Stephen: In the second part of the blog documenting our time in Osaka, things get a bit out of synch at times, as we ended up doing our own thing separately for a couple of days. Some days we all spent most of the time together, and other days we just got drunk, or were like passing ships in the night. In that sense, Osaka really was just a cool place for us to hang out and explore at a more leisurely pace than Tokyo, where it felt like it was always go go go go go. Every day there was a new set of dancing girls or guys miming away to hysterical response along the canal.
and plenty of ramen to be eaten… gluten intolerance be damned.
On one of the days, Grace and I took a walk up to Osaka Castle, bumping into a sort of kids fair slash jumble sale slash… oddity going on in one of the parks as we went. We were the only white people to be seen, and it was a pretty cool experience to just wander around and see what bizarre things were happening. I shot it all on film, but Grace got a rather fetching picture of me and some cartoon character that’s worth seeing…
The castle was cool enough, with a real moat, and some impressive views.
The most interesting part though was probably how the Japanese deal with sites like this. Rather than being a solemn sort of area, they had a pile of street food vendors, and the seemingly ubiquitous live cartoon characters. This particular green tea dog was getting more attention than the castle itself.
We took a wander to get some food, and ended up coming across a host of different things going on that were worth stopping to check out. Like this live performance, where some of the bands seemed to take the whole thing very seriously, and others… we couldn’t tell whether they were satirical or not.
The rain came on, and for a while it felt like we had found a much more laid back part of Osaka, with people just doing their thing – whatever that may be. It was nice.
I liked the multi-coloured umbrellas. Nobody seems to really wear rain jackets here, probably because of the humidity.
We had intended to get some ramen, but ended up in a Korean BBQ buffet style place again by accident, where we had our first and only real issue communicating. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but before long worked out that it was some sort of all you can eat or drink deal (well, we hoped). Naturally, we had to make the most of it, and before long we were ordering all sorts of weird and wonderful drinks. Spot the Scots.
This time, we didn’t set the place on fire, and made it out in one piece. We headed back through the area known as Amerikamura, which is full of Western style shops, and ended up in a wee 80s bar. Something that I found pretty strange about Japan was that there were lots of good shops and bars and restaurants in places you wouldn’t expect. Rather than out on the street themselves, they would be on the 3rd floor of a department store, or in the basement of a train station. This place was no exception, but sadly was pretty quiet.
Moving on, we tried our luck at a Rock club down the road. It was packed to the rafters with people going completely nuts, which we hadn’t quite expected… and it was cool to see (or hear) that it seemed to be Japanese rather than Western music! Something else that stood out was how everybody just piled their bags up in one corner of the room; you don’t need cloakrooms in a country where honesty and integrity are built into your culture, and crime rates are so low. I can’t quite see this approach working back home sadly.
Before long, the drinks were flowing, and we had got speaking to a bunch of people, from a French guy on tour with Cirque du Soleil, to some Japanese guys who we had to chat to via Google Translate.
Everybody was really friendly, and it was an awesome night. Before we knew it (probably thanks to the tequila), the place had emptied out apart from just a few of us.
I’d definitely head back here next time we find ourselves in Osaka.
One of the highlights from this part of the trip for me was going up the Abeno Harukas, which is a big skycraper building. You can go to the 16th floor roof garden for free, or pay about a tenner to go up to the 60th floor. The view from the 16th floor itself was pretty great, and we talked about how nice it would be to be able to go up there on your lunch break in the middle of the city.
The really cool part though, was on the 60th floor. The entire thing was floor to ceiling glass, and the view was just spectacular.
Another highlight was getting to pop my live electro performance cherry with some of my Game Boy music at a bar called the Space Station, which Al mentioned in the last post. It was pretty awesome to get the chance to do that while in Japan, and I met some cool people that were interested in that world as well, including the bargirl Caoimhe, who coincidentally is moving to Glasgow in the new year!
On the last night, we decided to just wander around Dotonbori for one last time, taking in all of the neon, boy bands and their crazy fans by the canal, eating street food, and giant ice-creams.
Al; To repeat what Stephen said above, the second half of our time in Osaka was a very different pace, with us spending a bit of time doing things under our own steam – there is some crossover, but this should make for a more varied post.
My fist solo outing was to the Aquarium down at the harbour – I was as interested by the people in the aquarium, as I was the animals;
I spent the whole day down in the bay area, taking in the sights, including a quite beautiful sunset;
I’m always reticent to repeat the words of Mt Blythe, so here’s my take of the 60th floor;
And finally, some miscellany from the final couple of days;
Grace: Osaka was the first time we went to a proper food market, which is something I really enjoy doing. Despite being extremely hungover – I wanted to wander through, and get some good pictures of what the market had to offer. I had some amazingly ripe cantaloupe and some particularly mouth-watering chicken on a stick. Everything tastes better on a stick! I couldn’t really stomach fish products that day, but there were a lot available.
OK. I’m not sure if a stick makes *everything* taste better.. I wish I would have been brave enough for the squid or tiny octopus.
I also had fun doing emoji scavenger hunts.
As a side note, THIS is the kind of food that you can find in small corner stores, and convenience stores in Japan:
Markets are also great places for people pictures.
Plastic food is absolutely everywhere, and it’s not limited to inexpensive restaurants – high quality ones have plastic food displays as well. In Osaka I tried to get pictures of the more tacky displays, just because other times, it usually looked eerily realistic. I loved taking the time to look at it everywhere we went. Just another fantastic quirk of Japan.
As Stephen mentioned, on our journey to Osaka Castle we stumbled across something that looked like a fair/flea market/garage sale. We had no idea what was going on, but I made Stephen get a picture with this cute thing:
There was also a mini bullet train!
Here’s Stephen’s doppelgänger:
I thought Osaka Castle and its surrounding areas were cool, but as Stephen said, people seemed way more interested in the food vendors, and this green tea dog. Everyone loved the green tea dog.
Except for this girl on the left..
My biggest picture regret is that I didn’t get one of this guy from the front. He had an owl perched on the front of his bicycle. Amazing!
Stephen losing at the star-throwing:
After we left the castle, we found some bands playing music in a nearby park. The music was questionable.
Cute audience, though.
Hello Kitty construction barriers!
The evening was rounded out with our first Japanese nightclub experience. All of the music was Japanese, so we didn’t know any of it obviously, but everyone else in the club was singing every word of every song.
We made some friends with some locals, and also a French lighting technician who was traveling with Cirque du Soleil!
I’ll leave you with a giant projection of an exercise video that was on the side of a building. Only in Japan! Next up: more Tokyo!