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