29 March 2016


Hey everyone,

So from Kyoto I made my way to Osaka.

In truth, I hadn't researched a lot about Osaka - anyone I asked who had previously been gave me either a black or white response: it was their least favourite major city in Japan (similar to Tokyo but more garish and less interesting) or it's been the highlight of their trip with lots of culture and the best food in the land.

With this in mind, I only gave myself 24 hours in the city with the intention to break up the journey between Kyoto and Koyasan, where I'd arranged to stay in a temple in the mountains with a bunch of monks. (As one does - post soon!)

I checked into my hostel and was greeted with these notices from the manager: enigma and local legend: Mr Yano.

When I Whatsapp-ed these pictures to my sister she replied "I think it's a cry for help."

J-Hoppers Osaka is easily one of my favourites I've ever stayed in - the atmosphere is very open and friendly, and downstairs in reception there is an open space kitchen offering free tea and rice.

After chatting with the receptionist for a bit, I sat at the table and enjoyed a free cuppa with a middle aged lady from Australia who was in the middle of a visa process with her Japanese husband.
I was sharing my slightly aged, but cosy dorm with a sweet German girl called Anja and we spent a wonderful chill hour hanging out and sharing stories about our travels.

As I only had a day, the receptionist handed me a city guide with a map and suggested I see Osaka Castle, wander down Dotonburi then come back for a night on the tiles with Yano-san.
Sounds like a plan, Stan!
(Stan-san? Stan-chan?)

The walk to Osaka Castle is through a beautiful Ghibli-esque park which is a little hilly in parts but never a really a struggle. There's plenty of concession stands along the way, and of course vending machines.

I got excited and thought the purple ice cream was taro but it was grape. Booo!
I did however have a watermelon flavoured slushie at it was sensational.

While I didn't want to waste an already short day wandering around the castle, there was still plenty going on when you reached the entrance.
Stalls selling souvenirs: small figures of the castle, t-shirts, sake. Food stands: everything from BBQ to Osaka's famous okonomiaki.

There was also a show of some sorts going on.
It was a bit shambolic, but that just made it all the more endearing.

After a quick picnic lunch under some trees, I wandered down to Dotonburi to see Glico Man.
It's basically Osaka's version of Times Square or Piccadilly Circus. Touristy and crowded but also very fun and flashy.

Unfortunately Glico Man was on the blink, and was temporarily replaced by Glico Girl:

I felt a bit of a scruffbag walking through the main street of Dotonburi which is home to major fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chanel.
It was hot and humid and I had sweated most of my makeup off walking up to the castle and back again.

I much preferred getting lost in the almost-sleazy-but-not-really side streets which were full of cute cafes, tiny restaurants and host and hostess clubs.

I also found where I believe is my true calling - a club called 'La Potcha Potcha' ("Chubby Chubby") where all the hostesses are over 80kg/176lb.
(Scottee wrote about his visit here)


After tiring myself out, I was ready to just throw myself on my bed and relax for the night - but I was ambushed by the elusive Mr Yano in the lobby, accompanied by some local Japanese English students eager to learn the language from natives.

A couple from New Zealand and an American guy called Adam also staying in the hostel were already ready and looking a little apprehensive so I decided to join them.

Honestly, it was the best decision I made as we went to an Izakaya, a Japanese pub of sorts.

Now I consider myself a very independent person when I travel, but I had been a bit uncomfortable going to the Izakaya by myself as it's either a place people go with lots of friends, or salarymen and their colleagues getting mortal after their long shifts end and didn't fancy an evening being peered at by myself.

Yano-san. Party boy and local legend.

My Japanese is appalling, so when Mr Yano offered to order for the table I accepted his kind offer. He also ordered everyone rounds of beer which for some reason I envisioned being schooner sizes, but out came massive jugs that wouldn't look out of place at an Oktoberfest.

Then came the sake.
Of course being from Newcastle, I out-drank everyone.

Before long, we were all suitably pissed and me and Adam in particular showed ourselves up singing RuPaul songs to the confusion of the Japanese students.
(His husband subtitles the show into South Korean. He told me the Korean for "hunty" which unfortunately I can' for the life of me remember.)

The plates were all interesting and very tasty. Pickled eggs, tempura fish, chicken karaage and the most tender, sticky pork I've ever tasted in my life.
I gestured to the pork, gave Mr Yano a thumbs up and bumbled in slurred, broken Japanese: "butanikuuuu, oishiiiii!"

Mr Yano looked confused.
"Not pork. Is heart. Pig's heart."

I stuck to the safer options like these little burgers after that.

After we stumbled home and I waddled up to bed I decided that a cleansed body and mind was definitely needed. And a trip the mountains would do my already throbbing head the world of good.

Ommmmmmm-wards and upwards.

Muchos love,

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a great time! I've not been able to visit Osaka yet :( It's been on my travel list for ages! Hopefully I can soon! ^^ The castle and surrounding are looks beautiful!