We are up in the air! On our way to our next adventure in the iconic KLM-blue. We’ve packed our bags, downloaded books, bought horrific amounts of candy for the flight and have done what I always forget travelling’s also about: waited and waited and waited. And now, finally, we are traveling to the country of the rising sun. We are on route, to JAPAN!
The flight turns out to be one of those flights that seem endless. Because we are travelling during the day, sleep eludes me for long stretches of time. I watch movies and more movies and then, when my attention span wanes in proportion to the miles we’ve flown, I switch to series. And finally, at some point in the Osaka morning, we arrive in Japan.
Our first impressions of Japan are very similar to the first impression we get of any place: airport, train station, train. Except this time, even the signs are showing us we’re not home anymore. The Japanese script is telling us on our every turn, that we’ve arrived.
By the time we get to our hotel, I feel completely jet-lagged. I am hoping our room will be ready, but no such luck. Turns out, check-in at 2 p.m., really does mean check in at 2 p.m. Which means that my body is stuck somewhere between the middle of the night and the middle of the day, my brain is completely fried and I won’t get to sleep for another couple of hours. Oh, the joys of travelling.
And yet, this is part of travelling. Visiting sights when all you truly want to do is sleep, but somehow moving your body through a dreamlike haze to places that are completely foreign. I am not sure if it’s my mental state, the mundaneness of big cities in general or the fact that I’ve been travelling the world for years now, but somehow I am having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I am, in fact, on the other side of the world. The 11-hour flight seems to be a dream which would mean I am strolling around some European city at best.
That is, until we get to Osaka castle. There is no way this is a European castle.
When I think about castles, its usually the kind with massive walls, light coloured stones stacked high before small crevasses that indicate a window. I think about high towers and crenellations. I definitely don’t think about a truly white square building that reminds me a bit of a layered cake. White building, green roof with a slight inverted curve, more white building, more green roof and so on. There are golden ornaments and symbols of tigers and suns and the whole thing is simply beautiful. I love that this is called a castle as well and served the same type of purpose. Same intent, very different look. Kinda like us humans.
I can hardly keep my eyes open to take in the beauty. I love it, but I am just so tire. Blinking, we make our way back to our hotel. Keeping one eye open and letting the other full shit behind my sun glasses, I walk on. I open and close my other eye and then, finally, it’s been 2 p.m. I get to go to our hotel room and sleep for an hour!
But no more than an hour. Because we’ve only got one night in Osaka, we want to visit Dōtonbori, Osaka’s famous shopping street. Also, we know a bit of food and sleeping at a more appropriate hour will help settle our jetlag.
So with only the biggest of reluctance we leave our bed (soft and firm in all the right places), shower, get dressed and walk the few streets to the water. I start to get the kind of energy that indicates a childish denial of bone deep tiredness, but for now I’ll take it.
Dōtonbori is touristy but fun. It’s funny to see the Japanese signs fully lit up. The shopping streets in the area are much like any other big city. Osaka in all, seems to satisfy my view of a big city, but hasn’t given away it’s Japanese character yet.
Until we are nearly back at the hotel. Tucked away between two little curtains, we find a restaurant that appears to be full with locals. Happily, we take two seats at the bar and order all kinds of yakitori and wontons. Our first introduction to the wonderfulness that is Japanese cuisine in Japan is taken with a beer and some sake. I am so happy. Happy to be travelling again, happy to be here. Eating wonderful food paired with a nice refreshing beer and a bed that is awaiting my tired body in just a little bit.
Yup, our Japanese adventure has begun!