Mar 13, 2015

Getting picked up in Osaka & nearly missing the last train. Adventures in Osaka Castle & Dotonburi !

29th October 2013, my 3rd day in Kyoto! This is the day I conquer Osaka! Well, not really. The day didn’t go super well but I had quite an adventure as after 4 trips to Japan, I finally encountered the weird, perverse and shady side of Japan. Will talk more about it at the bottom!
After getting around the Kyoto for the last 1 and a half day, I've started to get the hang of the things. With thanks to one of the staff from Ayado Gion, I found out that it is actually cheaper for me to take a Railway Train to Osaka instead of taking a Bus to Kyoto JR station and then take the train to Osaka. 

Here are some photograph and directions to help you get to the nearest Railway Station (Keihan Gion-Shijo Station) from Ayado Gion .

Walk out from Ayado, turn slightly right and there is a straight path all the way. As you will notice the path is just an alley / small road and keep walking till you reach the Main Street. You should see an intersection where the famed Hanamikoji street is directly across you.

A few photographs of the entrance to the famous Hanamikoji street.

And the very entrance itself.

Being a prime tourist spot (sorta) the shops around here are very dressed to the theme .
It’s a rather long stretch but along the way you should see a signboard that directs you to the nearest railway station.
After that you go down and take the train at platform 2. I'd totally go to the control station master and ask him again to reconfirm my tracks. He also gave me a map and circled the stations I'm supposed to stop at.
So I took a train (150 yen) to Tofukuji station. Then I exit the station and went to the other side of the station that goes to the JR Nara line and took 1 stop to JR Kyoto station . At this point I think I probably could have used my JR pass but instead I used my Suica *palms *.

When you reach JR Kyoto station. Go down from the platform, turn left and towards platform 5.


You will see the signage stating that the line goes to Osaka. Now, there is a station called Shin Osaka and there is another station called Osaka station. While I think you can probably reach Osaka Castle via Shin-Osaka station , I went to Osaka JR Station just in case.



Yeah! On the train towards Osaka here! My eyelid looks especially mono that day -_-;

Osaka reached!
From there I went down the platform and towards the Osaka Loop line.
The loop line is situated at platform 1&2.  For our destination we take the train on platform 2. Since the train line is a loop that means the trains can go both ways and henceforth it is essential for you to board the right side.
I alight at Osakajokoen station.
The Osaka Castle was a long walk away from Osakajoen Station. Here I mostly relied on my GPS and the signboards around x. X . The map at the entrance of the station was sadly, not very helpful.

And finally after much agony, I have arrived at Osaka Castle!  
Entrance ticket to the castle is 600yen/ adult. Children aged 15 or below have free admission.
This folding screen illustrating the Summer War of Osaka is a set of 2 screen, each with 6 section. On the right is the decisive battle between the armies of Toyotomi and Tokugawa on 7th May 1615. The centre portion depicts the clash between Yukimura Sanada of the Toyotomi army and Tadanao Matsudaira of the Tokugawa army. The painting shows a total of 5071 people, 349 horse, 1387 Nobori Banners, 974  Spears and 119 bows.  Along with the exhibit is also 21 enlarged photos of the commanders coupled with information about each of them.
Below the replica screen is a 3 dimensional replication of the battle between 158 members of Yukimura Sanada  and 149 soldiers of Tadanao Matsudaira. Each soldier’s facial expression, gesture, armour , weapons and his position in battle is faithfully replicated.
I can’t help but feel that a Sengoku Basara fan would be so excited here.
A camwhore again! That was my OOTD pic hehee. After all the effort of curling my hair, reckoned I should at least show it right??
An obligatory photo with the castle. Aiya so touristy lah I know XD
I was very obsessed with the anime Creamy Mami when I was a kid. In the anime, Yui’s parents run a Crepe shop that had a Van storefront. These little store vehicles just invoked so much nostalgia in me.
Sadly I already bought my Matcha Soft serve 2 minutes ago >.<! Not sure if it’s the solo travel or the absolutely cool weather in Japan but I was so obsessed over Matcha soft serve ice cream during my trip that I ate at least 1 everyday 8D .
The famous Sakuramon Gate.  This is the main gate of the Homaru (Inner Baily) of Osaka Castle. It was built during the early edo period in 1626. It was lost in a fire during the Meiji Restoration in 1868 but was reconstructed by the army in 1887. The name apparently came from the line of Cherry Trees planted near it in the Toyotomi period. Unfortunately for me, there was none in bloom (duh) during Autumn.

Pretty shrines along the way to the train station.


To be honest, I had absolutely no idea how to go back. Because I exited from a  different exit, it was difficult to retrace my steps back as I had originally intended. But since I was in no rush I just let the sights and my feet lead the way.
I did eventually found some signs that directed me to the nearest JR Train station which was Morinomiya Train Station.  I walked through a park and ended up at an open parade with many stalls selling potted plants and gardening products. The whole walk was refreshing and gave a glimpse o the real Japan with very real Japanese people going about their ways.
The sun was starting to get dark!
I suspect I walked for a full hour but I finally reached a train station. And of course, anyone who goes to a train station inevitably takes a train!
And Namba it was that I landed! I’m going to Dotonburi!
Exit from North Exit , go up the escalator then walk towards the main road and turn right. You will walk pass a bus stop called JR-Nambaeki-Mae (photo below). There is a multi storey supermarket kind of building on your right. Walk towards the pedestrian crossing and then cross the road. You will walk pass a glass pyramid structure, walk till the next intersection and turn right.
Walk further down and you will see the light and signboard for Dotonburi. It was a long and somewhat dark walk from the train station to Dotoburi.  For such a big and famous district, the area around it is surprisingly poorly lit.

After a long walk, finally reached the familiar Neon signboard you see on every other Osaka Tourist pamphlet.
As I walked down the queerly quiet and musky streets of the southern entrance that Tuesday evening, I found my impression of a vibrant Osaka falling apart. Having only just came from Tokyo, the glitzy and vibrant night life of Tokyo had been firmly engraved into my memory. I had thought all big Japanese cities would be as vibrant as Akihabara at night. Not only was it strangely quiet, it was also very unlike how I had envisioned it.
15 minutes of wandering around and I realise, not only is Dotonburi a place for Gastronomical enthusiasts with it’s overflowing of restaurants and eateries . It was also evidently, a place of night life culture as I walked past doors after doors of what I presumed as shady lounges and love hotels. Could be just me though haha!
Sadly I didn’t managed to walk into the famous Hozenji Temple though I did went past a restaurant that had a store front much like a shrine xD . Anyway, some walking later I finally saw the light (literally) as I find myself right in the centre of the neon hub.


The centre of where it’s all at! And you see Ninomiya from Arashi endorsing something. It’s probably not his advertisement now of course xD


There was a really beautiful theatre there and apparently Tsuyoshi Domoto from Kinki Kids was having an Act! The fans were all queuing to enter.

Finally found myself in the crazily busy part of Dotonburi. Where all the giant crabs and octopus hang out as moving structures on huge signboards.


I had thought the Puella Magi fever would be exhausted by the time I went to Japan but apparently not! Probably because of the movie that came out during that period, you see Madoka promoting Lotteria!

And what dinner did I get myself amidst all these grandeur?

Takoyaki and a coke. Very humble I know. But heyyy Takoyaki is supposedly most famous from Osaka!

A part of the Dotonburi central was covered by tall shelters such as these where shoppers can shop without any threats from the weather. Maybe I should just call them indoor malls?
Walking through these covered walkway saw my first weird encounter in Japan. I was walking around taking photographs and minding my own business when a man who looked to be in his 30s or 40s came up to me and started small talk. I’ve noticed him keeping tabs of me at the corner of my eyes a while ago but didn’t found much to be suspicious of,. Afterall we are in this very brightly lit and bustling shopping area.
I can’t remember exactly how he started the conversation with me, probably something about my camera and photography. Asking where I was from and all the usual jazz. We probably walked and talked in my Anime-level Japanese (read: horrendously bad Japanese where one cannot even string a sentence)  for 5 full minutes before he awkwardly popped the question.
I had been thinking it wasn’t so wrong to have someone walk up to you and chat until he finally said Asobi?” . In case you don’t know, it means “Play”. I was like HOMG A DECADE OF WATCHING ANIME HAZ ENABLED ME TO UNDERSTAND DIZ WORD (wei wei, kaika that’s not the point here -_-) !!!
When that magic word was popped everything became crystal clear to me and I politely rejected him. He seemed a little surprised ( WUD? WHY?! *RAGE* !!! ) and proceed to ask again which I of course continued to refuse politely while hastening my steps. I have to admit I was surprised he even dared to ask a 2nd time. Do I really look so much like a whore or does decent looking Japanese girls regularly offer such services despite being covered from head to toe (like me) ?
I have the nasty feeling that it’s both -_-;
I related this to a friend who is staying in Japan afterwards and she told me this happens often to her. As long as you are walking alone, even if you’re waiting at a train station, you’d get picked up like this. I have always knew this perverse side of Japan exists beneath it’s flawless veneer but having been there for 4 times and not encountering any such experience prior still took me by surprise.
It seems like a big metropolitan city full of lonely people and a fierce culture of materialistic worship has cultivated this unhealthy and wretched norm. It is pretty saddening to have a part of society fall into this.
And all this time we were STILL walking through the covered walkway with people walking around us … exactly how long are these malls?!
I was even more surprised when he didn’t give up after the second rejection. Probably assuming I didn’t understand what he was saying (my lack of Japanese conversational skills did not go unnoticed LOL) he suddenly decides to change his tactic and asks if I was alone. Don’t ask me how I understood him but I just did (Ten years of watching Anime YEEHA!) . To that I dished out my Oscar worthy acting skill and pointed to my non-existence friends ahead while giving him a blank and surprised face. My acting must have been awesome because he totally got to point and embarrassingly retreated while apologising.
Such a sad sad culture where lonely people buys company =( I’m not angry at him though, I just feel bad for him and wish something good (in a wholesome way-_-) would come by his life soon. I guess I should pray for him tonight!   

A Singapore banner! Thailand and Malaysia’s banner are behind!

Japan is like non-stop Pachinko stores everywhere LOL. Pachinko, Pachinko everywhere ~

I spent a lot of time wandering around though sadly didn’t buy much. Partly because I wanted to scrimp and avoid pending on expensive Japanese products. I did however find myself in a 100yen Shop!

This particular franchise took up an entire level of the mall !

And check this out, Shima Pantsu xDDD Was very tempted to buy them back hahaa. Actually I think I did eventually bought 2 (not shima pantsu) back.

You might have noticed by far how I don’t seem to have talked about the Glico Man yet. And that’s because I haven’t found him yet! ARGH!!!! It was so frustrating to be walking around cluelessly on tired legs (take note that I’ve been walking for the past few hours!) with the time ticking by. I had asked many helpful passer-by and was even asked by a fellow tourist too but sadly, due to my inability to communicate in Japanese…let’s just say I only found the Glico Man after much much much agony.
Like I mentioned, Dotonburi was a place of night life. There were many  guys and girls standing around looking for potential clients to bring back to their respective establishments; could be cafes, could be ktvs, could be PUB, could be Host Clubs and others. Now, I’m not implying the girls or guys themselves are shady, because having a staff pull sales/clients outside is a common business strategy. The problem though, is it’s often hard to know which establishment is shady and which isn’t just based on the staff they station outside. A good rule of thumb is to avoid them altogether especially if you’re alone.
While I was waiting to cross the road, a neatly primped bishounen (handsome young men) came up to me and introduced his stuffs to me. At that point I had been walking for a few hours, was cold , tired and was googling images of disposable underwears on my iPhone and was in no mood to be nice. So I just told him I didn’t understand Japanese and he politely retreated while saying “ahh so you don’t understand japanese eh..sou ka”. I wonder how would the experience ended if I had pulled the fangirl + tourist stunt on him and asked for a selfie together ahhahaa. I would probably scare him off and that would be fun xDDD
Anyway, by some sheer luck I finally found the Glico man -_-

He was in the centre of the central area all along -__- He was just beside the Dotonburi bridge that was over the main canal. It was the place I walked past the very beginning T_T

Obligatory camwhore with the guy after searching for him for the past few hours! My hair looks so nice here *_*


The toothache pose is absolutely necessary here!

I left Dotonburi for Kyoto around 10pm.
And took the wrong train to Yamato-Koizumi which was nearer to Nara than Kyoto T_T . By then it was near 11pm and I frantically ran to the nearest train staff for help. The awesome train staff proceed to print out this train instruction for me as he kindly explained the route to me.

I was able to make it for the last train to Kyoto. However , I soon realise my adventure was not yet over as I recalled that the bus from Kyoto to Ayado-Gion (my hostel) ends before 12 midnight =(
For a foreigner travelling on her own , it was a nerve wracking experience to be missing your last train from a different city. I was so lost on what to do . Thankfully I had a SIM card on me and starting texting a friend in Singapore. Much thanks to Sara for advising me to drop at Tokufuji instead of Kyoto JR station because it was actually close to my hostel.
By sheer luck (or I should say, God’s perfect planning) I alighted at an absolutely empty station. The gantries were all opened and the staff was nowhere to be seen. As I stood alone blankly in Tokufuji’s little station, wandering around looking at any signs of where I can get a Cab or walking directions. I suddenly heard the sound of a train moving! That sparked the memory in me as I remembered there was still the Subways here that can take me back to Gion!
I finally reached Gion-Shijo Station after midnight and while I was walking out , the train station staff who I had asked directions from in the morning started talking to me. Not sure was it because he recognised me or was he just worried about me or maybe he just thinks I’m a whore who just ended her business -_-; But he asked in a gentle and inquisitive tone while going about his closing errands “Oujo- San why so late?” (don’t ask me how I understood him, I just somehow did). The question triggered me to agitatedly explain to him my terrible experience of taking the wrong train to Nara, getting lost and finding my way back. Not sure if he understood me though -_-;;; I only remember there was a bunch of happy looking teenagers walking in front of me talking amongst themselves and they took the escalator up to the main street while the train staff told me to follow him and we walked up a flight of stairs to the main streets -_- Leg very tired liao wei….
And the moment I exited the stairs into the main street, an uncle in business shirt (can’t remember if he had a tie on) jumped towards me and started talking to me again. I think I really have a very high threshold of stupidity and tolerance and I stood there talking for me for a good 5 minutes -_- . I guess having finally returned to a familiar place after my big hooha of missing my train and bus, I was significantly calmer and relieved. And probably started to let my guard down.
I couldn’t make out most of what the guy said but still, he was somehow a very good conversationalist and maintained a very good vibe throughout the conversation despite both of us not knowing much about the other’s language. He finally asked for my number which I deduced was time for me to get away from him. I told him I didn’t have any phone numbers to give, reiterating that I am a tourist and I’m returning home tomorrow. He was surprisingly persistent and kept coaxing  me to give him my number or meet him tomorrow at some places (at least I think that’s what he meant). I consider myself a pretty good conversationalist who is capable of redrawing stylishly, that however was a bit of a struggle with this guy. He did eventually gave up though and don’t worry guys, he didn’t touch me. It was after all, just beside a main road with random people walking around us waiting to cross the road. While I was stuck talking to this guy, there were quite  a number of people waiting to cross the road in front of us. 2 particular guys had noticed us and kept turning back towards our direction.
When I finally bid the guy good bye and joined the crowd waiting to cross the road (seriously was the green light taking too long or was the conversation with the guy shorter than I remembered ?) the 2 guys kept turning to look at me. All the while talking animatedly among themselves about what they saw just now (me and the guy, talking). I wasn’t able to understand their conversation fully but it seemed to me that the 2 guys were very suspicious of that business shirt man and thought it was very dangerous for me to be speaking to him. The only word I could remember from eavesdropping was “ABUNE NA!” (“That’s dangerous!”. Yet another commonly heard word in Anime xD)
I had been feeling okay before that but when I heard that and the vibe these 2 strangers were emitting, I started to feel chills run down my spine -_-;;;
When we finally crossed the road the 2 guys couldn’t hold it anymore and started talking to me. Asking me where I am from and if I could speak Japanese etc. I told them politely that I couldn’t and one of the guy was like “Ahh Americano na, zennen desu ne” (“Ahh english? that I don’t know what a pity”) I believe there was more spoken, the guys probably tried to ask me about the business suit guy but my linguistic ability forbad me from communicating more. I only remembered one of them ended his questions by asking if I’d like to join him for a drink . To which his friend burst out laughing haha. Of course I wasn’t going to go anywhere with any strange men much less drink so I smiled and shook my head.
The walk back became a lot scarier after these series of events -_-;;
And because it was past midnight, I also saw for the first time a Gion like never before. It was a sight I have never seen before but almost every street near Ayado-Gion, big or small was filled to the brim with Cabs.
My guess is midnight was the time the hostess knocked off work and adjourns to their next rendezvous location with their client. Either that or they are really just going home. I am just amazed by the amount of cabs stationed right outside for this nightly feast. This was also the one night where the real experience of living near a red light district dawned upon me.
Now I’m not blaming anyone nor am I trying to paint a negative image of Gion , Osaka or Kyoto. The fact of the matter is that dangerous people are everywhere. Japan is generally a safe place for a solo female to travel to as long as you know where and when to avoid.  For my remaining nights in Kyoto and Gion I never encountered all these weird people again because I usually came back before midnight. So my guess is, like mommy always say, don’t stay out too late!
This had been an incredibly long entry. I think I subconsciously didn’t want to blog about it because I knew it would be this tiring and tedious haha. Hope you guys enjoyed it and remember to leave me a comment! Share your own Japan experience with me!
Money spent that day:
- 600 Osaka castle
- 300 Matcha ice cream
- 670 takoyaki+ cola
- 2100 Shopping at 100 Yen shop
- 300 tokufuji to Gion Shijo (sub way)

Total =  3970 yen (as of current SGD $45.18)

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