4th Aug 2012 - "The land of the rising sun"
First stop - Osaka
Yay the holidays have finally arrived! Seems like ages ago since we went to the Philippines so we were really excited about having a holiday! We had planned for 12 days (oh yes the generosity of Korean holidays strikes again) in Japan for our summer vacation.
Japan literally translates as ‘the land of the rising sun’ and is an archipelago consisting of 6,852 islands on the Pacific ring of fire (for any geography fans amongst you). Ben has wanted to visit Japan since he started Judo in primary school so it was quite exciting planning this trip!
Our flight was at 10am so we got the airport bus (the most comfy bus ever) during the night so we got to Incheon airport at 6am with plenty of time to spare! Japan is renowned for being a really expensive country, so we were pleased to discover a brand new low cost airline called ‘Peach air’ that flew from Seoul to Osaka (there is a large Korean population in Osaka) for a fraction of the price of all the other flights we had searched! We had our rail passes ready, they are only available for foreigners and must be bought outside the country but they will be our lifeline while in Japan so we were ready to go!
We got to Kansai airport on time at about 12.30 after a nice short 80minute flight! We had to exchange our rail vouchers for the actual pass then we found our train as Kansai airport is about an hour away from Osaka. We were so tired as we hadn’t slept that night so ended up sleeping on the train for a bit! We got off at Fukushima which is one stop from Osaka station and set off to find the hostel. We got lost and spent about an hour trying to find the place which is only about a 5 minute walk from the station but in our tiredness we took the wrong road! It was as hot in Osaka as it has been in Daegu so we were starting to get really pissed off with traipsing around with our backpacks, when eventually we found the hostel! We were staying at J-Hoppers which was one of the friendliest hostels we have used so that was a great find! The first night we were in a 8 bed mixed dorm and the second night we had a private Japanese style room so we could experience the futon style that most Japanese still use at home.
After a quick power nap we decided to make use of our first day and go and see Osaka castle. The castle was fairly impressive and it was a nice walk around the moat and up to the main approach. There was also some live music playing in the grounds too. We got there around sunset so got some nice views of the city but unfortunately forgot our mozzie repellent so got bitten alive around the castle! The cicadas were out in force and seem to be bigger than the ones in Korea. Cicadas are the annoying bugs that sing all summer and make the biggest racket you could imagine and are also the size of small birds so they are quite freaky looking! We are very grateful the UK is not warm enough for these pesky things; they are apparently loud enough to burst a human eardrum if one was to sing next to your ear!
After the castle we went back to the station and caught the end of a firework display. In August there are loads of firework displays all around Japan to mark the beginning of the Odon holidays (celebrating the ancestors) so we got a good view from the department store in the station and watched the display. We were so exhausted after the long day we went back to the hostel for an early night! First impressions of Osaka; very clean and modern city, similar to Korea although the people have seemed instantly friendlier. As we are budgeting carefully we ate ramen (noodles) and onigiri (rice and meat wrapped in seaweed, known as gimbab in Korean), from the convenience store close to the hostel!