Around this time every year, D3’s (3rd year Doctoral student) at our University are all faced with that one dreaded question – Am I going to graduate, or not?
And for D3’s (like me) who are fully financially dependent on scholarships (that was about to expire), we didn’t really have much choice but to not give up on the idea that we could make it. Even though it means pushing ourselves to our limits, working at the lab until wee hours in the morning, sleepless nights, zoombie-looks, empty stomachs, ditching an already inadequate social life. And just like any other crucial times, some would find ways to hang on – but some would let go. Truth is, whatever happens, it is not about weather we make it or not – it is all about the getting there. Yes, I am sticking to that old adage.
Being in school for a very long time (2 decades of formal education), I just knew that taking a pause during these times usually works for me. So there, I just had another valid excuse to travel. Lol!
They say that best trips are those unplanned. But planned trips are definitely much less costly for obvious reasons: you can choose a cheap hotel, you can avail of hotel discounts, and you can book discounted advance purchase flights. In Japan, low cost domestic airlines offer promotions if you purchase your ticket much earlier. Even expensive airlines such as JAL has their early-bird domestic fare deals that they call Sakitoku. There are different Sakitoku deals depending on how early you purchase the tickets. Check this link or there website for more info: https://www.jal.co.jp/en/dom/waribiki/super_sakitoku.html
This might be surprising for many, but early booked flights are much cheaper than Shinkansen (bullet trains) tickets. A much cheaper option is the overnight bus, which I have yet to try. But then again, plane promo fares are almost the same with bus fares (depend on where you go).
The cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto are three of the main tourist cities of Kansai region in Japan. They are specially beautiful in Autumn season (mid November – early December). I took this trip on the first week of December last year.
Day 1 Osaka
I met up with Angel at Kansai International Airport (KIX). I flew from Tokyo, he flew from Manila (Philippines).
From KIX to Osaka city centre would take about 45 min – 1 hr by train (1200 – 1500 yen). There are coin lockers in train stations were you can leave your luggage if you came too early for hotel check in (usually 3pm) or if you decided to drop by an area far from your hotel or if you have to sleep over your friends apartment and you cannot meet him until later (like in our case. Lol! Thank you Rico!).
From Namba station, we bought some coffee for take away and started strolling along Midōsuji avenue. It has been referred to as “Champs-Élysées of the Orient” with its ultra high class shopping streets. The avenue is lined with gingko trees which turns golden yellow in autumn.
After the leisurely walk, we took the train to Osaka Castle (Ōsakajō), one of the main landmarks of the city of Osaka. The Osaka Castle main tower houses a museum about its history.
The Osaka Castle grounds (15 acres) features various cultural assets. You can check more information here: http://www.osakacastle.net/english/
At times, people take trips to see the world and bask in its beauty. Other times, they have all other reasons. And for whatever reason, it is always better if you take it with someone you care about, and best with someone who cares about you.
Someone who will take your pictures, among all other things :p
Osaka castle is absolutely worth a visit.
At night out, our friend took us around the Dotonburi District, one of the most popular tourist destination in Osaka. The district looked so alive with bright lights reflecting in the water along the canals, entertainment centres, local and international restaurants and other famous landmarks.
They said if you are in Osaka, you shouldn’t miss Osaka’s takoyaki (Octopus balls). And I have to agree, it is deliciously different from those I’ve tasted in Tokyo.
Day 2 Nara
We are more of a “take-our-time” type than a “run-and-visit-all” kind of travellers, so you might wonder why we visited only few places during this 5 days and 4 nights trip.
On the second day, we went to Nara city, located in the East of Osaka (~1 hour by train). One of the must-see places here is the Nara Park, known for its tamed deers and world famous temples. Playing with the deers and walking around the vast park painted with all those colours and the interesting temples made me temporarily forget my PhD dissertation waiting back in Tokyo.
Food for the deers are available in the park for sale. If you have food, don’t show them to the deers, they’ll come rushing in to you.
And if you do not have food, they will not even look at you! lol!
Oh deer! The deers were adorable. It was my closest encounter with a wild (although already tamed) animal.
Autumn would not be complete without autumn foliage. Their colours give me a wonderful feeling every time. It reminds me how beautiful the world is.
It reminds me of every good opportunity I’ve had. It reminds me of the friends who stayed. It reminds me of the family who never left. It reminds me of my love. it reminds me of love. (Char! haha!)
I tink it was a bit over the peak when we came, but it was still spectacular.
Todaiji temple (Great Eastern Temple), is one of the historical landmarks in Nara (located inside Nara Park). The main hall of the temple, Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is known as the world’s largest wooden building.
The whole afternoon was not enough to enjoy every corner of the park. We missed some areas but we surely had the best time. Before we moved out, we grabbed a bite of their local strawberry sweets. One thing you shouldn’t miss when you visit there.
We had yakiniku (grilled meat) and of course nama biru (raw beer) for dinner.
Yakiniku (and other Yaki’s) and nama biru are few of our favorite things here in Japan. Food and booze were our best friends as we wrestled our way to PhD – away from home.
Angel just finished with his PhD in September that year. He went back to the Philippines after graduation. I graduated 6 months after. I stayed for another year in Japan. But this is another story.
What a wonderful day it was. The night was young when we got to the hotel. I had time to do some writing. Of course, I brought work.
– Day 3 – 5 in Part 2 –