From Kyoto, my friends and I took a bus and then a train to Osaka. We arrived late in the evening and headed over to our modest Airbnb apartment.
For dinner, we went to a nearby restaurant and ate okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake with cabbage and meat. The okonomiyaki restaurant was my first experience with traditional Japanese-style dining. The floor was covered with woven tatami mats and guests were required to remove their shoes at the door. While eating, we sat on cushions instead of chairs, and the tables were much closer to the floor.
We spent most of the following day at the Universal Studios theme park in Osaka. Though the Japanese park was very similar to American versions of Universal, the park had additional attractions based off of Japanese media. For example, the park contained an Attack on Titan area complete with larger-than-life statues of various titans. McKenna invited her Japanese friends, Kei and Yudai to join us at Universal. I was able to practice Japanese with them and we played both Japanese and American time-passing games while waiting in line for rides.
After leaving Universal, Kei and Yudai were kind enough to show us around Dotonbori, a street in Osaka, known for its hodgepodge of Japanese restaurants. Giant, animatronic statues mounted on restaurant fronts beckoned to us and the air was filled with the smells of fried meat, seafood, and smoke. We finally stopped in front of a restaurant with a statue of an irritated Japanese chef to eat kushikatsu, or deep fried food on skewers.
My friends and I ended the day by going to an onsen near our Airbnb apartment called Spa World. The onsen, or Japanese communal bathhouse, was just what we needed after a day of non-stop walking and sightseeing. I was initially embarrassed to bathe with others, but my nervousness slowly wore off as I napped in a hot spring pool with hot white steam rising around me.
We headed home the next day, but made a quick stop at Nara Park to visit shrines and feed deer. The Nara Park deer are the hallmark of the city, roaming the famed park freely and bowing to visitors. Park guests can buy crackers to feed the deer, though the deer are known to be somewhat aggressive when spotting a package of crackers.
I ended my weekend deeply satisfied. I had seen and explored so much of Japan. I never thought I would have the opportunity to see so many beautiful, interesting places and have such fun experiences. I’m extremely grateful for this trip and the people I spent time with during my four-day weekend.