I have an observation to make, and it’s one that can’t be made in context – it is the kind of observation that would almost certainly be taken offensively and perhaps rightly so. It’s also an observation that stems from a range of experiences and environments, and it shouldn’t be seen as picking on a particular person, place, job, or group anyway.
People that come here can be children forever, or until they finally get someone pregnant.
Thank you. Now we’ll move on with the main journal.
iv. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
My earnest explorations began on Sunday with Chris; we walked around quite a bit: over a zoo, through the Shinsekai district (where we saw rooms full of old men playing shogi), through Den Den Town (This was basically a huge electronics shopping district – you know how much I love cables, right? There were entire stores dedicated to cables and wiring for a/v enthusiasts!), into Don Quixote, and at dusk through the underground city and to the top of a hotel. At the thirty-sixth and uppermost floor of this hotel was a superb view of Osaka, but also an Italian restaurant – Tavola36.
Chris was superbly adroit; he asked if we could see a menu and then if we could sit in the waiting area (with the picture windows that afforded a panoramic view). I would have tried to sneak in – if there’s one thing I envy of Chris above all else, it’s his way with people. He just oozes calm, ease, politeness, and reasonableness all the time. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the maître d' knew we weren’t going to eat there – we’ll be charitable and assume that she knew it wasn’t quite 6pm yet and the night was too young. Surely she couldn’t have thought that we weren’t in the market for a $100 dinner (that’s per person), no sir. (If we were there at lunchtime, we could have gone for the $35-$40 buffet, I suppose.)
While I was taking pictures, Chris and I talked a lot about how cool it would be to be having an executive lunch or dinner in a place like that.
After a journey that took longer than it needed to because I was obsessed with finding a curry place that had tables, we finally did eat at Kua 'Aina, a place with great Hawaiian burgers. This is one place that I sort of wish they had in Tokushima – for $16 you get a huge burger, the tastiest fries I’ve had so far in Japan, a delicious salad (with cheese!), and an enormous beer. You know those great big Coke / Pepsi cups that you get in theatres? Imagine one filled with a cool, frothy beer.
We called it a night fairly early, but not before getting in touch with L. I had to use Chris’ cell phone a lot, and for the first time I was starting to think that I needed one. I’ve since decided against it because I don’t want another cost centre. I also don’t really have anyone to call with one – everyone I’ve needed to reach lives on my floor! And when we go out, someone else always has a phone. So I’ve been getting by without one, but Osaka was pushing it – when I did get in touch with L., his first words were, “Hello, were you calling this cell phone?” I would eventually meet him the following night, and again on Tuesday morning.
On Monday morning Chris set up a webcam chat with his parents in Truro, and so we sat in front of his Osaka computer for over an hour peering into a Colchester county basement. The technology was there, but it wasn’t entirely working – the audio was two-way, but the webcam was only one-way. Neither of us was able to troubleshoot successfully. I don’t think I’ll get a webcam myself, because I’ve got a notebook, so the camera would be a big old appendage hanging on top of the screen. And I didn’t get Bluetooth, so it would need a cable. As if my notebook doesn’t resemble an octopus already! Anyway, this is why I tried unsuccessfully to convince my uncle’s niece to get a webcam integrated into her new notebook, and I would suggest the same to anyone – even if you don’t ever intend to use it, you might as well get it in case you change your mind since it’s such an inexpensive thing to add at the time of purchase.
Monday was a warm, warm day. It was beautiful. Chris and I walked to Tennoji, where we split up because he was going to go on a date. (Remember what I said about his way with people?) On my own, I instinctively walked into the station where I got a stamp
|Osaka - Tennoji
A stamp to let you know that you've been to Tennoji Station in Osaka; at the time I was there, the provided ink pad didn't really have any ink left.
and a quick stop at the tourist information booth was rewarded with a lovely English map of the city. (As tourist maps go, it’s a treasure; you could drive with it.)
I started walking in the general direction of Osaka Castle. I found an awesome little 100 yen shop along the way, and I bought all the houseware items I could cram into my backpack. The 100 yen shops in Tokushima were a lot bigger than this little one, but they were sorely lacking in housewares – from this place I got some really nice spoons, forks, and knives which I use every day.
And I kept walking. I got up to Morinomiya Station and crossed into the castle park at nightfall. It was beautiful even, or perhaps especially then. I did see something mildly unsettling – blue tarps set up among the trees near some of the wooded paths – tarps with sounds coming from them. At first I assumed it was some sort of political demonstration, but then I realized (and L. later confirmed) that people live there. In fact, we saw quite a few people sleeping in boxes on the streets, too. But I guess this sort of thing comes with any large city, and we have a homelessness problem in Halifax too – we don’t have parks and stationfronts where there are dozens of homeless people sleeping, but with this sort of thing, even one is too many. I ask anyone who may know more about this – is homelessness a problem that defies a simple solution, or does it require concerted efforts on several fronts at once?
The castle and its grounds were singularly impressive. It’s a very big place – just crossing the outer bailey can be a ten minute walk. You can also imagine yourself being in feudal Japan, and when you walk up the incline to the doors to the inner bailey, you feel very small and insignificant. (I’m sure the bosses of the builders had this in mind at the time of construction.)
Once inside the inner bailey, I sat on a bench facing the lit-up castle tower as the refreshment and souvenir stands closed and the other visitors (all Japanese) took their photos and walked about. I sat down, and I didn’t move for half an hour. I was completely overwhelmed by feelings of happiness, peace, and contentment, and I just had to sit and soak it all in. It was a sublime moment that words can barely describe. I’m sure there’s a mundane explanation for it all, but that doesn’t make it any less of an experience.
I escaped the castle through the north gates, where the marches were steep and practically deserted. I eventually left the grounds and returned to the city, by now thinking about meeting up with L. at Shin-Imamiya. I entered a mall and thought about getting on the Tanimachi Line at Temmabashi and perhaps interlining, but I climbed back up to the street and got on the Sakaisuji Line at Kitahama instead.
After another bout with signage, I met L. – and purely by chance, at the same entrance he was exiting through. We hiked around a bit and chatted about different things, and we made a dinner out of fried things on sticks. We dropped by Tin’s Hall before calling it a night.
On Tuesday I got up early to go meet L. at Osaka Station. We took the Loop Line and then another surface train to Universal City, home of… Universal Studios Japan! (If you’re lucky, you can catch a train with a special wrap…)
There are lots of things I could say about USJ, especially considering that I’d never been to a theme park before, unless you count Upper Clements. But right now brevity is a virtue because I’m writing about things that happened nearly a month ago.
So USJ was… cool. It’s a story better told in pictures. L. and I went on the Spider-Man ride first. It was a wild ride – the effects were amazing! Of course, we had to wait seventy minutes to get on it. Fortunately, the queues are part of the ride experience – there are lots of posters and video screens and props to make you feel like you’re in the story while you’re waiting. And even the queue in the first room was shaped like – well, do I even have to finish this sentence?
After Spider-Man, we walked around for a bit, and then we went on the roller coaster, Hollywood Dream. (An odd theme for a roller coaster, we agreed.) It was definitely the most intense roller coaster ride I’d ever been on – the only thing I’d experienced that was close to this was the Mindbender at West Edmonton Mall.
L. had to go his own way after this; he still had a few errands to run in Osaka before returning to Tokushima. We walked back to Universal City and went our separate ways for lunch. I returned to the Studios and went on the Jurassic Park flume ride (the drop at the end is something else), saw a 30-minute version of Wicked, and after that I pretty much jogged all the way to Back to the Future.
See, the park closes at 5pm during the off-season. That means that they’ll stop admitting people to the lineups for the major rides a long time before that. When I left Wicked, the displays cited the wait time at 45 minutes. Great! I thought. That’ll be just enough time. But when I got to the Back to the Future area, the sign said that it was closed!
Still, I spied a few people going in anyway, and so I went too, hoping for the best. I guess I got in just in time, because maybe five or six people got in behind me, and we were the tail end of the line all the way to the ride.
When I left the ride, the park was closing, although there were thousands of stragglers. I went back to Universal City and had a McDinner of two 100 yen cheeseburgers, and I walked around a bit. My bus was leaving at 6:15 - back at Osaka Station, L. had helped me change my bus ticket to leave for Tokushima directly from USJ. Talk about convenience! There was no charge whatsoever for the adjustment, either. (Although there would be a… brace yourself… 100 yen charge for a subsequent change.)
I was the only person to get on the bus at USJ. Many more got on at Osaka Station, and a few got on at the Air Terminal, too. I had a lot of fun following the expressway route between the latter two on my map – the road was elevated and seemed to come straight out of a video game. The turns over water and twists between skyscrapers were spectacular.
I dozed to Tokushima. And here’s the bit that I wrote when I finally got home:
* * *
Well, I just got back from Osaka. It was so good to be coming home and to be back in familiar and cheaper surroundings. I took off my coat and walked in to my nice, warm living room…
Wait, warm living room? And what’s that faint whirr I hear?
Oh, NO! I’d left the heat on the entire time! Four days of 24 hour heat – augh! That’ll be at least an extra $20 on my power bill, if not much more. Well, I guess it teaches me a lesson. The worst part is that when I was packing to leave I was thinking of the part in Around the World in Eighty Days where Passepartout leaves the gas on and has to pay the bill when they get back.
It serves me right for leaving in a hurry, I guess.
See you next time!