Today was the big day to move onto part 2 of our month long vacation. Our flight was to depart at 10:10 AM but we decided to get up at 6 AM to be out the door by 7 AM. BIG mistake.
Of course, we left at 7:15 AM instead of 7 and had to taxi over to Seoul Station. Once we got there, we hauled our asses along with our 15 lbs of makeup and clothes to the ticket counter. We picked up our 2 tickets for the Airport Express which would get to the airport by 8:45 AM at the earliest. Shit! That would be cutting it real close but we had no choice.
As soon as the train opened the doors, we bolted. We had to find Asiana airlines to check in but Incheon International Airport is pretty huge. And I made the mistake of going towards section A only to find a bunch of Korean Air kiosks. I checked with an Info Desk lady only to find out Asiana literally was on the OPPOSITE SIDE.
It must have been the length of a football field to get over there. It was a sight. The 2 of us rolling our bags, sweating our asses off from the stress and the extra weight we put on from the eating.
Once we got to the Asiana line, we heard over the intercom, “last call for flight number 01070 bound for Tokyo, please check-in at the counter immediately.”
We cut a few customers and ran to the counter. Our service rep was calm and proceeded to check us in. Phew!
From there we were able to get onboard without too much of a rush, but let that be our lesson. Never again, please.
Our flight to Tokyo was a quick 2 hour ride. We also happened to sit next to a Korean American who was on vacation from having worked in Korea for the past year. After chatting with him for the whole flight, we found out that he was our age and was also going to Tokyo and Osaka but during opposite days so we would just miss him. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to have met him on our way to Tokyo and it really gave us a good start to part 2 of our excursions.
Once we arrived to Narita airport, we could immediately feel a difference in the atmosphere. There were more foreigners around and definitely a lot less English. We managed to get our JR Passes, which would get us around Japan for our 2 weeks, and proceeded to wait for the Narita Express.
Since we were actually bound for Osaka, we had a few transfers to make and 4 hours of train rides to get to our destination. It was a struggle. We found the train system nothing like Korea’s and were a bit thrown off and utterly confused. Somehow, we managed to get to our station at Shin-Imimiya, but after lots of lucky guesses.
Our arrival to Shin-Imimiya was… unexpected. As we set foot out of the station, we could hear the loud ringing of Pachinko slots. And as we followed our AirBnb instructions to the location, we passed by several old homeless men, trudging along or propped against a wall with a cigarette, devoid of hope and aspirations.
One of the instructions indicated that once we saw a hospital with a green cross and a picture of a hippopotamus, we should cross the street. We did just that and were led down a dark alleyway with a few old shops, an old sushi bar with a few patrons inside, and alas–Yoccola Islands.
Once we punched in the code and stepped in, we immediately saw an Asian man and an Asian woman cooking in the kitchen.
“Umm, hello?” I quietly let out.
The woman was peeling apart some cabbage and pleasantly responded, “Hi! Did you guys just get in?”
After a bit of chatting and introductions, we found out that the two were from Canada and they, with their 2 kids, were also staying in the place. We knew that we would be staying at a “sharehouse”, but really had no idea what that entailed. As I soon discovered, the sharehouse was like an apartment in that the common areas were shared with other guests but everyone got their own room. The place had 3 floors but was by no means very big. The first floor had a kitchen by the entrance, 2 showers for all guests, and 2 guest rooms. The second floor had 4 rooms for guests. And the 3rd floor was the rooftop where the laundry machines were located. It was impressive how much was crammed into such a small space.
So we made our way to our room on the second floor. In order to go up the stairs, you have to go down the hall and make a very sharp turn directly onto the staircase. The space at the foot of the stairs is a few INCHES from the wall and you have to step directly onto the first step from the side to get up. I would not be surprised if some larger people could not physically fit through the space to get on the step.
We managed to squeeze through and get to the second floor and into our room.
The room was small but very cute. We got to sleep on tatami mats which were surprisingly comfy. It was quaint and cozy.
Once we were settled, we were ready to find some dinner nearby. On our way out, David, the husband from Canada we met earlier, offered to walk us over to the nearby restaurants. As he led us a few yards away, he chatted with us and told us that the location we were in was notoriously known as the most dangerous and poorest part of Osaka, even Osakans don’t set foot here.
We even looked this up later and he was right. But!!
Even though we were initially worried, we quickly discovered later that even though the area was poor and dangerous, it was only relative to Osaka. And we found the area was really not that unsafe or dangerous at all! Compared to most places in the States, I would rather be here any day. Seriously, little old Japanese men aren’t nearly as scary as the 6″+ heat-packing thugs and cholos that plague LA.
We went down the old shopping arcade that David brought us to and found an awesome sushi restaurant that had an amazing figure of the owner with animated eyebrows and glasses. Okay, you got us.
We ordered plenty as you can tell. But to our dismay, the sushi was good but not great as we had overly anticipated. We came to realize that’s because it was cheap sushi.
With our “appetizers” in, we continued to roam the arcade for more food.
The sizzling sounds from this okonomiyaki shop called to us. We went in.
The okonomiyaki was hearty and tasty. The chunks of octopus, pork belly, salmon, and shrimp were all well cooked. And the density of the mix was just right.
Ahh what a way to kick off Japan. This meal was a solid signal for good times ahead.