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Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

Its been a little while since I last wrote because of a combination of a terrible cough, a couple of presentations and a trip to Osaka! Anyway, here is a bit of an update.

About a month ago my Japanese friend George and I decided we wanted to go on a trip to Osaka and Kyoto, so 7 of us set off for a weekend away. We took a coach to Kyoto and after lunch headed off to Kiyomizudera which is one of the largest temples in Kyoto. We really wanted to see the autumn colours and as it is quite high up on the side of a mountain it has a beautiful view. It has an amazing structure as well, even more amazing when you take into consideration no nails or metal was used in its construction. I heard this is something to do with Buddhists respect for nature – all the pieces of wood are slotted together and positioned in such a way that makes it incredibly strong without “damaging” the wood.

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizudera

View over Kyoto

View over Kyoto

A common thing to do at shrines and temples is to buy a fortune paper. There are different levels of luck, and within those levels you have degrees of luckiness and they are supposed to tell your fortune for wealth, luck, work, love etc. If they are bad then you tie them up to break the “bad luck”, and if they are good you take them home. George bought one from a specialist love shrine and he got the top degree of the top level of luck, and he was literally jumping around!

すごくいいラブラブおみくじをGET! うらやましい!

すごくいいラブラブおみくじをGET! うらやましい!

We hung out in Kyoto for quite a while, looking around the hundreds of little stalls selling souvenirs and lucky charms, fans and kimonos, and feeling all cultural before heading on to the party capital of Japan: Osaka. I’d never been to Osaka before and had heard mixed reports about it, so I was pretty interested to see it for myself.

Glico Building at Night

Glico Building at Night

Its an intimidating place, big, brash, and bold. People say what they think and dress as they like. Unlike Tokyo which seemed to be oozing men in suits from every pore, Osaka is very young, very hip and almost a bit too cool for school. The streets are lined with “Hosts” (very good looking 18-25 year old men with whom lonely women pay a lot of money to talk to) and every different kind of urban tribe is represented there: ギャル、ギャル男、ヘンプ、姫ギャル、ホスト、ガングロ、ロン形、姉ギャル。。。全部いっぱい!ほかの形もあったが、何というか分からない.

When we arrived we got off to a bad start with a terrible meal with the worst service ever (it seemed worse because service in Japan is normally so good), but things did get better. After a little wander around we checked into our capsule hotel which was really awesome! I’ve always wanted to stay in one, but it was even better than I was expecting. The Capsules are stacked 2 high down a maze of long corridors. They are a bit bigger than a single bed with enough room to sit up in; I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. The whole point of them is that they are a place to crash out when you miss the last train home, so while they are not luxurious, they are more than adequate and everything you might need is provided. Pyjamas, toothbrush, makeup remover, shampoo/soap, even washing machines. If you need a shirt, tie and pants for a board meeting the next day, its OK – you can buy them there! I could happily travel around Japan entirely in capsule hotels – who needs a whole room anyway?! At only 2800 yen its a bit like a futuristic hostel. The only slightly strange thing is not having a door – instead there is a blind of very thick material you pull down.

Joy in a capsule (or a capsule full of Joy...)

Joy in a capsule (or a capsule full of Joy...)

I was slightly concerned that after going clubbing we might not be able to find our capsules; it was an absolute maze of a couple of hundred capsules and its not like a hotel where if your key wont work if you  get the wrong door, here you might actually wake someone!

Capsule Hotel!

Capsule Hotel!

I did conceive a game along the lines of Russian roulette involving shutting lots of blinds hiding someone in a random capsule… but at the risk of getting kicked out and having a sleepless night wandering the streets of Osaka we decided not to.

I met up with a friend from SOAS studying in Osaka, and we went to a bar before going on clubbing. It was really good to catch up with him and to talk about things we miss like London and NIGHT BUSES! Later on, we took some Americans under our wings since they knew no Japanese and had the look of rabbits caught in headlights!

There are things I liked about Osaka, and it was fun to visit. It is definitely the party capital of Japan and since that’s what we did it was a really fun time! However, all the people we spoke to were so rude and its the first place I’ve visited in Japan that I wouldn’t want to wander around by myself at night. There’s something a little bit sleazy about Osaka, and then there is the high proportion of tacky tourist attractions and the litter strewn everywhere… Its got a kind of faded glamour about it, and in some strange way it reminded me of a parallel-universe-London which I find worrying – are all my memories of London rose tinted, and am I going to hate it when I go home?

Mmmm FUGU! On a street in Osaka.

Mmmm FUGU! On a street in Osaka.

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Last night most of the students in the dorm and I went back to the main campus green area to do a “moon viewing”. It sounds a bit awkward when you translate it like that, especially as we don’t really have an equivalant festival, but thats exactly what we did. Its the first full moon of the Autumn and traditionally one would eat moon-shaped cakes (dango) and sweets to celebrate the start of autumn, but mostly we just took a lot of photos by the light of the moon and tried to avoid getting eaten alive by the ants and mosquitoes! (Bugs in Japan = not very friendly. My feet are covered in itchy red lumps which will last for maybe a week but I’m getting better at ignoring them.)

Today we are having a drill to teach us about earthquake and typhoon emergency procedures. I know a little bit about this already from our classes at SOAS, but it will be useful to go over it. A few people have been talking about a large earthquake which is overdue in Nagoya, but I dont really see any point in panicking as theres nothing we can do to stop it happening! It was supposed to have occured last weekend but I didn’t find out until this monday when I heard that a few Japanese people had gone to Tokyo, presumably to get away from the area!

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