On my very last day in Japan I was flying out from Osaka airport to Manila in the Philippines. My flight wasn’t until the evening, so I decided to get the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Osaka early so I could have a day exploring Osaka.
I arrived at Shin-Osaka station hoping to store my backpack in one of the coin lockers they have there. Only to be met with blinking red lights on every locker – they were all full. Screw you Golden Week. At this point I didn’t really know what to do, there was no way I could explore Osaka with this giant backpack with me. I kind of wandered around the station aimlessly, asked a guard if there were any other lockers anywhere – to which he said they are all full – then sort of wandered helplessly back over to the locker area. I had another quick look around and then heard a locker open behind me and saw a lady taking her suitcase out from one of the big lockers. She signalled to me to take the locker and I practically jumped on her, arigatou gozaimasu! I then encountered another problem – I had no change for the lockers. A Japanese man came in and I asked if he had any change I could swap for, and he said sorry no. He told me I could get change in the shop, but I didn’t want to leave my stuff unattended, nor did I want to take my bags with me and lose the locker. Luckily the man saw my angst and offered to watch my things for me whilst I quickly got some change from the shop. God love the friendly Japanese.
So with my bags safely stored in the locker, I grabbed the train towards Dotonbori to start my exploring. I had a lot of landmarks on my list of things to explore in Osaka – Osaka Castle, Shinsekai etc, but Golden Week stepped in to ensure that would be impossible. Upon arriving at Dotonbori canal I was met with hoards and hoards of people. It was CRAZY how many people there were. I felt like a cow getting herded along. I realised that it was going to take me ages to get anywhere and do anything because of the crowds. I wandered about for a while looking at the shops and taking photos of the canal which took a few hours in itself. So I decided to just stay in that area for the day, no Osaka castle or Shinsekai for me, sad face.
Once I had explored Dotonbori, I headed down to Hozenji Yokocho Alley and to Hozenji Temple. This temple is unlike most others in the fact that it is slap bang in the middle of some side streets and is pretty tiny. It also has a Buddha statue that over the years has become covered with moss, which actually looks pretty cool. There was a small queue of people waiting to do their thing and throw the water on him, so I kind of had to queue up just to be able to get a photo of him. But of course, I threw the water as well just to look the part, I may have made a couple of polite requests (wishes) to Buddha too whilst I was at it, just in case he was feeling generous.
Once I had admired the temple I began hunting for a place to eat. It took me a while of wandering about this way and that way and being indecisive, until I stumbled upon a restaurant – Gyu Kaku – that offered that self-barbecue grilling style of eating which is called Yakiniku in Japanese, which I had never actually done before, so I thought – what the hell, let’s give it a go. And oh my gosh, I am so glad I did. The best beef I have ever tasted, so freaking good! It was super thin strips of Wagyu beef absolutely coated in garlic and spring onion, heaven! I ended up ordering a second lot of it! You basically order the type of meats you want from the menu, and they bring them to you and you cook them yourself on the little barbecue at the table. It’s so much fun. There were times though when the barbecue would get crazy hot and the wiring would catch on fire, and I had to blow on it like the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing until it went down. They also gave you a little iPad where you can put more orders through like if you want another drink or you want some more meat, you just type it into the iPad and send it off and they will bring it to you in a few minutes. Loved it! I had some Ramen and some corn to accompany my beef and chicken.
They also had an all-you-can-drink deal where you pay to have unlimited soft and alcoholic drinks. So I had a fuzzy navel and three sangrias along with a grapefruit juice. Definitely got my money’s worth there, as well as a little bit tipsy!
After lunch it was time to make my way back to the station to pick up my bags and head to the airport, bye bye Japan you have been spectacular! Next stop: the Philippines!