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03 August 2016 @ 08:26 pm
24 Days in Japan and South Korea (Part 1)  
Heading to Japan

I was finally able to go to Japan and South Korea this year!

Getting to the airport and checking in was a relatively smooth process for me and one of my friends. The other friend decided to pack the day of the flight and so as you would expect, she arrived later then our agreed upon time. And because she arrived late (but mind you, she still checked in 2.5 hours before departure), she didn’t get an assigned seat. My friend and I had tried to monopolize the emergency exit seats by taking the aisle and window seats because we thought people would hate the middle seat; therefore, our friend would have been able to be seated with us. But alas, someone took the middle seat before our other friend was able to pick it. Thankfully, the person who had the middle seat was a reasonable and kind man. He was willing to trade seats with our friend once she was assigned one at the bordering gate.

When we arrived in Narita, we were on a time crunch as our final destination wasn’t Tokyo, but rather Osaka. To get there, we needed to take Narita Express, and then change trains to get on Shinkansen. This doesn’t sound hard to do, but in reality, it was a lot more difficult because we only had eight minutes to change between trains. The platforms for Narita Express and Shinkansen were relatively far from each other. By the time we found Shinkansen, the train had just arrived.

Probably the most mind blowing thing we discovered during our journey from Tokyo to Osaka was that the travel time between Osaka and Kyoto could be cut down to fifteen minutes on the Shinkansen. All three of us were literally like what the fuck is this sorcery because the regular subway line travelling between the two cities requires more than an hour. Even now I still cannot comprehend how Shinkansen manages to cut down that sort of distance into mere fifteen minutes. Perhaps it’s the magic of Japan.


The morning of the first day in Osaka was spent looking for the elusive Umeda Sky Building. I thought it would have been easy to find since it was a relatively tall structure. Unfortunately, with the amount of skyscrapers blocking the view, we wounded up going in the wrong direction until we found a traffic police officer to direct us in the right direction. By the way, traffic police officers were mainly one of the reasons why we weren’t completely lost during the entire trip in Japan. Most of them spoke some amount of English and were extremely helpful.

Around noon, we headed off towards Osaka castle. That was probably one of our biggest mistakes. In Japan (and I would say the rest of Asia) I have learned that you do not foolishly travel around anywhere out in the sun between 12pm and 4pm, unless you would like to be burned. With the sun blazing down on us, we arrived at the area, only to discover the long trek needed to actually see the darn castle since the castle was protected by a moat and high walls. At one point, we were ready to give up. There weren’t enough trees to offer decent amounts of shade and the hot gravel ground simply reflected the heat back into our faces. Don’t get me wrong, the area was extremely beautiful. However, with the glaring sun, it was honestly hard to enjoy the scenery. Tourists were abundant so there was a long line to see the inside of the castle. The top floor was where you could see the view surrounding the castle and the lower floors were museums that showcased the different eras of Japan.

Japan likes the concept of traditional meets modern. In many areas, you’ll be able to see temples and shrines (or in this case, a castle) in the middle of cities and right in between skyscrapers. It’s an interesting contrast as I don’t usually see such drastic contrasts in North America.

At night, we made our way to Dotonbori. This is a famous nightlife and entertainment area characterized by flashy, large billboards. Of course, it was necessary for us to take pictures of and with the Glico man. We also saw the Kani Doraku crab, which was a mechanical moving crab billboard.

Many of the blogs and reviews I read mentioned about the amount of people that will gather there at night. We were mentally prepared to fight the crowd; however, we were still a little overwhelmed. The place was densely packed with locals and tourists, who were looking for food and doing some shopping. As expected, the popular restaurants had a sizeable line up. We tried one of the takoyaki stand. It had a long queue, but I’m not exactly sure if it was the most famous one in the area.

The following day, we went to the aquarium. My two friends were apparently big on fish, while I’m just like meh. I only tagged along because I heard this was one of the biggest aquariums in Japan. The highlight of this aquarium was the whale shark. There was only one in the aquarium and it attracted a lot of attention. All the tourists, including us, were basically plastered against the tank trying to catch a glimpse of it among all the other fishes and sharks in the tank. I’m not going to lie, the whale shark looked kind of derpy (though it was not the most derpiest marine animal we saw that day). That title was reserved for the sunfish. My friends and I have never seen such a large, derpy and stupid looking fish in our entire lives. At one point, the sunfishes were even swimming head first into the sides of the tank. They made me so speechless.

This capybara was so unimpressed with everything. It was unimpressed while it was eating and it was most definitely not impressed with us staring at it. Capybaras might just take the title of the most deadpan creatures out there.

Hotel in Osaka

The hotel we were at was Hotel MyStays Shin-Osaka Conference Center. It’s located near Shin-Osaka station, which is super convenient if you’re arriving by the Shinkansen. There are also other metros lines near the hotel.

Each of us had our own rooms because the hotel didn’t have (or perhaps they were out of) three people rooms. The room was clean and neat as I anticipated because the hotel recently went through renovations. However, the room was compact and tiny. Really, really tiny. I need to strongly emphasize on the tiny. There was not enough space for me to have my luggage open and have enough room to walk into the bathroom. So every time I needed to use the bathroom, I had to diagonally jump across my luggage and into it or close my luggage and make sure it was upright before I could use the bathroom. It wasn’t exactly the most convenient thing to do.

The bathroom was interesting. I’m on the short side (I hate admitting this) and yet I’m able to touch the ceiling when I raise my hand. Like yo, how are people over 175cm going to use this type of bathroom without knocking their heads against the ceiling? From the way I see it every time they shower they will have to sit in the tub because they are too tall.

Aside from that, everything else was quite good. The room had a mini fridge, TV, safety deposit box (highly important), hair dryer, toiletries, water boiler, bidet, and A/C. Though, the A/C was a bit of struggle because I can’t read Japanese and navigating through the different settings was a challenge. I could only rely on my Chinese skills to somewhat deduce what the Kanji meant.

You can see more pictures of my trip on my Instagram.