First Impressions of Japan

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

“So they’ve emailed me to say that check in closes at 10.30PM… but our flight doesn’t land until 10.20PM…. I might bribe them and see if they’ll stay open for us because I really don’t want to spend our first night in Japan sleeping outside in the cold…”

And so went my conversation with Mike, just as he was about to board his flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur to meet me. The prospect of being locked out of your accommodation at midnight on your first night in a foreign country was not one we’d faced before, but here we were, 24 hours before flying into Osaka, Japan – with this exact problem.. Fortunately for us, my bribe (and multiple emails pleading our case) worked to a degree – our hostel offering to stay open until midnight but no later. As our plane landed on the tarmac, Mike and I were full of adrenalin, feeling as though we were on the Amazing Race. We were on a mission, and time was of the essence…

Seatbelt signs were off, and we were first at the door, our carry on bags strapped on. Racing down the walkway, we jumped on the shuttle to take us to immigration, the doors closing seconds behind us, leaving the rest of the passengers behind. As we ran down the escalators, praying that there were no queues, we couldn’t believe our luck when immigration was completely empty – we were first out, through customs and at the airport station within six minutes of our plane landing. We’d managed to get through so fast, we even made the express train at 10.32PM to our station – a guarantee that we would get to our hostel well before midnight…

It was that efficiency, the ease of navigating around a complex building like an airport, and the helpful people that made us fall in love with Japan in those first few adrenaline filled minutes. One of our most anticipated stops on our adventures, we have been absolutely blown away by everything we’re seeing, eating and experiencing so far. These are just some of our first impressions.

Hundreds of people crossing at once and NO collisions!
Hundreds of people crossing at once and NO collisions!

The Japanese follow the rules…

ALL of the rules. They keep left – on the footpath, on the escalators, whilst crossing the road. Talking of crossing the road – they won’t until the little green man flashes – even if there’s not a vehicle to be seen. They let passengers alight buses and trains, before getting on them. There’s no pushing, no shoving. It’s so ORDERLY. It blows our minds.

It’s so QUIET

On our first day out and about, Mike mentioned that something was different but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. We’ve been in plenty of big, busy, Asian cities – but here it was so different. It’s quiet, I said – and the penny dropped. The difference between here and everywhere else we’ve been is the noise levels. Sure, there’s traffic. But they don’t honk their horns constantly, or take over each other, or hurtle down the road. There are people EVERYWHERE – but they use their inside voice, outside – no shouting, no yelling to get anyone’s attention. Even inside shopping centres and department stores – every one goes about their own business, in silence. It’s such a change from the constant noise we’re used too.

All this crazy - but no crazy. Peace, quiet and serenity... for the most part.
All this crazy – but no crazy. Peace, quiet and serenity… for the most part.

It’s not THAT expensive!

Sure, it’s the most expensive place we’ve been to so far – but we expected it to be pricey, so it hasn’t taken us by surprise. However, it’s not much different to the prices we’re used to in Australia. We pick up a few snacks and drinks for the two of us for breakfast – $10 AUD. A subway across town – a few dollars. And dinner? We’ve been able to get an appetiser, a main meal each plus an alcoholic drink each for under $30. Granted, we haven’t reached Tokyo yet where it’s meant to be even pricier, but nothing has been over the top. Yet…

Every toilet in the world should be a Japanese toilet.

Seriously. I don’t think we’ll be able to sit our tush on another toilet ever again. Have you ever gotten up in the middle of a cold night, needing the toilet, but not wanting to sit your bare bottom on the freezing cold toilet? Well, not in Japan – hello seat warmers. THE best invention ever. Or perhaps you know you need to go, but need a little encouragement? Press play on the panel by the toilet and listen to the peaceful, twinkling sound of a waterfall. My average time spent in a toilet duration has increased exponentially since arriving here. There’s just too many buttons to try!

Hello, fashion.

I’m glad that we resolved to upgrade our travel wardrobe before coming to Japan, so we could look a bit more fashionable. As it is, we still look completely underdressed – but I can’t imagine how we’d look if we’d rocked up wearing our hippie pants, thongs and bandanas…
The Japanese are totally, totally on trend. Everyone – the children, the elderly, men and women. A man walked past us the other day, in his fur lined, Matrix-esque coat complete with platform boots and flowing locks – I couldn’t help but stare. The girls, so perfectly coiffed with their pigtails and lashes, stilettos and gorgeous little outfits – everyone here is beautiful. Everyone!

Japanese food is amazing!

And not just the restaurant style meals – everything! We’ve been buying egg sandwiches from the 7/11 for breakfast and I’ll be damned if it’s not the best egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten. After coming off the train earlier today, we stopped at a noodle house, paid for our meals via a vending machine, presented a ticket and had a bowl of steaming curry soba in front of us within two minutes. It’s fresh, its delicious and its FAST. We can’t wait to eat all of the things.

It’s insanely beautiful.

Even the bustling tourist spots, with their neon signs and oversized giant food – it’s an absolute feast for the senses. Whilst exploring Osakajo-koen (the Castle Park), the contrast of the bare trees next to the shimmering multi-storey skyscraper both reflecting in the lake was simply stunning. Taking the train into the country side and seeing the mountain sides full of pine trees, their leaves green with hues of reds and orange with a traditional Japanese inn nestled in amongst them was breathtaking.

Osakajo-koen Park
Osakajo-koen Park
Cherry blossoms beginning to bud...
Cherry blossoms beginning to bud…

Japan, you are impressing us. Keep going like this and we might just need to plan another trip…

Have you ever been to Japan? What were your first thoughts? We’d love to hear them!

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First Impressions of Japan

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