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Published: November 4th 2009
This is how the Japanese spend a lot of their time. So they pass it with gaming, reading, texting and sometimes groping.
Japans efficiency was impressed upon me even before our MD-11 had touched down in the country. Flying into Kansai airport you can easily see its perfect rectangle shape of reclaimed land sitting as an island just off Osaka, but it can be slightly unnerving for some as the plane drops lower and lower while viewing from your window seat nothing but the blue sea, which gives for the briefest moment the impression that your about to touch down on the ocean and its all gone horribly wrong (don't like flying by the way, can you tell?) then suddenly tarmac is there and you've touched down for a safe landing.
Once through immigration and having completed the promise to notify authorities of any flu like symptoms me, Matt and Alex made our way to information to find a reasonable place to stay finding the woman at the kiosk very friendly and helpful. So we sat on our first of many trains on our way to Osaka which gave me the opportunity to sit and watch the landscape move by, something I always appreciate and love about train travel as for me its the most relaxed form of travel. It was interesting
to see the many rice fields interspersed amongst housing areas maximising the output and utilising as much space as possible as some estimates state a yearly consumption of 200 kilograms per person in Japan which is a lot of rice.
The first thing we did after having dropped the bags off was have a wonder around the city popping into some joint to grab a drink before heading off in a direction we had no clue about and we were also short of people to give us directions we would understand. Finally we found the main shopping/eating district filled with various restaurants and picked some random place, sliding open the door and stepping in looking like the quintessential tourists we were dressed in t-shirts and shorts. Before I knew it we were throwing back beers and shots which seemed to amuse the locals (midday) and who then kindly decided to buy us all sorts of snack food including egg, chicken, fat, some kind of popsicle and most excitingly raw liver, which to my amazement I ate having a very smooth subtle flavour that I probably would not order again and Alex didn't seem much keen on any of it.
How our room looked, pretty cool actually and a nice introduction to a Japanese hotel.
Osaka is a vibrant place with a strong commercial aspect to it. Going out at night it can take a while to find the happening scene but once you do, theres no telling when you might arrive back at the hotel. There are many places to pop into to find the various different types of food specialities being cooked and my advice is to just throw caution to the wind and delve in, if its bad don't order it again but you do have to be brave when it comes to the food in Japan as they put a lot of things on the menu that you obviously will not have back home. Osaka is very famous for its fast food and one popular dish we tried on our nights out as a quick munch was Tako-yaki. This is a popular Japanese dumpling and is made of flour batter and includes tako (diced octopus), tenkasu (tempura scraps), pickled ginger, and green onion. The evil side to this dish is when its handed to you the outside is nice and cool and what you dont expect is the thermonuclear core and I immediately shredded all the inside of my mouth
Electricity and water make for an interesting toilet session and it used to be such a relaxing place.
while cursing this tasty but boiling hot (not spicy) dish.
One night we walked to Dotonburi one of the districts which is supposed to be like the scene from Blade Runner with lots of people sauntering up and down the streets under big multi-coloured neon lights which gives the street a life and vibrancy to it rather than coming across tacky. Strolling through this area it feels like being adrift in a sea of light and colour bringing a sense of detached observance as no one really speaks English and everywhere looks so similar but different making it difficult to interact and connect with the environment your in as the Japanese tend not to engage foreigners even if looking lost and bewildered.
As Matt and Alex were both feeling worst for wear from the night before I decided to make my way to Osaka Castle. The underground system is easily accessed and simple to understand but having said that I arrived in the general area and had to ask in which direction the actual castle was and trekking round in the humidity with a hangover certainly makes for hard work. Once around the corner the
vision of Osaka Castle managed to spur me on and I made my way to the park it sits in and met my first Japanese person who approached me and spoke English. I immediately went on the backpacker defensive expecting to be sold something and heckled to death but she was very polite and seemed only interested in explaining some of the history of the place with a cursory nod to offering a tour of the place but took no for answer straight of the bat which was good. When visiting sites I tend to just want to look and not be distracted by information with an idea to reading up about a place after.
We spent a little longer here mainly due to partying and having a blow out or in a state of being hung over but still managed to take in some sights like Osaka Castle. Osaka Castle has been hit by lightening, bombed, burned so has had a bit of rough time over the years and today it stands as a concrete reproduction like many of the other Castles around Japan but is still a cool sight to see and a good introduction into typical
Japanese architecture which everyone envisions of ancient Japan no Ninjas though...............damn it.
Osaka was a good introduction to Japan and embodies much of what Japan is, a mix of deep history and tradition behind a modern developing culture. A huge commercial power house which exudes a strong work ethic and when the suits leave the offices around 8 theres a plethora of dishes to suit their every appetite and come morning its back to work and the machine churns ever on.
Next we were off to Tokyo the big capital with the big city and my first ride on the legendary bullet train!
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