Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arriving in Osaka

From Taiwan, we flew to Osaka, for a two month visit to Japan. We decided not to try to cover all of Japan in this time, so stuck to the south of Honshu Island.

We landed late afternoon, so it was after dark got to the station closest to our hostel after dark, which didn't help that fact that we could work out which way to go. The main problem being that the bit of map that we had had road names in English alphabet, but the only signs we could see were in Japanese characters. We picked the wrong way.

We eventually decided this wasn't right, and asked someone, who only half understood, and, as it turned out, sent us the wrong way again. When we reached another station, we knew we were wrong again, and had a vague idea of the direction we needed to go in, which was helpfully confirmed by a man who spoke good English and checked it on his smartphone. We were quite relieved to arrive finally. We were to discover that the maps in Japan often aren't very good, so it wasn't the last time we would get a bit lost!

We were staying in a cheap hotel that felt more like short term lodging rooms, and was used more by Japanese than foreigners. It had an onsen, but we weren't feeling brave enough to give it a go. For those who don't know, an onsen is a public bath. There are separate sessions for men and women, because you take your bath naked. The bathing bit isn't about washing, etiquette is that you must take a shower before getting into the bath, but rather soaking and relaxing.

On our first evening, we had our first experience of trying to order food in a place where no one speaks any English. We had taken a while to find somewhere that was both still open, and had any hope of us understanding the menu. We found a place at looked popular and had pictures on the menu, so went for that.

By the way, whereas in the UK, I would generally avoid anywhere with pictures on the menu, you shouldn't worry about that in Japan, it is fairly standard, and in no way means that the place is not good. Similary, don't be put off by places with plastic models of their food, as it is, in fact, a source of some pride to have good models of your food, with a whole industry dedicated to making them.

So, we picked our food based on the pictures. Nic opted for a slightly fancier version of the coffin toast that he had in Tainan, (a fried bread box, filled with a thick creamy seafood broth,) and I went for what I thought was a piece of steak, and caused some confusion by saying how I wanted it cooked. I understood why that had seemed strange when it arrived and was, in fact, chicken. Oh well, it tasted good.

So overall, our arrival in Japan was not without its problems, but we also saw straight away how helpful people were to us, or at least tried to be, even if they didn't actually know the answer. And in fact, aside from awful maps that made it hard to navigate anywhere, we found Japan easier than we had expected to. And the few words and phrases that we learned earned us many smiles and a lot of goodwill.

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