Konichiwa from Osaka, Japan.

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Oct 02, 2009

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Flag of Japan  ,
Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ben reporting: Japan fulfils all of the opposing clichés the West associates with it: The people are quiet, reserved and ritualistic, there's an indecipherable craziness to Japan and the traditions go hand in hand with an enviable technical superiority.

We arrived in Osaka at 7:30 am, Japan time. This was after waking up at 5 am the previous day to catch a train from our beach-side hostel in Thailand, to take a 5 hour, 3rd-class train ride in un-air conditioned carriage, only to have an 8 hour wait at the Bangkok airport before boarding our midnight flight. So, another sleepless 24 hours.

We arrived in Osaka and made a difficult journey from the station to the city. They don't speak English much in Japan, so finding a hostel and deciphering the directions, plus train times and directions, was very difficult on less than no sleep. We finally tracked down our place to stay though.

Our cramped little room on the 6th floor had three-levelled bunks, but luckily we were the first to book in so bagged the bottom bunks each. After some sleep we set off for a look around Osaka, and my personal first impression of Japan.

First thing to note: There are vending machines about every ten metres in Japan. No kidding. You can't walk down one street, or past one monument, park, shop etc. without coming across a vending machine. Even more strange is that most vending machines range pop-top cans of various types of coffee. There's usually black, white, latte, espresso, gold, etc and these aluminium mini cans come hot as well! Each can costs about 120 Yen, which is about $1.35. Good value. Most of these machines have cola in them, usually Coke, as well, and water etc. But that's all par for the course.

Japan is a very clean place, there's no rubbish anywhere, and no bins in public, as if they're trying to deny the existence of rubbish. The people so far have been very polite and friendly, very helpful but not pushy. Good to deal with. Osaka was not too busy, but only a population of 2.4 million, twice that of Adelaide but less than Bangkok.

Osaka was flattened during WWII in bombing raids, so has been rebuilt with modern concrete mini-apartments giving the city a neat but characterless feel.

We wandered around the town, got some dinner at the first place we came to that had English on the menu (it was still Japanese though), and then wandered down a side street and, lo-and-behold, saw a building with large Australian flags waving from it's frontage. We decided we had to inspect, so took a look inside and found an Australian themed bar, with Aussie drinks, food and even an Aussie bartender. We had a couple of bottles of Coopers and a good chat to Blake, who was from Perth via Sydney, and left feeling all the more at home in Japan!

On our first full day in Osaka we took the train into the city and visited a large park, which was booming due to the Cherry Blossom festival. The festival is the time during March - April in Japan where all of the Cherry Blossom's, well... Blossom and the whole country celebrates the immense beauty of the sprawling white trees that cover her from top to toe. The park we visited had many of the locals indulging in picnics underneath the Blossoming trees. Furthermore there was a restored castle in the middle of the park that gave us our first glimpse of Japanese history in a photographable manner.

We wandered around Osaka a bit more and eventually found the city centre. There, we were surprised to find a Ferris Wheel - boring right? But this one just happened to be on top of a building, and was the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world (not the biggest, but the tallest, got that?) Anyway, we went for a ride and got a nice, broad view of the whole of Osaka, well, most of the city anyway.

After that we found a 3 levelled video arcade and had a look around before hopping back on the train and heading home. One other interesting thing we saw in Osaka: There was this weird Japanese guy on the stairs at the train station, dressed in kooky clothes, with a fake Salvador Dali moustache and curly hair wig. He also had a red balloon tied to his leg and was dancing side to side to music played from an old fashioned tape recorder. He was shouting slogans in Japanese, which we couldn't understand of course, but he was attracting quite a bit of attention, so we assumed he didn't do this on a regular basis.

So that was Osaka. Next we headed to Kyoto, but every place we tried was full so instead we caught the train to the deep south of Japan to a little town called Beppu. You can read about the how and why in our next blog.

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ewie on

You guys have got to go and try kareoke in the kareoke places (not the bar) and Hel said to make sure you went into the game arcade and had a game of taiko for us too. (You know the big drums you see everywhere? We were sooo addicted to it.)

james on

@subske: i am also a beverages vending machine supplier (http://www.vendingpriceline.com ) and Japan was my wife's mother nation (feeling like Lennon-Ono now). you are right that there are differences. what you mentioned has more aroma than the latter. crisp and bitter too :D

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