Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Moment to Remember : Japan (DAY I)

Travelling really opens up your perspective on Life and People. Sometimes, I felt blessed to have some money and travel to places without even start working. Some people who have leftover money uses it as future investment, saving every penny so that one day, they are able to fund their dream home or car. On the other hand, there are also people who spend whatever earnings they have without sparing a thought on their future.

I see you
I believe both ways are unreasonable. Of course saving money when you are young sounds great but this means you will not have spare money to travel. (It's just I felt that the feel of travelling when young is somehow different from travelling when you're old...) Meanwhile, spending all your money provides instant gratification but in the long run, you will run into debt.

Life is like reviewing journals, you'll never know when you'll finish reviewing...
It has now been exactly four years four months since I arrived in Korea, I felt great and everything is going on well. That feelings when I first arrived to Korea (nervousness and loneliness) were a stark contrast as of what I am feeling right now. It is good to make lots of friends when you are young. 

Personally, I felt university life is generally a time when you really grow up, not void of the responsibility as a young adult and more emotionally stable. Am I right? Of course there is always the outlier! That is another story. In university, we have more freedom and in my case, the decision to score well or not is totally in my hands. During high school, I was pressured to achieve successes sometimes... Sigh... 

(Get a 5 minutes break)

Last month, just directly after my finals, I went to Japan. I figured out that since one of my university friends will be meeting my Japanese friends, I thought to myself, why not pay them a visit as well. We booked the flight three days before our departure and the return ticket was 440,700 Won (around 400 US dollar for a two hour trip)! This is almost similar to the plane ticket price for both Shanghai and Taipei (will write that soon). 

Bye Korea, Hello Japan :)
Like everyone, I am always excited to go to new places. After countless trips back to my hometown in Penang, Malaysia, this has became a ritual I am so accustomed to. Thus, I do not have any feeling of an adventure awaiting. However... This is my first trip to Japan... Before going to Japan, I did my visa (30,000 Won) at the Japanese consulate in Busan. (Malaysians do not need a travel visa to Japan from July 1st onward)

We departed from Busan to Kansai Airport in Osaka on 14th of June 2013. When we reached the airport, our adventure had begun. Not trying to be stereotypical or not, I felt Japanese are more orderly and less "noisy" than Korean and Chinese in that order. Sigh... Our plane arrived to Kansai with a majority of the lady passengers clutching Louise Vuitton handbags. I felt Koreans appreciate luxury goods much more than any other Asians I met which is sadly not a pleasant thing to see. Expensive handbags are great but if the purpose of having one is just to flaunt your wealth, then, it's a shame.   

Kansai is a modern, spacious and clean airport. The wide alleys and bright atmosphere invoked a sense of security that I had finally landed into a nice not-located-in-the-capital airport. Penang International Airport and Busan Airport are small in comparison with Kansai. After arriving at the airport, we hurriedly bought bus tickets to Umeda Station (automatic ticket vending machine located outside the airport). Osaka here we come!

"Watashi wa Jin Soon dez, Nihhon-goh Tanaka dez, Malaysia jin dez"

Osaka is the third largest cities in Japan and is ranked as the world's second most expensive cities to live. Osaka is one of the key economic centers in Japan where it's GDP alone surpasses many countries. On the contrary, I felt Osaka is not that expensive when it comes to purchasing basic goods and foodstuffs. Transportation and housing rentals in Osaka are very expensive and that were the reasons why I felt it can sometimes be costly here.    

My 5000 yen per night room...
Our hostel (or the "luxurious inn") is called Chisun Inn located near Esaka Station (after transfering to Senri-chuo station). The room was clean and comfortable but was quite expensive (5000 Yen per night for single room) and rather small. Nevertheless, it was okay. The problem was the "hotel" management was very stringent with the check-in time, around after 2 pm if not mistaken. Most hotels/guesthouses I've been to do not have late check-in time. With no time to spare waiting for our rooms, we hand-in our bags for safekeeping. 

The receptionist was sooooo strong because she can carry both my travel backpack and my friend's hand luggage all by herself. I offered my help instead of her to carry our bags to the safe-keeping room but to no avail. Arming with passport, money, and camera, we began our travel to Osaka. The first thing we did was to find a place to eat! Walking around Osaka in June was surprisingly hot and humid. I observed that the people here dressed conservatively and unlike Korea, there were not many people wearing miniskirts or short pants. Ahem. Or maybe I'll have to wait until night time...

First meal in Japan
The first place we entered was an Udon restaurant. Generally, eating out at such restaurant cost around 450-500 Yen (5 US dollar). Unlike Korea, shops catering for people eating alone are everywhere. I mean everywhere!!! I have to admit that sometimes, I felt a little uncomfortable eating alone especially in McDonald's whenever I travel to Seoul by myself. Strangely, I do not have that feeling when I am in Daegu.

My Muslim friend had prepared a note on what to ask the waiter. It was whether the food contains pork or not in Japanese. Well, with no preparation in Japanese language prior to the trip, I tried to imagine what I will do if I were to ask the waiter. "Oink Oink No No (With a little pork-ish facial expression), Mooo Mooo Yes Yes!". It was funny to think about that sometimes.

Getting to Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Entrance ticket, a very expensive "bookmark"...
Hi cannon!
After lunch, we went to Osaka Castle (Entry 600 Yen). In my opinion, unless you have a liking for Japanese castles, calligraphy and fluent in Japanese, you will not really enjoy it. Osaka castle was so-so. It was not as big as I had expected. The only highlight was us wearing Japanese Samurai costume (300 Yen). It was fun and hilarious. I saw many Indonesian Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans. Spoke to the Taiwanese and Indonesian Chinese in the Hokkien dialect and was quite surprise to know that they can understand it. Hokkien dialect is indeed very similar to Taiwanese.

I smell blood...
As expected, I felt that Korean tourists (not those people under school trips) are generally fashionable even under hot weather... :P

Viewed from Umeda Sky Building
From Osaka Castle, we continued our journey to the Umeda Sky Building (called "umeda sukai biru" in Japanese). This building to us was extremely difficult to get to from the subway station. After walking around the area located in the crowded city center and asking countless people, we finally made it. 

Because of the heat, I bought various unique ice cream sold at Family Mart (a convenience store). Initially, I had already decided to try out the so-called "Condom ice cream" (I was just curious!) after watching it on YouTube about the strange things you can find in Japan, but I couldn't find one either in Osaka. Sigh.  

Umeda Sky Building was located some distance away from the main city center. Admission is 700 Yen but you can get a discount if you show your international student ID card. Umeda Sky Building is Highly recommended to see the vast expanses of Osaka's concrete jungle. If only we had more time, we would sit, observe and wait for the sun to set, from the top of the building.

After Umeda, we went to Dotonbori. Dotonbori is a must-visit for everyone coming to Osaka. One sentence to describe it - Crowded, colorful and memorable. To get to Dotonbori, we got off from the Namba station. While walking towards Dotonbori, we stopped by at a curry restaurant where I ordered curry rice. I wanted the beef curry rice but somehow, I accidentally chose pork curry rice (580 Yen). The curry was very delicious!!! I felt like I was back home in Malaysia eating Indian curry!

Love you curry
580 Yen Yummy Curry
I love you curry...
Osaka. It quickly became evident to me that I am now in the food capital of Japan (Tears of joy). If my hometown, Penang is the food capital of Malaysia, I am happy to be in Osaka. The food from both cities are equally great. After taking pictures at the Glico Man signboard landmark, we wandered around. A-must to buy in Osaka is the various Kit Kat chocolates. I regretted not buying most of the Kit Kat here because compared to Kyoto, it was cheaper here. I purchased packs of Green Tea Kit Kat and a pack of Dark chocolate Kit Kat.   
The famous crab...
Okonomiyaki - Osaka Pancake
Spreading the special sauce....
Okonomiyaki, the hardest Japanese food name to remember...
Then, we walked further up to a place where you can see the Kani Doraku Crab. Since we were able to eat some more, I ordered Okonomiyaki (500 Yen) but due to Okonomiyaki containing slices of pork, my friend had to settle for Takoyaki. Okonomiyaki is a pancake containing mainly shredded cabbage and topped with various sauces. It was so-so.

Don't be deceived... it's worth more than you think...
That's all for our first day in Osaka. I realized that because most of the meals in Japan are around 500 Yen and 500 Yen (around 5 US dollar) is in the form of a small coin. I had the tendency to overspend here... In Korea, the 500 Won coin, similar in size with the 500 Yen coin, can only buy you a small can drink. Here you can get reasonable meal!  

To be continued...

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"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning" ~Winston Churchill~