The appreciation of life, I guess, comes from a simple practical comparison of lifestyles.
Say, loving a social lifestyle full of events and meetings with people makes you appreciate quiet weekend day dedicated to just yourself: no people, no worries.
On the other hand, having too much down time drives you crazy: where’s buzz, people, energy?!
Regardless of the chosen style, it should make you happy and should have some value behind. Bringing the quality to your life is your personal choice:
People you allow in your life – are they negative, judgmental with limited self-development or positive who love to identify beauty in people and things around?
Food you eat – eating healthy and fresh is your own preference or you can simply chuck a couple of fried tasteless chips – whatever makes you happy. The only condition is the outcome you receive is based on your choice so don’t be surprised…
Lifestyle you choose – you may do some sport, kinda fun and active. You may prefer have “sofa life” with biggest effort you do is changing your Netflix channels.
Look after yourself or “well, I got good genes” – good genes are a gift that is great to nourish. At the end of the day, for example, ageing quicker walking in the Australian sun every day or event worse – getting cancer from direct unprotected sun lights, genes are not responsible here. You are.
Travel and explore – travelling around is cool and expands your inner horizons. Sometimes you don’t have to physically travel – Australia is blessed to ‘collect the whole world’ in it; one of the best Australian experiences I had is meeting people from all over the world I am grateful to call my friends. What stops you to say hi to that smiley Chinese coming to the same coffee shop you come every morning?
Knowledge you get – we learn something new everyday when we want to learn and grow, just think about it…not sure though about “sofa life” people.
Challenges you go through…or don’t go through. When something stops you from going and doing something, just remember one day long long time ago, you couldn’t walk…
Hamamatsu hosted the next rugby game Australia vs Georgia that was under thread of cancellation due to the typhoon. However, before that..
Before the announcement
We have arrived in a very nice hotel – located in the biggest building in the city – ACT Tower. We stayed on 40F and had the best city view that we could have. Moreover, the hotel had pretty good gym facilities, pool and amazing Japanese style sauna and spa. Cherry on the top was having Rugby Scottish team staying the same hotel! I managed to take a few selfies and chat about rugby with some of the best rugby players in the world!
As to Rugby, Hamamatsu has prepared itself well for the upcoming RWC. Local bakeries made some treats looking like rugby balls (on one shelf with Halloween sweets..:/), RWC village in the busiest part of the city, special deals in locals pubs and restaurants.
The plan was to stay two days/nights in the city. We visited Hamamatsu Castle.. Didn’t impress me. I don’t want to be biased – I believe we have seen too way many shrines and castles so Hamamatsu one was not interesting at all.
RWC stadium was easily accessible using the JR station. At some point I felt like back home coming closer to the venue and see Wallabies jerseys and yellow-green scarfs everywhere. Event logistics after the game was poor planned again – big crowds were slowly getting to the station in the rain and the empty roads (that could be used by these crowds) were locked away without any reasonable idea why.
Hamamatsu Wedding Central Park is another attraction to see. Again, we have seen too way many parks already so was not impressive. However, the venue itself was well-built. It reminded me a building of European gothic style that definitely stood out from tiny old Japanese shrines.
I have to say that Hamamatsu is event hub un Japan. There is a number of Congress venues, wedding and ceremonies halls. People are coming to Hamamatsu to book their events as it is close enough to Tokyo and centre of Japan, however, it is away from all this big city mess.
We left just before the Hamamatsu Jazz Festival started. The “Hamamatsu Jazz Week” will be celebrated this year for the 28th time. This event, which aims for “music to be everywhere in the city, creating the city itself” has livened up Hamamatsu since 1992. It is famous across Japan and its main “Yamaha Jazz Festival” offers performances from internationally famous musicians.
During this event, jazz will take over the city in the form of “concerts for families (parents and children,)” a “street jazz festival,” a “student jazz festival” and many other activities. This week offers an opportunity for not only jazz lovers, but for everybody to experience the charm of jazz. While we were there, the preparation for the Jazz week reminded me Many Jazz festival i.e. posters around, small performances taking place in CBD, etc.
After the announcement
The storm has started on the day of the game – 11th October. Fortunately, the game did go ahead.
However, some weird stuff happened next day. Tokyo and nearby prefectures (including Hamamatsu, Shizuoka) was isolated from the rest of the country and, I would say, from the rest of the world. Our flights had been cancelled and all Tokyo international airports stopped their operation for the next 48 hours without giving us any clarity of what’s on.
The day of the typhoon – 12th October – people didn’t come out outdoor. I tried to find what to do and went for a walk – it was scaring quiet and depressive, like after end of the world movies. All supermarkets were close; convenience stores such as Family marts, Lawsons and 7/11s were half empty as people bought as much food as they can to survive in case of typhoon would hit the area hard.
We couldn’t find much to do so I spend over 4 hours at the gym (proud!). We ended up at the hotel bar sipping James Bond’s martinis, making friends with one Japanese bloke and playing Uno.
13th October – morning – no sign of any typhoon or storm. Beautiful sunny day and fresh air. I used it as an opportunity to go for a long distance run along the Hamamatsu river. Discovered another amazing thing that you will never experience in Australia – a bar where you can been any gun and do some shooting. I cannot event imagine this being approved in Australia – bar and guns in one.. That was a lot of fun and I managed to practice my showreel scenes for the upcoming projects – all details to be revealed next year…anyways.
14th October – another quiet day. We explored local shops and watched Japan vs Scotland at the hotel. We have watched the news and found out that over 40 people had died in Tokyo and around 10 Shinkansens had been permanently damaged. The country had gone through huge financial loss and RWC was seriously effected with 2 games cancelled.
It is sad that such a lovely country with so kind people experience this type of natural disasters every year. There is a curious fact that Japanese natural disasters have been country’s cures and blessings at the same time. Throwing back to the history I learned in Tokyo Samurai museum. Japan experienced two Mongolian innovations in 13th century. Both times Japan was not ready to fight against one of the strongest armies in the world back that time. Both times Japan won because a typhoon destroyed Mongolian fleet. Japanese called this typhoon Kamikaze which means “divine wind”. This term was used later in World War II for aerial suicide attacks.
Anyways, we got some clarity on the 15th October – the earliest flight back home (could forget about the trip to Mexico already – too late) was 19th October..right back to Tokyo for Volume 2 adventures!
Oita is the true Japanese capital for rugby. As soon as we got off the station, we were met by friendly statue of man captured playing rugby. A lot of sculptures and monuments inviting visitors to join overall cheering for rugby games. As a true fan of rugby (lol!), I wore rugby jersey and I believe this is what attracted the local SBS to ask me for an interview just on the street. They asked me who I was, what I thought of rugby in Japan, who I supported and what was my dream. It was amazing chatting to them.
Oita is the South of the country. I picked straight up palm trees on the streets – that little reminder of Australia and my first association with Australia when I arrive there over 5 years ago.
The area is very touristic due to its hot springs. Beppy contains world biggest amount of hot springs/onsens in the world. Based on them, the government has built heaps of special tours for visitors that are quite costly.
On the way to Beppy we took a short half a day trip to Fukuoka, Hakata. Nice and lovely area with small temples around. This is the destination I shall start my blog with:
Hakata is one of the oldest cities in Japan. It is also famous for its seaside wharfs and ship industry. The government of Hakata started to invest in development of ship tourism in the area and it has been going well for decent 5 years. Regular port calls are coming from world famous cruise companies like Royal Caribbean – this industry makes the area one of the richest in Japan.
We have literally had 4.5 hours to spend there so we managed to visit local shrines and a couple of shopping malls. Hakata is a great example of what visitors and fresh tourists need to know about visiting Japan. Moreover, I have collected some interesting facts below throughout the whole trip so far.
CASH CASH CASH – if you get used to operate with credit cards, change your habits in Japan. You might get away with your card in busy Tokyo, however, smaller cities have a lot of cash only places. Save your time and effort and get cash within first couple of hours upon arrival if not beforehand; Japan understands that it needs to move away from cash operations and trying to encourage its citizen to use more their credit cards – it hasn’t been accepted by the majority of the population yet; However, you may get 5-10% discount off if you are paying with credit card but many places are still cash only;
GUILT-FREE SWEETS – when you dedicate yourself to a healthy eating plan, you still want to get out of the plan and try some tasty treats. When you are overseas, it is almost impossible to avoid it as you want to try new things (Curious Me!). I have been reading labels of some of the Japanese treats and sweets, fortunately, found out that their treats/sweets contains lesser sugar and calories than Australia and Russian ones. Maybe they are made from rice flour and/or replaced some sugary and artificial add-ons – I don’t know (my Japanese is not strong to read it), however, the fact is the fact. You can be guilt-free when you try some awesome sweets in Japan;
CAPSULE HOTELS – so cooooool (never tried though lol). If you are not after fancy hotels and just need to drop your head for some rest, you can literally be checked-in in a capsule that looks like the time keeping capsule from Futurama cartoon. These “hotels” are located next to bus/train stations and night life areas;
7/11 is good for SNACKS only. If you want/need to get food from 7/11 – best rule is try to avoid 7/11 labelled food. Say, 7/11 Japanese wine would taste only slightly better than Australian goon, express meals are not the freshest than in a supermarket. 7/11 made product is also not cheaper than other brands, sometimes even more expensive. If you have an opportunity to buy products in a supermarket, go there instead;
SUPERMARKETS HOURS – important to know. None of the Japanese supermarket will be open until 10:00-11:00am – this is normal opening time for many businesses in Japan and don’t get surprised – THE COUNTRY OF THE RISING SUN sleeps longer than we do. If you plan healthy version of your breakfast, go to the supermarket late night – you will get your yogurts, fruits or proteins (sashimi, meats, beans) with a huge discount. They try to get rid of all today’s fresh meals by making huge discounts at night (around 60-70%). It is my option for breakfast as before 11:00am the only food you can find for breakfast is donuts, breads and burnt coffee;
Back to WINE topic – Japan loves import wine from South America. Argentina, Spain and Chilli – countries for good red wine to try in Japan pretty much everywhere; New discovery for me that has become my favourite – California Pinot Noir;
CIGARETTES can be purchased from vending machines on public streets (no one cares to check IDs);
If you are a MORNING PERSON and love going to parks, you may see heaps of Japanese people gathering in public parks to do gymnastics together at around 6:30am – cuuuuuute;
Every Japanese city has its unique SHRINES and TEMPLES.
Hakata is the home of Sumo Sport. Sumo is a Japanese style wrestling in an elevated ring. Originally performed in Japanese ancient rituals and festivals, it is now Japan’s national sports. At the same time, it is also considered as form martial arts. If you are after watching martial arts or boxing, you will enjoy this – Hakata is the home for this type of sport. If you end up in Fukuoka – book a ticket to watch the wrestling. Sumo Official Tournament (honbasho) is held regularly as follows: every year, during the first or second week of January, March, July, September, and November for 15 days.
BACK TO BEPPY
We have stayed in the Beppywan Hotels & Resorts. It is a bit away from the station, however, the shuttle bus operation was outstanding so we didn’t feel “left out” from the main area of the RWC. As I expected the Hotel has its own hot spring bath so I could experience traditional Oita Onsen without visiting jigoku or “hells” – geothermally heated water bubbles up to the surface as steamy ponds or sulphurous gloop.
We have visited Rugby fan village next day after arrival and watched one of the games there. Oita was put on the international map by the 2002 World Cup. The purpose built “Big Eye” stadium, somewhat reminiscent of a giant titanium turtle, was designed by the celebrated Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa (who also designed Toyota Stadium, the Wakayama Museum of Modern Art, Kuala Lumpur Airport and the New Wing of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).
Oita Stadium can be reached via shuttle bus from Oita Station. Oita Stadium (aka Oita Bank Dome; 大分銀行ドーム) is the home ground of J-League soccer team Oita Trinita. I believe this stadium was used for the Rugby game we watched – Fiji vs. Wales.
I have to say that I haven’t expected this game to be so interesting. Wales did win, however, I have to give a huge credit to Fiji for their amazing performance. Never regretted attending this game!
Being a qualified event manager, I have to also note that the events operations and logistics at the end of the event was nit great at all. Crowed control (considering we had over 33,000 people at the stadium) was not planned – a lot of annoyed and frustrated people were leaving stadium nearly breaking fences. Japanese police couldn’t do much. Instead of opening a few stream lines for people heading to the buses taking them down to the main JR station, they closed the main road for taxis and made people walk long walk to the bus station. Not quite logical. Why not to let all these busses to come closer to the stadium and consequently collect crowds one by one?
Anyways, apart from disappointing post event operation, that day was the highlight of the whole Oita stay.
We had just a bit of a time to visit Funai Castle before we had to the game. The castle did belong to Otomo Sorin. Hid clan was a powerful one in Kyushu who during the first half of the 16th century gradually expanded their control over neighboring warlords. When Otomo Sorin became the 21st Otomo Daimyo in 1550 he continued to expand Otomo territory and eventually the family were known as the Lords of Seven Provinces.
A castle was built at Funai in 1562, but many sources credit Fukuhara Naotaka with its construction in the last few years of the 16th century, but the main keep was built by Takenaka Shigetoshi in 1602.
In 1656 a branch of the Matsudaira took control of the castle and remained there until the Meiji Period.
Most of Funai Castle burned down in 1743 and the castle was decommissioned in 1872.
All that remains today is the moat and outer walls, two towers that were reconstructed in the early 1860’s, and the stone base of the keep. In 1965 the main gate and turrets were restored, and in 1996 the covered bridge was reconstructed.
From now on I can act like a proper tourist as all the destinations moving forward are new to me. This does include Hiroshima.
Hiroshima is a different city compared to the previous ones due to its sad historical past and unique island Majiyama. We have divided the trip into to parts to take most out of our stay in Hiroshima.
In general, Hiroshima attracts many tourists from all over the world. We stayed in APA Hotel and every time I walked to an elevator, I could meet some foreigners. We started our trip by trying Okonomiyaki – traditional Hiroshima grilled pancake. It does contain a lot of various ingredients such as egg, seaweed, bacon, wheat noodles, cabbage, bean sprouts. You can choose some add-ons with fish and meats – this dish keeps you full for the rest of the day. When you are in Hiroshima, you MUST try this dish.
Highlight of DAY 1 – Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki used to be considered a special desert served at Buddhist ceremonies. Interesting to say but the dish was invented in beloved Osaka, however, was well adopted by Hiroshima after A-Atomic tragedy.I personally find Hiroshima style is a snacky way of making the dish – you grill all the ingredients and then lay one on another. Osaka’s way is to actually blend the ingredients and grill together – Okonomiyaki History .
The story behind Hiroshima’s “lazy” way of making Okonomiyaki can be the fact that after the Atomic bomb tragedy, survived people were starving and tried to filled themselves with whatever they could find around. People used the few ingredients they had—vegetables like cabbage and onions mixed with flour that came from the U.S. post-war rations—and whatever extra ingredients they could get their hands on to fill up their stomachs.
Okonomiyaki is best described by its translation. It literally means “whatever you want”(okonomi), “grilled (yaki). – お好み焼き .
Highlight of DAY 2 – Majiyama Island
We got up early morning to catch one of the earliest ferries to the Island and catch nice morning sunlight. Unfortunately, traditional Itsukushima Shrine gates were closed for renovation (upcoming Olympics Games 2020), however, we managed to get inside the Shrine that isn considered to be UNESCO World Heritage.
We started our Majiyama journey and got attacked by deer straight away. Deer are everywhere on the island – they are just a part of the nature there. They are wild but managed to merge well into human society. They do love stealing your food…or anything looking like food. You can pet them but be mindful that some of them can be aggressive (wild animals..).
Back to the Shrine – It was originally built 1423 years ago in 593CE by Saeki no Kuramoto. The place is unique for one more reason – the Itsukushima Shrine was built specifically at a location where the tides rise and fall. Back that time, the whole island wasn considered to be a god. it is said a location where the tides rise and fall was chosen specifically so the god or kami would not be damaged when they constructed the shrine. Take your time to explore the Shrine:
Start with at the Marodo Shrine – It has been designated as a national treasure;
Then The Main Shrine dedicated to the the three female deities have long been dutifully worshipped as they are the gods of the sea, transport, fortune, and the arts;
The O-Torii gate is best seen from inside the Shrine but was closed this time 😦 – you can also reach the gate on your feet.
We managed to watch the traditional Japanese wedding at the East corridor of Marono Shrine.
In Russia we say when you see a happy wedding, make a wish. I made a wish looking at that beautiful procession. There was something special and magical looking at that thousand years ceremonial tradition.
And to wishes, there was also a wish/lucky box that we all gave a try. There was no translation though so my task for the next few days to find a decent Japanese/English translator to find out my prophesy.
Then we went on a ropeway. After some elaboration the decision was made to take one-way ticket and explore the inner island beauty, nature and temples on out feet. Never regretted about this decision. Hence, supporting my FITNESS.
I will never stop saying to go out and explore the area on your two feet. We have discovered little temples and unique natural places that you will never see sitting in a ropeway or train. We have reached the tope of the Misen Point and walked all way down to the incredible Daisho-in Temple. The temple is not as popular as the Shrine, however, you shall walk pass countless statues on the left side of the temple garden – they are meant to give you some blessings and luck for future.
The Majiyama Island reminded me of Bruna Island in Tasmania. They both have mountains that gives you 360 view of the area and it was breathtaking. We had to walk all way up and then down the mountain but it definitely worth it. I have to admit that my calfs and legs were extremely sore next couple of days – warm spa, roller and morning jogging helped me to relief the soreness.
The first part of the trip was very traditional, spiritual and exploratory. We can back to grab a bowl of ramen each and head to the hotel super tired.
Highlight of DAY 3 – Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial
The second part of our trip was more thoughtful – that made you think of one human disaster happened last century.
I have met a fair few Japanese kids happily jumping to me asking a few English phrases and given little origami cranes in dedication to peace in the Hiroshima park. Then I have seen same kids in tears walking out of that museum. Some of them had hysteria from what they had seen inside. That place contained historical facts that couldn’t leave your eyes dry..
Hiroshima is the first city in the world that has been attacked by atomic bomb. This happened on 6th August 1945. The decision was made by the US to drop one atomic bomb in Hiroshima followed by another one in three days in Nagasaki. In the US army’s opinion, that was the best solution to stop the war in the Asia Pacific region and stop deaths..oh well, great decision to kill 140,000 innocent people in one go and destroy lives of next generations for many years ahead living in miserable conditions, developing leukaemia and cancer from radiation, suiciding themselves..
I couldn’t take photos inside the museum – there is no photo can describe what was seen inside. I took one and I deleted it right away – you cannot capture this. You need to see it with your own eyes, feel it and empathise. The place keeps stories of killed souls still screaming and begging stop the war around the world. You can feel moaning of those souls walking across the museum park begging to stop the pain. Believe me or not but the pictures of the past are duplicated in your mind when you walk pass the Atomic bomb Dome- you can see those burnt bodies, horrified faces of schoolboys and girls (the bomb was dropped 350 metres from a public school), and ruins of the beautiful city.
There are only two emotions you can see walking out of the museum – people are being quiet or crying.
Things like that make you clearly understand why one of the Global Goals of the United Nations is to make the world atomic bomb and weapons free.
If you are running low in time, forget about anything – The Dome is that one place you are in Hiroshima for.
Overall, if you have decent 2-3 days in the area, see the list of things worth to visit:
Atomic Bomb Dome
The Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the atomic bomb victims
Children’s Peace Monument (dedicated in memory of Sadako Sasaki)
Hiroshima Castle and park nearby (I did exploring while running in the morning – nice, quiet and lack of tourist time of the day – 6:30am)
Okonomiyaki Food Court (Hiroshima Station area) – If you have time (I didn’t), visit the Wood Egg Okonomiyaki Museum
Time to get out of big cities and experience old fashioned Japanese culture merged into unique nature of the continent.
Kyoto is only 15 minutes away from Osaka (via Shinkansen) that makes easy to commute a day trip to the destination. Interesting fact that Kyoto used to be the capital of Japanese island Honsu. Therefore, it contains so many historical places, imperial palaces, temples. Due to invasion of Buddhist clergy into the Imperial government trying to influence on decisions of the Palace, the decision was made to move the capital to Edo in 19th century.
Edo was later called 東京, meaning “Eastern Capital” which pronounces Tokyo. We all know Tokyo.
Kyoto tried to be re-named as 西京, meaning “Western Capital”, however, came back to Kyoto giving the city that legacy of thousand-year capital (千年の都).
If you love hiking and exploring thousand year history, you should definitely go to Kyoto. There is one great FITNESS solution here that I have done in the past. As a part of that international crew that I joined fair few years ago, we went on a bike ride from Osaka to Kyoto. The distance between these two are 55,6km which makes your legs burned at the end of the day (this distance doesn’t include another 20-25 kms cruising around the city).
Kyoto is fairly big city but mostly famous for its cultural events and nature. Heading there on a bike, you will get obsessed with its nature in its fullest. Moreover, it will make your trip more accessible to reach different temples where you can sometimes enjoy kabuki theatre or some dancing festivals.
One of the most famous festivals in Kyoto in October is Jidai Matsur (“Festival of Ages”). Day when Japanese citizens come out of their houses and dress up as people of the past to acknowledge oldest people of the land and “touch” the thousand year old history of the area.
Jidai Matsuri is held every October 22nd (*Will be held on October 26th in 2019), as it was on this day in 794 AD that Emperor Kanmu made Kyoto Japan’s imperial capital, a status that would last for over 1,000 years, right through to 1869 when the capital was then moved to Tokyo. ＊Note: The 2019 procession is exceptionally scheduled on October 26 as October 22 falls on the day of the Enthronement Ceremony of the Emperor in Tokyo. If you know a lovely Japanese person, do not hesitate to say some nice words on the day to them in regards to their celebration. They will appreciate the fact that you know and respect their culture and heritage.
The Forest is located just 15-minute from the central station of Kyoto. You will meet a lot of locals there – this is their place to go hiking, enjoy and appreciate the nature around them. Do not forget to pack some bento boxes to share picnic with your friends.
Appreciation of beauty is another thing that I would like to highlight in this article. I have already mentioned it in my previous blog posts dedicated to Japan – great lesson to learn from Japanese:
They do see the beauty around them, in other people, in items around them. They are very united with the universe if it makes sense. How many times we walk pass a beautiful park and do not even stop next to a bunch of beautiful flowers or natural arrangements around? We are always in a rush – the modern life demands us to be like that and it is understandable.
Check out my previous post about mindfulness through appreciation of things around here .
This is why I love to visit Japan and “slow down” here. This is where you can re-unite with yourself, disappear in that Bamboo Forest to stay with your thoughts, discover new pathways and just let many things go that stuck in your soul like stones dragging you down. This is what Kyoto is about.
Forget about FASHION here – this place is not about parade show. It is the place to discover yourself and be as you are without all these current trends, instagram stories and showcasing fancy lifestyle – leave it all for the next destinations…
My second destination is already well-known to me and, if you read my blog notes before, majority of my previous articles were written here, based on Osaka knowledge.
So, it is clearly cheating from me to write a blog now. Doesn’t matter – I believe you can always discover something new if you really looking for it.
The reason why I called Osaka my personal choice is it is the place where you can experience everything you need in Japan if you really looking for it.
First of all, looking at the city from gorgeous and unique architecture design of the Umeda Sky Garden, you will clearly see that the city is very modern and reminds you a bit of a Tokyo. When you walk down from the view point and start looking around the city centre, you realise how many international places around – another similarity with Tokyo. There is one huge difference, I would say one advantage over Tokyo, the Osaka city was not built crowded and touristic. The city obviously attracts millions of tourists a year, however, it is not trying to attract them with its touristic look like Tokyo does. This is what makes this place unique to me and my experience.
Throwing back to those long 7 years ago when I arrived to Osaka for a couple of months of summer holidays. That time I didn’t enter to Japanese school so was by myself and I needed to make some friends.
I went to Starbucks (yes, before Australia I thought it was really cool place to be lol) and found a brochure with international meet ups. My English was weak but good enough to understand what’s written there regarding type of events, dates, locations and other important details. I carried that brochure everywhere like my passport.
My International meet up journey started when I walked it to meet and greet at one Irish pub in Shinsaibashi. No-one checked my ID when I came to the bar and ordered Asahi. I sat down next to the international group – Canadian and American guys and one Japanese girl. They started talk to me. Found may first friends!
Interesting to say that Ai (that amazing Japanese girl is in Melbourne now doing her own business in massage and beauty industry). We managed to catch in Melbourne last year – amazing that we both ended up in Australia.
Those international friends took me on board and introduced me to meet up organisers. They took me to bike tours to Kobe and Kyoto. They got me to volunteer to international parties where I was given wristbands at the entrance. Then they were sneaking a VIP wristband to me so I could enter a party being 17 year old. Considering over age is 20 in Japan, I wouldn’t clearly experience incredible parties walking out the venue at sunrise time!
Anyways, the bottom line, Osaka was, is and will always be international hub in Japan but more inclusive than gigantic Tokyo. Going to Irish, English or international cafes pubs to find out where they meet up – I still believe that trip was my very best one because of that.
Osaka is a bit cleaner – again, due to its size. It is easier to navigate around the city, the metro lines are more structured. Due to the fact that I have been there so many times, I can easily give you an overview of some of the areas to visit in Osaka. I went for a run the other morning and can say that outdoor walk/run is the best way to discover hidden shops and fascinating areas. Many beautiful stores are literally condensed in the city to fit more.
FASHION – I have already mentioned Shinsaibashi. This area of Osaka is famous for its shopping lines (“leave all your money in Shinsaibashi”), great dining and places for parties and night life.
Shinsaibashi never sleeps. You can shop there from 10-11:00am until late night. I could see how some people were buying new party dresses, got changed in them and went straight to night clubs and pubs to keep going.
Shinsaibashi has everything from Japanese local brands to world famous outlets; from modern styles to luxury brands. There is a big shopping mall in the heart of Shinsaibashi called Daimaru. Daimaru is like Bondi Junction Westfield – this is how good it is!
Another thing to mention is better not to plan a day trip to Osaka if you plan to see some of the Osaka’s attractions. You need to spend the whole decent day to appreciate the fashion and go through stylish outlets in Shinsaibashi. If you are aiming for fashionista title, it is a big lie to say you will get enough fashion inspiration for a couple of hours in Shinsaibashi. You need at least one full day. Then head to an Irish pub at the end of the day to share your fashion knowledge with other Internationals. If you discuss it with Japanese, it might be even more different though as they have different vision in fashion.
FITNESS – Osaka has encouraged me to use the stairs over elevators or escalators. There are a lot of walks and transfers from one metro line to another. Go for stairs! Also, due to lesser crowds, it is much nicer and better to run outdoor in Osaka. My only recommendation is try to do it before 7:20am – 1) the sun goes up and it is super humid at this time of the year (summer is even worse); 2) people are start heading to work. You may notice that many people have to travel intercity so all the metros and shinkansens are packed from early mornings.
Just given a small overview of the 1-day Osaka itinerary so you can cover “different aspects of Japan”.
Start with the Umeda Sky Garden. This place is open at 9:30am. Normally, nothing is open in Japan till 10-11:00am – they are not morning people at all (what a shame!). It will also give you nice natural morning light to overlook the whole city and start the day right. If you are into history, there is the illustrated museum inside the Sky Garden;
Head to the Osaka Castle – this is one of my favourite castles in Japan (still consider Akita has better ones but anyways). I love it because there are a lot of small gardens and temples around the castle to explore. When you get to the Castle, head up to the 8th Floor and start exploring from top to the bottom;
Head to Dotonbori river area taking Namba station 16th exit. It is very nice and beautiful there. You can also take the tour of the river cruising around crabs and octopuses on surrounded buildings;
After the river, time for get decent lunch – sushi is the go for me (Japanese Diet by Angie). There is an amazing sushi restaurant with English menu with freshest raw fish. You don’t need even worry to order anything, the plates are passing through you with whatever you like! The restaurant is located on that big crab street opposite direction to Dotonbori gates on the Starbucks side (right).
Also, try their popular Takoyaki that are everywhere on that street. They are very filling and made with true Japanese traditions;
Then jump to Shinsaibashi shops and get lost there!
End of at a nice Irish pub to relax as you might burn your legs after Shinsaibashi walks. Get some refreshments (I would still suggest NOT to order food in pubs and eat before – all these fish and chips and burgers you can eat everywhere; real Japanese food only made by Japanese).
I guess I can do some decent summary of Tokyo based on last 2 days. It is a bit of a cheating from me to write for the first time about the country where I have been about 9 times already, however, considering I have never had an idea to write up a blog before, would be nice to write what I got out from this particular trip.
I tried to look at the trip with fresh eyes – taking just minor knowledge I picked from my Japanese trips in the past.
Currently in the speed train called Shinkansen – travelling between destinations within the country is best by Shinkansen. With the speed up to 234 km/h you can easily get from Tokyo to Kyoto crossing 456.43 km within few hours.
Shinkansen can be at a speed maximum 320 km/h. TIP: pre-book rail pass for the duration of your trip – it will save up a lot of time, energy and money.
Anyways, Tokyo – what can I say?
To start with, it is a well-known international capital. If you have never been in Japan, the cultural differences can slightly shock you so better to start with Tokyo. There are some international places where you can meet a lot of Germans, English, Irish, Canadians, Russians, etc. International pubs are everywhere in inner Tokyo. We went to the English pub called ‘The Mermaid” to watch a rugby game – felt like somewhere in Europe.
Get ready to struggle with Tokyo metro. It is complicated to start with as they have a lot of lines and separated train links. Spend some time at a station to figure out the algorithm and it will be easy going forward.
The best areas to your “touristic” journey would be Ginza (considered to be one of the most luxury shopping areas in the world), Shibuya, Tokyo station – they are designed for internationals – you will find a lot of places with English explanations there. That was our destinations for the day 1.
Arriving at 6:15am, we had to wait a little bit and the shuttle delivered us straight to the Hotel in the amazing DisneyLand. Sheraton provided with an amazing service. I have to mention the fantastic Japanese hospitality below.
We all humans and we all can make mistakes. Japanese people are pretty accurate but also humans (as much as they implemented thousands of robots!). The check in didn’t happen until 3:00pm so we had to leave the bags at lobby and we were promised they would be taken to our rooms as a part of the service. Great – heading to Tokyo Station to explore the area.
When we got back, we realised the bags were unattended for the whole day. The service staff had some miscommunication. They were extremely apologetic and offered Marriott Bonvoy members benefits i.e. VIP lounge access, complimentary breakfasts, extended check outs and many others. The service was exceptional after that.
The best thing about Tokyo is the fact that it contains a little bit of everything. If you want some Japanese culture touch, go to Asakusa. Asakusa (浅草) is a district in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan, famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. There are several other temples in Asakusa, as well as various festivals, such as the Sanja Matsuri. You can also experience Nakamise shopping street there – something similar to Manly or Bondi markets. Many stalls will offer you handmade Japanese souvenirs and treats. Walking all way down the street, you will get to the tea shop where you can watch Japanese special brewing technique and taste some real stuff 🙂
As to temples, since you are there, you must go to Asakusa’s main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries.Pretty much all temples we visited are free of charge.
Being first time in Japan, you will be amazed by their accuracy. If your train is at 12:58pm, it will come and leave strictly at 12:58pm – no early or late. If there is a delay, it will be communicated to you at their earliest convenience.
FASHION – amazed with the contract. Walking in Ginza and Shibuya, you are walking through posh shopping stores and centers. However, Japanese people are dressing up very modest and reserved. I expected more dressed up people including tourists on the streets – I felt how people were sometimes looking at me because of my “dressing up attire”. Realising that I didn’t use much of the make up – didn’t help – I was still in the centre of attention. I remember when I came to Japan first time and was a teenager, Japanese loved to take pictures of me. I believe they would do it now again but considering I am adult now (lol), they might be hesitant to ask. In general, being a white European with, ideally, blond hair will make you a celebrity there.
I started to capture my adventure in my Instagram stories and was happy to realise I was re-posted by Fashion World Tokyo – feeling I have just gotten unofficial reward of being fashionista in the country of sunrises!
Due to the fact that Japan doesn’t have much of the land, they build the whole new world underground. I would suggest, get out of the stations and take some time to walk on streets from station to station – this is where you will see the country at its fullest and can find interesting places to see and visit. Also, you will be able to experience fascinating architecture contract – huge modern skyscraper will stand behind oldest 6th century temple – it is breathtaking experience if you appreciate excellence and beauty around yourself.
FITNESS – On the last last day before check out (extended!), I went for a run and managed to run around the whole DisneyLand – incredible destination to do outdoor cardio. I had to head back around 7:40ish am due to humid heat and Japanese starring at the white European running around. Considering Japanese are running in very enclosed clothing, I was not SO dressed (wearing shorts and sports bra) so it could be embarrassing for them. Oh well, had to head back 🙂
Outdoor running (especially in the morning) is a great way to explore the area next to you. We haven’t gotten to the actual DisneyLand or DisneySea (age problems 🙂 ) but I appreciated the beauty around just exploring the area on my two feet.
At the end of the trip there will be some time to spend last day in Tokyo and I am aiming for Legendary Kill Bill cafe , Kawasaki suburb to pick up goodies for my Ninja Baby back home and Rainbow bridge.