Chuseok a year ago marked my very first “I’m so happy I’m in Korea moment.” My newly found group of friends and I took our haven’t-been-paid-yet-broke-asses to Muuido island off the coast of Incheon, and it was magnificent. I couldn’t help but think back to that long weekend a year ago as I was taking off from Seoul headed to Osaka, Japan. A year ago I had found a group of 3 girls who at the time were my best friends in Korea. 2 of them have come and gone from our lil circle, and one fine lassie was added to the mix for good. A lot can happen in a year, and it has definitely been the best year of my life so far.
And the number one reason why this year has been the tops, is because as of Chuseok 2012, I have traveled to 6 countries in Asia. Since we are now making monies, a group of us decided to peace out of Korea for the long weekend and cross the sea on over to Japan! We ended up snagging expensive-for-flights-to Japan, but reasonably-priced-for-the-holiday flights to Osaka. Steph went a couple days before, then me, Katie and Josh(ephine) joined, with Jeewon a day behind us. It was an awesome girls trip plus Joshy boy. He really practiced patience, and learned a lot about Adele and the cleanliness habits of girls during the long weekend. Props to you sir.
The three of us arrived in Osaka around 5pm, then had to navigate through the horribly organized train system that makes up Japan. We are definitely spoiled with the brilliant and user-friendly subway on this peninsula, lemme tell ya! Luckily Josh met a girl on the plane who, along with giving him useful phrases to add to his list, also helped us figure out how to get to our hostel. Bless our giant Joshephine! My first thoughts upon arrival in Japan were that it is so clean and everyone on the street has their own STYLE. It was so refreshing to see, because while Korea is stylish, it’s also super buttoned up and repressed for individuality. I was also amazed by the amount of people reading BOOKS and not on their smart phones. This was like a cool drink of refreshing water!
So we made it to our hostel in the funky Americamura district, got some nomtastic bubble tea (boba) and a dinner of the most delicious beef I have ever had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into. It must have been because we were eating amidst an angel.
Here is what our hostel looked like. It was as if we went to sleep away camp for the weekend! Or a frat house, however you want to spin it. Minus the uncleanliness.
And this is our bathroom. I envisioned 6’4″ Josh like Buddy the Elf trying to cleanse himself in that teeny little space.
The next morning we woke up bright and early and were off to Kyoto, which was about 30 minutes by train. We dropped our bags off at the guest house and were off to bike around the city for the day. Kyoto felt like such a quaint little city, not like we were in a big city at all.
Our first stop was at the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji. It was this massive golden palace with no windows set beside a beautiful lake. Once we got in it was like we stepped into a Sailor Moon field trip.
We were also greeted by this very polite Japanese man and his spread legs.
Joshy and Steph were also celebrity status when they got interviewed by a slew of giddy Japanese school girls.
After looking at the temple, we tried a bunch of delicious flavors of mochi (Japanese rice cakes) and the most AMAZING wasabi peanuts. I almost died and went to wasabi heaven. Here is Katie trying to figure out which nuts to buy.
Next we biked to the Imperial Palace, but since we could only go inside with an appointment, we biked around the perimeter and scoped out the lush flora.
After the Imperial Palace we needed to orient ourselves, so Katie and I took the liberty of hopping into the map to grab our bearings.
Then we were off to bike along the river. This area was just beside the Gion district of Osaka, which is also known as the Geisha district. While biking along the river I felt like I had been plopped down in Europe somewhere. It completely did not feel like Asia to me. There were street musicians and dancers and painters and everyday people just sitting on the side of the river reading books and drawing and talking. It was gorgeous and it was one of the things that made me fall in love with Japan, especially Kyoto.
After riding along the river we parked our bikes and went to see what Gion was about. It was a small area with a lot of hustle bustle, but still very quaint and historical feeling.
We crossed the road with a couple of geishas.
Saw some more geishas.
Saw the Gion Red Temple gate.
And gawked at the amazingness of Japanese snacks. And this is only the deli-ish section. Korea please take note.
We had then planned to bike further south to another shrine that we all wanted to see, but unfortunately it was starting to rain and getting late and we had to return our bikes. So, we headed out for a much earned and DELICIOUS conveyor belt sushi dinner that our homie Moe from the guest house suggested. It was bomb….except for the accidental sampling of raw horse. SICK.
The next day, thankfully not sick from the horse, Steph and I planned to splurge on a day trip to Hiroshima to see Miyajima Island and the Atomic bomb museum, however a typhoon decided to hit Japan and we opted to save our $300 and stay in the typhooning Kyoto for the day. We didn’t realize how bad the weather was til we were on the outskirts of Kyoto at a Bamboo forest, which would have been gorgeous had it not been for the awful weather. Here are my homies trying to figure out what direction the bathroom is in.
So we called that quits fast and got the train back to Kyoto where we traded in our umbrellas for full body ponchos, and decided to spend the afternoon eating Japanese nomz inside.
Yakisoba noodles with seafood!
Okonomiyaki pancake, which I swear tasted like the holidays to me. Almost like a gingerbread cookie oddly enough. It was okkk
After stuffing our faces, we tried to figure out a plan for the evening. Moe helped us decide on going to a Kabuki/Geisha/tea ceremony show in Gion, which we were really excited about….that is until we got there and saw THIS SIGN. If you can’t read it, it says that the theater is closed due to the typhoon. Angry birds we were.
OH WELL, guess we’ll go get shitfaced on sake and sushi and hit up a karaoke room instead. Cue sloppiest, most fantastical night ever. God bless the little Japanese fellas who had to clean up after our disaster.
This is what 30 bottles of sake….
It was an awesome last night with all of us together, and the next morning we checked out and popped back on up to Osaka for a day of exploring, and saying bye to Steph.
Our first matter of business was to rest after our wild night, and then hit up Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century.
Once inside we read about all the different wars and heirs that occupied the castle…..and most importantly, we got to play geisha for 15 minutes.
We were getting hungry (and one boy quite cranky) and decided to head to Namba and the River walk. We got the most tasty ramen at a little hole in the wall place on Dotonbori street, which is the most famous street in all of Osaka.
I regret to say I didn’t eat any Takoyaki (octopus balls), but here is what they look like and how they’re made. Next time I go back to Japan I promise myself I’ll try, because apparently they’re bombtastic.
After stuffing our faces, we did what any normal person in Japan does. We went to an arcade and Katie and Jeewon broke it down on the DDR with a silly looking, hardcore DDR Japanese boy. Here’s a video to show you just how asian they are.
We ended our last night in Osaka by trying to ride an extremely ginormous ferris wheel on the river, but failed miserably when we got there too late. Instead we decided to sit, talk, eat the massive amounts of mochi and snacks and green tea kit kats (and a 1/5 of booze for Josh) on the side of the river before catching the last train back to our hotel.
Overall, Japan was awesome!!!! I am so in love with it and glad I got to experience it with the lovely bunch of friendsies that I did. The people there are so polite and exude attitude and style and individuality, which I love, especially after coming from Korea. Obviously Korea will always hold a special place in my heart, it was just that they’re such different cultures, and I wasn’t really expecting that.
Until we meet again, sayonara Japan!!!