Thursday, June 21, 2012

Japan 3: Noodle museum, internet cafes and plenty of sake

And so after spending a week in Tokyo I felt it was time to move on and caught the night bus with an awesome Polish- Irish guy, I met out one night in Asakusa, Arek. As we both didn’t have the JR rail pass and were both cheap travellers we decided to take the 9 hour long night bus for 4,600 yen to save on accommodation. Although admittedly we did visit Happy hour 3 hours before our bus left so were lucky that we actually made the bus in time.
Budget accommodation #1- Night bus.
Luxury bus seats completed with a cocoon type hood that sits over your head to ensure you have a pleasant night's sleep.
After a happy sleepless sake fueled bus ride, we finally arrived in Kyoto. Due to Golden week we found ourselves in a sticky situation. There was no beds available in our accommodation nor any other hotels or hostels in the area for the next three days. So once again in Japan i found myself homeless. 

With no accommodation booked and not much disposable money in our pockets we weighed up our options in front of us. Plan A to stay out drinking at an all you can drink bar and eventually fall asleep there, Plan B find a capsule hotel, Plan C sleep at a spa overnight, Plan D sneak into our accommodation and sleep on the bean bags (yes it has been done before) or plan E try to catch some zs in a 24hour internet café. After much searching round for the most reliable and cheapest of options we decided to combine both Plan A and Plan E; stay out drinking and then retire to a cubicle in the internet café.

Internet cafes are actually a surprisingly cheap form of accommodation at 1,700yen (or $20AUD) for 6 hours use as opposed to an average of 2,000 for a dorm bed in a cheap hostel. Our stay was uncomfortable to say the least. We left our booking and check in till around 2am so all of the “good” cubicles had been taken. Our only option a single couch in a little cubicle space.  Imagine a huge room with high ceilings and thin wall cubicles where even the average guy could peer over the partitions if he wanted to. All is quiet except for the violent tapping of keyboards from gamers in action. 

Inside the low lighting and complete lack of windows gave you a melancholy feeling, enabling you to easily loose track of time of the world outside, which is purposefully done so you overstay your time and have to pay overstay fees. The doors of the cubicles were glass so as you walked by you could see little glimpses of the life inside the cubicle showing a huge variety of people from those who missed their train, to those who looked like they had been kicked out of the house, or those who just wanted to read manga or play games in private. 

Inside each cubicle are huge computers with internet, television and games which all take up half the cubicle space. Beyond the cubicle are showers, walls and walls of vending machines, manga books and gambling machines. It’s a space for people to chill by themselves, fall asleep on the common room couches, reach that level on the game you have been trying to conquer or visit “lady” sites in privacy. Yes it is a cheap and perfect price for us backpackers but be weary of a stiff uncomfy nights sleep disturbed by repetitive keyboard noises from gamers next door and other disturbing sounds.

Budget accommodation #2- Internet cafe in Kyoto.

After no sleep the night before we ventured off to try and fit in a few sights before leaving Kyoto. We caught the local bus circuit route to the Golden Pavillion. It is a very famous temple in Japan and was on the “must see” list. I found it impressive, but we chose the wrong time to go during Golden Week and found ourselves amongst huge crowds of people lining up for "the perfect photo" in front of the building. 
Kinkaku-ji, the "Golden Pavillion"
After 5 days in Kyoto it was time to move onto Osaka. I left Arek for the day and ventured on my own to Osaka to meet up with the lovely Shige and Veronica again. Still not 100% used to the train system I asked two lovely Japanese guys for help purchasing my ticket to Namba Station. I then found those same boys waiting for me outside my carriage after I hoped off my first train, which was perfect as I had no idea where I was going. Not only did these two boys buy my tickets, but they also carried my backpack and let me borrow their phone to call Shige and Veronica to assure that I was still coming. 

These two boys are a perfect example of the Japanese people. They will go out of their way just to help you. Even if they don’t know English they will still help in anyway they can. When I was in a shopping center in Tokyo I asked a man to help me find Udon sauce, he didn’t understand English yet went around to every single person in the shop, ended up with a collection of 4 people, to ask if they could help me and then escorted me through the check out!

Osaka is a big energetic city and reminded me of Tokyo in many ways. The main area Namba is full of billboards, shops, amazing food stalls, and crowds! The amount of people shopping can be almost claustrophobic at times. 

A sea of people down the main bazaar in Namba.
But what I find impressive about most cities in Japan is that there is an underground network below you connected to the subway stations. It seems almost like the sky isn't the limit here. Not only do they build up but also down. 
The famous Glico man in Namba, Osaka
Car covered in Swarovski crystals.
My lovely friends Shige and Veronica at the Sky Tower
Umeda sky building's escalator in Osaka. The building is 40 stories tall and has two escalators connecting the two, with an amazing view of the city below.

Namba Dōtonbori Canal
Cheap accommodation #3- Our Budget box accommodation Japanese style in Osaka. 
A room big enough for a double bed and nothing else!
But out of all the "sights" I saw in Japan, none was more impressive than the Ramen Museum in Osaka. It was similar to most other museums with the information provided such as the history of ramen and the scientific specifications and reasoning's of the ingredients or the shape and material of the noodle cup- only it was all noodle related. After visiting the museum I certainly now have more appreciation for noodle cups!

Instant Noodle Museum-The hall of noodles at the museum for instant noodles in Osaka. The museum is dedicated to the creation of instant noodles, the science behind them and their history. Here is the wall of the different types of instant noodles and how they have evolved over time.
"Bird is the word" customised noodle cup. "love" sausage, shrimp, dried egg and bacon flavoured cup-o-noodles. itadakimas!
Spot the odd one out...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Hannah
    I have just been reading your wonderful travel blog. Oh it brings back memories of my SE Asia travels but 22 years ago.
    Keep traveling and keep being curious. Those memories will stay with you forever.