Day 1: Osaka – Shinsaibashi & Dotombori Area

I went back to Hostel to get some refreshment after half day walking around Osaka Castle Area. After that, I walked around Shinsaibashi Suji Area, which is the best known shopping district at Osaka. Since I was on a budget trip and things are literally very expensive here, so I didn’t really walk into those stores. But they do have quite a numbers of interesting shop that you might want to stop by if you are there, such as Sanrio shop that sell Hello Kitty Merchandise and Disney shop.

Shinsaibashi – the shopping street

Then I started my food hunting at Dotombori Area. You won’t miss Dotombori because there’s lots of big neon and mechanised signs including the catchy “runner” billboard. Dotombori is the food heaven: anything from Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, Sushi, Ramen and Japanese food.

Dotombori Area

For me, I choose Ramen for my dinner cause I thought I need some carbohydrate to replenished my energy for the day. So I picked the infamous Kinryu Ramen (Golden Dragon) which I saw in the guide book. Basically they have only 2 dishes on the menu: the normal Ramen that cost 600 Yen (around RM 25) and Special Ramen cost 900 Yen (around RM 36). And you have to order and pay at the vending machine (all in Japanese), then take your number and wait for your food (self service). I choose the normal one. To be honest, is a total dissapointment. Maybe my expectation was too high. The normal Ramen only came with 2 pieces of Roasted Pork and plain noodles. And the soup is way too salty for me. The one I had in Malaysia -> Yamagoya Ramen @ Publika taste way better and worth the price (RM24 with Roasted Pork and Eggs). Maybe the origin of that is from Kyushu (Kyushu Ramen is the best isn’t it).

The many things that you can spot at Dotombori

Kinryu Ramen which i chosen for my dinner. You won’t miss the big dragon statue for the shop.

After my not-so-satisfying dinner, I continued my walk around Namba Area. Then I found myself back to America Mura. There were people playing skate board at the park. I was hoping to find a bar to sit down and chill but the bar at Japan is either underground or upstair where I can’t glance inside.  So I decided just to get a can of beer and sit at the park watching the guys playing their skate board. OK..Now I felt lonely…………how I wish………la la la…….

some random shots I took when I was walking around
left: Namba Hips – the amusement park
top: one of the many Love Hotel – where people stop for a quickie
bottom: some deco outside of a hotel…weird? cute?

When I reached hostel, I met two of my roomates: a guy from Puerto Rico (will call him Mr. Men in Black) and a Taiwanese lady called Ivy. Mr. Men in Black had this gadget which is a sun glasses that can turn to a video recorder. So there’s a button to record what he had seen……Amazing right? Imagine you want to peek on hot chick/hot guy, then you just click this button on your sun glasses to capture down and no one will notice you are actually taking video of them (ok.. it sound like a pervert….). He shared with us some videos that he took at some temple at Kyoto where is actually forbidden to shoot video/take photos.

Ivy is an awesome lady. We had long chat (in Mandarin) and I enjoyed the conversation so much. The feeling is like chating with a long lost friend (or maybe I didn’t talk the whole day). She’s been to lots of places alone and I was listening to her adventure with interest. Too bad I didn’t take down her contact 😦

Then I fall asleep where another 3 of my male roomates from Korea came back! DAMN!

Next Post: Heading to Kyoto ❤

P/S: Confession of a shopaholic – I do get myself a skirt from H&M at Shinsaibashi!

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Day 1: Osaka – America Mura & Osaka Castle Area

First stop: America-Mura

I arrived Hana Hostel around 11am. Since the check in time is 3pm, so I just dropped my backpack and kick start my exploration for the first day. Since the hostel located at Shinsaibashi Area, I just walked around without a destination in my mind (I knew I need to grab food!!). Lots of people telling me: YOU MUST TRY TAKOYAKI AT OSAKA, or else don’t mention that you’d been to this place. So I join the crowd to queue up when I saw this Takoyaki Shop at American Mura (general perception about food, I called it the #1 rules for Hunting Good Food: There must be people queuing for the food). This Takoyaki cost me 400Yen (around RM20).

It proved that the #1 Rules of Hunting Good Food is correct. It tasted so gooood!

So why America Mura? About 30 years ago, there’s number of shops in this area started selling imported US goods. Hence the name America Mura derived. The landmark here: Status of Liberty (Osaka Version).

America Mura

Then I walked myself to Namba Station to get to myself to the next destination – Osaka Castle. I passed by many many shops at Shinsaibashi and Dotombori (will talk about this area in next post) on my way to Namba Station. Summer at Japan really not a joke…huhu..

Second stop: Osaka Castle Area.

There’s few stations that can get you to the destination.

Accessible from Subway(circle in red): Temmabashi, Tanimachi 4-chome, Osaka Business Park and Marinomiya Stations.
Accessible from JR Line (circle in blue): JR Morimomiya, Osakajokoen, Osakaji-Kitazume Stations

I took the subway green line (chuo line) and stop at Marinomiya Station which get me to the exit to Osaka Castle Park. the lime green line showed the path I walked through. Warning: the park is very big and become enormously big in summer due to the heat (trust me, the same sun can be so different in Malaysia and Japan – it was soooooo hot!).

Osaka Castle Park

I had fun walking around even though the sun don’t show any mercy to a small lady like me. It is my first time encountered this croakcroach looking creature – cicada. They made annoying sound that turn the whole park to a concert of their own (alright I just don’t know how to appreciate the sound of nature).

so many pigeons on the tree, guess they were having a big feast of cicada 😀

There are many many things to explore at this area if you have time. I stopped at Osaka International Peace Center because I need aircond. It is a facility for teaching future generations about war tragedies and the importance of peace. Entrance for adult is 200Yen ( around RM8). To be honest, nothing much to see really. But I was amazed by how fast the nation restore the city after World War II. (Kansai Area also affected badly by WWII)  You can download the guide here.

Osaka International Peace Center

Next I went to Hokoku Jinja Shrine which is opposite to Sakuramon Gate (one of the entrance to Osaka Castle).  Just taking photos there.

Hokoku Shrine

Osaka Castle, which stands in the middle of the park. It is the symbol of the spirit of this great, commercial city of Osaka. The castle display lots of historical artifacts and also the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Well I don’t know much about the history of Japan. Apparently  Toyotomi is the person that unify Japan as a nation then came this Tokugawa period. Then I don’t know how to continue it…better read more at by google-ing. The Castle tower offers superb views of the city of Osaka at 8th Floor the Observation Deck. Admission is 600Yen for adult (around RM30).

The many angles of Osaka Castle

Amazing Osaka City view from Osaka Castle Observation Deck

Then I crossed the Gokuraku-bashi bridge and leave Osaka Castle. Here I bought a can of green tea from the many vending machine everywhere in this country, sit down and relax. I guess the art of traveling alone, you get to stop wherever you want to, and continue your journey whenever you want to.

Osaka Business Park and Neyagawa River

Osaka – Accomodation

I stayed two night at Osaka at two different backpacking hostels.

First night at Osaka (17/8/2012), I stayed at Hana Hostel which located near to Shinsaibashi area.

While second night at Osaka (19/8/2012), I stayed at J-Hoppers which located near to Fukushima/Umeda area.

Interesting facts about both of these hostels, it is belong to the same management. Both hostels are great. Personally I prefer Hana Hostel because it is new (the day before I stayed is their opening party) and location is superb (at Shinsaibashi which is the shopping district).

At Hana Hostel, I was staying at a mixed dormitory bed room, sharing with another 5 travelers (3 Korean men that I didn’t manage to see their face, 1 Puerto Rican that keep saying he is from California and he had this cool sunglasses that actually is a video recorder, and 1 Taiwanese lady that is exactly like me – bubbly & talkative). Hana Hostel have very spacious dorm bed equipped with a curtain, small table, and reading light. You will surely have your own personal area even though you are sharing your room with others. You can always pull your curtain if you don’t want people to see what you are doing. Another thing, I really love the woody smell of the room (maybe is new).

 

The mixed dorm is 2,800 yen per night, which is around RM 120.

While J-Hoppers, I also spend a night there. I don’t quite like the area – Fukushima. It is a bit dirty compare to other part of Osaka (well ya, in Japan nothing is really dirty compare to Malaysia). And i found the place is quite dead although there’s a lot of nice restaurant around (maybe I just didn’t explore enough). I was staying at a female dormitory room this time, together with another 5 travelers (1 Korean Girl, 1 Taiwanese Girl, 1 Japanese Girl, and didn’t manage to say hi to another 2). Apparently there’s lots of fun activities organized by the hostel management but too bad there wasn’t anything going on during my sh9rt stay.

The female dorm is 2,500 yen per night, which is around RM 100.

* Oh ya, there’s no lift at J-Hoppers. Imagine if you stay at 4th floor then you really need to walk the stairs up (the downside of it).

Worth to mentioned, both hostel serve free flow of coffee and tea. And you can cook there if you are on a budget trip (the food at Japan really expensive). Both hostels also provide laundry services. All the toilets are equipped with super high tech featured…odour eliminator, music (yes music when you “battling” in the toilet), bidet that can adjust the water spray level..woohoo. Japanese really know how to save energy. Toilet is also equipped with light sensor, meaning the light only open when you walk in. And if you afraid of sharing toilet with others, don’t worry…the toilet is really really CLEAN.

Osaka – Exploring the Transportation

I arrived Kansai International Airport around 8.30am on 17/8/2012 (Friday).

There are 3 ways to get into the city from Kansai Int’ Airport:

i) Nankai Train (890 Yen)

ii) JR Train (1030 – 1160 Yen)

iii) Bus (less people used this, so we can skipped it)

Most of us will be wondering whether to get any travel pass or not during your stay at Japan. It really depends on your itinerary (whether your trip is only at Osaka or including other area of Kansai such as Kyoto/Kobe/Nara…) and careful planning is needed prior to your trip so that you can save the most our of your travelling fees. For my case, I only had less than 24 hours to prepare this trip. I bet you can imagine how much of research I had did. Considering the fact that I was only going to explore both Osaka and Kyoto only. Therefore, I skipped the pass.

Bear in mind that transportation cost is really expensive in Japan. Normally in Malaysia, a station will cost us around RM 0.70 – RM 1.20 (Star Line/Putra Line/Monorail), while in Osaka minimum is 120 yen for JR line and 200 yen for Subway, which is around RM 5 – RM 8. So detailed planning can really save you a lot (providing you do use lots of train).

Also, all the various passes for Osaka or Kansai Area, they don’t cover all the train line (and there are really many many train lines unlike Malaysia). There are difference trains that manage by different companies. Therefore, you may actually buy a pass but can’t use some train line. Detailed research is a must if you planning to take any of these passes (again I repeated this). You may check more details at Kansai International Airport Information Counter. Some famous passes as below,

If you plan to travel only at Osaka,

i) Osaka Unlimited Pass (2000 yen)

ii) Osaka One Day Pass (800 yen on weekday; 600 yen on weekends and public holiday) or Two Day Pass

If you plan to travel to other places at Kansai area,

i) Kansai Thru Pass (2 days 3800 yen; 3 days 5000 yen)

ii) JR West Rail Pass (Kansai Area) (1 day 2000 yen; 2 days 4000 yen; 3 days 5000 yen)

*Remarks: Most of the passes provide free/discount entrance fees to place of attractions.

Ok I know is freaking confusing…..That’s why I skip the passes. And it ended up as a wise choice. As I  usually go down from one station to get to the destination, and I can’t get back to the same station or I just can’t find another train station, so I ended up walking to my next destination most of the time (providing the next destination is not so far away). So I do save a lot of time figuring direction as I actually going around without any direction.

Another advise, some trains (especially JR lines, trains to other Kansai Area like Kyoto/Kobe.. and trains from Kansai Int’ Airport) divided to Express (divided further to 准急,急行,快速急行,特急), where they skip some stations and Normal 普通 train, where they stop at all the stations. So my advise, don’t bother and just get in, as long as it gets you to your destination. You ended up more confuse trying to figure out which train to take.

If you decided to skip the passes, buying train ticket is another fun thing to explore at Japan, unlike Malaysia (where we actually choose the destination and pay for the exact fees). Oh ya, all tickets buying is from machine. But don’t worry, there’s a big board on top of the ticket machines which show how much you need to pay for each station. Just insert your money and select the value to the destination. And here you go, you get your tiny little train ticket.

To summarize, there are two main train lines in Osaka City: Subway (something like our Putra Line which is underground…but many many lines available) and JR Line (which is something like our Star Line – the train is on upper ground railways).

Overall, it is a fun experience to explore train system at Japan. Another thing worth to mention, you can have many train stations in the same area (something like you can reach Masjid Jamek from both Star and Putra Line).

kindly click here for Osaka Subway Route Map

Oh ya, Japanese is really very friendly. So if you are lose, don’t be afraid to ask around (but most of the time they will response to you in Japanese).

*the downside of travelling alone #1, immigration officer always stop you thinking that you were part of the human trafficking or smuggling something illegal.

Now Everyone Can Fly

So I got my flight coupon to Osaka from a friend’s friend at RM350. Made a reservation with Air Asia to redeem the coupon during Raya Holiday. Paid tax and miscellaneous charges that cost around RM200. Then i ended up in the state of hesitation for few weeks thinking whether I should really go to Japan…

Reasons as below,

1. Well…i suppose to meet someone but things didn’t work out….

2. Afraid that money not enough

3. Lazy to do VISA (rumors said that you need guarantor, bank need RM10k minimum…bla bla)

One day when I was jogging, I had such thoughts of “running” away from Malaysia for a break. Then I told myself it will be such a waste if I don’t go to Japan.. Well I mean how often you got a dirt cheap ticket right? So I speed up to do my Visa (well I only left with 4 working days before my departure date).

If you have the same thoughts with me that Japan Visa is freaking troublesome to obtain…well you are wrong! First of all, Japan Visa is FREE (if you do it yourself, not going through travel agent – Best time to go during morning time when waiting time is shorter -> advise by the guard at Japan Embassy). Secondly, there is actually NO such rules that you need a minimum amount of money in your bank (but to play safe you need it…whether you borrow from someone or what. You will need to show your bank statement that is certified by Bank Officer). Thirdly, the process is really fast and you only require three working days for VISA approval. You only need to furnish the officer with documents that stated at Japan Embassy Website.

Well I submitted mine on Monday (13/8/2012) and got my VISA on Wednesday (15/8/2012). And my flight is on Friday (17/8/2012), 1am. I only do my “research” on Thursday afternoon where I just kinda grab a travel book from Kinokuniya bookstore. Now I recalled back, I must be insane for such a rushy trip – to a country where I can barely even speak a word. Well here’s my 4 days 4 night trip to the land of rising sun. Do hit me if you need more information. Enjoy!

Here’s a drawing of me in the flight. The day before my departure date (when I was doing online check in), I decided to select my own seat (paid RM35) since the allocated seat is in the middle and I think I need to get some good rest since is an overnight flight. Thanks God I did so..Therefore I had an awesome soundly rest on the plane. The auntie sat next to me was separated with her husband. And the husband is such a caring man. He will be constantly reminding his wife to put on blanket, passing water to her and etc. Pity to the Japanese Uncle that sat outside, guess he don’t really had a good rest :p

Halo Blog

Halo All! It’s been a while since i last blogged. Been always thinking to blog again…but don’t know what kind of blog I should create, and also main reason is too lazy to do so!

Well I was thinking to fully “utilize” my opportunity. Current working position given me lots of opportunity to travel around, and i thought that it was somehow wasted if I don’t record it down. Another opportunity is given by Air Asia, with the famous slogan “NOW EVERYONE CAN FLY”. Meaning that there’s plenty of opportunity to book cheap air ticket to satisfy my lust of travelling.  Well be remind that you have to somehow book few months or sometime one year ahead in order to get you dirt cheap air ticket.

Anyway, don’t want to write such a long entry post.

to summarize it: WELCOME to my blog 🙂