Sayonara, Japan!

Our time in Japan has come to a close! Yesterday we went out to a temple and a couple of shopping districts and biked throughout the city, which is a great way to see more of a new city! We rode around through parks, seeing more people out having picnics and enjoying the gorgeous cherry blossoms throughout Osaka. The shopping districts, Namba and Shinsekai, were also pretty fun. Namba was absolutely packed with people and shops, with pedestrian streets stretching out for kilometers in all directions.

On our last day, we met up with people that we’d met last Friday at our hostel and went out through the city. First we met with Chizuru and went out to Expo City, a large shopping and amusement area outside of Osaka close to where an world expo was once held. We went to an aquarium / exhibit on interesting animals (unique shapes, abilities, or colors), a Pokemon gym, a place called “English Village” (which was recreations of scenes of everyday American life where people can go practice English), and a park where the world expo was held. The aquarium was really cool, the Pokemon gym was great, the English Village was hilarious, and the park was beautiful, so it was overall a pretty great day.

In the evening, the three of us met up with a Japanese man we’d met at the hostel who wanted to bring us out to a district he enjoyed. We met him in the Temma district and proceeded to bounce around through various restaurants trying new foods. We went to a standing bar, filled with Japanese businessmen winding down their workdays, and for the first time I tried bamboo shoots (they were good!). Then we went on to a sushi restaurant, which was of course delicious. Finally, we tried a local food called takoyaki, which is pretty much fried balls of dough with octopus in them. Also pretty tasty.

Japan during the cherry blossom festival is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m sad that we have to go so soon! But with all of the recommendations from other travelers and locals around Osaka, I’ll just have to come back someday to see more of this incredible country!


Time in Osaka

After a week in Japan, I’m now out of Tokyo and over to Osaka! It’s a 3 hour bullet train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo, very near to Kyoto. The city is much calmer and more open than the massive city of Tokyo, and so far it’s been very nice and quite beautiful!

We arrived just as the cherry blossoms were said to be in full bloom and at their best viewing, but unfortunately our first day here was freezing cold, rainy, and windy. We spent the day checking out the area near our hostel and getting some food, and then retired to decide what to do when the weather improved on our next day. Our hostel offers free drinks for guests on Friday nights, so we went down to see other guests and get a drink. We found that it’s apparently very common for locals to come by and take advantage of the gathered foreigners to practice English! I spent about four hours sitting in the common area, talking to locals, learning more about Japan and Osaka, and apparently being a part-time English teacher of sorts.

Today was our second day, and the weather was perfect. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, the weather was great, and everyone was out because it’s a weekend! The parks were full of people having “hanami” parties, in which families or friends gather together and spend the day amongst the cherry blossom trees. It was pretty cool to see so many people out and enjoying the beautiful trees. I have too many pictures to put on just one blog post, so check them out in my Japan album on Flickr!



Cherry Blossoms in Japan!

We finally made it to Japan! Lexi and I visited with our family last Summer, and I’ve been looking forward to coming back for the cherry blossoms ever since my last visit. It’s world famous for being an amazing event, drawing tourists from around the globe. Well now I can say that it is definitely worth all of the publicity, the blossoms are absolutely gorgeous and I’m very glad that I put this on my trip!

We had the advantage of arriving into a city that we already knew, so getting everywhere is much simpler than in the rest of our trip. On our first day we went over to the museum of emerging technology here in Tokyo. It was fun to see the usual sorts of things in a science museum, but there was also a special exhibit on the history of video games and their development. It was so cool to see every console and handheld back as far as the Atari, and to see hundreds of people gathered around old arcade games and consoles playing famous classics.


The next day, we went to the Shinjuku-Gyoen park for our first cherry blossom viewing. The giant park was hosting thousands of people out taking photos of the blossoms and having days in the park with their families. The trees were beautiful, there were over a thousand trees scattered around and contributing to the magnificent event. We’ve visited a couple of parks now, and the everywhere people are taking photos and enjoying the gorgeous annual event.