Osaka is awesome.
The people are unbelievably friendly. The hostel is amazingly awesome. The food is great, the streets are great, and the metro system is even great. I think Zac and I agree that it’s been our favorite stop on the trip.
Our hostel definitely helped make it so. The owners/receptionists were really friendly, helpful, and generous. They spent significant chunks of time finding us discounted transit tickets, and making our stay as perfect as possible. And it was cheap, too! The hostel had a full kitchen, super clean showers, tons of maps, free bicycles, and a bunch of other free stuff to use that other places charge for. They even gave us snacks and chocolate! I love them. Hotel Mikado, if you’re ever in the area.
Our first stop was Osaka-Jo (Osaka Castle), which is apparently the most popular tourist spot in Osaka. We rode our free bikes there. Awesome, because we LOVE bikes, and love free.
The views were cool, and they even had an audio tour included in the admission price! Audio tours make every tourist attraction better.
We spent a few days wandering around Dotonbori and Namba, which is the downtown Osaka area. We got coupons for free coffee at McDonald’s, and we ate a whole bunch of free samples. Be wary of the local specialty though – Takoyaki – it’s not for everyone.
These little balls of batter are pretty gooey, and each has a piece of octopus inside. The octopus part was tasty, the gooey batter part, not so much.
We took a day trip up to Kyoto, about 45 minutes away, and loved it! We visited a nice temple, ate conveyor belt sushi, and did some geisha watching in the Gion district.
I tried to snap some good pictures, but at the exact moment that a group of beautiful geisha walked by, my flip-flop, which had been hanging on by a thread for several weeks, finally broke completely, and I missed the shot! Ah, well!
Kobe is also super close to Osaka – about 25 minutes by train – so we took a daytrip there as well. And what do you do in Kobe? You eat KOBE BEEF! It was actually more delicious than I expected, and worth every expensive penny. (For lunch, this 4-oz piece cost about $30, with veggies, rice, and miso soup included.)
We also did some hiking up Mt. Maya (part of Mt. Rokko) and searched for the Nunobiki falls. The area we found was mostly dry though, so we didn’t get to see any impressive falls. Kobe was definitely really nice overall, but kind of difficult to navigate.
On our last day in the area, Osaka rained. Ame desu ne! We stayed inside most of the day, since we were catching a bus at 8:50pm, but we didn’t mind it too much. Rain or shine, we both had a really great time in Osaka and look forward to visiting it again!
Now, Tokyo on the other hand, is giving us some grief.
We took a relatively short, clean, quiet, and nice overnight bus from Osaka to Tokyo. Though we didn’t have high hopes for it, I assumed it couldn’t be any worse than the bus rides we’d already endured, especially since it’s Japan! Ya know, the land of organization and cleanliness.
Unfortunately, what we thought was a nonstop, 10-hour overnighter actually had about 8 stops, and arrived at 5:50am instead of 7:15. And at every stop, the driver turned on all of the lights, and then used the loudspeaker to announce the stop, as well as a bunch of other information in Japanese. So every time we stopped, he woke us all up. Try getting some shuteye with a loudspeaker and bright lights every 45-75 minutes.
Well, we arrived in Tokyo groggy and cranky, but in okay spirits, considering. We had to take a train to our hostel, but first, we need to find a bathroom. About 10 minutes and a stomach full of Listerine later, we still hadn’t found a bathroom. Screw it; we go buy our ticket for the Japan Railway, which is always cheaper than the Metro here. I double check with the clerk that we’re going the right way, but he just says “no, no, no,” and gets us a refund from some guy behind a mystery door. Then he points us to the Tokyo Metro.
We try to figure out the maps and signs of the complicated Metro system while our brains are working at about -50%. We made it through college all-nighters though, right? We can handle this. We finally figure out how to get our ticket, what line to take, and insert our tickets into the entry gate.
WHAM…denied access. WHHHHYYYY? Oh, this isn’t the Tokyo Metro, this is a private line that is separate from the Metro. And we overpaid, but can’t get a refund. Luckily, the guy who we got this time spoke English and gave us an English map of the Metro. We made it to our station eventually, with the appropriate transfer and everything.
It was a rough morning. We get to the hostel around 7:15am to find that the reception doesn’t even open until 9am. Apparently we’re locked out on the street until then. Fortunately, some guest lets us in, and we sit ourselves down in the computer room/sink area. We spend a good 20 minutes feeling sorry for ourselves, and another 20 minutes browsing the web. We decide it’s time to find some breakfast. Zac hides our bags away in a corner (very well hidden, might I add) and we head out.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m cranky, tired, sore, hungry, and frustrated, the comforts of home are most desirable. I don’t mean a shower, I mean an American Breakfast. Asian salty noodles and rice bowls just aren’t gonna cut it. The map says there’s a Denny’s nearby. On principle, (and on quality, taste, etc.) I’m really anti-Denny’s, but Zac is a huge fan. They have omelets, so I’m in. We wander for a bit, looking for cafes, and finally just ask a store clerk if he knows how to get there. He knows. Directions are simple. And we’re off.
FAIL again. There’s no Denny’s anywhere near the area to which we were directed. We find Jonathan’s Coffee and Café instead. We finally sit down, enjoy some greasy eggs, and help ourselves to the included juice/coffee/tea bar. Caffeine solves everything.
After we eat, we’re feeling significantly better, so we wander a bit, looking for an ATM. We’re a little low on cash, and only have enough Yen for one night’s stay. No big deal, there are ATMs everywhere, but we couldn’t find one that would accept our international bankcards. We finally get back to the hostel, store our bags in the appropriate place, so head back to waste a few more hours on the computer, and then it’s time to explore the city in our day-old clothes.
We hit a wall after two hours, and we head back to the hostel around 1pm. Apparently, the reception closes from 12-3, so yet again, we’re locked out. Zac throws on his jacket, sprawls out on the sidewalk, and naps like the homeless traveler he is, while I read for an hour or so.
This saga continues in the same manner. Eat – whine – ATM search – wait – eat – whine – ATM search until the day ends. It was just as difficult to find restaurants that take credit card. We went to about 20 ATMs and 10 restaurants. We even found the Denny’s while on our search. We asked the hostel, the tourist information center, and even the 7/11s where to find an international ATM, but none of the supposed international ones worked for us.
Currently, nobody wants to take our credit card, and nobody wants to give us cash. We’re currently hoping that we can get some money out tomorrow, or we’ll be stuck searching for an expensive hotel that takes credit cards, and spending our remaining Yen on Ramen. Whatever, we’ve got smelly roommates in this hostel anyway. THANKS FOR NOTHING, TOKYO.
Looks like our memories from Tokyo will be 100% priceless – cause we ain’t got no dolla bills to spend.
Wish us luck!