Our first hour in Japan

Our first hour in Japan is a blur. Thank goodness for footage that helps us remember all that happened. Coming from Seoul, you would think it was going to be a smooth ride. But of course, we got lost, took the wrong train on our way to Incheon International Airport, and barely made it to our Seoul Air flight. But, we made it — thanks in great part to traveling with only carry-on luggage!

Unlike many tourists traveling to Japan, we arrived in Osaka first. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossom season and also “take it easy” on this first leg of the trip. We guesstimated that Osaka was going to be significantly smaller in comparison to Tokyo, but boy… were we wrong!

Osaka is big! Ridiculously big! You could be walking for miles on any given day of sightseeing and begging for an extra hour of sleep every morning you’re there. But we didn’t know that yet.

Once we arrived at Kansai International Airport, we stopped by the Ninja Wi-Fi kiosk to pick up our portable Wi-Fi device. It’s important to note that it might have taken us a bit longer than expected to locate said company. For some strange reason, various Wi-Fi companies use the same kiosk to do business and you might have to ask for directions at the airport’s information desk or at the different kiosks. When we figured where to go, Ninja Wi-Fi checked our online reservation and we were instantly connected.

Our original plan was to head straight to the hotel and hit a local izakaya for some Okonomiyaki and Yakitori, but that didn’t happen. We were particularly destroyed when we landed so we decided to catch our breath at the airport. Having Japanese style burgers is what sounded fabulous at the moment.

On the second floor of Kansai Airport, we found Mosdo, a twist on the popular Mosburger Japanese chain that we’d heard so much about. In this case, the burger combos included donuts, all kinds of crazy Japanese donuts, which was an unexpected plus. We tried their original Mosdo burger with a special tomato sauce and their teriyaki sauce burger. Both were pretty great, as well as their neon green melon soda.

With a full belly and some regained energy, we decided to figure out transportation to the hotel. A taxi was, of course, out of the question. Traveling 47 kilometers to the Rhiga Royal Hotel north of the city was going to cost us a small fortune. And the limousine bus is not that much cheaper in Japan either.

Our best bet was to get Icoca cards at the Airport’s JR Station. The great thing about getting train cards is that these will work with all 7 subway and railway companies in Osaka. (Similarly, if you get the Suica or Pasmo cards in Tokyo – which also work in Osaka.) 

From the Kansai Airport, there are two main trains going to the city. You can take the Nankai services train to Namba station (35-45 minutes) or the JR Lines to Shin Osaka or Osaka Station (50-70 minutes). The rides will cost you anywhere from 900 ($9) to 1,400 ($14) yen. We learned that train fares are based on distance and rides start at about $200 ($2). When you purchase your card at the kiosk, just follow the instructions in English and have your cash ready, coins or bills. You won’t be able to use a credit card to purchase or refill your card.

Once you get that squared out, figuring out what train to board is another story. Google Maps was our friend throughout this trip, particularly in Japan. Being able to navigate the cities with our portable Wi-Fi was such a blessing. (Also, in Osaka, we later learned that very few streets are named and those named are of course, in Japanese. So there’s that!)

The train ride to the hotel was long but incredibly beautiful. We went from the coast to the countryside, to the city. It renewed our excitement for what was to come.

We decided to relax the rest of the evening in preparation for the next couple of days. Luckily, our hotel had a well-stocked 7-11 downstairs so we made dinner out of the most amazing ramen and snack options. Yay Japan and their great Conbini stores! 

Overall, Osaka was so much more than we ever imagined. In contrast with Tokyo, this city is grittier and unassuming, yet lively and incredibly modern. We enjoyed the city’s unique mindset, born from having to be reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century after several natural disasters and wars. People are incredibly hardworking and proud, yet friendly and very down to earth — Good enough reason why this city is called “the Chicago of Japan.”

If you are coming this way any time in the future, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Believe us when we say that there’s so much you’ll want to see and eat and experience. Our feet can attest to that.

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