With the limited vacation time my job allows me, it's hard to venture too far from the Korean capital without spending an unimaginable amount of money for far too short of a time period. Luckily, Japan is getting into the really cheap airlines business, and the flight from Seoul Incheon to Osaka International is about an hour and a half long. At the right price and the right time, a weekend in Japan can actually be pretty doable, if not jam packed and a bit hectic.
After a quick flight to Osaka airport and a bus ride of about the same time length (seriously), we arrived at our hostel, J-Hoppers Osaka. This dude was the man, Mr. Yano, he works at the hostel and takes people out on night tours of the bars and restaurants of the city. And everyone in this city rides a bike, it's a beautiful thing!
It rained for most of our trip, but whatever at least we still look like total models in all of our pictures. This is my friend Laura, who just recently moved to Korea a few months ago and works right down the street from me. She is the best.
The cherry blossoms were in full bloom most places we went! Our first stop was Tenmangu Shrine right in the middle of Osaka. There weren't many people out (maybe because of the weather) so we just hung around here for a bit, took some pictures, and moved on.
Caught in the middle of a downpour of epic proportions (that may be a bit dramatic), we ducked into this little bar that was totally empty minus the owner and a TV playing very strange music. Had a beer there, ate some weird fishy salty bar food things, and moved on. Our next stop was Shitennoji Temple, which was also kind of all closed up and looked like a ghost town.
After walking around empty strange buildings all day, we went out for the night in Dotonbori, which is a massive tourist district of Osaka. Apparently it used to be a red light district, which is not all too surprising. Now it's full of restaurants, bars, and a bunch of weird shit because, well, it's Japan.
This guy cooked us dinner and his 10-seat restaurant and gave us directions to the bars. He was amazing.
The sights of Dotonburi:
Lena, the bartender at this totally random spot we ended up at, was the single most fun Japanese girl on the planet I think. She spoke really decent English and talked to us and made us drinks the entire night. She also looks like she belongs in a J-Pop group, which is awesome.
This was dinner, probably around 2 or 3 am. 24-hour sushi place in Dotonbori where they cut and serve everything to order right in front of you.
The next morning was a rough one, but the woman working at the front desk of our hostel gave us directions to this place where you ordered your food from a machine and paid the machine (robot world) and then a human served it to you moments later. Wild. This was my breakfast: some awful salty soup, rice, some pickled stuff, pork, cabbage, onions, and a bunch of other delicious things. The man and woman beside us were attacking a dried fish like it was their last meal on Earth.
Sunday we decided to set aside for a day trip to Kyoto, since Laura had a flight to catch that afternoon. Our first stop was Fushimi Inari-taisha, the big beautiful shrine with red painted eveything.
We more of less ran out of time trying to navigate the subway (one thing I do NOT envy about people living in Japan, whatta nightmare) and make plans to see other stuff, so we attempted to grab lunch and head back to Osaka before Laura's flight. That was a massive mishap filled plan, which somehow landed us inside of an Auntie Ann's pretzel shop and back on the train to Osaka with semi-empty stomachs. We wandered for what seemed like seventeen hours but was probably closer to one, just to find that every establishment surrounding our hostel was closed. I am ashamed to say that we ended up eating lunch at McDonald's, and it tastes exactly the same as McDonald's in Korea and McDonald's at home. What a tragedy.
Laura took off that afternoon but I still had the evening, so I went on one of Mr. Yano's izakaya tours of the neighborhood along with a huge group of really fun human beings who were also staying at the hostel. We spent quite a few hours eating a bunch of delicious meat skewers, soups, and other generic izakaya dishes, and filling our faces with cheap beers. Capped the night off with some karaoke and was back in bed sometime before the sun with a flight to catch the next day to get back to Suji by 5pm to teach a night class.
This was taken at the Izakaya: two Scottish dudes (dad and son) on the left, a big group of amazing Spanish people who were visiting from Majorca, two people from Thailand, a chick who grew up in Germany but was now living somewhere else (I don't remember), the double peace sign hands guy is a really awesome guy from Kuala Lumpur who I was bunking with, myself, and of course, Mr. Yano.
Overall, it was a whirlwind weekend that left me feeling totally exhausted and like I'd left half of my brain somewhere between Osaka and Incheon, but it was a great trip and an excellent way to escape Korea for the weekend. One thing this trip did make me appreciate about Korea is the price of things... living in Japan must really take a toll on the wallet. Lastly, sorry this update is quite late, I've been getting everything settled to get the heck out of here in two weeks and life hasn't allowed me a lot of spare time to update the blog.