Japan: Tokyo to Osaka

Hotel check-out times are early in Japan so we were on the road to Tamachi station by 10am to grab a train into Tokyo Central for our Shinkansen connection.

Being a public holiday meant more people and this sprawling transport hub was absolutely rammed. It was busier than the busiest airport I have ever been through, and about three times the size.

Our sleek pearl white Shinkansen, Nozomi 355, slid out of Tokyo at 12.09 on the dot, bound for Osaka via Nagoya and Kyoto – it too was full so we were glad we pre-booked the tickets and reserved the seats.

We had regular seats but there was still twice as much room as you get on a plane and the journey was very quick and very comfortable, you had no idea the train was moving at 290 kph.

Osaka station was another massive complex and we had to get another train to Osaka’s other main station where our hotel for the night was.

The rail system in Japan is second to none, but navigating the stations with their multiple levels and exits was a challenge. If you come out of the wrong exit, it can be a long walk to where you want to be.

By the time we reached our hotel, another very expensive box room, it was 4.30 pm and about to get dark so we decided to stay in for the night and live out of the 7-Eleven since we were in the business district with few restaurants.

The 7-Elevens in Japan are streets ahead of Thailand’s in terms of food variety, service, and prices. Eating and drinking from these places is also much cheaper than in Thailand and there are no ridiculous restrictions. Two full meals, a bottle of Chilean wine, and some chocolates cost just 2,400 yen (around 600 baht). And people say Japan is expensive … you couldn’t even get the wine for that in Thailand!

Day eleven

We only had this hotel for one night (about 18 hours in reality due to the tight check-in and out times) and it was the most expensive of the trip at 21,000 yen due to everything being full for Japan Culture Day, but at least breakfast was included.

We stayed at a Japanese hotel chain called APA which is their equivalent of Premier Inn – “budget hotels” (for Japan) with all the trimmings.

By 10am we were standing on another train platform trying to get across Osaka to our next APA hotel and last of the trip in the Namba district.

Osaka has a rough around the edges feel, a little more lively, edgy, and down to earth than Tokyo which was very shiny and sanitized as the hub of business and commerce. Since we couldn’t check in, we left our luggage at the hotel and went for a walk through the bustling market streets around the Tsutenkaku Tower, Osaka’s iconic landmark.

This massive bazaar of restaurants, arcades, souvenir shops, and general tourist tat was heaving due to the long weekend so we escaped to the city park for some solitude among the meticulously kept trees and shrubbery.

We stopped for a couple of draught Asahi’s on the way back to the hotel for the 3pm check-in and relaxed in the room before heading back into the Shinsekai Market area for the evening to head up the tower and get some photos of the visual feast that the area’s illuminated eateries provided.

Previous: Tokyo Part 2
Next: Osaka Part 1