Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sakura in Osaka ( day 1 )

In Japan, cherry blossoms are more than just a mark of a new season. They are a part of the national identity as Mt. Fuji, but to really understand the connection that the Japanese have to these blossoms requires seeing it in person in Japan. Seeing cherry blossom in Japan was my on my bucket list for a long time. Spring is when Japan's famous cherry blossom ( also known as sakura ) trees burst forth into bloom. Depending on the weather, the starting date and length of the blossoms varies year to year.  In most major cities in Japan, like Osaka, the cherry blossom season typically takes place around the end of March and beginning of April. The cherry blossom has a great deal of symbolic significance to the Japanese people, and has historically been an important symbol of nationalism. Although the blossoms are representative of the feminine, on a deeper level they can be seen to stand for the fleeting nature of life.

I’ve wanted to see the cherry blossoms for as long as I can remember, and I have to admit that seeing them in real life exceeded all my expectations. Today was going to be the start of my adventure to Osaka to see them in full bloom not from pictures I see from magazines but in real time. I left on a adventure trip with my cousin and three other women for Osaka. This was our first time to visit Osaka. Although we did not have enough time to see all the sites in Osaka ( we only had 3 full days )-- we had to list down our priorities on what to do when we got to Osaka. 

We arrived in Osaka late afternoon. The weather was chilly and it was a long walk from the terminal to the Nankai train station. Our first step was to find our hotel and work out how to get there from the station. There are two lines that connect the airport to Osaka, the JR Line and the Nankai Line. Individual ticket price from the airport to Osaka for the JR line is 1100yen and the Nankai line ( local  )  is 890yen. This was our first introduction to the Japanese ticket machines. They all have an English button to help you, but it was still bewildering at first. First lesson of the day, never be afraid to talk to total strangers for directions. I realized that most of the Japanese we asked directions from were very helpful to us -- they even accompanied us to where we should ride etc. If you are a bit hesitant to do so - you can approach one of the guards by the turnstile and ask for directions or you can also get help from the Japanese Tourist Information staff who speak a little English and will go to any trouble to make sure you know exactly where you are going. 

The ride was smooth and fast. It took an hour from the airport to the Namba station. With our luggages and hand carry in tow, we had to figure out what exit we should use. As we reached the street level, a Japanese girl seeing that we were lost, approached us and to our surprise -- talked to us in Filipino. We gave her the name of our hotel and she asked a cab driver for directions. We tried to ask the driver to take us in his cab to the hotel but he refused since he told us it was only a 10 minute walk from where we were. It took us more than 20 minutes trying to find the hotel. 

I was pleasantly surprised with how central our hotel, HOTEL MONTEREY GRASMERE OSAKA was, and found it reasonable for the price. After checking in at our hotel, we decided to go and have a quick meal before retiring for the evening. We went down to the subway station ( we discovered one subway entrance which was outside our hotel ). At the end of the escalator was a grocery where we bought our take out food and decided we will start our adventure tomorrow.. So join me as I take you around Japan, with photos of some of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to encourage, inspire and share this amazing place with you all.

Kumbawa everyone!

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