Monday, 16 November 2009
Let's enjoy Osaka!
At the weekend I went to Osaka with Ed and Sean. I'm really glad that I managed to see Kyoto and Osaka on two consecutive weekends; the contrasts between the two cities were even more apparent to me. I think that Osaka lacks the sophistication of Kyoto yet more than makes up for this in other ways. One of the first things that struck me about Osaka was how friendly the people were. If I could choose a word to describe my brief encounter with Osakans, it would perhaps be 'earthy'. Yes, earthy is the word I am looking for. So many people were not only willing, but eager to help me out with directions and the like. It was a strange but heart warming feeling to be approached like that.
Lots of Osakans...
We went to see a Kabuki play in Osaka. Kabuki is one of the oldest traditional Japanese theatre forms. I'm glad that I went to see one but after about two hours, I wanted to leave the theatre. I kept thinking about all the art and interesting areas to explore. I spent the rest of the time nodding off and impatiently waiting for the protagonist to commit seppuku (a horrible Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment). Oh dear, how uncultured I sound...
After the play had finished, I wandered around Amerika-mura which is said to be Osaka's equivalent to Tokyo's Harajuku. It was the incredible. I have (sadly) become quite accustomed to clothes shops that cater for the over ninety fives in my town, so they made my heart glow.
some satisfactory America-mura shop assistants.
Ed and I found another thing which made me nostalgic for London. Oh, how I wish to ride the tube again!
That evening, we met up with some ALTs who live in Osaka, three of whom are Londoners.Here are some lovely British people; Roland and Dave. I want to make friends in every place as I visit;experiences are always more fulfilling when you know people in far flung places.
Ohh I must tell you about the hostel I stayed in. I left hostel booking to the very last minute and consequently, had very little choice left by Thursday evening. I ended up finding a really cheap place, just two stops away from Namba (where all the interesting things happen). Hotel Mikado was awful. My room smelt like the door hadn't been opened in thirty years and there were suspicious looking stains everywhere. There seemed to be a string of similar looking hotels along the road - I dare you to try one of them! How about Hotel Sweet? It's right next door to Mikado! Here is a picture of my luxurious Osakan abode...bleak...
Despite the uninviting atmosphere, I met a lovely man from Syria called Aladdin (ace!) who is travelling the world. He told me that I looked like a cabin crew member in my hat and coat. I have been compared to several things whilst wearing my hat and coat; Paddington bear and Madaleine. What do you think?
The next day, I woke up really early due to the pervasive desire to get out of the hostel. I went to see Osaka castle first, which was very beautiful, but I parted company with Ed and Sean to heaad back to America-mura. It was here that I met these three lovely ladies. They work for a street fashion magazine and asked if they could take some pictures of me for it. When this happens in London,a camera is thrust in your face, usually at the people crushing bend by Topshop (though I hear that the recently constructed Shibuya style crossing will dispel this, hooray!) and it makes for an unpleasant experience. Not in Osaka....the girls took me to a small studio, tucked at the very top of a building along America-mura and snapped away, it was lovely :-)
It just so happened that on the floor below the studio was Neko no Jikan; the cat cafe. I was so happy. I had planned on visiting the cafe but the directions I had were so vague that I didn't think I would ever find it. Ahh, I had the best time! I paid a very modest amount of money for one hour cat time, tea and cake. It was amazing and quelled the pangs of sadness I have been having at being without my Alfie. There were lots of couples there on romantic dates so at the end of my hour's cat time, I did feel very much like a spinster...amplified by the fact that I was covered in cat hair, and probably smelt a bit catty too. Owh, I hope this is not a sign of what awaits me later in life!
In Japan, each prefecture/city has a regional delicacy and I have made it my aim to try the culinary delight of each place I visit. Osaka is famous for takoyaki. Takoyaki is a dumpling made of batter,diced baby octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion. Osakans love food and are not precious about it, so there were lots of stalls dotted around selling takoyaki. I found it disappointing,it made me feel a bit sick. :-(
On the other hand, I have discovered what I think is my new favourite fruit; persimmons. They are only in season for a very brief window so I am making the most of them by eating several every day. I adore them. If you can try one, please do; they are truly sweets of nature! I am also enjoying pumpkin too. It seems that I like orange fruits and vegetables.
Recently, my colleagues have been asking me to spend time with them at the weekends which makes me feel happy. In a few weekends' time, Williams-sensei has invited me to her home for dinner and in the first weekend of December,I am going to go to a tea ceremony festival with Taoka-sensei and eat lots of Japanese sweets. I want to have deeper friendships with my colleagues, but I want to travel so much; it is through travel that I feel I can find the most happiness.
It is only four days until I go on my next trip to Beppu. Beppu is on Kyushu, the most southerly of the four main islands and is famous for its hot springs. I am going with eleven other people. I know a couple of people, Lorianne and Iain who I would like to spend more time with, but I only know Ciaran well so I am looking forward to making some new friends :-)