After a night’s sleep in the rental apartment in Hongdae, we got up early at 6am to prepare for our flight to Osaka. Lugging our luggage to the subway station just a few minutes’ walk away from the apartment building, we still found time to admire the autumn colours of the trees and the butterfly shaped yellow leaves scattered on the floor. It was cold and nice and the whole trip to the airport was uneventful, and thankfully, Irene’s new luggage survived with all wheels intact LOL
We were served beef rice on board the plane even though it was just a short trip, less than 2 hours.
Arriving at Osaka airport, we were met with stringent immigration procedure. We had to queue once to have our passport checked and finger prints scanned, and then queue again to have the same procedure done again and have our passports endorsed. In the process, we were also required to provide the full address of the apartment we rented on Airbnb, including the telephone number of the apartment owner. As we did not have the address we scrambled to try to contact the other half of our tribe who had checked in the apartment a day earlier.
It didn’t help that the wifi device we rented from Changi Airport didn’t work but thankfully, Mel managed to connect to the airport wifi (having tech-savvy children is a must these days!) and contacted Wen, who gave us the address. We got the address, filled up the form, and took our queue again at the immigration. Irene and I were stopped from clearing immigration though because we had filled in our own contact number instead of the apartment owner’s number. Mel got through probably because her number looked more like a local number. So back to contacting Wen for the number and after more than an hour since disembarking the plane, we cleared the immigration.
The whole experience at the immigration didn’t give us a very good impression of the supposedly effective Japanese people…I mean, why check our passport and take our finger prints twice and at the same area where the immigration counters are? I can understand the part about requiring the address of our accommodation but the extra check before approaching the actual immigration counters seems like a waste of time. Until now I still can’t figure out the purpose of this procedure *scratch head* If any of you know the purpose, can you just write it in the comment box? Curious mind wants to know. Thank you!
We bought our train cards and took a train to meet the others at some station which I couldn’t recall the name of. Frankly speaking, I have absolutely no idea of the stations and places we visited in Osaka, except for Universal Studio, mainly because the English signs at the stations are either non-existent or too small for my eyes. And I’m just a blur sheep among the many shepherds…
The moment we met the other half of our tribe , the 2 girls and Stef took care of our luggage, pushing them around for us as we went in search of lunch (they had already eaten). Thank goodness for that! Along the way, we even managed to catch the rare and region specific Pokémon, Farfetch’d. Yup, we are all Pokémon hunters 😛
The 3 of us newcomers went in search of food and ended up at Yoshinoya, not really knowing what else to eat since we didn’t want to have to wait. We have many Yoshinoya outlets in Singapore but the experience in Osaka is very different from what we have experienced back home. Instead of a fastfood outlet layout with tables and chairs, there was only a u-shaped counter in the middle of the restaurant with the staff working within the counter to take orders and serve and collect payment.
We had to place our order via a machine and it was a little daunting as you have to be fast or you’ll hold up the queue, and since we obviously don’t read or speak Japanese, all we could do was look at the pictures to pick what we hoped were the right items (edit: they have English menu for tourists like us but still it was daunting being unfamiliar with the ordering system).
Irene and I sat together on one side of the counter having ordered eel rice bowl with a side dish of sliced beef while Mel was on her own on the opposite side eating something else. The food tasted much better than what we have in Singapore, the eel was fresh and the beef was tender.
After the 3 of us had our stomach filled, we went looking for the others. Ya was extremely happy to get her takoyaki (octopus balls) because she had made it a point to eat that every day while in Japan. The takoyaki definitely tastes much better than what we have in Singapore since it’s a snack originated from Japan.
We shopped around and bought many tidbits and snacks to bring home. By buying a certain amount we get tax refund directly from the shop, but the shop keepers had to seal up our purchases in transparent plastic bags for customs purposes. We were barely there for 3 hours and had already spent a tidy sum of money on the tidbits, but who could blame us? They have many flavours of KitKats, including Sake and pudding flavours, and takoyaki flavoured Calbee potato sticks, all in very attractive packaging, making them ideal for gifts back home.
It was a tiring experience dragging the luggage along in Osaka as some train stations do not have escalators or elevators. At one exit, we had to carry our luggage up 3 flights of stairs so thankfully we had the girls and Stef to help us, 2 for 1 luggage (each luggage weighing around 17-19kg!). Some train station platforms are very narrow so we had to be very careful when we pull our luggage along or we could end up falling over the tracks!
After a few more train stops, up and down stairs/escalators/elevators, we finally got to our rented apartment. It was a 2-bedroom apartment. The foyer was lined with bedroom slippers. Stepping past the foyer, you enter the living area which is also the dining room, with a dining table to the right of the room, a stove, and sink lining the wall on the far right where the windows are. A fridge and microwave on top took up part of the wall outside one of the bedrooms.
One bedroom was on the left of the entrance and another directly opposite the entrance. The rooms are big enough for 2 double beds and a built-in wardrobe, although there is little space to move about. The bathroom and toilet however, are another story altogether LOL The toilet is just beside the kitchen stove and it is only a 1m x 1.5m cubicle.
The bathroom beside it is slightly longer, about 2 or 2.5m long and 1m wide, with a standing concrete tub which you can sit inside to soak. There is absolutely no place to put your towel or clothes in the bathroom without them getting wet, so we had to leave our towel and clothes on the washing machine outside the bathroom, which is a utility room with a vanity area. There was supposed to be a door separating this utility/bathroom from the living room but the door was removed, thus living us exposed when we had to put on our clothes outside the bathroom after showering. Thankfully it’s just us girls and we’re all in the family LOL
Because of the close proximity of the toilet to the dining table, ample warning had to be given if someone wanted to take a poop in case the whole apartment stank LOL But really it was ok with a few sprays of the air-freshener, but of course, the door to the toilet had to remain closed for awhile. All sense of modesty was lost on this trip, I must say!
After a short nap, we broke up in 2 groups: Lina and her girls had dinner with their relatives in Japan, while the rest of us (Me, Mel, Irene and Stef) headed to Dōtonbori. Along the way we stopped by the popular Pablo Coffee in Shinsaibashi to have some snacks. Then we walked around Shinsaibashi-suji and came to Dōtonbori. It’s amazing how we managed to navigate to that area even though it was our first trip to Japan. Guess navigation is in their blood…theirs, not mine, LOL!
There are many shops and restaurants with big illuminated signboards in Dōtonbori. It was very crowded, probably because it was a Saturday. Many tourists came and tried to take pictures of themselves imitating the ‘Running Man’ in the Glico signboard.
– Dōtonboribashi Bridge over Dōtonbori canal
We walked around, not buying much since the shops are mainly restaurants, cosmetics or medical shops. Clothing shops sell mainly winter clothes and are more expensive. After checking out the many restaurants there, we decided on the restaurant that serves crab meat in all sorts of different cooking styles like grill, sushi, fried, steamed, baked, etc.
- Mel, Irene and Stef too hungry to smile for the camera… I gave up!
This meal set us back by S$50 per person but it was so worth it because the crabs were really fresh and sweet.
During the meal, we exchanged food photos with the other group who were having dinner in a high-end Japanese restaurant with their relatives, enjoying traditional Japanese cuisine. After dinner, we all met up in Dōtonbori and continued to explore the area till it was time to go back for our beauty sleep.
– Stomach fully satisfied so it was all smiles this time!