There are two chunks of holidays throughout the year that are referred to as Golden Week and Silver Week. Golden week occurs at the end of April/beginning of May where three national holidays occur in one week. Silver Week just occurred last week with Monday (Respect for the Aged Day) and Thursday (Autumnal Equinox) as stat holidays. So I went on a trip!
Goto > Nagasaki > Osaka > Nara > Kyoto > Fukuoka > Goto
I am going to split this trip into two posts otherwise this would be the never ending story of blog posts. So here is Part I of this saga: Osaka.
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan (after Tokyo) and this metropolitan rivalry extends beyond just population. Osaka is said to be much more relaxed and casual with friendlier people, compared to the 'uppityness' of Tokyo. Having spent exactly two jet-lagged days in a hotel conference room of Tokyo, I can't yet comment from experience on these differences; but, I can say that the people of Osaka were friendly and welcoming throughout the trip. Osaka is also known as 'The Nation's Kitchen' and this I CAN confirm. Highlights consumed include okonomiyaki, tasty Pakistani cuisine, ￥100 kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi --about $1 per plate, and kushikatsu-- fried stuff on sticks!
The week started at the Danjiri Matsuri just outside of Osaka. Basically the coles notes version is a bunch of guys pull these elaborately hand carved wooden carts (as pictured in the top photo) through the streets very quickly while other guys ride on top of them and jump around. Can't picture it? Yeah neither could I until I saw it. It is apparently one of the most popular festivals while simultaneously being one of the most dangerous.
Our touristing was temporarily interruped by a mild typhoon which can be witnessed in the video below. On the upside, the Osaka Castle, which I'm sure is swarmed with hoards of tourists normally, was completely deserted as no one ELSE thought it was a good idea to go sightseeing in a typhoon. Jokes on them. I've decided to make up my own idiom of "like an umbrella in a typhoon" to describe something completely useless. Example usage:
1: Oh man, I put on so much bug spray but these mosquitos keep biting me!
2: Yeah that brand sucks, it's like an umbrella in a typhoon
Poor umbrella. Never saw that wind tunnel coming.
Osaka is busy. All. The. Time. It may be midnight on a Tuesday and it looks like the height of Canadian rush hour. I think one of my favourite parts of the entire trip was just learning to navigate the various modes of transportation. Transferring from train to subway and from station to station I feel like it was the best way to get to know the city and apart from maybe one or two casual "I meant to get on this train, ride one stop, get off and go the other way" moments-- I think we did pretty well in way-finding through the organized mayhem that is Osaka.
My childhood (and adulthood) dreams came true with a visit to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) midweek. We had fast passes (which I would recommend for all theme parks everywhere - fastpass4ever) which gave us a slotted entry time to the Hogwarts Castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I think I was more excited than 99% of the children there and this confirms my theory that it doesn't matter where you are or what country you're in-- you will always find yourself in need of a Harry Potter costume. Always. The park is made up of a replica of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle with shops and a 4D ride through the castle that was actually pretty cool. The ride had some technical difficulties briefly halfway through which resulted in us getting to go AGAIN and me feeling just slightly ill. Tried some pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and treated myself to a chocolate frog to enjoy later. Mischief managed.
The next morning we hopped on the train for a quick day trip to Nara and then on to Kyoto!
Next post: scary deer in Nara, Kyoto wanderings, and Fukuoka urban planning raving.