So here I am in Hotel Shin-Imamiya just about to head out to an international party. But I suppose I should tell you the back story…
So caught Air New Zealand Business Class from Auckland to Osaka. Now this isn’t their Business Premier, with the lie flat beds. Their Boeing 767 hasn’t been fitted out with that, so they were really just big lazy boys. But it was still pretty nice. They really shower you with food and drink. Well I suppose for the $3500 more than a regular flight, you’d want a little something extra. For breakfast, I had toasted museli and I was full. Turns out that was just the starters, and there was the mains of an omlet. And the noise cancelling headphones were a treat as well. But probably the best part was being able to get a decent night’s sleep for a change. With the nearly full lie back seats, I could get to sleep, but shame the foot rests don’t go to the same level, so still had a bit of swelling in the ankles. But enough of the dirty talk.
Landed at Kansai International Airport, and there was no drama getting through customs and immigration. There’s a few different methods you can use to reach Osaka from Kansai, all with different prices. There’s a big push for people to use the Limited Express Haruka, at only 2400 yen or however much it is. But a little slower and a lot cheaper is the Rapid services for only 1160 yen to Shin-Imamiya. Remember you buy your tickets at the ticket machine, insert the ticket into the gate, grab it from the gate, and you’re away laughing. I suppose if no one’s ever told you to grab the ticket at the other end of the gate, you wouldn’t know. But then you have to explain it to the train guy, and that’s a pain in the ass.
Made it to Shin-Imamiya, and dropped of the bag in a Coin Locker for 400 yen. This time round I have a Lonely Planet Japanese phrasebook. It’s OK, and helps me make broken Japanese sentences. I told the train guy that I was arriving at 4pm, and how much was the coin locker. Turns out 400 yen is good for probably 24 hours which is good. Since I didn’t exit the station, I caught the Osaka Loop Line to Osaka station.
Osaka station is an order of magnitude bigger than Hamilton station. Hamilton station has one platform, and two trains a day. Osaka station has about 14 platforms, and two trains every minute or so. It’s pretty confusing trying to find the Midori-no-madaguchi or Reservation Office. This is where you can exchange your Japan Rail Pass Exchange Voucher (funnily enough) for a Japan Rail Pass.
Tips for this:
- You need the Exchange Voucher, and it must be in your (correctly spelled) name;
- You need your Passport and there must be a temporary vistor sticker in it (not just a photocopy).
That’s it, it’s pretty bloody simple. I saw some Australians that failed at this, and were not pleased with their JR experience. Turns out they just brought photocopies, and were denied a JR Rail Pass. Seriously, follow the instructions and there are no problems, but a she’ll be right attitude doesn’t work in Japan.
At the same Reservation Office, I booked all my Shinkansen tickets. More useful tips for you:
- Have an itinerary, and it must be detailed. No I want a train around Tuesday. Be more specific. Use http://www.hyperdia.com to pick the exact trains.
Seriously, this bit of planning made my life so much easier. Only takes an hour or so, and then at the Reservation Office you can just show your planning, and the tickets are booked, and there are no dramas. One train had sold out, so I booked a later one, but no stresses. Most of the time you wouldn’t really had to book a Shinkansen but since it’s so close to New Years, it makes sense to do so.
From there, spent ages trying to find the Osaka Visitors Center. There’s one in Tenoji Station, a few stops on the Osaka Loop Train. Made it, and found the Osaka Visitors Center. It’s a pretty good place, and where you can buy an Osaka Unlimited Pass. For 2700 yen, you get two days of unlimited subway and bus rides, and also free entry into 25 attractions, that would normally cost a lot more than 2700 yen.
I only went to two attractions today, the Tenoji Zoo for 500 yen, and some tower thing for 600 yen, but either way, that’s 1100 yen down, only 1600 more yen tomorrow and I’ve broken even.
Tenoji Zoo is a bit heartbreaking. I mean there’s soo many cool animals there, but most of them are locked up in little cages. It’s sad to see Cougars pacing backwards and forwards in a little cage making the sounds of a dying Giraffe. It looks like they’re so bored that they’re slowly going mental, and that’s probably what’s happening. Still, there are a lot of cool animals, and the place is pretty close to the center of town. For 500 or 600 yen, I still recommend going. At least then you’ll probably appreciate your zoo back home.
This tower I went to (says Hitachi on the side) is a bit of a famous landmark in Osaka. At the top there’s a view of all of Osaka. It’s pretty much buildings as far as the eye can see (which wasn’t very far because of the smog). The area around the tower’s pretty interesting, and features drunk men, pachinko parlours, and lots of people screaming at you to come into their restaurant. I had a splitting headache at this time, and so went to a phamary and said “Atama Itai” or “Head Hurts” to which I was directed to the Panadol section. 500 yen later, I was all drugged up which was great. Still after a long day walking around, it was still only 1pm, and I had to wait until 4pm to check into Hotel Shin-Imamiya. So I went to Spaworld.
Spaworld is great. They’re having a special at the moment, only 1000 yen to enter until the end of the year. So you buy a ticket, and then give the ticket to the guy, who exchanges it for a bracelet. Then you need to immediately take off your shoes, and put them in the shoe coin locker (100 yen, but you get it back). Luckily I was wearing odd socks. Then you head to your respective floor (males 4th floor, females 6th floor). On your floor, you then strip naked, put all your gear into another coin locker (100 yen deposit again), and get a small orange hand towel to hide your modesty. And then you go balls deep (not literally) into the spa. There’s about 7 different rooms, all modeled around Europe, so a Roman Spa, and Finnish Spa, etc. It’s all a little homoerotic, especially surrounded by naked men. But it’s all harmless fun, and quite normal for Japan. Would be damn bizzare in Hamilton. It was so peaceful, especially the really hot water, followed by really cold water. I ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours on a deck chair, I was so relaxed.
After that, a quick walk to Shin-Imamiya station. Turns out Tenoji Station and Shin-Imamiya station are pretty much right next to each other (10 minutes walk). Went inside, paid 120 yen to get into the station, picked up my bag, and then headed to Hotel Shin-Imamiya.
I think the word Hotel is a bit of a stretch, more like a building where capsules happen to be located. But still, is clean enough. The area of town is a little rough by Japanese standards, but is pretty pleasent by New Zealand standards. I’d still rather walk around here at night, instead of Hamilton. 14,400 yen later, I had a place to stay for 8 nights, so that was cheap as chips. My capsule is tiny, but it is a private room, so there’s a table and a wardrobe. I wish there was a power point to be honest.
Anyways, time to head to Nagahoribashi for an international party. 2500 yen for all I can drink and eat for three hours. Beats sitting around not talking to anyone else I guess.