“Some days are for falling in love with cities, some days for falling in love with people and some for your time in solitude.”
This weekend I experienced it all in Osaka as I took myself on my first solo weekend trip to a new city. I’ve been in the country 7 and a half months now and while I’ve seen a handful of cities (especially Tokyo) I’d not yet built up the nerve to see one solo. Still on a high from my last stint in Tokyo and in between a Japanese class and a Skype call with a friend, I booked myself a bus ticket and a hostel near Osaka station. The Fukushima area to be exact. Armed with a backpack and a satchel full of cameras (five in total) I headed off on the Friday evening bus down South.
The hostel was adequate; bunk bed, linen and a locker. I wouldn’t be spending much time there so nap space and bag storage check the boxes. To my surprise the first person I met in Osaka was an interesting character from Tokyo, who may or may not have been a police man. A man of many names with a curiosity for Russian politics, a knack for observing people and a taste for strong zero. The universe knows I god damn well love that city. Thereafter I met a series of friendly and kind humans from this city said to have all of the heart.
A late night up drinking conbini drinks at the hostel lead to a later than anticipated start on Saturday. Osaka Castle, Shinsekai and Dotonbori were the order of the day. Osaka’s train system was pretty damn easy to navigate, even though I got lost like 5 times *cough* I explored like 5 times. I’m useless at directions so I’m surprised I even got to the station at all; but that said the main loop (aptly called the Osaka Loop Line) works on a clockwise/anti-clockwise circuit around the main stations/sightseeing spots. Simple (if you know your left from your right that is).
I’m not going to try not give out too many spoilers here but Osaka Castle and the grounds are an absolute must. I could have spent the whole weekend walking the plum garden and eating dango under the trees. The garden swarmed with snap happy sight-seers but they blurred into bokeh against the blossoms which became focal point. I can’t tell you how many times I heard exclamations of kireina (beautiful) and metcha kawaii (very cute) in those two hours. Apparently that’s the only Japanese I’ll need for Sakura season which is bound to be sensational, if the plums are anything to go by.
Next up was Shinsekai which is a hub of amazing food stalls, restaurants, souvenir and fashion shops. I spent a couple of hours in the late afternoon walking the area in search of one particular souvenir jacket shop and a kawaii coffee shop I’d found on the ‘gram. I found said coffee shop on Saturday and returned on Sunday morning to find the jacket shop. The beauty of Shinsekai really lies within two arcade “streets” on the edge of the area which could easily be overlooked in the shadow of the tower and central area. Blink and you could miss the hidden tea shops, pacman console filled corners and back alley brand shops. Oh, and the random Hello Kitty parking lot. I’ll leave it at that.
Thereafter I popped by Dotonbori; a great spot for shopping and a must for those seeking a pic with the Glico Running Man. In all honesty I was slightly underwhelmed by the area and severely overwhelmed by the tourists (because it’s been 7 months and I’m acting like an entitled local). I must have spent ten minutes unknowingly photobombing Glico Man selfies which hindered my own desire to capture the moment for fear of looking like another absorbing tourist. Instead I think a longer evening in Shinsekai or a bit of clubbing in Namba would have been a better choice. That said; I’m still glad to have ticked it off the list.
Osaka is a magical city filled with the most romantic Japanese streets, scenes and style. I might be speaking too soon as I haven’t experienced the club scene but I’d imagine Osaka to be the indie sister to the modern-hipster Tokyo. Incomparable and equally lovely in different ways.
I’ll be posting a lot more about my travels so watch this space if you’re keen on honest, authentic and admittedly biased (I can’t help it that I frikken love this place) views from a novice visitor.
I’ve never quite fancied myself the travel writer but since I love Japan, photography and writing I figured I’d give it a go. Drop me an email or a comment with any questions or ideas, I’d love to hear from you and help where I can.