05.10.23 — Travel

Back to Osaka

After leaving Osaka for two days on the trot, it was time for me to enjoy my last couple of days in Japan within this cool city. The two excursions to Hiroshima and then Nara had left me quite tired, so there was no rush out of bed once I was awake.

I did eventually potter down to street level and meet up with Inés for some lunch, which took the form of a cool sushi restaurant in which everything was freshly prepared and then sent flying to us on some very fast conveyor belts. From here, we headed out for a spot of shopping, where I bought clothes aplenty in Uniqlo and then would have bought half the shop in Muji if given half the chance…

The streets of Osaka are the definition of visual noise.

Before we knew where we were it was 6pm, and so I found myself rushing around the city looking for a post office that was still open. We eventually found one, but were soon left very confused by all the signs and the way everything worked. The guy who attended us was a darling, though, so I soon had my postcards sent and we were off to sort out the next thing on my list: procuring an antigen test.

Inés searched for a pharmacy and we arrived at the location only to find that the building had been razed to the ground and turned into a car park: just our luck! Then we headed off to another one nearby only to discover that – and I kid you not – this building had also been razed to the ground and turned into a car park. What are the chances!

After some more running around we eventually got hold of a test, after which it was time for some food to end the day. As I hadn’t had chance to try a specific local delicacy during my first few days in Osaka, Inés took me back to her preferred place and we jumped in a very slow-moving line heading down into a basement.

What followed was a meal of okonomiyaki, a local dish made with pancakes, eggs, cabbage, and all sorts of other mysterious and wonderful ingredients. These came served directly onto a hotplate on the table, and we shared the two different varieties that we had ordered between the two of us. They were divine!

Once I’d waved Inés off I then spent the rest of the evening in an onsen, which had a cool outdoor area where you could lie down in a few inches of water and stare up at the sky. Although not as fancy as those up in Arima, I still maintain that these nudist spas are the best thing about Japan and something we need to introduce in Spain and the UK…

The next day I was back out for more local food, this time in the form of yet more ramen. Excited to eat some more after the delicious meal I had in Kyoto, I met up with Inés and Joob to visit a place which Inés insisted was the best.

Another wait ensued, this time in the hot sun. This wasn’t a problem, though, as I’d picked up some menthol cooling wipes during my shopping trip the day before. These miracle inventions kept me feeling fresh despite the heat and the humidity, so you just know I stocked up on them before returning to Spain!

Our lunch was absolutely amazing, with a rich and delicious bowl of pork ramen accompanied by a side dish of pork pieces with rice and egg. I was once again on cloud nine – the food in Japan was just otherworldly.

From the restaurant, the three of us headed to the home of Inés’ partner’s mum, Yuki. We stopped off along the way at a little local florist to pick up some flowers as a little gift and then headed up to the fourteenth floor of a lovely blue apartment building.

It turns out that Yuki lived in Madrid for a good time in the past, so I was surprised to find the conversation flowing in Spanish! Translating as best as I could for Joob, we had an absolute hoot, telling stories and laughing about our little anecdotes. It was lovely to meet Yuki and spend time inside a Japanese home.

Here’s Yuki, Inés, me, and Joop down at the bottom there.

Yuki had also bought a series of cakes, which went down a treat as we nattered the afternoon away. I had brought some of her favourite cheese over from Spain as a gift, but Inés hadn’t mentioned that we were going to Yuki’s straight from the ramen restaurant, and so had to ferry it over to her later.

I then had to return to my hotel to pack ready to fly the next day. With most of my stuff back in the suitcase, I took my remaining yen and headed to a couple of supermarkets to load up on Japanese snacks to take back to Spain with me as gifts. Well, that and some delicious chocolate beans all for me…

With my money spent and bag locked up, I headed down to the metro for one last time to meet back up with Joob and Inés for the evening. We’d arranged to meet the share house that Inés lived in for a while in order to meet back up with her friends that we’d met during our night of karaoke.

It was pretty late and so the metro was almost empty.

In the end were all arrived quite late to the neighbourhood and Inés still had to finish up wrapping some lovely ceramic gifts that she’d made, so we sat down on a low wall under an overpass and helped her out as we chatted. It was quite a strangely beautiful way to end my time in Japan: in a quiet little neighbourhood in the outskirts of Osaka, kicking a ball around an empty street under a motorway.

As Saturday came around I was up at the crack of dawn to grab my train to the airport. It was a good job that Inés had asked me which airport I was flying from the day before, as I would have sped off in the wrong direction and to the wrong one if not!

It turned out the correct one was Kansai International, an airport built on an artificial island in the middle of the Osaka Bay. It was quite a sight to see, even if the views from the train were ruined a little by the excessive fencing around the tracks.

I’d then to wait a good while in arrivals before I could check in as I’d arrived way too early. This was a conscious decision as I was flying with the emergency travel document (for more on that whole saga check out what went down upon my arrival in Tokyo) and wasn’t sure if there’d be any extra checks. The whole thing was a breeze in the end, and I was soon on my plane, making a quick change in Shanghai, and then languishing during the longest flight I’ve ever been on: 14 hours from Shanghai to Madrid!