Back in October (after over a year of saving), I finally visited Japan with my boyfriend, Jesse and two of our friends, Charlotte and Matt. We went for two weeks and it was such an incredible experience that I’ve been so eager to share. This blog series is long overdue; it’s been around three months since we came back but sometimes life takes over, I already feel like I need another holiday now.
From Birmingham to Osaka
As any trip begins, we had to get there first; we flew from Birmingham International Airport to Kansai International Airport with KLM Airlines, changing over in Amsterdam on the way. The journey was around 14 hours altogether with the change-over, the longest plane journey I’d ever been on. I’d definitely recommend KLM as an airline; the plane was as comfortable as it could be, the staff were all polite and helpful and although people famously slate aeroplane food, I genuinely really enjoyed all of the meals we were given throughout the flight.
Despite all of this, I’m a pretty anxious flyer and I’ve never been able to fall asleep on flights. This has never been a problem on previous flights as I’ve never gone that far, but this time the lack of sleep and the change in time zone got the better of me. We had left Birmingham at around 10 o’clock in the morning on Saturday 20th October and when we landed in Japan, it was around half 8 in the morning their time. We didn’t want to waste a whole day in Osaka just sleeping the day away so we decided to make the most of it. Our Airbnb host advised that we couldn’t check in until later on in the afternoon but very kindly let us drop all of our suitcases off at the house. This meant that we were free from baggage and could explore easily. I’ve written a whole separate post about each of our Airbnb houses, so if you’re interested in knowing more about where we stayed then follow this link.
Shopping in Shinsaibashi
We were all feeling pretty sleep deprived but we pushed on and decided to visit a local and popular shopping area, Shinsaibashi. This was only a short tube journey away which was great as I think we were all pretty done with travelling at this point. Shinsaibashi is Osaka’s main shopping area that houses a long stretch of different shops, mainly fashion-related but also featuring different themed shops, restaurants, boutiques and drugstores. It’s so easy to spend absolutely hours weaving in and out of each store as there’s so much to see, which is exactly what we spent our Sunday doing. Apparently, this is also what a lot of other people do as it was extremely busy but they had a Disney store so I was happy.
My favourite store that we went in was UNIQLO; I would say that this is basically the Japanese equivalent to Primark, it’s a lot more affordable and I ended up purchasing a Mickey Mouse jumper dress from there. I know that you can shop anywhere in the world but walking through Shinsaibashi was such a unique experience. So many stores had different employees outside advertising items of clothing or trying to entice people into their store. Every person walking through the shopping arcade seemed to have the most incredible sense of style, I immediately wanted all of their wardrobes.
After hours of walking until my little legs couldn’t do it anymore, we decided to stop off for some much needed food fuel. Charlotte and Matt had visited Japan previously so they knew what the popular food chains were. Of course, being in Japan we really wanted to try a proper bowl of ramen so they suggested we go to an Ichiran. This was down a little side street just off from Shinsaibashi in an area called Dotonbori. Ichiran is a really popular food chain that specialises in tonkatsu (deep-fried pork) ramen and is the first place we visited that had ticket machines for ordering food. This is a common thing in Japan; you just choose what you want and pay for it prior to your meal, then you’re given a ticket and sit down at your table where your food is brought over. I really enjoyed this system as it saved any awkward language barriers in terms of ordering and paying prior to eating means that you don’t have to wait around to pay the bill once you’ve finished.
I’d had ramen at Japanese restaurants back in the UK but since trying authentic ramen in Japan, nothing will ever be as good in comparison. At Ichiran, you can completely customise your bowl of ramen to your preferences; for example, you can choose your preferred texture of noodles, the amount of spice in your broth and add extra items such as garlic, a boiled egg, extra pork and spring onions. I like things a little bit spicy so I loved being able to customise it to my liking. This bowl of ramen was the stuff of dreams quite honestly, I’d catch a flight back to Japan just to eat it all over again. The broth was so full of flavour, the pork melted in my mouth and everything tasted so fresh and flavoursome.
After some more walking around to pass the time until we could check into our Airbnb, we were more than ready for bed. We made our way back to the house and grabbed some snacks from a nearby convenience store on the way. Japan has so many peach and grape flavoured sweets, something we definitely lack in the UK but are two of my favourite flavours so I was in my element. I’m missing peach Fanta so much, honestly. After having a much needed shower and annihilating a pack of grape Mentos, I fell asleep on the sofa with my phone in my hand – I was clearly so knackered I didn’t even make it into bed before crashing.
So that concludes day one of my trip to Japan. I honestly didn’t realise just how much we crammed into each day, never mind the fact that I find it hard to cut things down.
Are there any Japanese foods you’ve ever wanted to try?