me, I was in Japan after all.
I spent an enjoyable afternoon eating my way around the local market and talking to Japanese people, many who bought goods for me to try. That evening I walked into town to get my hands on some ice cream in a hot fresh bun I saw a few days previous. On my way I got chatting to a udon (noodles) stall owner who gave me some soup to try and a cold glass of Asahi beer. There was no catch, he just wanted a chat.
I came across some cool pet shops on my walk back where animals where dressed up with bows and ribbons, pretty cute eh? I returned to my bag which was untouched, exactly where I left it and left Osaka that evening with a warm fuzzy feeling at the kindness I’d experienced that day.
Osaka is known for it’s good food and warm people and for me personally, I couldn’t think of a better description. Even though it’s the first place I’ve visited in Japan, I have a feeling it will remain my favourite.
Living life, loving Osaka,