Monday, August 24, 2009


Japan, Osaka:

Sorry for the delay in posting the rest of the story. I got caught up in the weekend!

Anyhow... Osaka. So we took the shinkenzen (bullet train) to Osaka (accidentally got on the one that stopped at all the stops, instead of the express, but it was still a nice ride. Only added about 45 minutes or so.). The shinkenzen is awesome. There's a bullet train to all kinds of places, and there is literally a train every 10 minutes. It's amazing. I was so impressed with Japan's public transportation system. The railway stations were enormous, but you could get just about anywhere on a train. The ride itself was delightful. We got to see a lot of countryside, and it was beautiful.

We landed in Osaka in the late afternoon, and took a cab in to our hotel. The cab driver told us that there was a fireworks celebration that evening by pointing at the sky and making boom-flash noises, which was funny. We saw a ton of people (whole families, down to the toddlers) dressed up in their kimonos, headed off to see the fireworks.

Osaka had a whole different feel to it, almost immediately. There were tons of bikes everywhere. There would be 100 bikes in a row on the sidewalk, but none of them locked down to anything. They'd usually have a cable through the wheel, so you couldn't ride it... but nothing prevented people from picking them up. Also, people just rode their bikes in whatever they were gonna wear to work. I didn't see any lycra tights, or fancy bikes, nor any helmets for that matter. People rode on the sidewalks, not the main streets. You'd also see the women (in their 4" heels, of course) in pairs on bikes. One woman would be pedaling, and the other would standing (on the wheel spokey-things, or the pannier platform) and holding on to the driver's shoulders. Amazing.

Osaka has this amazing nightlife and food culture, too. We went, every night, to eat at the Dotomburi Arcade, which is this area of town where there are a kazillion wee little restaurants and shops. The streets are pedestrian only, and some are skinny, little alleys. There are lots of crazy, neon and flashy signs (kinda like a tiny Las Vegas) or crazy statues on the buildings. People are out front, yelling and trying to get you to come in to their restaurant or shop. I loved the giant, moving restaurant sculpture. So fun.

People seemed a little more relaxed and down to earth as well. Less suits and ties on the men, less schmancy dresses on the women (but always, the 4" heels).

Our hotel was tiny. It's possible that I've had rooms on trains about the same size. Our bathroom was one solid piece of plastic that looked like the room had been built around it. I woke up in the middle of the night one night, because I thought Brian was bouncing the bed around... turns out we were having an earthquake. I was the only one that woke up for it, though. It was fairly far away, but did some damage at the epicenter, and ruined part of the southbound freeway. Made for some mucky traffic and increased shinkenzen use later in the week.

We went to the Osaka Aquarium, which was really nice. It was super busy, because it was raining that day and all the Japanese tourists went there, too. Did we mention that we got two days of crazy rain because of Typhoon Morokot? It rained fairly heavily in Osaka (and poured buckets the next day in Nara, but that's the next tale). So, yeah.... an earthquake and a typhoon. Just call us lucky!

We also had high adventure in a Japanese mall. Andrea's camera got smashed at some point in our Tokyo kareoke adventures, and she needed a new one. We talked to a American and a Brit we met in the street and they gave us the name of a large department store where she could use her credit card (Did we mention that hardly anyone in Tokyo takes credit cards? It's cash all the time, only.). We trucked on over there and muddled around for a while, until we found one she liked, that also had an English language feature. The store people were very helpful, even if the purchasing procedures were a little confusing (we had four people help us.). Successful camera buying. We celebrated by buying bagels for lunch, which were very tasty.

We only had about a day and a half in Osaka, and spent most of that at the Aquarium and Dotomburi Arcade, both of which were rad. I loved the giant puffer fish (fugu) sign/lights outside the fugu restaurant. The aquarium was delightful. They had two whale sharks, which is just incredible. You'll have to go to my flickr page and see all the photos. I can't do it justice in words.

All-in-all, I love Osaka.


Secret Squirrel said...

Thank you. I was not waiting patiently.

thetravellor said...

Not to be ms. picky, but it wasn't typhoon morokot. That only hit Taiwan. The typhoon we saw the edge of, started with an E or something. IT was a completely separate deal.