Osaka. Welcome to Japan! Cherry blossoms and Okonomiyaki.
It’s 10 PM and we’re lying in bed in our tiny apartment in Tengachaya, south of Osaka. It’s our second house since we landed in Japan. Jet lag is quite crazy (+7 hours from Milan and Paris) and it’s the first night since we arrived that the kids are sleeping at this time. After an amazing day at Kaiyukan Aquarium here we are, Julien and I, tired but happy that we could find some time to work a little and get used to this new rhythm. However, it wasn’t always easy. Let’s start from the beginning:
20 hours travelling are ahead. A first flight Paris - Hong Kong during the night; a break in Hong Kong airport and then another 4 hour flight Hong Kong - Osaka during which the kids slept wonderfully. Nothing to complain about. Lia managed to sleep in the crib that the airplane company gave us, Teo slept on two seats comfortably, I slept on the ground with a pillow and a blanket and Julien slept on his seat using his travel pillow.
We land in Osaka in the evening. In our head is almost lunch time but the Japanese clock shows it’s 9PM. Better not to think about it: we have to get in this rhythm as soon as possible. We decide to take our first Japanese memory with our GoPro, but it doesn’t work. It’s ok, let’s grab the camera: nothing. No focus. It doesn’t matter, we’ll check it later. Now I see that the big plastic bag containing the stroller is already waiting for us at the arrivals. Just a look at it and I understand something’s wrong. Of course, finally something happened. Here we are. After we all perfectly survived for 5 months in South East Asia, something had to happen. Our stroller is completely destroyed: a wheel is missing and the framework is telling us that its trip was way more turbulent than ours.
We look for help immediately but it’s so hard to communicate and we’re so exhausted after the long travel. Worried and with a broken stroller we walk towards the Passport Control. One hour later we’re still there and we start feeling so sleepy; we’re trying to balance our low energy and the kids’ enthusiasm (they’re very hungry and very active, after all they almost slept 20 hours). Also, we’re hoping for the best with our stroller but it seems like there’s nothing to do: airlines don’t refund for broken strollers, you can pray and remember them your rights all you want. It’ll be hard now without our amazing stroller that allowed both our children to be comfortable (the platform is your best friend when you walk 7 km a day). They give us another stroller for only one child of course, and only after hours of wait. We’re finally out at 11.30 PM.
We’re so exhausted and sad, but at least we can head towards Osaka now and move on. And that’s when every cell in our body wakes us up and starts shaking “Whaaaat? The last metro?!”. Osaka airport is 50 km away from the city center, almost one hour away, it’s not doable by taxi. We spread out our eyes and we start running. I still don’t know how we actually got on that last metro, the moments between our cells started shaking and the metro ride are very blurry and fast in my mind.
One hour ride now. Doors open in Namba station and we get off.
It’s late at night when we have our first contact with Japan. The streets are desert. We have to walk now to Nippombashi; it seemed near on the maps but, wow, in reality it’s like walking through a whole continent. We have to ask for info twice, because everything around is written in hiragana, katakana and kanji. It’s 2AM and we’re still looking for our apartment. We ask to a very smiley couple, it looks like they’re having the best night ever: he’s well built, long hair, a sweater with a deep V neck; she has magnetic eyes and purple contact lenses and a white mini skirt.
They’re super kind (maybe because they feel pity for us), they put the address in their Japanese Google Maps and they walk with us to our apartment. Pfffeeeew, here we go. Thank you so much Well Built and Purple Lenses. Our heads will fall on the pillows at around 4AM, the kids are so active and they jump everywhere. We let them play in their bedroom, with typical japanese tatami. They lay next to each other and eventually fall asleep. Julien and I then fall asleep almost immediately after them. “Should we set the alarm?” “No, we’re gonna wake up with the daylight for sure.”
“Julien, Julien…” I say shaking his shoulder while he’s still blissfully in Moerpheo’s arms. He opens his eyes.
“Nooo, I can’t believe”.
“I swear, we slept until 2.30PM and now what do we do?”.
Rule # 1 to survive the jetlag: respect the jetlag schedule from the very first day. We dress up super fast, wake up the kids, prepare them and run outside. We can’t give up now, we have to skip the breakfast and have lunch.
Our first Japanese day begins when the sun is about to set.
We’re almost at Kuromon Ichiba Market, looking for our lunch. The light is so yellow and intense and the shadows are so long on the ground: I can’t believe we woke up so late. The four of us are lost among the japanese characters of the shops and restaurant of this new country. We walk in front of a restaurant made almost entirely of wood, the chef is on the doorstep, dressed in white. There’s a music playing inside. It’s the Japanese version of a French music. The sunlight, Teo running in the streets, Lia starts talking, that music: the feelings bloom again.
Welcome back Miljians. Show must go on.
That Day we’ll have lunch with a Real Gold and Cold Tea accompanying our first okonomyiaki, the Japanese crepe we all love so much since the day we tried it for the first time in a tiny restaurant on the Rive Gauche, in Paris. Teo will eat three of them, proving once again that Asian cuisine is definitely his thing, as he showed in Vietnam already. And in the evening he will confirm once and for all this thesis, when he’ll be dipping his bread in the vegetable sauce that his parents are enjoying as an appetizer with beer and a glass of wine. After lunch, we are desperately looking for a new sim card: we’ve never felt so disorientated among all those unknown ideograms. And that very same day we’ll feel disorientated another time again: while arguing for our first time with a Japanese toilet. It’s never been so complicated to flush the water, never. That day, we’ll all go sleeping too late and at 2AM Teo will wake us up asking for his strawberry cookies. Some things never change :) It’s hard to manage the jetlag, but in the morning Maroon 5 wake us up again and a brand new day starts: it’s time to meet the cherry blossoms :)
The Osaka Castle Park is one of the main attractions in Osaka, not only for the castle but also for the endless cherry trees. We are aware we’re almost late for the blossom season for the 2018, but we get to enjoy a little bit of that incredible show. We go to Castle Park by metro, carefully respecting the lines like they do here in Japan (arrows indicate the direction on the ground! Something like this in Italy would send people completely crazy).
We get out of the metro and after a short walk we see them, beautifully disposed in line. Our trees, our cherry trees. The hanami (literally, to admire the flowers) is a cornerstone of Japanese culture. People gather under this immense pink and white carpet to chat, picnic, and gaze upon the beauty of sakura (= cherry trees). Their beauty relies on their fugacity, caducity. Only one week per year. Beauty that comes and goes.
A bunch of beautiful ladies are sitting on the grass, black hair and white poodle skirts. Teo and Lia are running everywhere, it’s such a beautiful moment. A girl asks us if we want a photo all together. “Oh, really? Thank you!” I already knew that this picture will be one of those portraying a grand moment de la vie. And it’s so very true, I was right. Here it is, our new favourite picture. Us and the cherry trees.
We leave our sakura behind for an ice cream, on the road towards the castle. The kids fall asleep and Julien and I take advantage of the peace to work a little, sitting on the steps of the Japanese Garden, looking at the most known monument of the city. As soon as they wake up we go towards Dotombori, a crazy busy district on the canal: shops, bars, neon lights, restaurants. A lot of people and a lot of light: one of Osaka’s place of worship. We will have dinner in a random place after we’ve been refused by two other restaurants for the children (incredible!). The door is so tiny (just like in the cartoons!) we have to tilt our heads to get in. The girls behind the counter are dressed in typical Japanese clothes and they welcome us warmly. We’re about to eat the best sushi we’ve ever eaten so far.
And it’s the dawn of the third day and we’re already changing address. We close the suitcases we never unpacked and we’re heading now towards Tengachaya. The south of Osaka, and in particular Nashinari Ward area, is known to be one of the least recommended of the city; but we found out too late. We decide to trust our initial instinct and it turns out to be the right choice.
We leave the touristic Namba for a residential area where we are the only westerners, people turn to look at us and they smile. Oh, finally! This is how we like to travel. Our apartment is new and super cute. In those few square meters there are all sorts of technological inventions to make your life easier and we wonder how we could live without it so far. We go grocery in a local supermarket: prices are honest here. Sushi is cheap too: 8 pieces for 3 euro. It’s very difficult to even find sugar here but Julien shows off his charme and people help us. We’ll go back home proud with our food treasure.
It rains outside. We enjoy Osaka looking through the window. We hear the sound of the rain on the roofs. The houses are just like you see them in the movies: two floors maximum, small, made of wood.
We have dinner on the ground, with gyoza dumplings and okonomyiaki, watching a movie. We cheer, the kids cheer with their glasses of water too.
The movie starts!
That laptop, that toast, those chopsticks, sitting on the ground. This is really us.
Good luck Miljian on this first week of travel. This is just the beginning. Kampai!
With a Lot of Love - #miljiansgotojapan