Our trip to Japan featured three cities in the Kansai area: Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. These cities feature a fantastic balance of traditional and modern architecture, and natural and urban scenes.
Our homebase for the week was located next to Dotonbori market in Osaka. The market reflected the hustle and bustle that I expected from Japan. With packed pedestrian streets, endless restaurants, flashing lights, and massive characters like crabs and dragons popping out of building faces, the market was the perfect introduction to the city.
We passed numerous Korean restaurants and bars on our way to Dotonbori from the hostel. This was one of my favourite sites.
Although the busy market confirmed my expectations of the city, other areas of Osaka gave off entirely different vibes. We spent a morning exploring Nakonoshima Park and Osaka Castle, which, despite a high volume of tourists, was a much quieter, more relaxed atmosphere. The park in particular was on an island nestled between high-rise buildings, with very few wanderers around us (probably because it was almost 40 degrees that day).
City meets tradition.
One of my favourite parts of any trip is scouting out the cafe culture. A few people had warned us ahead of time that Japan’s cafe culture wasn’t as “developed” as Korea’s. Koreans tend to be obsessed with coffee and cafe culture, with a caffiene fix available on every street corner, even in the most rural of towns. In our experience though, Japan had a fantastic cafe culture. Though a little pricey, cafes were frequent and served up a good strong cup. Our favourite cafe was the Brooklyn Roasting Company, a branch from the New York cafe.
Another great aspect of the snippet of city life we experienced is the festival culture. Japan is festival obsessed, and we dropped in at the heart of festival season. Our first night in Japan lead us to a festival put on at the Sumiyoshi Temple, with food, games, toys, and treats available to visitors.
I’ve never been a city person, but spending a week in Osaka opened my eyes up to some of the advantages of living in a city. It’s harmonization of traditional and modern architecture, and the harmony between nature and city drew me in and just might have lessened some of my distaste towards city living.