First day in Japan, first contact with the Emperor’s land

Once upon a time, an emperor was living in a distant country…

Many childhood stories begin like that. In my imagination the character wore a golden crown on his head, dressed in embroidered clothes of the same material and strolled through his imposing gardens. Of course the image was crafted by fairy-tale writers, but I enjoyed adapting it easily and traveling into those places, as well as living the story as if I were a character in it. I imagined castles, gardens, landscapes, people…

Then, growing up, I thought maybe all of these stories could be based on truth, and even to this day, I have located the places in my stories as the remote lands of Japan … and that’s where the Emperor lives.

It was a normal day at the office, with some planning for a few events that could not be delayed. As I don’t start my day without reading a travel agency in the city newsletter, the first title I read was: Sakura – The Festival Blooming Cherries in Japan in April! The feeling was my trembling legs, and in a few seconds I saw an emperor, samurai, Zen stones, high-speed trains, and for a few moments the face of my husband who looked at me with big eyes (as he does each time ideas hit me out of the blue). I told him what this trip is supposed to be and the period during which it is organized (accidentally coincides with my birthday). Very important, the offer was valid only on that day and the departure was in three weeks! The perfect ingredients for a refusal, but I gave him the details quite mechanically, because I knew he didn’t take decisions in a hurry.

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How wrong I was… he accepted from the begining!!! I’m still shocked. Okay, the price of the trip was on my side, the cherries, Osaka, Tokyo…

There was a brief research period, because time wasn’t at all on our side. Because our trip involved 4 nights of accommodation in Osaka and 4 nights in Tokyo, then returning to Osaka for the flight to Bucharest, we first searched for the Osaka trip to Tokyo and return. Transport in Japan is very expensive, that’s what I found out still in the country. The best option was to purchase two JR passes (Japan Railways, quite expensive, too, about 500 euros both) in Romania, and I want to tell you that there is only one agency authorized to sell such vouchers that we activated at Osaka airport, valid from the day we set for 7 days. I do not want to get into the details about transport in Japan, because I need many days to do this.

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After a 12-hour flight, plus a stopover in Istanbul with a totally upsetting time zone, we arrived at Kansai Airport in Osaka. From this moment on, all I knew about Japan was almost annuled. We have come to another world, almost perfect, but I will tell you about that along the way.

At the airport we took our tourist visas, activated JR passes, took a very fast Nankai train, and in a few dozen minutes we were already at Namba Station, where our adventure starts in the country where the sun rises (I found out that the airport we had just landed was one of the most dangerous in the world, built on an artificial island 5 km off the coast and the only airport in the world that has never lost a baggage).

In the Namba station we found this kind of trains:

 

We found our hotel quite difficult, although it was very well positioned in the tourist and crowded center of the city, on the bank of the river. Almost everything is written in Japanese, an indescribable crowd, huge buildings… we found it!!!! We accommodated and despite our fatigue, we went out to eat and see the surroundings.

 

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Because we wanted to try Japanese cuisine, we chose to eat the Ramen soup in a very busy restaurant where there were no chairs, but bigger platforms like shelves on which the tables were rather small and we were sitting on them, shoes on or off, somehow with our feet underneath, but it was more interesting that the soup was accompanied by sticks and some kind of smaller ladels. They were no waiters, we made order at a machine in front of the restaurant and the cooks only shouted the number for our order. The soup… deliciously good!

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After that dinner, served quite slowly with the sticks because there was no consistent spoon, we fell asleep with a splendid view of Osaka, which opened beyond our windows. Our adventure has just begun, so I’ll come back with our second day in Osaka… samurai… gardens…

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See you soon!

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