Last stop: Osaka

What a throbbing mass of vibrant hustle and bustle the city of Osaka is! It heaves and spews people out of its subways and stations and shopping strips like a dragon breathes out fire. And amid it all, I wander alone and at peace, but somehow connected to this thriving metropolis, knowing that I’ve really only just barely scratched the surface in my attempts to understand it. There’s a grunginess about Osaka that I like immediately; it’s grotty and proud, has its underbelly exposed, unlike super-sanitary Tokyo, which seems conservative in comparison.

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I landed in Osaka, reflective after my time in Hiroshima. And I had landed smack bang into the middle of a jazz festival, which, as luck would have it, was going on right outside my hotel. And this set the mood for me: I had arrived in the lively neighbourhood of Namba. I checked in, and then checked out the festival, and along the way had a seriously good bowl of spaghetti amatriciana and practiced the bit of Italian I knew with the stall holders.

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Then I went off to get my bearings, which include walking a 3km shopping strip, locating relevant convenience stores in case I needed an ATM, and scoping out possible places to grab my tea. (Once I find a place, I invariably go back to it. In Osaka, it was a case of grab my salad, fresh fruit and a bottle of wine from a convenience store, and then head to a little street food vendor around the corner from the hotel that sold delicious crumbed chicken. As an aside, I’ve found it quite difficult to get chicken in Japan. Pork seems to be the ubiquitous meat here.)

My time here has been quite laid back, despite the go, go, go nature of this city. I’ve really only done a few things, despite the fact that I know I have limited time here and should make the most of it.

Kaiyukan Aquarium

All the guide books say that this is a must do, but I was meh about my experience. For a start, the entrance fee was the most expensive of my time in Japan at ¥2300 ($23). Then I had to contend with literally hoards of kindergarten children (and I do mean hoards) that made the first 10 minutes excruciatingly unbearable. It was akin to my Ephesus/cruise ship experience last year. I literally sped past exhibits just so I could bypass them. Maybe I’m not an aquarium kind of girl, because the only things that really floated my boat (pun intended) while I was at the aquarium the were the otters and the penguins. And maybe the seals.

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I spent about an hour at the aquarium before heading next door to the Tempozan Market for lunch, where I had weird tasting salmon and avocado Subway, bought an exorbitantantly over-priced t-shirt that I really, really REALLY liked, and a stainless steel compass pendant (which, incidentally, has become the inspiration for my next tattoo). This was a much more relaxed experience, and browsing around the shops was interesting, and I’m not even a shopper!

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

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Next door to the Tempozan Market is the coincidentally named Tempozan Ferris Wheel. At 112.5 metres high, it is one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels. Being a sufferer of vertigo, I had to force myself to go on it, but I’m glad I did, because the view over Osaka was spectacular. You get a better sense of how this port city is laid out. And the ride went for around 20 minutes, so at ¥800 ($8) was very good value.

Osaka Station

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I spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the Osaka Station, which was renovated in 2011 and quite similar to Kyoto Station in many respects. It houses massive department stores, tiny shops, restaurants and cafés, and street food vendors. I stumbled upon in exhibition by the photographer Kishin (who I had never heard of) and was captivated by the power of his images. As a reasonably good amateur, I was able to “hook in” technically to his work, and work out the lenses he used and how he shot his portraits. As well as being incredibly moved by his photographs, it was a learning experience for me that I really enjoyed, and I must make more of an effort to go to more photography exhibitions when I get home.

Tenjinbashi Shopping Mall

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My second day in Osaka saw me be very lazy. I stayed in bed until lunch time (I did get up for breakfast, though) finishing my book, and then I headed to Tenjinbashi Shopping Mall for a nosy around. It’s a long undercover strip – 2.6kms in length – serving locals. I’m not kidding when I say that I was the only gaijin in the area. And it was interesting wandering through, stopping for an okinomiyaki for lunch, and an overpriced coffee (seriously ¥500 ($5) for bad coffee??) near the subway* later in the afternoon. I bought a couple of souvenirs, items that I know I couldn’t get outside Japan.

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* One of the pleasures of this trip has been using the subway. Stuff like working out which line to use, when to change lines and at which station, and using and recharging my smart card. And it’s not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes there is no approaching station information in English on the train, and I have to listen for the English translation which is difficult to hear (although I’m good at hearing it in Japanese now), or rely on station signage that whizzes past. So far, I haven’t caught the wrong train, or gotten off at the wrong station. I think I like using the subway more than the actual destination!

3 Comments

  • Bookabye Baby May 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Oi, the compass is meant to be my next tattoo!

    Reply
    • dileeshus May 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      Great minds think alike, Melsy! Plus I figured it was more practical than coordinates ha ha ha!

      Reply
      • Bookabye Baby May 6, 2014 at 7:45 pm

        Poop. I’ll have to come up with something else.

        Reply

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