I’ll admit it first up that I didn’t do that many blog-worthy activities today, which is why I’ve posted a bunch of photos to make up for my lack of written journalism. Today was kind of jumbled because I didn’t have any solid plans, and I had to change hotels, which is always a little bit of a hassle.
But the day couldn’t begin without breakfast, and Toyoko Inn breakfasts are always surprisingly good. I think I should stop being surprised, because of the consistency in quality and type of food provided, but it’s free and tasty, so I’m always appreciative (and yes I know I am paying for it, but anyway.) Toyoko Inn hotels usually have either Japanese or Western style breakfast, and I thought that this one had Western, so I wasn’t that excited when I went down the lift to the breakfast area. I expected a few kinds of puffy white bread and some coffee, which was fine by me because I actually only really wanted free flow caffeine But when I entered the lobby area, I was surprised to find both kinds of breakfast. There were onigiri, salads, pickles, and soups for the Japanese breakfast fans, and sweet breads and croissants (both plain and chocolate) for the Western types. I loaded up a plate with onigiri, tamagoyaki, two kinds of salad, pickles, miso soup, and gomoku rice, and filled a cup with vending machine cappuccino. Then I found a seat kind of near the corner of the building, so I could execute my secret plan.
There are some things in life that just scream ‘take advantage of me.’ One of those things is the breakfast buffet. No matter where you are staying, I believe that there is a deeply-embedded human instinct which tells you to make the most of the free food you are surrounded by. There are two options for the execution of this advantage-taking. To eat as much as is physically possible, or to sneak leak-free morsels into your handbag when nobody is looking. I took this one step further and brought my own (empty) bento box to make my own lunch in. I figured that because I am small and don’t really eat a lot at breakfast, I am still getting my fair share of the buffet by making a take-away pack. I’m still eating the same amount as everyone else, just over a period of 6 hours. That’s ok, right?
So I sat in the corner and ate my fresh tasty breakfast, and packed food into my bento when I thought nobody was looking. I got into a conversation with a guy from Sydney, who was over in Osaka on an all-expenses paid business trip. Even though he was in the electronics industry, I still felt a tiny bit of jealousy at him having a job that would willingly send him to Japan. I talked to him for a while about his work and my photography, as well as learning Japanese and what is interesting to see in Osaka (he hadn’t ventured outside the hotel yet, so he didn’t really have any sightseeing suggestions.) I also went back for two more cups of coffee whilst we talked (it was free and decent. Or maybe I am becoming used to dodgy coffee.)
After breakfast I went back upstairs and packed up the last of my stuff, and then checked out of the hotel. I was able to leave my luggage for the day, which saved me having to drag my new (but still heavy and bulky) suitcase around the shopping centres. I had decided to spend the day shopping, so I could get all my last minute present shopping done before the last minute. That would give me two days free to do whatever I wanted, without present shopping nagging at me. So I walked to Osaka station, because it was only two stations away and I didn’t want to pay for the train.
The walk was quick and easy, as I only had to follow the above ground train line, so it was impossible to get lost. I stopped on the way at a 100 yen store and bought some presents, then continued to the Osaka station area. I won’t describe every detail of my girly shopping adventures, but I did visit a lot of department stores, small funky one-off stores, and a whole arcade of vintage second hand books. I stopped for lunch at a little seating area between arcades, where I ate the salad I couldn’t finish yesterday, as well as the goodies I’d packed into my bento this morning. Stupidly, I had forgotten to pack cutlery, so I had to eat with my hands again. The few people who walked past me looked at me really strangely, and I felt like an idiot. As soon as I was finished eating, I hunted out a bathroom so I could wash the shame and salad dressing off my fingers. Then I bought a milk coffee from a 7/11 and drank that as I walked around an arcade full of takoyaki stalls.
I walked past the anpan store that I’d bought the pumpkin anpan from yesterday, and bought a yomogi anpan and a chestnut anpan because I am a sucker for Japanese anpan and couldn’t choose between the two. I also actually remembered to take a photo of the store, which is apparently famous.
Around 5, I returned to the Toyoko Inn and collected my bags, then took a train to Shin-Imamiya station, where the final hotel for this trip was located. In Kyoto, I had been warned about walking around the area at night, because it was supposedly full of homeless people, and therefore ‘dangerous.’ I thought that was probably just the perception of the person who had told me. She said she didn’t like homeless people, and I suspected that their presence made her consider the place unsafe. Nevertheless, I walked from the station to the hotel just that little bit quicker, and didn’t look anyone in the eye.
I checked into Hotel Raizen South, which was smaller and less impressive than I had expected it to be. I suppose that after staying at Toyoko Inn, anywhere I went would seem less than impressive. I was given a key to a room on the 7th floor, which was a ‘women only’ floor, where I discovered my tiny closet-sized room. It had a floor space of 3 tatami mats, and was about the same size as my bathroom at home. But that was all I needed.
The only furniture, aside from the folded futon, was a tiny table, a TV, and a mini fridge. There was barely enough room for my suitcase. But for $20 a night, who was complaining? It was Japanese style, so I was happy. I spent a while online, talking to my boyfriend (who I miss really badly), and trying to work out what I wanted to do tomorrow. It became 8pm really quickly, so I decided to go out and get some food to bring back and eat in the room.
There were an abundance of Family Mart convenience stores around, but they were all really small ones with limited dinner-type foods. I bought some salad and a few other little items from one of them, then decided to venture under this tunnel next to a giant pachinko parlour, where everyone seemed to be going. On the other side of the tunnel, there was a long, enclosed arcade full of sushi bars, izakaya, and ramen stores. I walked along it, looking at the plastic nigiri in the windows, and the legs of patrons at the noodle bars, whose heads were covered by the colourful noren curtains hanging from the doors. At the end of the arcade, the road opened up to more restaurants and street food vendors, lit by a strange combination of neon lights and golden lanterns. Images and statues of puffer fish and octopus emblazoned almost every eatery or food cart, and pub staff stood out on the streets, trying to rally customers to enter their eateries. I walked around for a little, then remembered that I was supposed to be buying dinner, not gawking at the ‘Japanese-ness’ of the place. I bought some takoyaki from a street vendor, who tried to pull out the English menu on me, but I’d already read the Japanese one, so ordered before he could label me as an illiterate gaijin. The takoyaki he placed inside my white polystyrene takeaway container were huge. He carefully coated them with special sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, and aonori, then tucked two little baggies of pickled ginger and spring onions (which were, as the store’s sign proudly boasted, ‘a free onion service.’)
I took my delicious-smelling goodies back to the hotel, and ate them along with the Family Mart salad, and some okazu that I had purchased at the food market near Toyoko Inn. I really hadn’t been that hungry before I started eating, and I thought I’d have some takoyaki left over to save for tomorrow, but I ate them all without even thinking about it. They were so delicious and gooey and ‘ball-ey,’ each with a juicy piece of octopus inside. I can’t believe I hadn’t tried this dish before, let alone become addicted to it. Afterwards, I ate the kuri anpan that I had bought from the anpan shop. It was made with chestnut and white azuki beans, and was delicious and sweet without being sickly. I have definately become addicted to anpan in the last week. Then I was surprisingly still hungry, so I ate the yomogi anpan as well. This one was filled with tsuba-an, which was the original purple colour. Both were amazing.
The rest of the night, I just use the dodgy wifi and ate green tea chocolate in my room, because I was a bottomless pit and couldn’t be bothered going downstairs to buy more food. I also munched on a muesli bar that I’d brought all the way from Australia, but hadn’t bothered to eat.
I really don’t know what to do in Osaka tomorrow. I feel like I’ve been to all the main attractions, and I’m to disorganised to take a day trip somewhere. Maybe for my last day I’ll go down to Yoshino to see the cherry blossoms. But for now I really just want to sleep. Too bad the hotel is right next to a very busy and noise road. The no-sleeping trend continues!