Lasting Memories in Japan - Kyoto and Osaka Don't Disappoint
We've mentioned this in the past, but it's worth mentioning again as we leave Japan and head to New Zealand. When we began making plans for our trip we quickly agreed to spend a good amount of time in each place. Not only did we not want to be packing our bags every other day (something that still happens far too often), but we wanted to better understand the cultures of the people and places we were visiting.
This post is supposed to be about our last two stops in Japan, Kyoto and Osaka, two very nice and relatively large cities. There were a few things that made both stops enjoyable -- the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto that features thousands of Torii Gates (see picture below), and our last night in Japan we had one of the best experiences of our trip taking in a Hanshin Tigers baseball game on the outskirts of Osaka.
But what I'll take away most from those cities and the rest of our trip is how beautiful Japan is (especially all of the great parks in Tokyo), how warm its people are, how fantastic its food is and how well we were treated wherever we were.
A few of the things I'll remember, and I realize this is the kind of thing where you'd have to be there so I'll do my best to make it interesting.
Helpers: The man who I ran into in a subway mall who asked where we were trying to go. After telling him Starbucks, he took his smart phone out, searched for the closest Starbucks, then walked us there. We wanted to buy tickets for a baseball game and found a convenience store that sold them through an ATM-like machine -- in Japanese. The woman from the store quickly realized we didn't know what we were doing and took us through the process, even getting on the phone with a ticket agent to make sure we got what we wanted.
Kids, kids, everywhere: We stumbled upon a high school baseball team scrimmaging. The players quickly noticed there were a couple of Westerners in the stands and the kid who was the ump did an exaggerated strike call, then turned around to look at us for approval. We laughed. On our trip to the subway we walked by an elementary school and the kids out for recess quickly latched on to us and were so excited to use their limited English with us. As we walked away they continued to walk down the length of the school grounds, following us and shouting at us.
Fun people: If there was one thing that Jill and I remarked on more than anything during our trip to Japan and all of Asia, was how happy the people were and how whenever they were together there was always a lot of joking and a lot of laughing. We realized that we're often too serious and need to laugh more. Jill already mentioned this, but there was a party at one of the hostels we were staying at and you couldn't believe how much fun the predominantly Japanese people were having and how welcoming they were to us. But perhaps the people having the most fun were the fans at the Hanshin Tigers baseball game. When the Tigers come to bat, the cheers are non-stop, led by a head cheerleader who shouts out the cheer, then an entire stadium doing cheers the entire half inning. Pandemonium ensues when a batter gets a hit and all hell breaks loose when a run scores. The seventh inning stretch is over-the-top with a balloon release by everyone in the stadium.
Food: The sushi was stellar as you would expect. The only explanation I could come up with other than how fresh the fish was, was that the rice was fluffier than what I remember from home. So good. Also, the ramen was incredible. If you ever make it to Osaka, go visit this brilliant man who has his own little standing restaurant right by Nipponbashi Subway Exit 7. Some of the best fried noodles with egg ever and at a bargain price of $4.
We leave Japan with some great memories and vows to return someday. It's a place that combines the best of tradition with a modern flair. I'll miss it -- at least until we get to the next great place.