My first week in Japan

3rd May 2016

Foreign countries are easy enough to get about and find the hotel but Osaka was different. On the train into the city I didn’t have a clue where I was going and I somehow managed to get to the place on Google maps.

It’s clear straight away that not a lot of people speak English. Nobody speaks English, but you can’t expect them to, it’s my fault for not knowing Japanese. I just say thank you (ありがとう) a lot which seems to work. People here are nicer than most of other places despite the language barrier.

Tsūtenkaku Tower - Osaka, Japan
Tsūtenkaku Tower – Osaka, Japan

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Early Saturday morning I headed out to Kyoto, a city about an hour away from where I am staying in Osaka. Kyoto was one of the reasons for coming to Osaka so I had high hopes. I got into Kyoto in no time. From Osaka main station the train took about half an hour and cost ¥500 (about £3). Arashiyama from Kyoto main station was another ten minutes. England could learn a lot from the public transport here.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan

Arashiyama is a quaint little Japanese town and it’s just as you would imagine the countryside. I headed over to Tenryu-ji temple and the place is nice but the Zen gardens were way more impressive. Everything in the gardens were perfect with loads of monks maintaining the place. Nothing looked out of place; even the gravel was perfectly raked. It was just like something you would see on TV.

Tenryu-ji Zen Temple - Arashiyama, Japan
Tenryu-ji Zen Temple – Arashiyama, Japan

Moving on from the garden, I headed over to what I had come to Arashiyama for; the bamboo forest. Mid-day on a weekend is prime time and this place was rammed. I charged past everybody and found some quieter parts of the forest. This place was amazing and photos don’t do it any justice. I sat down for a while nearby some old Japanese man painting just watching him do his thing. It was nice to just chill in peace and be out of a massive noisy, smelly city for once.

Main painting the bamboo forest - Arashiyama, Japan
Main painting the bamboo forest – Arashiyama, Japan

Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto

For the past year or so I’ve had an extension on Google Chrome that shows a different location on the new tab every day. Go and download Momentum, it’s worth the free download. A few times a temple in Kyoto has popped which inspired me to go to Kyoto.

Shinto symbols - Kyoto, Japan
Shinto symbols – Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari-taisha temple is on a mountain in Kyoto two stops on the train from central station. You first arrive into the station at the bottom of the mountain. By the time I got there it was already 3pm and it was so busy. There must have been thousands of people there. I just charged past all the people again and started walking up the mountain. The mountain path was covered by thousands of iconic orange/red Shinto archways (Torii) all the way to the viewpoint at the top.

Entrance to Fushimi Inari-taisha - Kyoto, Japan
Entrance to Fushimi Inari-taisha – Kyoto, Japan

Coming to this place at 7am would be great to miss the crowds. I would stand in one spot for 15 minutes waiting for people to clear just to try and get a photo. Only for someone with a selfie stick to come walking round the corner.  I was getting pissed off and eventually just started getting in the way of peoples selfie stick photos. Selfie sticks need to just not exist and if you own one you best had kept the receipt.

Despite the crowds this place was amazing. You can see the path of orange archways winding up the hill with tea houses acting as pit stops. It looked as if the prices got more expensive the further you walked up – nice business strategy.

Sitting at the top of the mountain was amazing. I got myself a tofu ice cream and just sat on a rock looking over Osaka towards the mountains on the other side of the city. My phone at this point was saying I had climbed 68 flights of stairs and walked almost 20km.

I wish I had spent a weekend in Kyoto. It has been one of the best places i’ve visited. A place steeped in culture and perhaps I should do more research next time.

Tofukuji Temple - Kyoto, Japan
Tofukuji Temple – Kyoto, Japan

Osaka Pokemon Center

Pokemon was a massive if you were a 90’s kid. Osaka has a real life Pokemon center so I decided to go and check it out. I was hoping the place would look like a Pokemon center from the games. Sadly, it’s just a shop on the 13th floor of a shopping center next to UNI QLO.

Going into the shop is a bit weird and it has loads of branded stuff for sale; towels, plates and just any old shit. You get past the tat and there’s some cool Japanese arcade games and loads of Pokemon cards on sale. I decided to relive my youth and bought a pack of cards and got a shiny Zapdos.

After my trip to Osaka Pokemon center I had a walk around the Umeda area of the city. KFC are running a Pokemon promotion on some meal that looks like it’s deep fried Pikachu. Slightly odd and quite funny.

KFC Deep Fried Pikachu
KFC Deep Fried Pikachu

Whats next for Japan?

So far I have loved my stay here in Japan. I have missed out a lot in this post but I think this weekend coming up I will get and bout in Osaka and share my experiences.

Throughout the week I will be looking at places to visit and eating some amazing food. I would like to go outside of Osaka again at some point, maybe return to Kyoto, i’m not sure yet.

Osaka Metro
Osaka Metro