Monday, November 26, 2012

Kristy and Adam's Most Excellent Unexpected Japan Holiday - Part One - Three Days in Osaka.

It's been an exceptionally long time coming, but here it is - the first instalment of what we got up to on our last-minute belated honeymoon in Japan. It seems like forever ago now. If you want to rehash how and why we ended up going on this trip, you can click on this link to read my last blog post that was published waaaay back on the 1st July.

Day One June 2nd

We flew out of Gold Coast Airport at 1005hrs, with our packed lunch to avoid buying a Jetstar meal. I did up some delicious turkey sandwiches and pre-organised us some healthy and not so healthy snacks. I highly recommend this. Much more filling. Much less expensive. Much more enjoyable. I had an Eve apple which was delicious, but also looked like a picture perfect Snow White apple. I was totally fascinated, and almost in love with the apple. I'm surprised I didn't take a picture.
We passed the 9 hours by watching Neon Genesis Evangelion in between naps, and before we knew it we were landing in Osaka's Kansai airport at 8pm local time.
We caught the train to Namba and quickly got lost whilst looking for our hotel on foot. Turns out we had gone in the completely wrong direction. Thankfully, a very kind Japanese gentleman went out of his way to walk us to the intersection where we needed to be. He was the first of many people who were super helpful during our holiday in getting us to where we needed to be. We walked past so many delicious looking food places, but as we were carting our luggage around the streets of Osaka, we opted out and continued on our quest to find our hotel. This may have been a mistake.

By the time we finally checked into our hotel at sometime past 10pm, and then by the time we got back out, unfortunately...alot of the yummy looking food stalls had closed for the night. We're ashamed to say it... But our first meal in Japan was McDonalds. It was open. It was cheap. I get a little crazy if I don't eat. And the McChicken burger had wasabi mayonnaise, so surely that counts for something?! After a little look around, we decided to hit the hay, hopefully to be ready in the morning for a full day of exploring.

Day Two June 3rd
Today we go to see the Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses. We catch the train. Have McDonalds for breakfast. Oh shit. What have we done? We are those tourists.
We LOVED looking at the Old Farmhouses. Huge. Old. Fascinating AND there were stamps at every stop to prove you have been to each one. Who doesn't love stamps?

As you can see is basically an open-air museum of massive old farm houses that were built back in the Edo period. You could look and walk around inside them, as long as your shoes are off and you wear their supplied inside shoes.
That's Adam, rocking his trendy inside shoes.
It was relaxing and quiet. The day we went, it was only us and a small Japanese family wandering around. It was slow paced and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We loved the layout of the houses, and fantasised about how we could one day have a piece of property back in the Land of Oz, with a home inspired by the Old Japanese Farmhouses. We definitely were keen to have one of their inside fire pits in our imaginary home.

We wandered through a local trash and treasure market that was nearby.
And bought ourselves some Takoyaki, that's Osaka's renowned Octopus Balls. Can't say we were big fans, but we are glad we gave it a crack. We found a little possie, to sit and enjoy our small feast and watch the locals ride by, whilst a small band practiced their songs behind us.
I was fascinated by just how many people, and whole families were riding around on push bikes. I always wondered why bicycles featured so heavily in Japanese anime. Turns out getting around on your bicycle in Japan whether in the city or the country is just whats done by almost everyone. And really it makes so much sense. I like it.
That afternoon/evening we headed into the mall-type streets of Osaka and rather than retail therapy, we spent alot of time in the SEGA game arcades.

We became very quickly obsessed with this Super Mario Coin game, which really was a game of pot luck.
Whilst we had an absolute blast playing this Mario game for possibly multiple hours over multiple nights, and I have a photo of my dirty gaming fingers to show it...
...we really did feel that there was a distinct lack of dance machines, and other crazy Japanese Arcade games that we had come to expect would be present. We found the arcades were mainly filled with skill tester crab claw or put-the-pole-in-the-hole type prize games. The first skill tester machine that we decided to try was one filled with stuffed cats with a fish strapped to its back. Like an absolute pro, Adam smashed it on his second grab and won his crazy-cat-lady wife a prize.
Whilst searching high and low for the crazy game machines we had seen in movies and heard about from friends, we did manage to find some diamonds in the rough. Including the game we named Angry Dad.

From what we could work out, the basic premise of this game is that you are the Dad and you sit down to dinner with your family. The table is the controller and you become increasingly frustrated with your family, bang the table to get their attention and eventually throw the table in the air to finish the stage and gain big points.
At some point in time, getting late-ish into the night, we managed to pull ourselves away.

Day Three June 4th
Today we discovered bakery treats for breakfast.
Japan has fantastic bakeries. We highly recommend them for an affordable breakfast or a snack on the run. Their bakery treats are totally different to what you will find in an Aussie bakery. I would love to send my brother Dom (an apprentice baker) over to steal learn their secrets.
Adam and I are theme park nuts. We have often dreamt of a theme-park driven holiday across the United States. With IVF severely depleting our funds and hindering our opportunity to fly/travel we couldn't see that trip happening anytime in the near to semi-distant future. Having never been to a theme park outside of Australia, we couldn't go past the opportunity to visit the Universal Studios in Osaka.
A few steps into the park and we were greeted by one half of my favourite duo from Sesame Street. Ernie!!!

The speaking parts of any rides or shows were of course in Japanese, but we didn't feel this hindered the experience. In fact, we had a lot of fun making up what we thought the characters would be saying. The ride attendants and street performers were super enthusiastic and into their roles which was refreshing, the theming is far beyond anything we have in Australia, and the rides... it's hard to explain just how awesome they are.

The Japanese LOVE their theme parks, and they LOVE their souvenirs. They are fantastic consumers. Adam and I soon developed an obsession with trying on the many themed hats and headbands available to us at Universal Studios.

This hat-trying on fetish didn't stop there, and continued through our entire holiday. It's free and it's fun. I can not believe I went home without the Hello Kitty Bow headband, or the Tyrannosaurus fascinator... Imagine that one at the races. I'm sure I could find a beautiful dress at my Mum's shop to compliment it's pure awesomeness.

Day Four June 5th
On our third and final day in Osaka, for breakfast we chose to dine on more bakery treats at our new favourite bakery.
Adam played with our digital SLR camera while we waited for the train.
I love that my pink stocking-ed legs can be seen in the passing shinkansen. After playing around for a bit, we caught our train and got off at the wrong station.
See those blue and red stacks infront of the bridge and gigantic ferris wheel? That's the Osaka Aquarium and that's where we were meant to be. And for about 20 minutes we'd seriously convinced ourselves that it would be an easy and pleasant stroll to get there. We were clearly incorrect. In the end we had to go back to the station, and train it back to the stop we should have used in the first place.
We had read that this aquarium was great and that its pride and joy was that it was able to keep a whale shark in captivity. The first thing you did when you walked through the door was get a photo with a fake whale shark.
The setup in Japanese theme parks and attractions for photo souvenirs was stress free. They take a photo with their camera, and then a photo with your camera, and the option is there for you to buy their photo if you wish, but there is zero pressure to purchase.
The way this aquarium works is that you ride one of the tallest escalators in the world (this comes from no knowledge on my behalf -  I'm simply assuming that, but seriously... this thing was certainly by far the most massive one I've been on).
The way it is setup is fantastic. You start at the top and wind your way down deeper, and deeper to the bottom. There is a massive tank in the middle and other tanks around the outside.
The first animals you get to see are otters. Otters are freaking awesome. Now I know why my brother Tim wanted one as a pet.

You will notice an absence of Adam from the Aquarium photos. No he wasn't having a bad hair day. Yes he was there. I just can't for the life of me find the file that has the photo's from my iPhone for that day, which of course are all of Adam. One of Adam's current projects is to properly sort through and organise our extensive digital photo library. I just can't delay this blog post any longer. Hence, here is a bunch of photo's of me having a super time at the Aquarium.

We loved this aquarium and were so excited waiting to see the whale shark, but that moment never came. When we realised we were exiting the building without seeing the real life whale shark we asked the attendants where it was. They replied with the Japanese international gesture of crossed arms which basically means "no/no more/gone/finished". It turns out that this is the closest we would ever get to a real life whale shark.
Even without the whale shark we still highly recommend seeing this Aquarium if you are visiting Osaka.
For our last night in Osaka, we found a funky chicken restaurant to spoil ourselves and dine in. It was not built for tourists and we found ourselves just pointing at pictures and hoping for the best.
Have I ever told you about what my mother craved when she was pregnant with me? Of all things in the world it was chicken giblet soup. Hhhmm...It could explain a lot about me really. But seriously, the staff in the deli would see her coming and start bagging up chicken giblets for her to take home. I remember mum trying to feed it to me when I was a very young tween. I pride myself on having a relatively strong stomach, and was never a vomitty child...but I gagged and could not possibly get it down. With all that in mind... please enjoy the following video:
Look at me. All grown up and eating giblets. Even if I do struggle and have tears in my eyes.
Hopefully I'll see you at the end of the week for Part Two - Tokyo!