Benjamin Chait


12 January 2013

Finishing our travels in Japan were a few days in Osaka with good food, friends and a little quiet.

Osaka was our final destination in the country; having a Japan Rail Pass for seven days proved both fantastic and exhausting. Much of the past week we hopped from city to city, never sleeping in the same bed more than two evenings. The pass allowed nearly unlimited travel by JR lines including Shinkansen (bullet trains) and local lines throughout Kyoto, Hiroshima and Kyushu island, Nara and Osaka—a great opportunity to explore more of the country. Because a JR Pass is only available to visitors of Japan (it’s an incredible deal) we wanted to truly capitalize upon it. By Tuesday, the final day our passes were valid, we had taken seven Shinkansen, seven local lines and a ferry for a combined distance of more than 1,940 kilometers in a week. Arriving in Osaka and settling in the same place for a few nights was a relief.

The food we found was delicious. From fast food to street food to nicer, local establishments, I am truly going to miss the variety and ingenuity of food available. Onigiri are small snacks wrapped in both sticky rice and seaweed, often arriving in brilliant packaging allowing the ingredients to remain fresh until one unwraps the “sandwich.” Yakitori is grilled chicken almost like kebabs. Mochi—one of my favorites back home—are rice dough filled with red bean or other sweets. Pocky is everywhere. Okonomiyaki is a “pancake” specialty both in Hiroshima and Osaka. Soba noodles are my favorite, though I would gladly finish a bowl of udon or ramen if offered. Even coffee from vending machines is enjoyable—especially as it arrives pre-heated! Needless to say, endless opportunities exist to experience new food.

Ramen from a street stall in Osaka Osaka downtown lights Osaka skyline from KIX (Kansai International Airport) awaiting departure

I cannot believe that I have been in Japan for the past three weeks. Thinking about how much I have seen, I wish I had more time to stay and explore. Osaka, though a much smaller city, reminded me of Tokyo—yet I feel I barely scratched the surface of what exists. Unlike the quiet neighborhoods in Nara, Osaka was a constant bustle of commotion with plenty to see and do. My short time spent in Nara—while enough to explore the town—felt incredibly rushed with such hospitable and kind hosts at the guesthouse. Hiroshima is a place I want to enjoy without any plans, merely existing in-the-moment. And Kyoto has so much to offer—so many temples and sights and food—I am certain I could return many times and never have the same experience twice. In no uncertain terms, I truly desire to return to Japan for more chances to enjoy and explore.

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