Spent 4 weeks in Ōsaka (Mar 16–Apr 11). While a certain pandemic currently wreaking havoc across the globe did add some (first world problems level) stressful moments here and there, COVID related things were largely interesting to observe rather than concerning, and the trip overall really enjoyable.
As public transport was off limits (except for a Kagoshima trip that had been planned and booked since ages ago) the spacial range of my endeavors was defined by what was reachable on foot. The fact that the Japanese workforce seemed largely determined (or forced) to 頑張る their way through the pandemic meant that there were still quite some areas with high pedestrian traffic. My mornings therefore often involved a bit of route planning for lunch and grocery shopping, min-maxing against potential direct and indirect exposure to other human beings.
- planning of flights was a bit chaotic
- [Via China!] In early January, while in a bit of a hurry and currently not at home, I had decided on a flight by China Eastern Airlines with transit through Shanghai. Hitting the pay-for-realsies-this-is-a-legally-binding-agreement button it wouldn’t accept my credit card. Confused and bummed out that I’d probably had to get a more expensive flight at another time I gave up for the moment (later realized I still had a default set payment limit on my CC of 500€ which is why I couldn’t pay).
- [No? How ‘bout Korea?] A few days later I found a connection through Seoul, operated by Korean Air, for a reasonable price which I promptly booked. As the outbreak of some virus in China hit the news I though I had dodged a bullet. Thank goodness that CC transaction didn’t go through. Well … shit hit the fan and travel restrictions from and through Korea to Japan got stricter and stricter by the day. I then spent some days working, with the Korean Air service hotline as my ambient noise of choice and was able to cancel my booking (full refund approved,
money yet to arrive/edit: arrived on 2020-05-25).
Note: props to Korean Air and thank you to their service hotline staff. Communication of relevant information was timely and comprehensible, decisions on their part seemed fair, and hotline staff was friendly and helpful.
- [Also not an option? Ehm … the Netherlands?] While the Korean Air part of the story was progressing gradually, I already was on the lookout for alternatives. Because at this point in time the world already had largely abandoned travel plans to Asia yet airlines were still operating their usual amount of flights, I found the KLM connection I used last year via Amsterdam to be quite cheap even without booking well in advance. The moment I cancelled the Korean Air flight I therefore went straight to KLM and booked. Even though flight times were slightly adjusted as time went on and there was a bit of confusion and service hotline shenanigans midway through, in the end I pretty much traveled according to what I had booked at this point.
Note: props to KLM and thank you to the cabin crew on both the long haul flights I took for being awesome. (That being said: a toll free service hotline like the one Korean Air offers would be nice.)
- was pleasantly surprised about the availability of hand sanitizer everywhere and even the occasional free mask
- stepped foot on the island of Kyūshū for the first time (Kagoshima :)
- 黒豚 is delicious
- visited the southernmost tip of Kyūshū
- ↑ rode a car on the left hand side of the road for the first time (my one and a half years of bicycle experience in Japan interestingly didn’t help with the confusion all too much)
- not being able to enjoy things like public baths, events, etc. I made the most out of food
- Müsli for breakfast—because Müsli. Sadly lots of imported stuff and therefore also expensive (成城石井 has a good selection btw.); at least the fruit was local (apples mostly, at times khaki)
- ate all the メロンパン
- realized that avocado with soy sauce is delicious
- scouted for lunch options on 食べログ, aiming for places that’d open at 11 and pac-man’ing my way there such that I’d arrive 10 minutes before that, allowing me to often oder, eat at a normal pace and finish before anyone else would enter
- made a thing out of eating food dragon ball characters are named after
- got my hands on a Carcassonne strategy guide (gotta love Japan’s enthusiast and self publishing culture)
- got two masks by a random passerby wo noticed me walking around outside without wearing one
- got to experience Domino’s 日本ならではの気遣いのサービス空箱
- was grateful for the information and entertainment by NDR’s Coronavirus-Update, Der Held, Logbuch Netzpolitik, backspace.fm, @davechensky, Digital Homeless Yohei and many more
- felt weirdly looked after, receiving e-mails from Germany’s Auswärtiges Amt about the availability of commercial flights back home in April
- was super interesting to have a comparison of the situation in Germany between mid March and mid April without having lived through the gradual change in between
Next time I visit I’ll have to go on a 銭湯 frenzy.