Back in Manila, but my heart is still in Japan. I remember during my first day back in Manila, I woke up searching for the rush that only comes with traveling. Then I realized I'm back in my room with no schedules for the day. It's always a love-hate, bitter-sweet thing to retire after all the fun.
But anyway, earlier in Fully Booked ATC, I chanced upon the new Kinfolk which happens to be their travel issue (yey!). I bought it right away. At the back of the magazine, this Pico Ayer quote is printed:
"Travel lays the table for the feast you enjoy sitting still back home.
Stillness is the end point of any trip;
it's the way you convert sights into insights
and bring the experience home."
I'd like to think that blogging my travels right away is "converting sights into insights". I can't imagine the day I will travel so constantly I don't have a week off to do these posts. To me right now, home is where the luxury of processing begins. It makes me appreciate the places and experiences I had in a more deeper level.
Anyway... On to my Japan Day 1 stories!
Last June 22, we took the midnight flight via Jetstar Airways from Manila to Osaka's Kansai International Airport, something new to me (both the time of flight and the airline). We booked our tickets monthsss ago, when the airline had an online seat sale. I tried to sleep and ready myself for the long day ahead, but for the most part I can't keep still out of excitement. It was also my first time to travel out of the country with Pax and Sarah! Everything's a thrill.
Took the train from the airport going to our area in Osaka Namba. We were so hyped and challenged not to take the taxi!
We arrived in Osaka super early at around 6 in the morning. We eventually discovered that almost all establishments in Japan opens at 10 or 11am pa; unfortunately even our rented Airbnb was still occupied so we can only check-in at 3pm. Our game plan, since we only had a day in Osaka, was to leave our things in public lockers and immediately start exploring.
Another discovery is that almost all Japan train stations have Coin Lockers in different sizes. Even my humongous maleta was accommodated by the 600 Yen locker (conversion is x.45)! The best part is wala syang time limit or extra payment for exceeding hours.
Went to a nearby minimart for a drink where Sarah introduced us to C1000 (a drink with 1000mg Vitamin C!). Even with the rainy weather and hectic itinerary, I noticed that not one of us caught a sniffle most probably because we downed a bottle of C1000 at least once a day for the whole trip! Nagpapaulan pa kami nyan!
Finally, out of the train station and maleta-free!
When we were still searching for an Airbnb home a few weeks ago, I really pushed for Namba (where my sister and I also stayed last Spring 2015). We were lucky to get a fairly priced one near Dotonbori - Osaka's popular food and fashion district!
I highly recommend this area when you visit Osaka. Dubbed as the "Kitchen of Japan", ang daming happenings dito. Although when we were there on our first day, most of the shops were still closed, streets were impossibly quiet and empty.
Developing hunger pangs from our long flight and one million transfers, we were so so lucky to spot an open restaurant while aimlessly strolling Namba.
And it's not just any restaurant, but AN ICHIRAN RESTAURANT WITH NO LINES -- MIRACULO!
The girls immediately ran inside! The sight of the familiar vendo ordering system gave me a warm fuzzy feeling (like Christmas)... Wala nang ready-ready for ramen in the morning! Haha! I was the last in line, so I savored the moment while pushing the buttons to this little piece of heaven on earth, hehehe.
When I went up, I felt just a bit disappointed that we were dined in a group table, because an Ichiran experience to me is the individual cubicles. This branch has a floor for group diners, just like regular restaurants. But what the heck, I was excited to have my favorite ramen!
Medium richness, no pork, extra egg, and extra firm noodles please!
Ahhh.. It's still as good as the way I remember it. Still my favorite ramen!
The trip was off to a good start!
When we went out, we asked for the directions to the Glico Man. While walking, I saw THE Ichiran branch where I first tried and fell in love with their ramen a year ago!!! Haha, sayang!
You know you're in Japan when: Every corner has gashapon and vendo machines!
Yey, it was like Spring 2015 all over again! :)
We took a photo with the Glico Man, another lucky break because wala pang ka-tao tao at ang aga namin. The Glico Man is a popular sign at the Dotonbori bridge because it has been there since 1935!!!
Another Dotonbori favorite: The big Starbucks with a bookstore inside!
Since we needed to wifi our next whereabouts, we had coffee and social media break muna in Starbucks. Dapat few minutes lang kami dun, but we ended up overstaying and resting there!
This is one of my favorite Starbucks in the world because of its library-ish and homey vibe.
My friends love it here nadin, hehe! Instagram flooding time!
When we went out, finally bukas na the stores along Shin Sai Bashi and Namba Center. If your plan is to shop in Osaka, make time for this 600m long shopping arcade for a fair mix of retail stores, local boutiques, and designer fashion labels.
I need more time to explore these beauty wastelands:
The start of Sarah's search for secondhand designer bags in Japan! (Check her post about this HERE)
In love with Zara's Shibuya bomber jacket:
Will find time to dine here next time:
Gusto ko to, hehehe!
More on this on next posts, we decided to not shop so much in Osaka and Kyoto because of all our transfers. Ang pagtitiis!
It started to rain so we ran inside Daiso. I love Daiso in Japan because of the variety and randomness of items they sell. For instance, Pax and I bought plain baseball caps for the rain because we left our payong inside our coin lockers (haha, woot!). Okay lang, the caps were at Php 45 only!
They even sell food:
And weird masks:
I also bought these box of Milky candies, and a bow tie.
Osaka is a huge place, one day is not enough. I stayed there for 7 days before and nabitin padin ako! Since we only have a day, we decided to just visit their most famous Osaka Castle. I learned from Pax that there are different manhole cover designs for every city in Japan. Yung totoo, pati ba yan artsy!
Running around from one station to the next in my Skechers Go Walk - the brand's beast shoes in walking! It has memory foam cushioning, making every step soft and comfortable. But the best part is that Skechers Go Walk is extremely lightweight, ang dali i-pack for travels.
Do not get lost! When you can't understand the signs and have no wifi for your railway apps, I am proud to say na mabubuhay ako sa Japan ng katatanong lang. Station Masters are in all train station, ready to help. Or you can press the help button in ticket machines for assistance.
To figure out the ticket machines, sometimes you don't have to input your destination but just figure out the cost, insert your money, and push the cost's button. Pag nagkamali ka (kulang), don't worry parin! You can just pay for your kulang at the Fare Adjustment machines usually located right next to the exit. Parang alam na alam na nilang may malilito dito, hehehe.
Also, we bought train tickets for Osaka per ride and did not avail the unlimited cards because we're staying for a day lang naman.
To get to the Osaka Castle, we took the Subway Chuo Line, and went down Morinomiya Station at Exit 1. There are other ways to commute (nearer the Osaka Museum of History is Tanimachi 4-Chome). You can check out Osaka Castle's Map HERE.
Right across the train station is Morinomiya Q's Mall, where we had a quick lunch. Masarap padin kahit food court!
I think we took a different route compared to my last Osaka Castle visit. Saw this ice cream van, where everybody agreed for a stop-over before another long walk. I had the matcha flavor. Then it started to drizzle.
Matcha flavored ice cream with rain toppings, hehe.
I can't remember walking through this area of the Osaka Castle Park - the place is so vast and beautiful. The trees look unreal, like illustrations from a Ghibli movie.
Hydrangeas bloom during rainy season in Japan -- so wala man kaming makikitang cherry blossoms, we saw a lot of these purple, blue, and pink flowers during our tours.
Hydrangeas' interesting meaning is "to show deeper understanding of another person", which I find really romantic. Meanwhile, in other culture, you can also give hydrangeas to turn down a romantic proposal.. Araykupo! Ayaw ko na nyan! Lol.
Although I think we took the longer route, I love the sights so okay nadin. Sabi ni Sarah hihinga na sya ng madami at malalim at "sayang ang hangin", haha! Air felt clean and fresh on this side of Japan.
Also, we realized that this long route was created to protect Osaka Castle's occupants. Napaka-habang moat, leading to the castle, built on two raised platforms. Matinding defence mechanism to!
Finally, the Osaka Castle! They are open from 9am-5pm, and entrance to the castle is at 600 Yen. We decided to just stay outside and take photos of this grandeur. Check out my Osaka 2015 experience HERE.
Osaka Castle and the Gokurakubashi Bridge. They look very pang-postcard!
Selfie with a historical site para hindi mukang Ginoogle ko lang yung photo, hehe:
We checked out this curious looking western building near the Osaka Castle, which turns out to be the former Osaka City Museum. Para syang university to me! The structure is now closed down for good (nasasayangan ako!), with the opening of the new Osaka Museum of History located just outside the Osaka Castle Park.
Another long walk heading back to the station...
Tatlong Bibe, hehe:
It was nighttime already when we returned to Dotonbori area. We looked for a dinner place before locating our Airbnb. It was raining hard, so medyo hassle. We needed the energy so...
... ROTATING SUSHI BAR!!! Woot!
The place is a small, box type conveyor belt sushi place in Dotonbori. Nothing fancy, but the place is packed and looks legit. No English menu, so inassume na naming legit agad!
Sarah and I sat in front of this sushi chef, na natuwa ata samin because we kept on getting the tamago (egg). I think he saw the excitement in our eyes every time they refill the conveyor belt with plates of fresh tamago -- So he started to make more! Tapos sa harap namin talaga nilalagay! Haha, temptation! SARAP!
Thinking of you tonight, tamago! Hehehe.
Took this photo for future reference. :)
Walang katapusan, more walking, trying to navigate our way to the station and coin lockers where we left our luggages. Although tired, I took out my camera when I saw this tarp. Kawaii = Sakura + Philippines! Japan welcoming committee = 100%!
Here's a long story!!!
Tired and drenched from the rain, with no rest since we landed in Japan... The first misfortune for this trip happened when we were about to claim our luggages at the coin lockers. Of course, all the lockers and designated keys are labeled with numbers, buti nalang kasi ang laki ng place and everything looks identical. Pax and Sarah easily got their bags, but when I opened mine, WALA NA YUNG MALETA KO! Naiimagine nyo ba yun!?
I was super worried sick, tumambling mundo ko as I tried to recall kung anong mga laman ng bagahe ko. Naisip ko na shet buti nalang hindi ako nag dala ng laptop! Then my mind went wild: Na-lock ko ba ng maayos yung locker, or if nanakaw na ba yung bag ko, or if naconfiscate na ba sa tagal namin! I was shaking, but also, conditioning myself na ok lang yan damit lang yan kaya bilhin ulit. Pax helped me look for the admin office to report and check the CCTV (since meron naman everywhere). Rattled, I showed the Japanese man my Snapchat video placing and locking my bag inside the 600 Yen locker. We repeated the video twice or thrice, and saw that ibang number yung key ko sa locker ko. The last person who used the lockers before us must have switched the keys, hay naku kakaloka! The personnel went with me to the coin lockers where Sarah was watching over their own bags. Kuya opened the locker next to mine, where lo and behold! Andun lang yung giant maleta ko, WAAAH! Close call!
Lesson of the story? I-Snapchat na kada kilos for evidence! Hahaha.
Going to our Airbnb is still another crazy story, ayaw pa kami papahingahin. We tried to navigate using the incomplete route sent to us by our host, but hindi namin talaga mahanap. It was raining, we were all exhausted, and not one from the people we asked were able to help us. Nakakatawa when one of them walked with us so akala ko malapit na kami, yun pala he just lead us to the nearest taxi stand, hahaha! So we decided to give up our pride (lol), took this as a sign, and just took a cab. We watched the streets as we passed by, and realized that we're just a few blocks away from the Dotonbori Bridge / Glico Man!!! Kaloka sa layo ng nilakad namin!
Anyway, imagine our relief when we entered our room. It is small and simple, but clean and homey. Here's the narrow hallway that leads to our room and the toilet:
It has cabinets, and these sink and stove, na hindi din namin nagamit, sayang:
Microwave and water heater inside our room:
A cabinet of supplies, including tissue, body wash, shampoo, towels, etc.
And finally, our room for the night:
Walking distance to major areas in Dotonbori, we highly recommend this Airbnb home for those who are going to Osaka on a budget. It costs Php 3200 only per night, perfect fit na ang three persons. What needs improvement is the pocket wifi (na ang bagaaal) and also the directions that they email (hopefully more specific). Overall, the place is actually decent. Check out their listing HERE.
Anyway, took a hot bath and called it a day.
To be continued....