“Since learning about Japan at school, I have always wanted to visit. So when the opportunity arose I decided to up and go.
I looked at prices online and then spoke to Carly, who had been extremely helpful on a previous holiday. She then booked me a flight with British Airways, direct to Osaka.
I then went home and panicked. What had I done? I don’t know anyone there, I don’t speak the language, and I was travelling alone.
I had talked about it for so long I just had to get on with it.
So, I began looking at hotels and very soon I realised it was ‘Golden Week’. The old emperor abdicated and this was a 10-day bank holiday to celebrate the new emperor. Basically, all of Japan was on holiday and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But prices of hotels were increasing by the minute and rooms were vanishing in front of my eyes.
The flight was expensive but worth it. It's a long flight and I needed the legroom.
Arriving at Osaka was exciting and scary. First thing I needed to do was find the Rail Card shop. I had pre-paid for the 14-day card for the bullet train and other lines. It was easy, the girls spoke English and I got a map of Osaka, which was helpful to an extent.
I found my way to the Metro and surprisingly found my way to my hotel (especially surprising considering I had been away for 19 hours at this point).
When I got to the hotel it was too early to check-in, so I left my bag and went to find some food. The hotel was in the middle of the market, which is an amazing location and I got to experience Japanese cuisine for the first time - this is where the love affair began.
There are many types of hotels in Japan, but as I was travelling alone, I wanted something safe and recognisable. I chose a men's business hotel, by APA Hotels, which was clean but tiny. There was a bed, a desk and a pod bathroom ( I had two other hotels later with the same bathroom, but it has everything you need).
I also stayed at Hotel Elcient Kyoto and Hotel Resol Trinity Tokyo, both were absolutely fabulous at my budget. We chose them for their location and price and would go back to either in a heartbeat.
The metro is a minefield until you get to grips with it. Some stations have hundreds of exits, so you must take photos to find your way back. The bullet train is the way to travel, it’s easy, clean and extremely punctual. Get a bingo box at the station platform for the journey.
Most of the time I decided the night before what I would do the next day. I also found that the best way to get a good insight is to get lost and explore the back streets.
The food was amazing. I decided I would try everything I could and I didn’t eat the same thing twice.
The first meal was an eye opener. While waiting for check-in I found a local restaurant and pointed at something. I received the most colourful bowl of food with a raw egg in the middle. I thought ‘here we go’ as I knew some food would be weird. I started with the bits I could recognise, then I found the boiling rice underneath and that’s when the egg started cooking. It was absolutely amazing.
I also took a cookery lesson in Osaka. I was so lucky to have the teacher to myself and I learned to make six different dishes. The teacher was so sweet and explained her culture, how to cook and eat each dish, as well as its meaning.
On the tours we were mainly served hot pot - a bowl of broth with raw mushrooms, chicken and whatever else in it, and while you sit it cooks on a burner in front of you. There are just so many options: from paying a machine to order, seeing a picture and pressing a button, or giving a waiter the coupon so he can bring the food freshly made. Everything was an experience.
I’m a bit of an art freak so in Tokyo I saw three or four exhibitions and that was mind blowing. Each gallery and each exhibition was just so different to London. The scale of the art was enormous.
Would I go back? 1,000,000% yes. I had the most amazing time. It was like nothing I have ever seen before and there is so much to see. Three weeks was not long enough."