Dec 23 – 25
It was nice to return to Osaka after spending a full month traveling around Japan. I felt like I was able to understand Japan a little more and truly appreciate Osaka, which is certainly a unique city. When I first arrived in Japan, Osaka seemed daunting and confusing. When I returned a month later, it was still confusing (very little English is used in Osaka and street signs are often nonexistent), but the city seemed much more manageable the second time around. I was able to understand my Japanese friends better when they said that the people in Osaka are a different breed. I agree completely. As a generalization, people in Osaka seems to be more quirky, relaxed, and friendly then the average person in other Japanese cities.
This time in Osaka, I chose to stay in the middle of the city near Namba and Shinsaibashi.
For a new experience, I decided to stay in a capsule hotel. Capsule hotels are designed for business people who stay out too late, miss the last train home, or just need a quick sleep before going to work in the morning. Most capsule hotels are only for men, but I found one that also allows women. Basically, a capsule hotel consists of narrow sleeping compartments stacked on top of each other. It feels kinda like a spaceship…or a large microwave oven. It’s really not as claustrophobic as it sounds though – you have plenty of room to sit up, but you just can’t stand up. It’s kinda like being in a tent (only you have your own nightlight, tv, radio, alarm clock, clothing rack, mirror, and air conditioner built into the wall). I wish I had known it was going to be so fun, because I would have stayed in this hotel much more often. It was the same price as a hostel and it was nice to have my own little sleeping space for a change. I stayed in this one.
When you check into the capsule hotel, they give you a locker for your shoes. You then exchange your shoe locker key for another set of keys (one for your larger locker, another to open the door leading to the capsules). The only annoying thing is that every time you want to leave the hotel, you must leave your keys with the front desk so you can get your shoes out of the locker.
This capsule hotel is divided in two sections – one for men, one for women.
It has nice bathroom area with combs, toiletries, hair dryers, and they even gave us all cotton outfits to wear while lounging around.
There is a large lounge room downstairs and it is accessible to both men and women. You can sit on the fancy, reclining lounge chairs with speakers and remote controls to select which TV you want to watch. And you can order food and drinks from the restaurant upstairs or from the many vending machines scattered around the lobby.
Guests at the capsule hotel also have free access to the hot tub and sauna.
And once you’re ready to retreat to your capsule, you can watch TV in your own little compartment.
I checked into the capsule hotel early, but went out during the evening to enjoy the city one more time before leaving Japan. My first time in Osaka, I tried to find a vegan macrobiotic restaurant called Maman Terrace, but I was never able to find it. I decided to try again. I was proud of myself for actually finding it this time, but they were having a fancy (meaning expensive) Christmas dinner for couples. So, I never got to try it.
I spent the rest of the evening wandering around downtown. The capsule hotel is located in a popular shopping district and there are always tons of people hanging out on the streets. I went into lots of fun stores with weird decorations and colorful clothes. The streets felt a bit like the shopping areas in Tokyo.
This was my favorite shop.
I had to pull myself away from buying this amazing, handmade hat.
And a pair of these shiny tights.
And a washcloth with happy animals on it.
And a surfing banana.
And a little dude puking tissue paper.
The next morning, I took the train to visit Tomoko and Lawrence, their daughter, and their cute dog Lucy. I spent one night at their house at the beginning of my Japan trip. Since Japan was too cold to do any camping, Lawrence said he’d keep my tent until I was ready to pick it up. Tomoko and Lawrence were really busy the day I arrived, so I barely saw them. But we had a nice lunch together and they let me spend another night at their lovely house.
The next morning, Christmas day, they drove me to the train station so I could catch my flight to Hanoi.
Kansai airport in Osaka is actually on a man-made island separated by a long bridge. When it was discovered that the airport was sinking deeper and faster than had been expected, billions of dollars had to be spent to keep it afloat. Here’s an article about the airport.
Anyway, Japan was fun. It will be missed.
- They give you little towelettes before each meal. Sometimes hot towels, sometimes packaged wet cloths.
- Pachinko is really popular in Japan and there are pachinko parlors all over the place.
- Some train cars are for ladies only during certain times of the day.
- I don’t remember how this came up in conversation, but I learned that Japanese people don’t believe in the tooth fairy. When they lose their teeth, they just throw them up in the direction they want their new teeth to grow. So if it’s a bottom tooth, they throw throw it up to the sky; if it’s a top tooth, they throw it down to the ground. Seems to make a bit more sense than the tooth fairy.