Living and working in Ōsaka
January, 1 st Kobe
New Year. I don’t know how it happened, but when I woke up I had a hangover. Usually Japanese people go to a temple or a mountain on the first day of the new year, so Henryk, Kim and me planned to climb Mt. Rokko. In the common room it only took a few minutes to figure out this plan might not work out today and we went back to bed. New year German way. I took a very long nap and it was already lunch time, when I was back in the common room. Kim and me decided to go to Mt. Rokko anyway and take a bus near to the top instead of hiking the whole mountain. We started already late and missed a train in Umeda. In Ashiya we had to wait for the bus as well, so it was almost dark. The bus took us up the mountain and I was happy that we decided not to walk. While trains are extremely modern in Japan, the buses are exactly the opposite. Squeezed into a mini seat in a nostalgic bus I felt like being back in elementary school, when the bus took us to the public bath for taking swim lessons. By the way buses are very expensive in Japan as well, one reason might be that the bus entered the highway, which is a toll road. When we arrived near the top of the mountain it was already dark and the bus dropped us in the middle of the highway. The driver told is the very last bus will come in one hour and will drive to Arima Onsen, there would be no bus back to Ashiya. Well done. We headed to the top of the mountain while realising, that if we continue we might get into serious trouble, so without arriving the top we went back to the bus station, where a group of people from Bangladesh were also waiting for the last bus. In this moment I understand something very important. It is extremely easy to slip into serious trouble, this kind of trouble people get in you can read in the newspaper afterwards and wonder how people could be so stupid. We hadn’t any food nor water, no emergency blanket, not even a headlamp. And it was freezing cold and began to snow. I remembered my trip to Arco last year with Roman and that I messed up again. We thought about walking down the road we came. Bad idea to walk along a small mountain highway in darkness for around 15 km… This time I was very calm, because I was in Japan and there were other people. Since there are other people it won’t get serious, especially in Japan. So we waited with the people from Bangladesh, which carried some little children, who were obviously cold. The guys in the toll road house were very nervous and looked very uncomfortable with all this people on the highway, which behaviour were unpredictable. The bus came and took us to Arima Onsen, where we could get the train back. Unfortunately we had to travel in a wide circle and traveled were far opposite direction, so it took us more than one and a half hour to get back to Umeda (instead of 15 min). Anyway I already focused Mt. Rokko for our weekly hike and now I’m extremely keen to go there. The view was breathtaking, even in the dark. At home Kim and me made Sushi by ourselves and it was delicious. I never expected it would be that simple and I added an important to skill to my cooking skills.
January, 2 nd Osaka
Sushi day. Since Kim has no class in language school anymore we have an opulent breakfast together every morning. Today started with self made Sushi in the morning which is one of the best breakfast one can imagine. Due to New Year’s resolution we decided to go for running today while visiting my favourite Shitennoji temple. Running with Kim was just fun and he kept me smiling. I wanted to pray, as usually, at the temple, but there was a very long queue. For praying. I’m still to german to enjoy waiting and we had to move on until we became cold, so we took some pictures and went on. The weather was just perfect. Clear blue sky and sun and the fresh air gave me a lot of motivation. As already mentioned I got more and more interested in photographie and one of my favourite scenery is the colors of night’s city life. So I went with Kim to Tsutenkaku for taking some pictures and having dinner. This session was not as successfully as expected and we also couldn’t decide what to eat. First world’s problems. So we went back to our house and made sushi again. Now I’m an advanced in making sushi and very happy about it.
January, 3 rd Osaka
Oyshi. Oyshi means delicious and this is a very accurate description of today. This evening I met my friend Lee and he took me to some of his favourite restaurants. We met at Shinsaibashi and he showed me around orange street, a very fancy and hip street in city centry. I enjoyed walking around with Lee and explore the area. After a while we went to a mexican restaurant and got a quesadilla and a beer. It was the first time in my life I had an Australian beer and I liked it very much. It was kind of juicy. Afterwards we went to a traditional Japanese restaurant. Typically for Japanese food we ordered several small dishes and shared it with each other. We drank sake and it was the first time I tried a good one. Beside the classical ingridients like raw salomon and tuna the sashimi (middle plate) consists also of urchin (shīgeru) and fish sperm. Both had a really interesting consistence and were not as bad as it might sounds, but it won’t be my favourite dishes. We also drank Shōchō, a Japanese distilled brewery, so when we left the restaurant I was already tipsy. We walked around and and caught a taxi towards Umeda to go for a drink into Lee’s favourite bar. Unfortunately this one was closed due to Japanese holidays, so we got a drink from the Konbini and walked through the city and I got the chance to take some nice shots of cities’s life. Shortly after leaving the taxi Lee realised he lost his phone in the taxi. One very nice think about Japan is, that is really likely that he will I get it back (indeed he did). The police checked the SIM card and the provider called him telling him he could pick it at the local police station. That’s typical Japan! I really enjoyed walking around with Lee and breath the cold air. I still cannot believe that I’m living in Osaka right now. It is my first’s choice city and I am still excited about it.
January, 5 th Osaka
Hello and Goodbye. The last month I spent a lot of time with Kim, one of my flatmates. At the beginning we just had dinner every evening and learned Japanese together. He thought me Kanji every evening in the living room. In the end we became very close friends and spent nearly every free minute together. Kim showed up in the very right moment. When I came back to Osaka to settle down and recovered physically from my bike trip, I still missed something very important. My friends. An spending time with friends in general. Secretly, I wished to have a close friendship, meeting new people and leaving them next day is exhausting and for sure I met a lot of people I feel very close and made friends, but it hurts to leave them after such a short time. Friendships happens by coincidence an need time. I know this and was not forcing it. So, there was Kim. Kim and me are very similar in some kinds and liked each other from the very first moment. We watched TV, cooked together, made some excursions together and had a lot of fun. Like me he loves just to walk around and explore. He also loves languages and learn about cultures and customs, so we had a lot to talk. Kim is a very smart guy and comes from Korea, the country I’m most interested in after Japan. I learned a lot about history and the politically difficulties between Japan, Korea and China. For the first time I experienced that it can also be challenging to avoid misunderstanding between different cultural background. It is about the very tiny things, which cause laughs, surprises and sometimes also not understanding. I have a lot of international friends, but the closests relationships I had with those who have an European or Western background. I always thought I was open-minded in general, but I learned I’m on a good way, but still need to work on it. Of course as long you have a tight interpersonal relationship, all this doesn’t matter in the end, so it was with Kim, but anyway one should keep it in mind. I learned something very important which I cannot describe in words. Kim went back to Korea today and I was very sad he left. I mean the timing was very good since I will start working next week, so we could use the time we had. There was a kind of structure and daily rhytmn, now a new journey’s section will start. I’m excited about what it holds for me. And for sure I’m also happy Kim and me became close friends. I miss you and I’m looking forward to see you in Korea very soon. Soeul I’m coming!
January, 6 th Osaka
Hiking Mt. Rokko. Today was the very first hike of the year. There were four people awaiting me at the meeting point at Ōsaka station and together we went to Ashiya (near Kobe, the origin of famous Kobe beef) to climb Mt. Rokko. The trail hold some surprises for us and forced us into unexpected situations. Feel free to read more about our adventurous hike here.
January, 7 th Osaka
Science. Today it’s official. I have a job right now and today was my very first day and I signed my contract. For the next two months I will be working as a scientist at Osaka University doing research about proteins, which is exactly my major. I never expected, because this opportunity is too good to be true. Last summer when I was already graduated my colleague called me and informed me about a visiting professor from Japan at our University and offered me to go to his talk for getting in touch with him. I was in Düsseldorf in this moment and went there immediately. The professor was very busy, for sure, but I had the chance to talk to him and got his business card. I should write to him, he said. When I was in Osaka the first time I just did and he wanted to see me in a few weeks. This was one of the reasons I came back early from Shikoku. He offered me a job and was too excited to believe that it would be successful in the end, because with my Working Holiday Visa it was more challenging (for the administration) that expected. I was already in the lab in December and joined a small fare-well party. All members are very nice and I felt welcome. The lab is very international, which is not that common for Japan. There is even another German. So, today on my first day we did a lot of administration stuff and got deeper into the topic. I will be able to use and expand my previous experience. It’s amazing! I’m curious about the next weeks. Today was the first day after New Year’s holidays, most of the people traveled during this time to spend the time with their beloved ones. It is common to bring something typical from the area you have visited during holidays. So there were a lot of cakes, sweets and snacks on the table. I by myself brought some Ritter Sport which I luckily could find in a department store. In the evening we made Okonomiyaki together. And I got the chance to try a new version; Okonomiyaki Hiroshima style, which consist mainly of cabbage. In the end it was a very long day and after a hot bath in the bathhouse I laid happily in my bed. It is funny, since I started studying I always said that I want to live and work abroad after finishing. This plan was skipped when I changed from a scaredy cat to go on adventure. As you might remember I didn’t know what this Working Holiday meant to me and how my way would be. I’m sure right now, this is the right way. I would be fine to work in a restaurant or as a language teacher, but working as a scientist gives me the opportunity to live both Japanese everyday life and living abroad while still being on adventure. I’m not afraid of winter anymore and ready to get deeper into culture. Japan here I am!
January, 8 th Osaka
Working Holiday Visa. When I applied for the Working Holiday Visa there seemed to be very less restrictions (and information as well) which kind of work is possible and which not. I’m not allowded to work in any kind of amusement area, which means any kind of bars and nightlife (even though I know some WHV makers who do this legally). Most of WHV makers work as an english teacher. Since I got a Japanese resident card, I was sure there wouldn’t be any trouble working in a qualified position. In the end I heard it was maybe not that easy to hire me (like everywhere buerocracy offices struggle when they do something new the very first time). So, now I work part time, which is unlikely to German’s system. A part time job in Japan is limited to period (in my case two months), but does not limit the daily working hours. Interestingly they call this kind of position “arubaito”, which comes from the german word “Arbeit” and means “worker”. Unfortunatly the tax authority does not accept the WHV including resident card as a real resident, so for some reasons I have to pay the double amount of tax in Japan (which is actually 20%). From this point of view the WHV wasn’t benefical at all, because all other authorities treat me like a resident. This means I cannot get any of the tourist’s benefits like tax free shopping, reduced train and subway tickets or cheap prepaid SIM cards. Pity. My daily life’s main focus in Japan is totally different than in Japan. I’m living a completly different life. While I was focusing sports (besides work) (Taekwondo, hiking, climbing) in Germany, in Japan it’s all about foot. I usually met my friends to do sports or activities, while here I meet friends usually to go out for eating. I learned to enjoy food a it’s fun, but I miss doing sports and need to change it at least a bit. Also means I’m getting fat. Just kidding, but anyway I’m getting unhappy without regulary physically challenges. I had a meeting with my friend Lee and just arrived 20 min later due to the issue with the train. We went to a Thai restaurant together and spent a nice evening. A totally different lifestyle. When I went home from work to meet Lee I was very surprised to see that the barriers to get to the platform were closed and a lot of people standing in front of it while one was speaking with a loud speaker. Trains stopped operating due to an accident or something and it was the first time I was in Japan I was afraid not to be able to manage the situation due to a lack of Japanese language. They told me the trains wouldn’t operate tonight anymore. I was shocked and worried that I have to sleep in the lab, in this moment I totally forgot I was in Japan and train system is much better in the second’s biggest city than in Bochum even in the outskirts. In the end it was quiet simple, just take a bus to another lines station and that’s it. I haven’t expected such a situation in Japan and felt kike being back in Germany, where the trains are always delayed or canceled. In Japan they are very reliable. In this moment I felt kind of volunerable. At home I know a lot of people who could help me in this situation and pick me up. In Japan I have to solve every problem on my own. Finally it’s time to grow up!
January, 9 th Osaka
Packed trains. Have you ever seen this disturbing videos about ground stuff pushes the people into already fully packed Japanese trains? Maybe this is only common for Tokyo and not up to date anymore. But, the amount of people in a train is definetly next level compared to crowded german trains. I need to travel around 50 min by subway, this one takes me out of the city centre (where I live) to the outskirts. Usually the main flow is opposite way, so only every third train or so goes to my work’s station directly and this one is extrmely packed. When I saw the queue (as already mentioned Japanese people form queues in any situations) and the almost full arriving train I was sure I’m gonna miss the train. How wrong I was. I couldn’t understand how all these people fitted and it went worse. The next station even more people entered. It was hurting, people were pressed against each other and there wasn’t not even space to more your hands. This was uncomfortable, but not an issue for me. My problem was the heat, Japanese trains are usually more heated than german ones, because they seem to be more sensitive to cold in general. For me it was too much. My head went bloody red and sweat run over my face. Luckily after three to four stations the worst was over and breathing was possible again. I often watched how the U35, the one and only subway line to Ruhr University Bochum, got packed at Bochum main station. The behaviour was totally different, while people where moaning, shouting and fighting for each centimeter of more privacy Japanese people stay calm and quiet, which makes this unconfortable situation much more convienient and less stressful.
January, 11 th Osaka
Working. My first week working in Japanese lab is done and there are some differences I wanna share. Most surprisingly for my was the start time of working. To my regret Germans are early birds and it is common to start work at 8 am or even earlier. Anyway at 9 am everybody is already working. Here in Japan, nobody is in the lab before 10 am. (Interestingly lunch time is around 12 pm like in Germany). For sure this might does not represent Japanese’s general working shedule. I really appreciate it, because waking up early is hell for me. When I leave my home there is already light outside, even at this dark time of the year. On some days in Germany I left my home in darkness, took the subway and went home in darkness. From time to time the days are grey, cloudy and rainy and it never gets bright properly. This is why many german people don’t like winter season. Here in Japan winter is almost dry, so I start my day usually with light, a clear blue sky and sunshine. I wonder how it increases motivation even in morning! For sure end of working is adjusted and there is less spare time during work (if you aren’t an early bird and use your time in the morning). I’m a sleepy person and very fine using it for sleeping, anyway it is your choice, isn’t it? The supermarkets are open 24 h or until 2 am, so caring for your daily needs isn’t an issue. It’s quiet common to see people sleeping everywhere, especially in the train. But also at work I observed some students buried in their arms taking a nap at their desk once a day. I mean everybody knows the so called lunch depht, I wished so many times I could just nap for 20 min… Here, the people just do and it is awsome. I don’t understand why we didn’t import it. You will be excited about the refreshment you got after a short nap. It works much better than coffee! It did not take long time until I started slepping in the train as well. The working atmosphere is very familiar and polite. Since people stay late it is not uncommon to cook together in the evening. Since I’m in Japan I started enjoying cooking, but cooking together with other people is still much more fun, so I like it very much and it also saves time at the same time. The way people talk to each other is also very different, I also got asked if I have time or if I would like to join meetings even though they are obligatory. Honestly, it enlights me each time a little bit, because my brain tells me something like “it’s your decision, but they appreciate you coming”. Maybe this is nonsense, but I like it. I already realised that I have a special habit, taking language phrases literally and seriously. “You are welcome” means like “no problem” or “my pleasure”, but I happily wonder and get excited that the person saying I am welcome. I get the main intention, but the positivly transfered emotion is highly increased.
January, 13 th Osaka
Climbing Mt Atago. When I planned today’s hike I knew it will be very though not to end up in darkness while hiking somewhere in the mountains. The trail was around 18 km with 900 m of elevation. Quite long and challenging. And moreover the ride itself to Kyoto was around an hour. When I was in Kyoto I already hiked this area (see here) and we would merge this one in the end. If it’s getting dark we would be fine from this point on. So, I set the starting time much earlier and hoped that everything goes as planned. How wrong I was. I really enjoy organising, from planning the trail to collect all the informations and publishing it. But I don’t enjoy leading a group, because I don’t want to tell people what to, especially grown up ones. I made a major mistake, during the week several people kept asking questions where and when we gonna meet up, which train we are taking etc. Since everything was written on this page or in the Couchsurfing event’s description in detail, people still kept asking. I don’t want to blame any individual, but these individuals make a bunch of people in the end of the day and the probability that I make mistakes increases. I usually create a WhatsApp and LINE group. Since this event attracts more locals than travellers, the WhatsApp group is quite empty. The main purpose of creating a group is rather to share responsibility than to share pictures. The idea is that the group can organise theirselves within a given frame. But this does only work if the group is big enough. In this case the WhatsApp group consisted of three people who didn’t read the event’s description and nobody realised that I made a mistake in telling the time of arrival in Kyoto (which was one hour later than usually). I did not notice until we arrived at Arashiyama. One guy was already on the way while a girl was still at Kyoto. I called her and she couldn’t make it within the next minutes. This was exactly the kind of situation I really wanted to avoid. The whole group was supposed to wait for one hour in the cold or could start walking without the girl. It was my mistake, my decision, and my responsibility in this moment. I called the girl again and apologised and she said we should go. I felt very sorry for the girl, because she was planning her day and her holidays. I really failed. We started hiking and caught up with the other guy and it seemed to be alright now and we could start hiking.
January, 14 th Osaka
Coming out of age. Today was coming out of age day. It is held in order to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached or will reach the age of majority between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year, and to help them realise that they have become adults. It is a national holidays and meant a day off for me. I met my friend Lee today and together we cycled through Osaka to go to the Aquarium. He showed me some new places and a bakery with extremely delicious stuff. We had a second breakfast at the Yodogawa river shore and enjoyed the bright blue sky. After a while we headed to the Aquarium which is located at Osaka bay. I thought a lot about going there or not, because usually I don’t support animals held in cages. In my opinion for small pray fishes it is ok, but I hoped not see penguins, dolphins or whales… In the end I decided to go and it was the first time in my life being in an Aquarium. It was a pretty nice chance for taking pictures and there was much to see and explore. I really enjoyed being there with Lee. We spent there a lot of time and when we left it was almost dark outside. They had pretty nice lights outside, which were fascinating me. I took some noice shots. I’m fascinated and inspired by coloured life which mirroring my feeling about Osaka’s city life. Later we cycled to a Korean restaurant to eat BBQ. I already heard about this concept from Kim and was keen to experience it myself. At Korean BBQ there is a BBQ on the table covered by a small hood to absorb the carbonmonooxid. Thin meat and vegetables were served raw and and grilled by ourselves. It was the most delicious BBQ I ever had in my life. While in Germany and America huge pieces grilled on the BBQ in Japan there a many different small ones, which I prefer. Filled with all this delicious stuff I cycled back home and enjoyed a bath.
January, 20 th Osaka
Hiking Mt Ikoma. Since last week’s hikes were quiet challenging I decided to choose an easier one for this Sunday which is not that long and less climbing. Lee told me about an abandoned village in the mountains Ikoma and that he always wanted to go there. Mt. Ikoma was always in my mind and with only about 600 m elevation it was fixed very quickly. Click here to read about our adventures we experienced in the ghost village of Mt. Ikoma.
January, 27 th Osaka
Hiking Mt. Ponpon. This week’s hiking was created freely by myself. I took the map and searched for an area with mountains and where I haven’t been yet. I chose Mt. Ponpon rather of its funny name than anything else. My coworkers and flatmates regulary ask me about the weekend’s destination and no one of them every heard of Mt. Ponpon before. I announced this trip as Kansai’s hidden secrets and an adventurous tour, without knowing if we wouldn’t end up in a fallow land in the end. Since I’m addicted to water I choose the trail along a small river dreaming of a hidden untouched scenery. In the end everything turned out totally different than expected and I learnt a very important lesson. Click here to read more of today’s wild adventure.