Monday, June 10, 2013

Part 2- Japan: Golden Week in Osaka

Continuing our story from Part 1-  China: Shot Down (link)...

Shitenno-ji Temple in Osaka, Japan

The scheme I had hatched for an extended weekend in Beijing, China had fizzled in a big way.  I thanked God for a job at Delta Airlines that allows me nearly unlimited travel options.  Never one to take my ball and go home, I redirected my energy towards Kyoto, Japan.

My Japanese friends had warned me against visiting the country during the ever-crowded Golden Week.  Reportedly, even the locals have difficulties getting around and finding accommodations!  How could I resist the challenge?


Shortly after landing in Osaka, I discovered that all of Kyoto's hostels were booked solid through the end of the week.  And the hotels.  Even if I stayed within the city of Osaka, the Guesthouse Tennoji hostel had the only bed available in the whole region... for a single night.  One night down, one to go.

Surely I could hunt down a room somewhere within an 1 1/2  hour train ride from Osaka or Kyoto to sleep the following night, right?

The Kansai airport/train station displayed one of the more thoughtful rail maps (mostly in Japanese) that I've seen in my travels, visually simplifying a potentially confusing fare and transfer system. Combined with my free city map, no directions were necessary for any of my stops.  And my hostel was just a few minutes walking distance from the prominent Tennoji train station!

Here are a few photos from that afternoon, snapped while making my way across Osaka to the Guesthouse Tinnoji hostel:

The Guesthouse Tennoji Hostel

Planning ahead for Operation: Nightlife, I arrived at the hostel (pictured above and below) and immediately started scouring the bunks for willing accomplices for a later evening jaunt into the Dotombori district.  Although all the beds were booked solid, few other backpackers had checked in yet.  Xia, a Chinese graduate from Australia, was a perfect candidate.  He was no stranger to wild nights, and he would try to recruit other hostelers to join us while I went out sightseeing.

Checking in at the Guesthouse Tennoji hostel:  This is my well-traveled day bag, propped up next to the folded sleeping pad for a moment before I continued my Osaka sightseeing.  I didn't even have to share a bunk bed!  This certainly beats the Tokyo capsule that I slept in last year (link to "Tokyo Drifting, Pt. 1").

Osaka Castle, the Umeda Sky Building, and Shinsekai were all within running distance.  Hey, I was short on time.  The time spent with new friends at the hostel left few opportunities to slow down for pictures.  The sun was just about to drop as I jogged into the courtyards of everyone's recommended point of interest: Shitenno-ji Temple.

The last hour of daylight was used up at the 6th century (albeit mostly recreated) Shitenno-ji Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan.  After watching the sunset, I walked back to my hostel in the dark to rally the troups for our party in the making

Xia and I were game for some rowdiness, but no one else in our hostel took the bait. Most of our fellow backpackers played the exhaustion card.  The Nebraskans sharing my loft upstairs had apparently partied too hard the night before.  And some were too worried about where they would be sleeping 24 hours later (as I should have been, seeing as our hostel and every hostel in the Osaka area was overbooked the next night).  It would be a not-so-low-key bros' night out.

Did I mention it was Golden Week?  A Japanese friend back home in Portland had described Golden Week as "the most crowded time to visit Japan, with the streets completely overflowing with drunk Japanese people."  Her memories weren't too far from the truth, but no local I asked could satisfactorily explain the reason for the season.

Dissuaded by the dense crowds in our own Tennoji district, Xia and I abandoned our ambitions for seeking out nightlife in Dotombori (including a club name that is absurdly unsuitable for print- lost in translation, we assume?).  Instead, we headed to a nearby hot spot with a mere a 20 minute entrance queue, and waited to get inside.  And so the night began!

 Gotta love Xia.  He's such a great guy!

Shawn, Ritsuko, Kate, Aiko, Jim, and other friends along the way made my time in Osaka even more colorful.  I could write more about things getting ridiculously out of hand.  But I'll quit while I'm ahead.

This travelogue series will resume at a later date.  I'll be busy with other trips in the near future.  But I promise:

Coming later this year on Garth's Blog...

Part 3- Japan: Deer maulings and a Golden Week festival in Nara!

But first...

A Father's Day week photo spectacular!!


Susan Hamilton said...

Garth, I never cease to be AMAZED by your ability to travel with so much flexibility and to find creative solutions so quickly in situations where most of us would be stumped. Then, after all that effort, you still have energy and motivation to find some night life wherever you are!

I really enjoyed reading your blogpost on your trip to Japan. Your temple photos are wonderful...such beautiful buildings!

I'm very proud of you! Love, your mama

Garth Hamilton said...

Thinking on my feet is a must when traveling like I do! Lack of flexibility has ruined many of my friends’ overseas vacations, but I’m always determined to never miss an opportunity for amping up an adventure.

I’ll be continuing this “Asia and beyond” travelogue later this month. I’ve been sidetracked!