Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Journey Part I: Farewell Johen!

So, with our glasses emptied and our microphones hung up for another year, it was time to bid farewell to Johen and jump on the nightbus to Osaka. For the nine-and-a-half hour epic I was anticipating, the bus ride was actually surprisingly bearable. Boarding the bus sufficiently knackered was a good plan, since it allowed me to sleep  for the majority of the journey.

Disembarking to a dusky, 6AM Osaka was a little eerie (my Mum definitely wouldn’t have approved), but after wandering the streets, suitcase in tow, for about an hour (o_O), I managed to locate my hostel. By the time I arrived, the sun had risen and a new day was just beginning in Osaka. Even then, I was a good EIGHT HOURS too early to check in. But the owner, appreciating I’d travelled nine hours with nowhere else to stay, must have taken pity on me, since she let me take a nap on her sofa in the basement. Sure I’m high maintenance a lot of the time, but I know how to rough it too when I have to!

Of course, even I couldn’t manage to drag a nap out for eight hours, so after waking up relatively refreshed, I set off to have a look around some of the sights of Osaka I didn’t get to see last time. Primarily, Osaka castle.
There I was, snapping away, when, out of nowhere, a kindly Japanese man taps me on the shoulder with a “Konnichiwa!” and a handshake. Before I know it, he’s taking me on an improvised tour of the castle grounds, showing me to the best photograph spots and gifting me with some of his own homemade onigami. (“You can keep it as a memory!” he insisted). Of course, he expected nothing in return. I scolded myself for initially being suspicious of his motives...this was just genuine, Japanese kindness. Something I’m lucky enough to be well acquainted with by now.

Something else I’m also well acquainted with is the Japanese Drunk, and tonight I met perhaps the craziest of them all. J Hoppers, the hostel I’m staying at, was hosting a drinking party for its guests... and it was led by a Mr. Yuan. From the moment we set off from the hotel, I suspected he’d already put a few away. He punctuated every sentence with a hearty bellow which cut off as suddenly as it started (equal parts hilarious and creepy), and his catchphrase, “IT’S OKAY!” soon became the slogan of the night. During the course of our dinner together, he attempted a series of increasingly strange magic tricks... beginning with a doughnut which he offered us to eat. I took the plunge, picked it up and attempted to tear it into pieces to share around. Well, as it so happened, this particular doughnut was made of rubber. Not that I knew this before I ripped it in two. I thought it was a little tough, but just figured it’d gone stale or something. Turns out I ended up destroying one of his key props. I’d feel bad if it wasn’t so WEIRD. Not settled with his rubber doughnut trick, he followed it up with a story about how he’d trained at the Emperor’s Temple for two years and gained magic powers. Namely, the ability to make a Nissin Noodle Cup levitate... not that impressive when you spot the magnet he’s clutching in his hand. Still, while he may not be coming for David Blane’s crown anytime soon, he certainly had us all in stitches.

All in all then, an interesting 24 hours in Osaka! Next stop... Hong Kong! Yup, my travel route looks a little something like THIS:

Got my alarm set to wake up bright and early tomorrow morning and jump on the bus to the airport. Time for a whole new adventure to begin! See you on the other side!

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