Japan Trip 2 – Day 11

Ready to go! That was me on Sunday morning, refreshed and hangover free! It felt good so I have decided I’m never drinking again. I packed up all my stuff and checked out of my apartment. It had been brilliant – really centrally located, and a decent size, with a washing machine and everything. If you ever find yourself in Osaka, (and I’d recommend it), check it out.

Today was – well the early part of it anyway – a day of chilling out. I needed to pick up some gifts and felt I hadn’t really explored as much of Osaka as I had the last time I visited. So I headed up to Dotonbori for one last visit to my favourite Starbucks, typed up a bit of my blog, then headed up one of the main shopping streets, Ebisubashi.

Stopping off at the Sanrio store, I couldn’t resist picking up another present for my niece who is a fan of Hello Kitty. Who is apparently not a cat.

Then I headed for one of Osaka’s department stores – I was hoping to pick up a new bento box for my lunches, but I didn’t see one that took my fancy.

Next up was Amerikamura – a small corner of Osaka which has become devoted to Western fashion and bars and which was packed with second hand clothes stores, cafes and weirdly lots of people advertising bands. There were crowds of people gathered around one area – it looked like there was some kind of concert taking place, or about to.

While signs, restaurant names etc. here are usually written in Japanese, a lot of the time slogans will be written in English – so for example you’ll see people wearing t-shirts with English that doesn’t quite make sense on them. I guess it’s not so much about what the writing actually says, more that English writing is a bit ‘cool’. I noticed some very good examples of this while dandering round Amerika-mura. Lo behold:

Looney!

Loose House (crying out for a joke that but I’ll resist)

and Human Resources Management Co Ltd (actually a clothes shop).

After getting a text from Neil and Nigel to say they’d be up and about soon, but waiting for ages, I decided to go and grab some lunch, and I knew exactly where I was heading. On Dotonbori, a main thoroughfare beside the river, there was a shop selling a speciality of Osaka. The shopfront burst into song every five minutes with a very catchy song which I think was selling the benefits of Takoyaki. Complete with a giant octopus on the front which steam came out of every now and then.

I decided to give it a go – I felt I hadn’t been very adventurous with my Japanese food recently. At the front of the stall, two guys were whipping balls of what looked like eggy batter over a stove, tossing them and turning them at record speed with a pair of chopsticks.

Next to him was a guy who popped bits of octopus into the moulds, before pouring the batter in. It was quite a spectacle really, and there was quite a queue (I’d never walked past this place without seeing one). I got to the till, and ordered a portion of 8. They were boiling hot – and came topped with what looked like tonkatsu sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes (small dried fish).

Sitting down in the street like everyone else, I use my chopsticks and blowing on it to cool it down, popped a Tako Yaki in my mouth.

It tasted alright actually! Kind of savoury eggy, and obviously a bit octopussy. And just in case you didn’t believe me about the octopus, here’s what inside of one looked like…

The weird thing was the tentacles were still wriggling as you ate them. Nah, ok, I made that up.

Stomach satisfied, I decided it was time to go and pick up my bag and travel on to my next destination. I boarded a train, switched at Osaka station and took the 25 minute standing room only journey to Kyoto.

I visited Kyoto last year, but for some reason it didn’t quite resonate with me like Osaka did. So I’d just booked a day and a half there this time. I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to see, but I wasn’t fussed on spending a long time there.

Navigating the massive Kyoto station, I walked the 15 minutes to my hotel (a different place from last year) and checked in. It was really, really cheap – only £40 a night, but really cool and stylish. It had a decent looking bar (but only a breakfast restaurant), laundry rooms, and an on site art gallery and shop. The bar was full of hipster looking Kyoto types. And the room – though small, had everything I needed.

After dumping my bag, I headed to get a bite to eat. The only thing about the hotel was it was in quite a residential area – there didn’t seem to be any restaurants nearby. So I headed to a local mall which I’d read was one of Kyoto’s biggest, thinking I was sure to find a decent selection of eateries there. Well…. I didn’t. It wasn’t exactly what you would call a high-end mall.

But I did find someplace decent to eat – and it was my first kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi experience in Japan. I could tell it was good due to the number of people sitting outside in a row waiting on a table. I took my place, moving ever and ever closer to the door, before getting a seat after about a 20 minute wait.

The sushi was pretty good, and the choice was amazing. Thankfully too they had a menu in English so I could tell (roughly) what was what.

I trekked back to the hotel, and quickly checked out the news before bed. And lo-and-behold, another typhoon was on its way – this one the strongest of the year so far. Apparently it had already made land on Southern islands, but for the life of me I could not find out what time it was due to hit Kyoto, or the impact it was likely to have on my travel plans.