I recently went to Osaka to get some official papers from the consulate there. I made a little trip out of it. Here are my redacted logs (names and personal information removed):
Osaka: Arrival Day
The bus ride to Osaka was early and long. I met a coworker and two ex- students at the station on my way out. My coworker was on his way to his third day of work at the Ken-cho. I dozed on and off on the ride, and almost walked into the women’s restroom in a sleepy daze before someone alerted me to my near mistake. I was more than a bit embarrassed about that.
Upon arriving I made my way to Osaka castle and snapped some pictures of the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
I read a little bit about the history of the castle. It mostly focused on the Tokugawa era and the years just before that. I had some takoyaki at one of the street vendors outside the castle.
After that I took my time exploring Osaka proper and found the library and the city hall on a very nice little island called Nakanoshima.
I made a wide circle around the US consulate before finally finding it fairly close to Umeda. There were a bunch of Japanese police standing around outside the building and they had one of those big police vans there too, but I have no idea what was going on. On my way back to Umeda I stopped at an okonomiyaki restaurant called Fuugetsu. It was pretty good, I had an ikatama with potato add a topping and three drinks. I talked to the waitress a bit and found out that she had been sight seeing in Kochi, had katsuo tataki and not noticed any okonomiyaki stores.
I’m now on my way to my friend’s apartment.
Osaka: Day 2, Business and Sightseeing
Well I found it. There are still a bunch of cops outside, but I have official business so we’ll see what’s up. I’m sure it’s nothing special. I had a toast morning set at a nearby cafe called cafe Terroir.
I also snapped a few nicely lit morning city photos on the walk here from the station. The consulate is actually much closer to Umeda station than I thought.
So far I really like Osaka. Its very mature and very urban but it has a good vibe and a sense of cohesiveness that I don’t get from Tokyo.
I have an hour and a half before my appointment so I should probably do some writing.
Document received! All real business accomplished; time to play.
I went and had a nice long perusal around Tokyu Hands in Umeda. I bought some silicon bentou accessories and some interesting dice. Now I’m in Shinsaibashi waiting for my chicken basil sandwich to arrive at my table. There’s a British pub upstairs so I may have an ale to wash it down afterwards. (Later on:) Oh no, it turns out the pub wasn’t open.
I made my way back to the apartment I was staying at, we had a chu-hi each, chatted, and then I let my poor body rest while I slept.
Osaka Day 3: Sumiyoshi and Kobe
Well, its noon now, and I’ve been having a great day so far. Sumiyoshi Taisha was spectacular. I took a few pictures and traveled to a “power spot”. It was a little shrine with a stone you pick up and hold while making your wish. It said if the stone feels light your wish will come true, but if it feels heavy then you won’t be so lucky. In the main shrine proper there were two ancient trees. I asked one of the shrine maidens how old they were and she said about 1000 and 800 years respectively. There were also some very tame ducks. They seemed to be pretty content with their lives in the shrine pool.
After that I went to the other side of the station and had a rest in the park there for a while, admiring the flowers and sakura trees, stretching, and talking to my fiancée on the phone.
Then I took the local train on to Namba. The friend who I was staying with in Osaka gave me the first two volumes of a manga a he loves called uchuu kyoudai, or space brothers. I’ve been reading it on the trains this morning and tearing up repeatedly, because I’m a big softie and it is really quite good.
I must be really attractive today, my omikuji was bad but it said if I smiled the worst could be averted, so I’ve been remembering to smile more than usual today. I suppose that probably has a lot to do with it. I’ve had three different strangers start talking to me today. First was an old man who advised me that I could get cheaper tickets to Kobe if I bought something called “kinken” tickets. I couldn’t find the place that sold them, but its worth looking into in the future.
The second person was a young woman named who struck up a conversation with me just after I stowed my backpack in a coin locker and grabbed some maps from the tourist information room at Sannomiya station. She was a little uncomfortable to talk to as she maintained a much too close to me kind of posture… She was nice enough, but I decided to run away and made it to Starbucks without further incident.
The third was a barrista at Starbucks and she just asked me where I was going when she saw that I was looking at maps of the city.
On the other hand, I have started talking to quite a few strangers today myself. The older lady at the shrine, the waitress that served me, who seemed pretty interesting. Apparently she spent some time in Chicago. She spoke great English when she realized from my pronunciation of “coffee cake” that I was in fact from the states. Then the man sitting next to me, who deferred my question to the older local lady at a nearby table about the orientation of my tourist map.
First destination in Kobe was Kitano, the district in the hilly area north of Sannomiya station. Kitano is where the old western style houses are still standing. The first one I went into was called the Moegi house, and it had an indoor veranda on the second floor. With the windows open, a breeze blowing, and the magnolia trees swaying in the wind outside I kind of felt like I was back home in Virginia. It reminded me a lot of a friend’s house with its old wood floors and high ceilings.
There’s a pretty little shrine up the hill and a couple was doing maedori under the cherry trees there. I checked out the Weathercock house too, but it was less impressive to me.
After that I climbed up the hill a little farther and found a spectacular patio selling Austrian beer, which I happily paid 700 yen for. The one I tried was called the Urbock and was a doppelbock at about 9.5% alcohol. It was very tasty and was paired well with the two little cheese wedges they gave me for an additional 250 yen.
After getting fairly inebriated on that beer I walked back down the hill and stopped at a Starbucks built into a period house. I enjoyed a wrap and frappucino in true foreign style. I sat down upstairs next to an older man and a woman he was advising about how best to help her friend. Judging by the man’s advice I can only presume he was some kind of monk or yogi, or perhaps just a nice man she confided in.
After that I walked around the shopping district and China Town. I’m writing this in a St Marc café while I rest and recuperate before I go check out the port area.
The port area is quite cool but I didn’t get a chance to fully explore it. The earthquake memorial is worth seeing at least.
I called R2 Hostel and reserved a spot in their common room, quickly made my way to the information booth to get directions to both the hostel and Nishinomiya-kitaguchi where I met up with the other friend for dinner. We went to the mall connected to the station there and tried to go to a sushi place a mutual acquaintance recommended to us. But, our first choice of sushi was not available unless we were willing to wait an hour, and I was not willing, so we opted for omurice.
Osaka Day 4: Kobe and returning home
I slept amazingly well in the tiny capsule like cubby in the hostel dormitory even with so many other people around. Today was the only day that I didn’t really have any clear plan for what to do. I woke up and showered and packed up my bags and took my sheets to the first floor then sat down in the common room, where the hostel owner? Who possibly was also the owner of a red Ferrari outside was also sitting and watching as another man was cleaning the chandelier above the table.