Monday, August 10, 2009

Nippon Love

You know how sometimes when you go traveling to different countries, you find a place that really calls to you? How you can see yourself walking down its streets, shopping in its stores, eating in its restaurants? How no matter how far you are from home, it still feels comfortable?

I found that place. In Japan. Insert big goofy grin here. :-D

For my recent summer vacation, I went on a trip with Britton to Osaka, Japan. He has a friend from college who lives there, and who was happy to show us around on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Rie took us to Osaka Castle, and the Osaka River, where we walked around Tennjibashi-Suji shopping street, ate some delicious okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese pancake), and took a river cruise amongst all the neon lights. It was a magical trip.

We arrived on Friday, and enjoyed some good Japanese ramen from a little shop. Nothing will ever taste the same, I swear! Early Saturday morning we awoke to eat breakfast at the hotel's restaurant before heading out to the harbor for a cruise. Next we headed to Osaka Aquarium, where I saw my first whale shark! The aquarium has two, among many other interesting sea animals that represented the Ring of Fire.

After exploring the nearby Tempozan Village Shops, we headed back toward Umeda and our hotel area in search of sushi. We found bliss at a cramped but homey restaurant with a conveyor-style serving. Now that I've sampled authentic sushi, and fish so fresh that I swear it came straight from the ocean 5 minutes before consumption, again nothing will ever taste as good. I'd been told for a long time that the best place to eat sushi was the real thing in Japan, and now I understand what people have been saying. You want the best, got to get the real thing straight from its birthplace.

Sunday we checked out the shrine across the street from our hotel, which was a very tranquil and great experience. We met up with Rie later and hung out with her until late into the evening before sleep and responsibilities caused us to part ways.

Monday we again rose early for breakfast and headed out to Universal Studios Japan. Now, as a kid I had gone to Walt Disney World in Orlando, but never Universal Studios. So this was a new experience for me. This place is definitely one that makes you feel like a kid again. We enjoyed riding the rides (but not necesarily the long waits in the sun for them), seeing all the familiar characters from our past, and enjoying amusement park treats. The Jurassic Park ride was a nice refreshment after waiting and melting in the humidity for almost 2 hrs, when we came to a splash down in the lagoon. Being soaked was not an issue here!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and on Tuesday we had to pack up and leave the Land of the Rising Sun (sunrise comes at 4:30 am there). But by the time we were on the flight back to Korea and the bus back to Gwangju, I knew I was sold. I would have to go back to Japan again soon, and for much longer this time. Britton agrees with me. That's why we want to take on our next adventure next year: teaching English in Japan! :-D Wish us luck in getting there!

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