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Posts Tagged ‘osaka’

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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Good things that have happened recently:

Went to a free food tasting event for the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Agriculture of Japan, where I was presented with an array of about 30 different types of Japans finest exportable goods. It was slightly scary when they interviewed me and took about a thousand photos, and having to explain why the food was good/bad in Japanese but I got paid 3000 yen (£18) for my gaijin opinion on whether things were good enough to be exported to Britain-land, not to mention all the free samples and goodies I got given, and the added bonus of not needing to cook dinner that night!

I found the illusive 100yen Lawson shop. This is going to revolutionise my life. Almost everything is 100yen and you can buy everything from vegetables and meat to batteries and stationary. And its open 24hrs! Its the ultimate student budget shop!

Planning to go to Osaka this weekend to see もみじ – all the autumnal colours of the changing leaves. Really excited as I’ve never been to Osaka before and as there are 7 of us going then hopefully it should be a fun time!

Bad things that have happened recently:

My teacher adding “improvements” to my woodblock print and making it look bad 😦 Somehow I couldn’t find the words to say “Please stop you are ruining it!”

Doing a role-play of working at McDonalds* in class. I am not learning Japanese so that I can get a McJob! My aspirations run a little higher!  The worst part was that it was right before lunch!

Getting my phone bill…

(*On a vaguely related note, McDonalds in Japan are a taste sensation. No, really. When you get one, the burger is HOT rather than soggy and luke warm, and always actually tastes like meat may have been involved in its production at some point! They also have burgers like the teriyaki burger, the king prawn fillet burger, and the ultimate Mega Mac which is made from FOUR BURGERS. Its like the burger that all other burgers want to be when they grow up.)

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