Japan

A mapless night walk through Osaka

Osaka was meant to be just a brief stopover, a host of transitory explorations between my journey from Seoul to Tokyo. But the few hours in the city taught me so much about unexpected encounters with kind strangers and set the tone for the rest of my Japan trip.

I arrived at Kansai Airport after a sleepless night of packing away all my Korea belongings. I indulged myself with a huge sizzling plate of modan-yaki and checked into a private lounge at the airport. After a power nap and several cups of complimentary peach tea, I was ready for Osaka.

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I decided to play tourist and blindly explore some major neighborhoods. First on my list was Shinsaibashi, Osaka’s famous shopping district. I bought a bright yellow umbrella and some Kansai-themed washi tape.

The second on my list was Dotonbori, the city’s neon landmark for food-lovers. As the famous proverb goes, “Dress (in kimonos) till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka” (京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ).

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Here’s my plate of takoyaki, each filled with hot pancake batter and chunks of octopus. I gobbled mine up, standing next to a young businessman, who seemed just as grateful to have company.

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Finally, I traveled to Umeda station to catch my overnight ride to Tokyo–a ladies-only night bus, complete with floral-patterned reclining seats separated by privacy curtains. The walk to the Umeda Sky Building was only supposed to take 10 minutes, and I figured I would see the 40-story building jutting out of the sky. But when I emerged out of the subway station, I saw that I was surrounded by tall buildings on all sides.

Thankfully, I still remembered how to ask for directions in Japanese (from when I lived in Kyoto all those years ago). I hoped someone would point me to a general direction, but instead, I met a kind-hearted couple. They were around my age and seemed to be on a date. They walked me all the way to the Umeda Sky Building, chatting with me using a silly translator app. It made getting to my final destination in Osaka all the more fun, and I could hardly believe they were going the extra mile (literally) to help me. A note to self about the power of kind gestures, especially in urban settings!

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Safely snuggled in my curtained floral seat, I fell asleep–eyes full of skyscraper stars, dreaming of Tokyo.

25 Comments

  • Reply
    Angélica
    October 21, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Lovely pictures, it seems like a great trip! 🙂
    I had the same in Ljubljana about a week ago, I was lost and got some unexpected help as well, I was so surprised! 🙂 Are you going to stay in Tokyo for long?

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Ah, we have to continue the cycle of kindness! 🙂 I’ve already left, but I was in Tokyo for about a week. I’ll continue posting photos here!

  • Reply
    janis
    October 21, 2013 at 7:17 am

    can’t wait to visit japan one day!

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      You should! And I’d love to visit Indonesia one day, too.

  • Reply
    Sara
    October 21, 2013 at 9:06 am

    🙂

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      🙂

  • Reply
    Ru Chan
    October 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

    These pictures bring back so much fond memories for me! I miss living in Japan and prefecture hopping.

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Ah yeah, I still think of you as closely associated with Japan. 🙂

  • Reply
    Amelia
    October 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Do you have photos from the bus? It seems like a pretty interesting bus to travel in.

  • Reply
    Nathaniel
    October 22, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Awesome photos! I guess I’ll have to add it to our next travel itinerary!

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 22, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks, Nate! I highly recommend exploring the Kansai area. I’m definitely bringing my fiance next time!

  • Reply
    Trixia
    October 22, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Everything sounds so delicious and I can’t wait to see your photos of Tokyo! There’s just something magical about wandering around a foreign city without a map, I miss that feeling 🙂

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      I totally agree! I tend to plan jam-packed itineraries, so it was a really nice change of pace. 🙂

  • Reply
    Lucy
    October 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

    These photos are incredible!!!! The food looks insanely good 🙂 xo

    • Reply
      Sewon
      October 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      Thank you, Lucy!

  • Reply
    Ceri
    October 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

    These are such beautiful pictures. I can’t wait to visit Japan one day.

  • Reply
    emilie
    October 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    oh my god, how much I enjoy reading your posts and following you on your travels… thank you Sewon, please keep posting 😉

  • Reply
    Matthew Pike
    October 23, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Really enjoyed this post, I’m intrigued about the Takoyaki stuff. Sounds like my kind of thing. I do enjoy your photos, a lot.

  • Reply
    Niken
    October 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    this city sounds so fascinating. it seems so alive, in a metropolitan way, but you still can see people dressed in kimono. such a blend of traditional and modern ways

  • Reply
    katie
    October 24, 2013 at 4:53 am

    i love the aesthetics of Dotonbori, so playful, like Camden Lock market

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    October 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I love that Japan does services like ladies only night buses. As far as I know, the states doesn’t have anything like that.

  • Reply
    emmie rae
    October 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    beautiful post! makes my little heart ache. I’ve always wanted catch the bus from kansai to tokyo instead of the shinkansen. maybe i’ll try it next time! just booked a one way ticket for feb, exciting times ahead!

  • Reply
    Louise
    October 28, 2013 at 4:34 am

    This is such a wonderful, wonderful post! It’s like I was there with you somehow, oh Osaka! It’s been awhile, but I’ve been dreaming of going back. I hope you had a great time in Tokyo too, I bet you did. 🙂

  • Reply
    Winnie
    November 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Absolutely loving catching up on your posts Sewon! You are such a great story teller!

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