It was almost nine in the evening when I decided to leave Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Square in the Nampo-dong area. I started walking away from an official UNIQLO counter at BIFF Gwangjang-ro and then continued down the main street, Gudeok-ro. One hundred and fifty meters ahead was Gate 7 of Jagalchi Station which was the target of my steps to immediately leave Jung District.
I was heading underground ten minutes later. In warm basement, I didn’t have to bother looking for ticketing vending machine because I still had a small piece of One Day Pass I bought this afternoon when I arrived in Busan. Walking past automatic fare collection gate, I waited for arrival of Humetro Line 1 (Orange Line) at station platform.
The Humetro quickly arrived, opened its automatic doors and I quickly entered center carriage. Sitting on a seat, I kept an eye on the busyness of Busan residents after work. Humetro slowly crept through underground line, dropping me off at Seomyeon Station after passing through nine stations, then I changed to Humetro Line 2 (Green Line). And similarly, after passing through nine stations I arrived at Gwangan Station in Suyeong District. It felt that trip towards this station took quite a long time, forty-five minutes.
I rushed down the carriage and back to surface using escalator. Then took exit at Gate 5 of Gwangan Station which was directly opposite Gwangan-ro Avenue. The street’s air temperature was already at the level of one degree Celsius. I was forced to walk with an occasional shaking body for seven hundred meters towards beach. The presence of several groups of tourists heading in the same direction, made me a little calm, considering that it was almost ten o’clock at night.
I arrived at the beach twenty minutes later after walking nearly seven hundred meters. Standing on the beach as far as the eyes can see, the luminous stretch of the second longest bridge in “Ginseng Country” was truly stunning….Yup, that was Gwangandaegyo Bridge, a seven and a half kilometer long suspension bridge which connects Haeundae District and Suyeong District.
Now I have mingled with tourists and other locals enjoying the festive atmosphere at Gwangalli Beach. I continued to observe the show by residents airing mini-sized lanterns. Parents, young people and small children were almost all immersed in the excitement of show.
While some others seemed to enjoy decorative lights in the form of various kinds of fauna which were pleasing to eyes. In the other hand, the beach looked crammed with multi-storey buildings which gave an impression that the beach area had been touched by technology. But everything looked clean with a well-maintained and organized environment.
I was only able to withstand cold air for forty-five minutes. Surely the air would approach freezing point when night reached its peak. I hurried off the beach and headed back to station. Quickly stepping to escape growing cold, I arrived at station breathless, then rushed to platform and a few minutes later Humetro took me, to then drop me off at Seomyeon Station. Humetro then transferred me on Line 1 to Beomnaegol Station, a station where the hotel I was staying at was located….Yup, Kimchee Busan Guesthouse.
Now it was time to rest for next adventure tomorrow.
All Air Busan BX 123 passengers were already standing in cabin aisle to prepare to get off the plane. After one of flight attendants coordinated with ground staffs, finally an aerobridge perfectly sticked in the fuselage and the door was safe to open. Not long , then I followed the lead of passenger line to get out of the cabin.
Throughout the aerobridge, my worries weren’t as bad as when I entered Narita International Airport a few days ago. “I’ve been to entering Japan several days ago, It isn’t possible if I can’t enter Korea,” I thought to calm myself. I continued to steadily walk through corridor after corridor at arrival hall of Gimhae International Airport Terminal 1. Continued following signboards to immigration counter. After finding it, I immediately stucked to back end of one of the queue lines. I still look relaxed and full of smiles. And didn’t think that the drama had just started
I took the leftmost queue, tourists from China seemed to dominate in front. They looked very smooth going through immigration staff. “Looks like this will be easy”, I finally came to a conclusion. I was now at the head of queue, waiting for a female Chinese tourist to finish her process at counter. The bespectacled male officer quickly approved one by one Chinese tourists from earlier.
“Neexxxttt”….He called out with his eyes still staring at computer screen
Immigration Officer : “Have you been to South Korea before?”
Me : “Not yet Sir, this is the first time”
Immigration : “Where did you visit before South Korea?”
Me : “Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan, Sir”
He started suspiciously watching me.
Immigration : “Which other countries have you visited?”, he handed me a paper and pen for me to write
I started writing one by one until I copied eleven names of countries I had been to.
But his reaction was so unexpected, he just shook his head. I didn’t lose the initiative when he behaved like that. From inside my backpack, I took out my old passport which had one of its covers cut off, “You can check it out here, Sir”.
Immigration: “I don’t need this”, he pushed my old passport with his index finger at me as a sign he didn’t want to see it
Damn…..“Dag dig dug”, my heart started beating above its usual rhythm.
Immigration : ”Please take out your wallet!”
That short snapping made me automatically crouch with my hands rummaging through all contents of my backpack with an added panic. I got my wallet in a few moments, indeed I put my wallet in the innermost part to be safe.
I started to stand up and handed over my worn out wallet….Hmmhhh, a wallet with peeling leather upholstery on some ends. Made me helpless. The immigration officer began to open my wallet and counted each sheet in it. He shook his head when he only found 120,000 Won notes.
He started to stand up and walked out of immigration counter box and started to close the queue with a standing barrier and hung the words “CLOSE” in the middle. All tourists who queued behind me were asked by him to move to a counter next to him. Every tourist regularly moved while sadly looking at my misfortune, some looked astonished and curious.
“Wow,” my voice began to wry.
The immigration officer immediately stepped back into the counter and put my wallet in front of him. He started to stare at me intently.
Immigration : “Do you bring an ATM?”
Me: “No, Sir”…. My mind refuted, “Isn’t it that I already have a Visa, why bother?”
Immigration : “Credit Card?”
Me: “No, Sir”….My mind was muttering again, “Isn’t it important that I have enough money to travel in Korea?”
Immigration : “ID Card?”
Me: “No, Sir”….I thought back to fight, “Isn’t the ID Card for tourists a passport?”
Immigration : Browsing firmly with red face, “Aiissshhhh….No ATM….No Credit Card….No ID Card….You only have a small amount of money…. You can’t stay in Korea”
“Ouch, Deportation”, I thought to myself instantly.
Immigration : “What do you do in your country?”
Immigration : “Show your business card!”
Me: “I don’t bring it, Sir”
Immigration : ” Aiissshhhh …”
He started rubbing his forehead and eyes, not believing he had met a tourist like me. Now he had closed my passport. He stood back up and called his friend. Quickly his friend came over and started talking seriously leaving me on the verge of being deported.
I didn’t know what they’re talking about, it was definitely about me. I noticed he kept shaking his head and his friends occasionally looked at me like a suspect….Aahhh, this situation was really uncomfortable and made me nervous. But I tried my best to put on a calm face. I even prepared to clarify before he decided anything.
OK, he had finished his dialogue with his friend and sat back at the immigration counter. Before he uttered a word, I began to make a final plea. No matter what the result….
Me : “ I have a return ticket, Air Asia 5th January, from Incheon to Jakarta. I will stay at Kimchee Guesthouse Busan and Kimchee Guesthouse Seoul….these are my itinerary and my budgeting during in Korea.”
The immigration officer was angry and put a finger to his mouth… “Shhhhhhh”, a sign he was asking me not to babble too much in front of him. But the good thing was that he was willing to read my itinerary and budgeting sheet.
Me : ”Please Sir, I am just a backpacker…..just for sightseeing Korea this time….No more….Please…..I will go home….Believe me!”, I begged begging.
The immigration officer looked back at me, this time he really looked me in the eye, maybe he was testing my honesty. He seemed to be starting to feel pity. He started flipping through each page of my new passport and my old passport which a second ago he pulled from in front of me.
Immigration : ”OK, You can….You can….But promise me to return to your country!…. Or you’re in big trouble”
Knock….The arrival stamp was clearly affixed on my passport….Oh, what a beautiful moment that was.
I was very relieved
This was a valuable lesson that in the future I would become a backpacker who was more detailed and prepared things very well. After that incident, I always carried a business card, ID card, credit card (even though its limit was small) and an ATM (even though the values were minimal) every time I traveled to another country.
Thanks to good preparation, I was greatly helped by the existence of that cards when facing similar random checking at Woodlands Checkpoint in Singapore seven months after this incident.
The incident was over, I stepped out of immigration counter triumphantly.
Air Busan is the 16th airline out of 28 different airlines I’ve tasted. This Low Cost Carrier (LCC) which come from “Ginseng Country” has a main hub at Gimhae International Airport. It wasn’t my intention to visit Busan, but because of the cheap ticket price offered by Air Busan, it was what made me decided to stop by in Busan before reaching my main destination, which was Seoul, the capital city of South Korea.
I myself got this cheap ticket seven months before departure at a price of less than 69.750 Won.
This was my story of riding an airline with three branding colors, white-blue-yellow…
“Sorry, sir….We don’t receive coins”, the KIX Currency Exchange clerk exclaimed with a smile.
“Oh, Okay…It’s no problem”, I pulled back my coins while waiting for the results of exchanging banknotes.
He nimbly pressed a few buttons on calculator then showed me a numbers in the LCD.
“Yes, Sir….”, I quickly agreed.
Successfully exchanging Yen for USD, now my mission was to spending coins to buy whatever supplies I could use for lunch, if necessary until dinner…. Was it bad?, That was a my way to saving budget.
I managed to find a FamilyMart in a hallway, entered it, hunted for onigiri and candies, paid it with my coins at cashie and saved it in my backpack. I never underestimate candy, two candies can meet 10% of the calories of an adult’s meal, that means it can hold your stomach for a while until you find a cheap food stall. This time I didn’t mince words by walking around the airport, my time was short, I decided to immediately go to check-in counter to exchange e-tickets with boarding pass. The main standard of airlines for passengers who will cross different countries is to check visas and return tickets from the destination country. But didn’t worry, my visa was perfectly attached to my passport and an Air Asia e-ticket to return from South Korea had also been ordered.
“Can you speak English, Sir,” a female check-in counter lightly asked.
“Yes, sure Ms. I Can”
“Do you want to sit in the emergency exit row?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, with pleasure”, I happily answered, when you are paying cheaper but get a row of seats which is more spacious, that is your prize.
“Ok, thank you Sir”
“You are welcome”.
I quickly got my boarding pass. Heading to immigration counter, I handed over my passport as soon as it arrived. The stage of leaving a country is what I like the most, because it’s fast and without questioning. Of course immigration officers will be happy and is helped if their country guests are disciplined to leave their country on time. After getting a departure stamp in my passport, I immediately headed to the gate to wait for Air Busan, which was about to arrive, maybe even ready. Arriving on time, indeed, the Airbus was standing proudly on the apron preparing to load all its passangers.
Towards half past eleven, boarding calls filled the airport ceiling, the queue line began to open and several ground staff started lining up at the gate to do final checking for each passenger. I steadily walked through it, showed my boarding pass and passport, then was allowed to board the plane. I walked through the aerobridge and was greeted by two flight attendants with typical faces of “Ginseng Country”.
“Annyeonghasimnika”, one of them smiled with a slight bow, asked for a boarding pass, briefly checked and then asked me to find a seat.
“Gamsahamnida”, ahhh, only a few Korean words I understand. I started looking for my seat.
I sat in the aisle seat in emergency exit row. Shortly after that three columns of seats were filled, a flight attendant came to say hello. The flight attendant explained in Korean about the regulations in emergency exit row, after knowing that the two passengers next to me were Korean nationals. After explaining to both of them, then that flight attendant explained again, this time in English, it was clear for me. While explaining that, we both looked at each other. Because of the ignorance of my heart, I never listened to the rules she said, instead I focused more on enjoying the beauty of her pure white Korean face. I understood, she felt that she was being watched by me, so she occasionally explained the rules with a smile, she got even more clumsy when I responded her with a smile while keeping my eyes on her eyes….I was really naughty.
After half an hour of completing boarding process, the aerobridge finally started to be pulled from plane door, flight attendants started to tightly close the door, passengers began to wear seat belts, the plane began to leave the apron while exhibiting flight safety demonstrations by several cabin crew. The demo ended when the plane was already on the runway and ready to take off from Kansai International Airport.
“Flight attendants, please prepare for take off”, were last words from flight captain who broken the silence in cabin.
The plane did a brake release, the engine rotated with full power, and finally airborne went smoothly, the plane quickly drove from Osaka. I was quite impressed with this plane because this was the first time I could see the plane’s presence in a earth map at an LCD.
When it was time to serve in-flight meal, I prefered to put an packaged food and drink in a folding bag. “Just make lunch,” I muttered to myself. I prefered to carefully read the inflight magazine to find information that might be useful for my adventures in South Korea.
I didn’t realize that I had flown for 1 hour 30 minutes and the pilot gave an announcement to passengers that the plane was preparing to landing at Gimhae International Airport and informed the weather conditions in Busan which were sunny. Shortly after the announcement was completed, the cabin crew immediately checked every side of cabin and passengers to ensure a safe landing. Finally the plane smoothly landed in runway. How happy I was when I arrived in South Korea for the first time
Hmmm….I couldn’t wait to explore Busan. I still couldn’t stop my smile at my face.
I still didn’t expect that inside the airport terminal building, something serious would happen to me.
The first eight days of the new year, still tightly binding both eyes. Revenge for my frozen body last night during the New Year’s Eve celebration at Dōtonbori Canal by the warmth of Hotel Kaga blanket was something I considered draw. But in the end, only a thing was able to force my eyes not to close anymore, i.e Air Busan BX 123 flight at exactly 11:00 am, because as usual, for international flights, four hours before flight time I will start my journey to the airport.
Almost seven o’clock, I jumped up, grabbed a hotel’s white towel, bathroom amenities and immediately headed out of the room to shared bathroom at the end of corridor. Hotel Kaga’s bathroom is quite spacious for a backpacker. In the form of a two-part space, i.e a partition with glass and a sink and a bath capsule with a warm shower. Long time under a warm shower is my bad habit, because warm water is very effective in expelling fatigued leg muscles which is my main asset in every trip….Yup, especially if it’s not for walking tens of kilometers throughout the adventure.
After taking a shower, I nonchalantly crossed hotel corridor only wrapped in a towel and flip-flops. Making some passing hotel guests look surprised. “Ah, I only met once with them…. Let it go,” I thought, starting to be fun.
In the room I immediately cleaned up, put on a t-shirt with a black long john, cotton trousers to keep my body temperature, a pair of boots and started packing all my things into a blue Eiger 45L backpack which I borrowed from a friend at work (too bad, just borrow a backpack) .
I went down to the lobby using elevator and immediately handed over my room key at reception desk.
“Thank you for staying at our hotel. Have a nice trip, Sir”, a receptionist who was still the same, on duty from last night, smiled as she handed me the deposit money.
“You’re welcome. Very happy to stay at Hotel Kaga …. A good hotel”, I casually answered. “See you, Sir”.
“See you”, he waved his hand and was still smiling.
I headed back down street towards Shin-imamiya Station, the station I first landed on when I entered downtown. That’s the only station closest to my hotel and Nankai-Kuko Line train which goes to Kansai International Airport (KIX).
The five meter wide alleys began to wriggle, leaving the remnants of last night’s New Year celebrations. I quickly walked through several alleys without enjoying the atmosphere, I’ve passed it a few times though. Taking a copy to Abiko-suji Avenue, I arrived at Shin-imamiya Station within five minutes of leaving the hotel.
Entering the station gate, my eyes immediately looking for ticketing vending machine. I got it easily. A ticket worth 1,060 Yen was finally in my hands and I immediately docked at e JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service platform.
The airport service train arrived on time, I entered one of its carriages and shortly after sitting down, the train sped away. I returned to enjoying the trip again like when I first took the same train when I arrived in Osaka. The first sight that be presented was the atmosphere of a densely built urban area in Nishinari, Sumiyoshi and Suminoe City Districts. After crossing Yamoto River, the atmosphere changed to an area of agricultural land in Kishiwada and Izumisano areas. Then the train crossed the ocean in Osaka Bay after a bit of climbing an overpass in Rinku Town. After crossing sea bridge along five kilometers, the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station.
As soon as the train stopped at platform, I immediately jumped out of the carriage to departure hall of Kansai International Airport, the winner of Skytrax’s Best Low Cost Airline Terminal in the World.
One of the first destinations upon arrival at the airport….Yes, money changer.
“Hi Sir, have fun and enjoy the New Year’s Eve”, the friendly receptionist with glasses managed to guess my intentions when I was about to leave the lobby of Hotel Kaga.
“Hi, you know that….Hahaha….You too, Sir. See you”, I lightly joked.
“See you, Sir”, the receptionist was still smiling.
I started walking on street with the ambient temperature near zero degrees Celsius. My face froze as I followed my swing of steps towards Dobutsuen-mae Station. For the third time I passed Saka-suji Avenue.
“Tonight there will be a lot of drunk people on the streets”, I thought reminding my logic to continue to be careful even though Japan is a safe country.
My Enjoy Eco Card was still effective until that night to explore underground alleys of Osaka City. Now I was driving with Osaka Metro Midosuji Line carriage to Namba Station. I purposely put Dōtonbori Canal as my last destination in Osaka City and I cleverly placed it during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“Surely there will be lively”, I excitedly thought.
The train I was in was full. Some of them were not Japanese faces. Surely they were travelers who intended a same thing as me, enjoying New Year’s Eve. My journey to Namba Station went very quickly because from Dobutsuen-mae Station there wasn’t a single station which I passed. I would be there in ten minutes.
Exiting the gates of Namba Station, I walked along Mido-suji Avenue. Keep heading north. My estimate was that it would only take ten minutes to reach Dōtonbori Canal. But it was been twenty minutes I still haven’t arrived.
“Wow …. I must have strayed”, my face began to wry.
I ventured to ask a traffic policeman who seemed to be on guard on a side of sidewalk.
“Sir, do you know where is this place?”, I opened my phone and showed a neon Glico board with a picture of famous running man.
He kindly smiled and nodded while joking excitedly “Oh…There….There”.
“Thank you very much, Sir”, I waved as I walked away from him.
“You ale welcome”, the policeman looked around again.
Ten minutes of retracing the path I had taken earlier, I saw several groups of European tourists heading in a direction. I was sure that was where I was headed. I followed that group of tourists. Sure enough, they were also headed for Dōtonbori Canal.
The Dōtonbori Canal at ten o’clock was already lively. The body of canal was filled with tourists, while restaurants and bars seemed to be full. Rich tourists would prefer to wait for New Year’s Eve from restaurants and bars which offer warm air. But I decided to wait for it at the bank of canal, wandering around here and there, trying to enjoy the atmosphere even though I was distracted by freezing air of Osaka.
An hour passed as I walked along each side of canal, then I took my place under the bridge, hoping to find some warm air. But in vain, the air had fallen below zero degrees Celsius. When I couldn’t stand the freezing air, I rushed to a Takoyaki stall. I deliberately queued, waited for order, and ate it for a long time in front of stall to get exposure to warm air which gushed from stall’s stove.
Almost half an hour I took advantage of that situation to manipulate cold temperature. Until finally I kicked myself out because the queue of buyers started to get crowded. I returned to the canal half an hour before New Year’s countdown.
As I struggled back against the cold on a side of the canal, I heard faintly familiar language and accents.
“Ngenteni kene wae cah, ra sah adoh adoh (just waiting here, bro, not too far)” a fainty setence was heard, it was Javanese Language.
I looked back, four men and two of them with long hair were sitting on the side of canal, holding a large bottle of alcohol. It was indeed an effective way of fighting the cold. It reminded me of a alcoholic drink I had because I bought the wrong one at Narita International Airpot on other day. But I haven’t given up, I won’t drink it.
I continued to endure the growing cold. My hands started to go numb. But I tried to stay calm. Until finally five minutes before the countdown arrived. Tourists began pouring in along the sides of canal, restaurants and bars abandoned. Everyone hoped there would be an elegant fireworks display. Until the time came, the count really began.
“Tennnn….Nineeee….Eightttt….”, the count was getting louder
“Threeee…..Twoooo….Oneeee…..Happyyyy Newwww Yeearrrr”, but everyone felt silent for three seconds.
The atmosphere of Dotonbori Canal remain quiet, nothing special. Fifteen minutes later it was still the same, quiet.
“Ah, failed miserably”, I was getting annoyed.
Other tourists began too complain. There would be no fireworks display. Until finally ten young Japanese took the initiative to acquire the atmosphere by climbing bridge railing. They took off their clothes and left their underwear in freezing cold. Then one of them started screaming.
“Threeee….Twoooo….Oneeee”, while swerving jumping like a beautiful jumper with their head plunged into the water first.
Then the same behavior began to be carried out by their friend who was ready and standing on bridge railing. Counting to three countdowns, his turn jumped into the water. And the show stopped until the tenth person. At least what they did could cure the disappointment of all visitors to Dōtonbori Canal.
By one o’clock in the morning. The air which initially felt warmer because of the crowd of hundreds of visitors was finally disbanded. The temperature quickly cooled back as visitors began to leave the Dōtonbori Canal. I started going from that place towards Namba Station.
A few minutes later, Osaka Metro took me back to Dobutsuen-mae Station. I was very lucky that my Enjoy Eco Card (One Day Pass) was still valid even though it had passed the expiration date, which was 00:00 am. Maybe this would be a bonus from Osaka Metro for New Year celebration.
Until Dobutsuen-mae Station, then I left it at a brisk pace. Saka-suji Avenue was deserted, even my steps was marked by an incident of a drunk driver who stopped his car in the middle of road until several people tried to push him to side. At an intersection I turned along with hearing a greeting“Helloooo….Happyyyy Newwww Yearrrr, Sirrrr”, a man was riding a bicycle with his right hand holding a bottle of alcoholic drink.
“Happy New Year, sir”, I replied to show friendliness.
Until finally my steps arrived at Hotel Kaga. I felt relieved that I came in hotel safely without less anything. The receptionist was still faithful to his duties, waiting for his desk with discipline.
“Are you happy, Sir?….Good luck for you in the new year”, he smiled at me.
“Sure, Sir…I hope so for you”, I replied. “It’s time to sleep”.
“Yeah….Heve a good sleep, Sir”
I left him for the lift, it took me to third floor. I unsteadily stepped into room. Entering the room, taking off my boots, pulling up the folding bed, and without taking a shower, I immediately threw myself down and quickly fell asleep.
Meanwhile, the bottle of alcoholic drink which had been swallowed by accident two days ago was gracefully standing on a small table in my room. Yess, I didn’t touch it on New Year’s Eve. That means, the alcoholic beverage bottle adventure ended early that morning. Because by noon I would leave Osaka and heading to Busan.
That night was New Year’s Eve. This was the first time I would enjoy New Year abroad, Osaka to be exact. Inevitably I had intended to enjoy how lively Osaka night was on New Year’s Eve Countdown.
But it was only 5 p.m when I finished very late lunch menu. I left a home-based restaurant whcih stood in an alley in America-mura, after enjoying its chicken ramen.
Now I have a intention which I must fulfill….Yupz, SLEEP.
I couldn’t hide my drowsines after only sleeping at Kansai International Airport for four hours all night. I myself didn’t want to attend New Year’s countdown without fresh face that night.
“See you America-mura”, I jokingly thought as I stepped out of an alley and began to step at Mido-suji Avenue towards Shinsaibashi Station. It was almost six-thirty in the afternoon when I started boarding Osaka Metro to Dobutsuen-mae Station on Midosuji Line.
From Dobutsuen-mae Station, I continued on walking along Saka-suji Avenue to reach the inn. I slowly entered Haginochaya area and soon arrived at Hotel Kaga.
“Hello, Mr. Donny. So afternoon you arrive”, male receptionist with glasses lightly greeted me then stood up from his chair and swiftly took my blue backpack.
“Yes, Sir. Osaka is very interesting, so I will regret it if I come back to hotel too early”, I caught backpack he handed me.
“I think I should sleep to prepare myself for New Year’s Eve tonight”
“Yes, that’s a great idea, Sir”.
I asked permission to immediately entering the room after he gave me a key. I already paid the hotel fare that morning when I left my backpack. I took a quick step towards lift whose doors were already open because someone was using it, then slid up to third floor. As soon as I arrived at the room, I immediately hung up my winter jacket, took off my boots, lowered my backpack, pulled the folding mattress and threw myself onto the mattress.
Zzzzz……..Zzzzz…..Zzzzz….I quickly drifted off to sleep because of my tired body and sleepy eyes.
It was a little past nine-thirty when I automatically woke up. That’s how I am, if there is an intention to wake up at a certain hour then without even turning on the alarm then I will wake up automatically at that hour. I rarely miss, maybe this is a remnant of my childhood habit when I often got up long before dawn to study. #discipline
I still felt lazy to get out of bed and continued to be comfortable with warm room. Keep imagining how uncomfortable it would be to travel outside where the temperature was almost zero degrees Celsius. I grabbed the TV remote beside me, I just realized that before I went to sleep I had turned on the TV. Practically the TV was watching me when I sleep, not me watching it.
Of course I didn’t know what was being said on every Japanese television show. All I know was a reality show about romance, quizzes with prizes or guessing some cases and events on the evening news. I continued to explore further until channel numbered above 40. Several sporting events as well as flora and fauna began to appear. Now the channel was at 60. I kep exploring….
I was suddenly shocked when I entered CHANNEL NO. 63. How not, it is an uncensored adult film channel. My God, what was this…..I would try to skip it, moved on to the next channel. Not long ago moved, for some reason this hand was always curious to press the shortcut to CHANNEL NO. 63, then tried to resist and switching to another channel again. Gosh….Then switch again to CHANNEL NO. 63…..The “Black-White” battle seemed fierce in my mind. Until finally didn’t feel the time was showing nine o’clock.
It was about time I went to New Year’s celebrations with Osakans and other tourists out there. I had read the announcements at many stations that afternoon that Osaka Metro’s operating hours would be extended well past the early hours of the morning. That was good news and I didn’t have to break into my pocket to find a taxi when I got back.
I put my boots back on and put my two jackets on to fight the cold. Remember when I accidentally drank alcohol at Narita International Airport?. Yups, that alcoholic drink was still there and only one drink less at that time. I put it in my winter jacket pocket and I used it as a precaution. I have to be prepared if temperature outside got too extreme in the middle of night….WHO KNOWS?….But hopefully I won’t have to drink it again until my adventure in Osaka was over.
From Namba Station I took Osaka Metro on Midosuji Line, not a single station which I passed, I got off at Shinsaibashi Station. Then started to taking steps south down Mido-suji Avenue. Mido-suji Avenue itself is a four-lane street flanked by slow lanes on either side. The slow lane and the fast lane are limited by rows of shady trees which are neatly arranged following the contours of road.
In the next three hundred meters, I would be at America-mura. Its close enough distance from Namba Parks made me interested in visiting the place at same time.
America-mura or as people call it Amemura is a nine-block American-designed village located right on the east side of Mido-suji Avenue, in Chūō-ku City District to be exact. The village is bounded in south by Dōtonbori Canal, to the north by Nagahori-dori Avenue while to the east by Osaka Metro Yotsubashi Line. America-mura occupies a land area of no less than sixteen hectares. Wide isn’t it?
Adopting American lifestyle, this area is very thick with the “Uncle Sam” brand. Entering an alley, my steps were greeted by a Starbucks outlet and a McDonald’s outlet following after. Fashion shops with Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein logos and other well-known brands were very easy to find.
The alley in America-mura area is no more than five meters wide. Narrow path makes it be a one-way street. Street light pole is designed like a skinny and tall living character. Mural art is also easy to find on every side of America-mura. Along the edge of sidewalk installed bollards to protect pedestrians. Meanwhile, bicycle rentals are scattered at various points.
As long as you walk, America-mura is indeed designed as a place to shop. Fashion shops lined up very tightly cramming every side of road combined with bars, minimarkets, restaurants and of course lodging.
After almost an hour exploring every corner of Americamura, I was starting to feel hungry. The tantalizing aroma of East Asian food consistently scented the streets. I decided to start looking for a place to eat. Luckily, most restaurants in America-ura display their flagship menu prices at their doorstep. So each visitor can choose food according to their interests. As for me, it wasn’t about menu, I looked at each menu on display just to see what the lowest price was. It took a long time to find a restaurant to get pocket-friendly prices.
My steps finally stopped at a home-based restaurant which offering a frugal menu. This restaurant was managed by house owner and assisted by his son who seemed to be still in elementary school.
I sat on a corner seat opposite a table with a young office woman who seemed eager to eat noodle dish in front of her. I ordered chicken ramen and as usual for drinking, I relied on water provided in the teapot at every restaurant table. While sitting, I noticed the child’s agility in delivering orders after his father finished processing the menu.
Shortly after ordering, my chicken ramen came. I ate it while cracking a slurp of noodles in the bowl, of course I wanted to respect and showed that the restaurant owner’s chicken ramen was so delicious. The chicken ramen was gone in no less than fifteen minutes.
Now I presented the next silence. I purposely paid with coins. Because I have a lot of coins accumulated from my adventures in Tokyo. When the boy handed a bill on small tray, I spilled a coin worth 600 Yen on the tray. The boy looked troubled and nervous to counting it. I just smiled amused to see him when he had to repeat in counting coins. The office woman next to my seat was laughing, covering her mouth with her hand.
Feeling given up in counting, he ran the tray over to counter and handed it to his father to counting. After finishing counting, his father wrote something on bill paper and his boy came back to me. Oh, his father wrote that I paid less than 12 Yen. I made up for it and the boy broadly smiled at me. I smiled back at him and started packing to leave the restaurant.
Leaving Osaka Castle via Uemachi-suji Avenue , I headed for Tanimachi 4-chome Station. Passing rows of red-maple trees planted on each side of road, then head to station entrance which was located at the feet of mighty Osaka Museum of History.
“Enjoy Eco Card” (another name for One Day Pass in Osaka) for 600 Yen made ut comfortable and easy to got in and out of station without having to hunt a ticket at automatic vending machine when you wanted to use the services of Osaka Metro. I just tap the card at ticket collecting gate and enjoyed traveling around Osaka as I please.
Taking Tanimachi Line and changing to Sennichimae Line at Tanimachi 9-chome Station, my journey stopped at Namba Station after traveling three kilometers and in fifteen minutes.
Arriving at the eighty-five year old Namba Station, I exited towards Namba City. Namba City is a very large shopping center in this area.
Stepping in corridor after corridor in Namba City made me interested to stop by and saw some of UNIQLO store’s winter jacket collections in a side of magnificent corridor. An interesting funny story happened to me again here. This was the result of my cheap winter jacket I was wearing. This second-hand winter jacket from Pasar Baru (a market in my town) sheded soft goose down from its inside when I tried on a UNIQLO winter jacket in dressing room. Suddenly, after I came out from fitting room, a female attendant took a broom and dustpan to clean that goose. She just smiled at me when was putting the winter jacket back into display case. Even though, I thought I wouldn’t be able to afford it, I was still determined to try it. How could I not think a thousand times to buy it if a winter jacket was priced at 12,900 Yen.
To forgot about that embarrassing incident, I hurriedly left the store and rushed to Namba Parks. This time I started to be amazed because the access to Namba Parks kept me on indoor pedestrian path, even though Namba City and Namba Parks were in different locations. The indoor corridor continued to south and was directly connected to Namba Parks.
After walking less than two hundred meters from the exit gate of Namba Station, I finally arrived at Namba Parks. The cool garden was designed at the top of shopping center with a contour made of steps like a terrace. I should have visited this park at night because there were a lot of lights installed which would definitely light up at night.
Namba Parks itself is also integrated with a shopping and office complex located in Naniwa City District. In the park, I only took thirty minutes because I wanted to visit Americamura soon to see the shopping and entertainment area from a different perspective.
It was already half past two in the afternoon, I started to leave Namba Parks via original route when I came to Namba Parks.
The picture is a scene from the movie “The Last Samurai”, when Captain Nathan, played by Tom Cruise, honorably fights with the leader of Samurai, namely Katsumoto, played by veteran Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, against the soldiers of Emperor Meiji who are trained by American Army. The background of this war is “Modernization vs Feudalism”. Emperors glorified modernization and Samurai maintained tradition.
Those are just a few of many heartbreaking mosaics that made Japan’s history when it transformed from a conventional country to a modern one. One such mosaic is Boshin War, a civil war which left a mark of destruction and was recorded in this historical place which I visited.
Yups….This is Osakajo….People call it as Osaka Castle or Osaka Castle.
On 09:50 hours, I stepped on the platform of Tanimachi 4-chome Station, then exited through one of its gates where Osaka Museum of History and Hoenzaka Iseki proudly stood in station’s courtyard. My steps continued to be connected on Uemachi-suji Avenue with red maple tree decorations on both sides.
Its strong history made Osaka Castle be my first destination in the city with a nicknamed “Manchester From East”. I really didn’t want to delay and lose my first glance at king’s palace which is more than four centuries old. The distance is only six kilometers from Kaga Hotel where I stayed and the availability of Osaka Metro line to it made it so easy to access this destination.
Not long in walking, I arrived at Osaka Castle, through Otemon Gate to be exact. Otemon Gate itself is on east side of palace, while on its west side is provided Aoyamon Gate. Like an ancient palace, this place is surrounded by a wide canal nearly a hundred meters long as a form of defense.
Passing a bridge, pedestrian path began to direct every tourist to enter a side of Otemon Gate. It began with a door made of two towering steel sheets. After that, plastered walls which made from fine andesite, some of which were left intact with a length and width of almost five meters.
Soon the second gate greeted. The gate with a size larger than the first one was nicknamed Osakajo Tamon-yagura which was composed of large, intact and sturdy wood. Through this second gate, tourists would automatically enter palace area which had an area of not less than six hectares.
In some fragments of its history, it’s told that this castle was destroyed by fire due to the Boshin War in 1868. Now the Boshin War itself has been illustrated by Tom Cruise in the preambule at the beginning of this article.
I arrived at southern courtyard, call it as Osaka Castle Park. This is where tourists gather and enjoy the elegance of castle made by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the leader of Japan’s Sengoku Period. I took time to take pictures with old samurai role in castle grounds. Even to got rid of loneliness, I often have fun posing behind a group of tourists who were taking pictures. Grinning horses, jumping, waving or whatever I did. Sometimes it made one of that group pointed at me while laughing after seeing their photos in their digital room. Seriously acute.
After an hour of enjoying Osaka Castle, I decided to sit down and enjoyed the Ikayaki which I bought from one of many food truck which was neatly lined up in east courtyard. A portion of Ikayaki was priced about 300 Yen. Ups, do you know Ikayaki?…. It was a large grilled squid seasoned with mirin (Japanese seasoning).
Finishing in eating Ikayaki, or at exactly 10:30 am, I started to leave Osaka Castle area and planned to head to Naniwa City District.
A quarter of an hour to nine….I left Kaga Hotel in Nishinari City District after leaving my backpack in reception area. I rushed to Dobutsuen-mae Station. But first, I had to stuff something into my stomach before arriving at station. Since midnight last night, when I arrived in Osaka, I haven’t eaten a bite.
I decided to look for the nearest convenience store. On the way to station, I found a FamilyMart on the edge of Saka-suji Avenue. I won’t be munching on onigiri again for breakfast. I’ve been bored since two days ago routinely chewing that food. Finally I chose a cup noodle and immediately took the queue in front of cashier. Waiting my turn, one by one, FamilyMart customers completed their payment. I only reflexively followed forward when the queue in front also advanced, but actually my eyes never looked ahead.
Cashier : “Hello”
I still didn’t budge.
I still thought thar it was the turn of someone who queueing in front of me
Cashier: “Helloooo….Sir. You…..Sir”.
Me: “Oh it’s my turn, sorry” The cashier just smiled when he saw my face was red with embarrassment. Damn….She and the queue behind me were grinning in unison because they caught me staring at a corner of a shelf with many adult magazines neatly arranged. Luckily the cashier didn’t offer me to buy the magazine….I was embarrassed.
After paying, I headed to a dispenser. Pour hot water into cup noodles and took a corner of that convenience store to eat it.
Cashier: “Helloooo Sir, eat outside, please!”
Ohhh….I was embarrassed, expelled out again, even though I was avoiding cold air outside. In the end, I still ate my cup noodles while standing in front of minimarket while chilling happily….My fate.
Moments later, I were eaten all my noodles until there was no gravy left. I continued to the north. Arriving at the intersection of Abiko-suji Avenue, I immediately headed underground through one of gates belonging to Dobutsuen-mae Station which is on the south bank of main road.
Me: “Hello, How can I get a One Day Pass, Sir”. I made sure not to buy it too long like what happened two days ago in Tokyo.
Security Officer: “Doko e ikitai desu ka?”, apparently this man couldn’t speak English.
Me: “Osaka Castle, Sir”.
Security Officer: “Hooooohhhh….”. He didn’t even know
That security officer then smiled nodding and ushered me through a corridor and then he pointed to an automatic vending machine.
“Arigatou Gozaimasu”, I told him. Even though if you are looking for a machine like this, I can too. Is the One Day Pass sold separately from the machine, that’s what I meant…..Hmmh.
Never mind, I started hitting that automatic vending machine button. I could smile with relief because this machine was not as complicated as the one in Tokyo. I put in a 1,000 Yen sheet, pressed the “ENGLISH” button, continued to the “CARD” button and finally I found the “ONE DAY PASS” button for 600 Yen.
That night was the first overseas New Year’s Eve for me. I purposely bought an One Day Pass because I was going home after midnight, after New Year’s Eve Countdown of course.
Now I was getting ready to take Osaka Metro. It was also my first time experiencing subways in Japan after having only tasted surface trains nine times in a row since my arrival in Tokyo.
I started at Midosuji Line and then changed to Tanimhaci Line at Tennoji Station. Drove north for five kilometers and within fifteen minutes, I finally arrived at Tanimachi 4-chome Station in Chuo City District.
I immediately exited through the exit gate where Osaka Museum of History building and the historical landmark Hoenzaka Iseki are located. From there, I continued along Uemachi-suji Avenue towards Osaka Castle which was only one kilometer away.