I still didn’t speak any Japanese. And some of the dancers didn’t speak English. But we did the Charleston and swing danced all night, communicating with just a song and a dance floor in a basement in Osaka.
Osaka was a large commercial city, like Tokyo but more compact. There were stores crammed into every corner, all-you-can-sing private karaoke rooms, and locals taking selfies every few steps. The sheer number of people was mildly overwhelming but excessively amusing to people-watch.
I spent the first night at a capsule hotel, a mix between a business hotel, a dormitory, and summer camp. I met three other foreign women who were also staying at a capsule for the first time, and we spent the evening chatting at the edge of our bunks. We all agreed that the pajamas provided were the most comfortable ever.
I’ll be honest, I was still shy about naked communal bathing. In Yudanaka the hot tub was small and dimly lit, and I usually had the room to myself. But in the capsule hotel the bathing room was bright and large. It was daunting. Luckily there were two Americans who showed me how to shower while sitting on a little plastic stool. It takes practice, balance, and a little adventure.
A trip to Osaka is not complete without experiencing the private karaoke rooms with a couple of friends. Karaoke in the US consists of singing “cool” songs in a bar, with lots of other people watching and judging you. In Japan, you sing Disney songs in a small room with just your friends judging you, and they sing along.
After we’d exhausted our vocal chords, British Kate and I took a bullet train south to Hiroshima. I was nervous to visit the site of the first nuclear bombing. Should I say I’m Canadian, eh? Is there an American flag tattooed on my face?
No one glared or cursed at me, but it was hard to shake the guilty feeling as we walked through the memorial park to the Atomic Bomb Dome. It was peaceful but remorseful, sobering but not vengeful. Hiroshima (and Japan in general) is one of the biggest advocates of nuclear nonproliferation, a direct result of having been the target of two nuclear attacks.
Kate and I dropped our bags at the hostel when we arrived in Hiroshima and it wasn’t until much later that we remembered we had not actually checked in. It was 11:30pm, we didn’t have keys, and we were miles away from the hostel. So we sprang into action…and we found the nearest late-night snack: okonomiyaki, a savory pancake of noodles, vegetables, and sauces. Then we quickly walked to the hostel, saying a few prayers and crossing our fingers that we get beds. The Goddess of Travel smiled down on us and the hostel check-in was still open until 1am. Crisis averted.
Kate and I got an early start the next day for Miyajima island, home of the floating torii gate. The island is overrun with domesticated deer but for the most part they left us alone, unless we had something that looked like food.
We had plenty of time until the ferry home so we hiked the mountain (large hill) on the island. The cable car was not operating that day so everyone at the top had gotten there on their own steam, and I’m sure it was much less crowded than usual. We didn’t have to fight for the selfie views.
I was sad to see Kate go, her flight was a week earlier than mine so I stuck around Hiroshima a few extra days to work on another travel guide. It was a little lonely to spend most of my days either in a cafe or in a hostel, but it was the cost of working while traveling.
I had a week left in Japan before flying out of Osaka so I took a bullet back to Kyoto. I still had a lot to explore, like a cat cafe, the Golden Pavilion, Nara (where deer guard the largest bronze buddha in the world), a bamboo forest, and the Manga Museum. Plus one last soak in an outdoor onsen, before heading to Thailand.