Hayley and Ben's adventures!
5th Aug 2012 - "The land of the rising sun"
Today was our first full day in Japan so we wanted to see some of the main sights in Osaka. We went to Osaka Bay area first; it was good to get to the sea as there was a breeze and already we were getting hot! We were both struck with how clean everywhere seemed to be! All of my coteachers in Korea had said Japan was really clean and they were right there was honestly not a scrap of litter on the floor and there were even designated areas where you could smoke on the streets, marked out by a white line and a giant ashtray!
We went on the giant ferris wheel by the sea to get a good view of Osaka from above! Ben’s fear of heights kicked in and he spent the 15 minutes clinging to the bars and swearing at me if I so much as moved to take a photo! We had a very random giant Stitch cuddly toy in our pod which was funny as ‘Lilo and Stitch’ is one of my favourite Disney films!
After the ferris wheel we went to the aquarium next door, it is supposed to be one of Osaka’s top attractions and is housed in a large impressive butterfly shaped building right by the water. The aquarium was pretty cool and more animal friendly than I was expecting given Japan’s notorious whaling reputation I was expecting poorer conditions and smaller tanks! They had a small whale shark in one tank which was quite amazing to see given that we had swum with these giants in the Philippines it was slightly sad seeing one in a tank but at least the tank was a fair size.
Alongside the aquarium we got to experience our first taste of a Japanese shopping centre; full of amazing clothes, gadgets and shoes (all far too expensive for us unfortunately), we did buy some Japanese style dumplings for lunch at one of the food stalls which were quite tasty!
Next up we ventured to Osaka’s enormous downtown area; Shinsaibashi and Dotombori. There is a long shopping arcade that runs the length of about 1000metres which was really cool, they had some amazing shops and it was packed with young and old! There were also plenty of arcade shops full of game machines and prize machines so we lost a lot of Yen playing around on these for a while! To our delight we found a row of Mario Kart machines YAY!
I’m sure that everyone has heard of Hello Kitty; the cute cat toy made in Japan? She is very popular in Korea so I was expecting her to be equally popular here too, but oh my god, I swear Hello Kitty is given almost the same status as the great Buddha! Everywhere we look we can see Hello Kitty dolls, mugs, chopsticks, jewellery, statues, flags, you name it, Hello Kitty will feature on it!! We did laugh as we even saw a Hello Kitty made from Swarovski crystals for sale for over a million Yen (nearly 10grand) wow!! On the smaller stalls on the street there would be Hello Kitty models locked up in glass cases for sale with soft toy Hello Kitty’s too! It was quite funny to see how popular she is! I did get a photo of the entire Hello Kitty family above one of the very many toy stores dedicated entirely to this cute feline!
After a few hours of window shopping and game playing we made it to the river area of Dotombori, Osaka’s most popular area for eating and entertainment. We stayed a few hours so were lucky to see it at night and by day too. It was rammed! Loads of things here to take in so we sat by the river people watching for a while! While we were in this area we thought we’d hit a karaoke room as they are great fun and how could we be in Japan and not go to one really?! The English songs selection was more impressive than in Korea so we sang away a few fun hours before emerging back into the craziness of the streets!
In the centre of this area there is Hozen-ji shrine, a small peaceful area amid the bustle of the streets. We watched people drinking the water and offering up prayers, they ring the bell under the roof when they are finished. I need to read up about the differences between Buddhism here than in Korea as the shrines seem different to the temples of Korea. There were lots of what I assume to be prayer cards hanging next to the main shrine area, they were really pretty to see, along with the black, white and red lanterns hanging up inside. Cats seem to be a really lucky symbol here too we haven’t seen too many cats in Korea besides the tiny kittens all lined up in boxes inside the pet shops, but in Osaka we have seen loads of healthy looking cats wandering round not being bothered by anyone so that’s been quite a welcome change! I was watching an elderly guy trying to stroke a cat on the roof and he was feeding it and smiling away to me at the same time!
We had a great day out in Osaka and it feels like a really cool city, my guidebook has said that Osaka is trying to reinvent itself as people think it is rundown! If this is rundown I am looking forward to seeing the rest of Japan as we think it is immaculate here!! Got back to the hostel and enjoyed the private room, although Japanese futons are really not as comfortable as a good old spring mattress, hmmm we have 10 more nights to get used to them…
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