Taiwan’s observed holiday at the end of February (Memorial Day) afforded I and my fellow teacher friend and co-adventurer, Xanthe, a three day weekend, which we used to our full advantage. We booked tickets to see Japan, a first for both of us. Since tickets to Osaka were cheaper than those to Tokyo, we decided we could see both Osaka and Kyoto during our short visit. A new Japanese budget airline, Peach, had direct flights from Taiwan to Osaka, and we also decided to give the airline a go as well.
My preconceived notions and expectations of Japan before the trip were formed through a mixture of pop culture references in movies, my limited knowledge of anime and sumo wrestling, Americanized sushi, and a Styx song–which also provided the only Japanese language lesson I’d ever had as well. We had both heard that the Japanese don’t speak much English, and communication with them is difficult and limited; however, I felt less apprehension being with my Aussie companion, Xanthe, and her small Japanese language background in primary school. Both of us thought of Japan as a highly advanced country technology wise, and we weren’t sure exactly what we’d witness in that area, but were sure it would be amazing. After all, Taiwan is pretty developed on that front and the transportation system is amazing and efficient. All of the Taiwanese we’d met rave about Japan, so we were also sure that Japan would be great as well.
After a sort of disappointing experience getting a filling meal both in Taipei airport and on Peach airlines with a very smiley Japanese flight attendant who apologized profusely because they were out of every item we wanted to order, we finally landed in Osaka KIX airport. KIX airport is on an island, so we knew we’d have to figure out a way to get from the airport to the greater Osaka area when we arrived. This proved more difficult than we’d anticipated. We messed around, not realizing that the time was an hour later in Japan than Taiwan, and ended up having to take the last bus into the city (through fault of our own and a dude at the airport who’s advice turned out to be really unhelpful) at 1:30 am. Well, it wasn’t all bad. We had to take a taxi part of the way to our Airbnb stay, and seriously enjoyed the classic look, the doily decorations on the seats, the driving on the left side of the road, and whatever black magic the driver possessed that allowed him to open our backseat door without leaving the driver’s seat.
Once we actually got into Osaka and began exploring, the rest of our trip went pretty smoothly. The fist day, we were initially confused with how to operate the extremely 1950s looking ticket machines to get our subway tickets, but once we got the hang of that, we enjoyed a day walking around Osaka Castle, the peach blossom garden, and Dotonbori Street.