Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Golden Week

Golden Week is a collection of national holidays here in Japan. For an extended time, all of Japan is on the move as people travel abroad or to other parts of the country to visit friends/family. I was very intrigued to experience such a rarity in Japan - a holiday that lasts for more than one day!

I decided to take a trip back to Osaka to join my friends Vivian, Ciaran and Reese. I love Osaka. It is grimy, seedy, hedonistic and laid back. I enjoyed the style in Osaka as it reminded me of my London - with the exception of the straw boater hats, which every female under the age of 25 was wearing, anything goes in Osaka and it wasn't so contrived as I find Tokyo sometimes can be.

Being back in a big city after a several weeks in the countryside felt wonderful. I enjoy so many things about life in Marugame but this trip really confirmed that I need to take the opportunity to travel as much as possible in these last few months. I fall into the comfort trap here in Marugame - life is easy and uncomplicated....but can also become very monotonous and frustrating. I still hate being so conspicuous in this little town. In Osaka, I felt a little more anonymous and it made me feel relaxed. I loved seeing new things for my eyes to be inspired by, to have those moments of frustration where I could not find a way out of Namba station (with it's 539575478574853 exits), to ride a busy subway like I did every day back in London town, to spend 40 minutes walking from one end of the shopping area to the other, being swept along in a sea of people.

I stayed in a really cute little hostel with equally cute staff in Namba. It was clean, lovely and I didn't feel the urge to get up and get out as soon as I woke up (as I have felt in other hostels I've stayed in). I wish I could be friends with the gesturing man and the girl with the bowl haircut.

I did lots of lovely things with my time in Osaka - drank by the Dotombori canal, went to the most amazing Mexican restaurant I have ever been to, met up with fellow Londoner Roland who took me to a cutesy Vietnamese cafe with colourful sweets and lovely art on the walls, ate Kansai okonomiyaki, satisfied my retail deprivation;I think my summer wardrobe is leaning towards red and stripes this year, stocked up on my Japanese fashion magazines (the spreads are so beautiful) went clubbing (which was fantastic - it was the first time I felt feminine and attractive here in Japan. Guys came up and chatted to us and it felt great, even if I couldn't understand!),ate green tea KitKat Chunkies, my new confectionary obsession, met some of Vivian's lovely Tokushima friends, who I would love to see again, and just enjoyed being in a bustling, noisy, dirty, inspiring place.

(These are the host boys we met. Note the claw hand on my bag after just having been asked about my passport and bank card by said hosts!)

Yesterday, Vivian and I took a trip to Nara 奈良市. Mine and Vivian's schedules here are quite different so it was lovely to spend time together. Our morning began with combini breakfasts, dropping bananas on escalators and a nice little train ride. We walked around in the sunshine, ate bento, saw a giant Buddha (apparently the biggest in the world), petted the deer and partook in the very Japanese custom of buying omiyage (souvenirs) for every single person we know back in Marugame - we are IMMERSED in Japanese culture Vivian! I was happy to see some deer again - I think I preferred the Nara deer to their Miyajima counterparts; they were prettier; more doe eyed and lovely.

(deer and girl with white, pasty legs ach :-/)

Last night, tired footed Vivian and I took the bus back to Osaka laden with our new purchases and a selection of dubious looking combini snacks to console ourselves. It was a fun bus journey home and both of us agreed that we were glad for the company.

Osaka is a different world, an entirely different Japan from the one I have become familiar with over the past eight months of day to day life here in Marugame. I felt flat coming back on the bus but after stepping off the little local train at Marugame, smelling the earthy smell of the rice fields, being greeted by the smiley ticket collector man (we don't need ticket barriers here in the countryside), cycling back home in the early summer warmth, and meeting my besty at the supermarket in ten minutes (we don't have ten billion train exits - you can be with your friends within seconds!) I realised that perhaps I am a lucky girl to be able to experience both sides of Japan.....perhaps.

My heart belongs in the city. Hearts for Osaka; see you soon <3



  1. Isabel, that was so wonderfully written!!! We had the best time in Osaka, and I'll always remember the little things like the banana in the escalator! And I feel the exact same way about being back in the countryside... thank goodness you're here :) We'll make it fun! xx

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