I arrived in Osaka with no knowledge of the city and no preconceived ideas; it was simply a case of flying into somewhere that would allow me to start South and work my way up North East through Honshu (Japan’s biggest island), all the while chasing the cherry blossoms which start in the warmer South.
The day was beautiful with clear blue skies and bright sunshine bouncing off the shiny window panes of the high rise buildings, so I took my camera and headed towards Namba, the trendy district just two stops away from me on the Subway.
The ticket machines at the subways are needlessly complicated. I studied the maps hard, pressed the ‘English’ button on the machine, pressed the ‘How to buy a ticket’ button and was still none the wiser. You have to put the correct amount in before selecting your ticket – but how do you know what the correct amount is? I’m someone who likes to work things out, but I was stumped and had to ask an assistant. He told me 230 Yen and pressed the button for me. Helpful, but I didn’t learn anything for future trips.
Once I’d arrived in Namba and decided upon an exit (there are more than 20!) I emerged, spotted a Starbucks which seemed to correlate with my map, and set off towards Hozenji Temple. Unfortunately it was a different Starbucks and I ended up wandering around in circles for a good hour before I actually realised where I was!
As I was wandering around I was struck by how alive the city was, full of crowds of young people not just rushing from one place to another but taking their time, socialising and enjoying the atmosphere. On a Tuesday afternoon I found it quite surprising. Everyone was dressed in their own quirky way and the vibe and attitude reminded me a bit of the East End of London but in a much more modern setting. It was the first time in my trip so far that I felt really excited and energised.
Hozenji Temple was tucked away down an alley down a backstreet but I found it eventually; a peaceful spot away from the crowds.
As the sun started to go down the streets became lit up with neon and each shop or restaurant had a crazy sign or mascot hanging on the front of the building luring people in. It was so surreal I felt like I was at a theme park and it brought back all the excitement of Disney holidays from years gone by.
The canal area was lit up too, with gigantic adverts and images all reflecting in the rippled water below, and people stopping to have their photo taken in front of it all, or small groups of friends breaking away from the pack and sitting quietly at the water’s edge.
Osaka has introduced me to Japan in a spectacular way. I absolutely love it here and can’t wait to see more.