It is Sunday so I allowed myself a lie in and only got out of the room at 11a.m. I wanted to not be knackered at 8pm like every other day because The Arsenal were on at 9:30pm here.
First thing I did was make a pit stop in Starbucks and then headed to Osaka castle. I did not spend as much time in here as I did in Himeji because even though Osaka is visually amazing, it felt a bit like a fraud!
They were marking the 400th anniversary of a war at the castle and there were some cool performances going on. I managed to catch a Samurai/Modern Kembu performance which was really good. It was quite funny because they were doing comedy as well, none of which I understood but there was a part where they held English signs and asked this couple things like ‘do you like Sushi’ etc. Of course, they asked them where they were from and it was Wales, so I got to hear the Japanese pronounce Wales (which is always a pleasure ‘rarewl’). I got myself some shaved ice (Mango), I am going to miss that stuff and then headed off to the Umeda Sky Building.
The Sky Building is something like 200m high, it was the tallest building but now that belongs to Abeno Harukas which I’ll be going to tomorrow. I headed up to the observatory and took the floating escalator between the two buildings which is pretty nifty. It was a great view of Osaka so I am glad I went up there.
I am pretty excited that on the 18th it’s my day where I go up Mount Koyasan (World Heritage) and stay in a traditional Ryokan with the monks! I have a feeling the whole Mount Koyasan trip from the journey there to the Ryokan Experience is going to be amazing. Anyway, I could not use my JR Pass to get there so I went hunting for the ticket office that sells these World Heritage Tickets which would get me return travel, unlimited bus travel there and discounted entry to some of the places up Mt Koyasan. Namba station is huge, I mean proper huge and I walked forever. I was getting proper ratty at the end and when somebody sent me back to where I just came from I was about to go Miyagi on his ass! I eventually got it though so given it’s going to be a very early start that day, it is good that I now do not have to mess about with tickets.
I walked out to Dotonbori to properly walk down all the streets and side streets and take it all in. It’s an amazing place, buzzing with people and street food and all kind of random things. When I got to the bottom, instead of turning back around and walking back on myself I decided to hit the canal and walk back that way.
I am so glad I did, because there was a Do Bon International Festival on, which involved thousands of Japanese Men and Women, in traditional dress lining the canal. The stretch of canal went for miles, and there were people lining the whole thing. They were dancing to the same traditional songs as they were in Nagoya castle and I read up about it, it is a traditional thing which used to be religious but now is a celebration during these particular weeks in August. It’s a ‘Bon Odori Dance’ and it is held during Obon,
I stayed to take photos and videos for a while and got chatting to a guy from NYC here on business. He actually works for ServiceNow which is a Service Management tool I’ve used (and love, it’s my favourite of the lot) so that was good to chat to him. Then I headed off to get some food, I spotted a restaurant with a view of the canal so headed to that.
When I was in there, sipping a drink, a mass downpour started, there’s my in my shirts and t-shirt inside nice and try when these 1000’s of Japanese men and women are getting soaking in their Kimono’s and sandals. The rain did not last for long though and they started to cut some Japanese shapes again.
I had Yakisoba noodles and pork for dinner and it was very good. Yet again it was cooked on a metal plate in front of me in a private booth this time. The difference being when the chef buggered off I was waiting for him to finish it off, but little did I realise I am meant to eat it off the metal plate. Thankfully, a couple came and sat opposite and I asked the waitress if I was supposed to eat, she said yes 🙂
Despite telling myself I was not going to do any more Pachi Slot, I got drawn in my the bright lights and ended up in some multi-storey one. I got lucky again and cashed out about 140 medals. The winning process was different here so I called over some guy. I had more coins so I was expecting more goodies and more choice because the place was massive. However, she showed me only fags and drinks so I was a bit disappointed when I could only get 2 drinks and packet of popcorn! Then he wrapped my receipt in some gadget doodah and led me outside. I wasn’t sure what was going on to be honest but he led me to a curtain where I put my gadget on the table and she handed me back cold hard cash which I was buzzing about!
The curtain thing is common. With the Japanese being a reserved bunch, things like betting establishments and Love Hotels (hotels where you take conquests back for a good time) are manned by people who have curtains covering their faces. So if you spend time gambling or hooking up with ladies at Love Hotels (hired or otherwise) the person does not see your face, you just handle cash, goods whatever with arms and hands under the curtain.
It does make me laugh in Japan, how they invented the Kaizen principles which is what Lean is based on (sorry, only business.manufacturing people might know what I am on about here) but when it comes to something like crossing the road, despite the traffic lights they have about 4/5 men a road. The amount of staff they have for the most simple things is incredible. Although it got me thinking in that we now associate Lean with cutting cost and it is to a degree but in fact it’s about reducing waste in the process. I guess you could argue having four men on one tiny crossing is actually aiding the process to be more slick and not hindering it? I am really trying to help them out here.
One of the traffic things that really is cooking my head though is the absolute insistence on waiting for the green light to cross. Nobody crosses until the signal and the signals take forever. It is almost as like Miyagi will come down from the heavens and strike those who dare cross before the green light. I must admit, I have on odd occasions had to ditch this because it really gets my goat.
It was time to go back, stock up on munchies for The Arsenal which was on at 9:30pm tonight. Thankfully, a hard fought win and I can be cheerful for the coming week!
I had considered going to Universal Studios today and ditching my other plan but having looked on the website, not sure all that Harry Potter business is my thing and it is pretty expensive, so I decided against it last minute and stick to the original plan of Abeno Harukas and some pottering about before an early night for Koyasan (With my massive backpack again).
I made my way to Tennoji which is where Abeno Harukas is. It’s 300m tall and an enormous shopping centre. I wandered around all of the floors and saw some weird stuff.
Firstly, there was a Moomin floor, with a Moomin cafe and Moomin products with loads of Japanese people going mental around the shelves. I stood there people watching for a bit, wondering how many of these would be sectioned in the UK, then quickly moved to the next floor before I got in a Moomin trance.
I stumbled upon an amazing Bobble Head 3D stall/store. You put on this VR helmet like on Knightmare (showing my age) Glimpse Here, then your face comes up and you get to choose outfits and colours etc. You then order and it creates either a mini figure (like the football ones) or a full scale bobble-head. I was absolutely tamping when found out it was 1 month to create, I was hoping it would be a week which would have been perfect for when I get back from Miyakojima. I asked twice just in case she’d forgotten some secret deal they have for expedited production but it was not happening.
I was chatting to some Aussies from Cairns, who were traveling the country in a week which is pretty impressive (and pointless in my opinion but I didn’t tell them that). They said the Aussie economy/currency is struggling and they got dirt cheap flights to Japan so randomly decided to do it.
I didn’t go up to the observation tower of Abeno Harukas in the end because I thought it’s behind glass, and I’d been up the Sky Building. Plus, for the first time really it had started to be windy and bucket down, which turned into a full scale monsoon! I was in top of this bridge in the middle of a massive intersection and while all the Japanese were screaming and running, I stood there in my shorts and windbreaker like Michael Jackson from the Earth Song, absolutely loving the Welsh weather with added warmth.
I did eventually go back in, and got some pancakes. I ended dangerously in another stationery shop but this one was enormous. If I had the luggage space I would have spent a fortune in there, but I was pretty disciplined and came out with nothing at all.
I got back to the big intersection and saw another example of traffic staff just plonked in the middle which was pointless. However, somebody went through a red light (just) and they started blowing their whistles and flagging the guy over. I filmed the whole thing for some reason but the guy got a ticket there and then. The weird thing was, once they issued the guy a ticket they disappeared never to be seen again, almost as if they had a 1 ticket target left and once done they could go home.
I noticed on the train back to Osaka that the Japanese use something like WhatsApp but they don’t use words, they send pictures of Pandas and Tigers. The apps they use are crazy and I did wonder whether it was called the JAPPSTORE (I am here all month).
I intended to get some nice Japanese food on the walk back to the hotel but I buckled and went into TGI Fridays. I thought they surely couldn’t balls up a burger? Luckily they didn’t and I used a fork which was weird!
I got back to the hotel, thankfully have convinced the lady at the hotel to keep my Temple which I bought from Nara for me while I am away and now I need to pack.
It will be a proper early start, 5am job tomorrow but I am absolutely buzzing for Koyasan and the Ryokan experience. I am ready to move on from Osaka now to be honest, getting a bit bored of it so I will be glad to move on. I hope the weather holds up because I imagine it won’t be as spectacular up there if it’s raining, although it is never cold which is something!