Anyone else ever get an overwhelming urge to explore? A couple of months ago I got that urge, I just HAD to go to some uncharted territory. I chose Japan. I booked my flights a month before and my accommodation & rail pass two weeks before. No fuss, no new clothes, no last minute gym sessions. Not my usual style, but so liberating.
The first destination on this whistle stop tour was Osaka. Japan’s 3rd biggest city Osaka has a reputation for it’s food and neon lights. Not the most picturesque place I have ever been but a nice relaxed atmosphere despite the bustle of the city. A city who doesn’t take itself too seriously.
We stayed in the Shell Nell Namba Hostel. A very clean, modern hostel with capsule style bunks and every toiletry you may ever need. Located in the Namba district just a short walk from the infamous bright lights of the Dotombori area. It cost us 5000 Yen per person per night to stay here, so a little more expensive than your average hostel, but we had a comfortable stay.
Explore the Dotonbori area. Stroll along the pedestrian walkways lit by the neon lights, head to the canal to see the water glittering. It’s a lively night spot with plenty to eat, drink and shop. The advertising (including the infamous Glico man) is a feast for the eyes and this area makes for an enjoyable walk after dark.
Anywhere. There are hundreds of Japanese style eateries in the Dotonbori area, most for very reasonable prices. Sit around the bar in a small establishment. Order a nama (draft) beer and a selection of small tapas style dishes to get a feel for Japanese cuisine. Most menus have pictures even if there is no English, so just point and hope for the best.
Visit Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo). Picturesque grounds and a very informative museum, this is worth a day trip if you are in Osaka. 900 Yen entry. The museum explores the history of the castle in unifying Japan but there’s also an observation deck on the 8th floor and beautiful grounds to explore.
The Umeda Sky Building (Kita Ward), one of the worlds top 20 buildings. These views are pretty awesome, unfortunately it was raining something awful they day we went and what started off as a bright clear day descended into dark grey clouds and insistent rain, but we still got a great view. The journey to the top is half the fun, before reaching the 360 degree views at the observation desk. Up glass elevators and tunnel encased escalators. Very Sci-fi!
Shopping is a national hobby for the Japanese and Shopping Malls are common. Most have a top floor dedicated to restaurants, a bit more expensive than your eatery on the street but what you get in return is spotless surroundings and lots of choice. The restaurants are a little more western in style, so a good place to start if you are apprehensive about exploring the foods of Japan! A lot of the Shopping Malls also have basements dedicated to food counters, perfect to take out. The food here was exquisite, much more upmarket than your UK Supermarket Pizza counter… with loads to chose from, sweet & savoury, you are spoilt for choice.