September 10th, 2007 – by: rsummo
Outside of Spa World in Osaka. My sleeve tattoo prevents me from entering and enjoying the festivities. I could cover it up, but what a pain in the ass.
Onward to Osaka. It's about an hour away by train from my friends house. We started our day around 10am - about the time that stores and business start opening up. Even then we found many things not yet open, so we had to grab something to eat to kill a bit of time. Matt had an itenerary in mind that consisted mostly of stores that he likes to frequent. I wanted to hit up some cultural stuff, and we were able to get in a good amount of each. The first temple we found was on accident. It was called "Isshinji Temple" and it was nestled in between a bunch of large buildings. The cool thing about this temple was that it housed a Buddha statue that was made up entirely of cremated dead people.
Osaka tower as viewed from outside the Spa World building.
People actively use these temples, they aren't just there for tourists, so I felt kinda odd walking around taking pictures amongst people dressed in black, obviously mourning lost loved ones. Of course I did it anyway, successfully playing the ignorant westerner card. Inside the main temple there was some sort of prayer service going on. It looked like people were issued a number, and then called up one at a time to pray at a station for a few mintues, move on to another station, et cetera. At the last station they were given some kind of gift bag and then they took off. Chanting was going on all along. I did refrain from taking pictures inside this temple, I had no desier to be that much of a dick. From here we moved back towards the main street, stopping at a tiny alley-way shrine along the way.
Closer up to Osaka Tower
<p> The shops in the Kita area had all the Japanese flair that I expected - lots of flashing lights and innundating sounds, and everything has a cartoon character associated with it. Mascots abound! Much like Yankee Candle, it was difficult to be in them for a more than a few minutes without getting overwhelmed. Matt was looking for a camera and I was just looking for things that they had that I couldn't get in the US. There were some things that seemed neat, but it wasn't the technological mecca that I thought it would be. Especially with phones - most of them were craptastic. They prices weren't bad tho, presumably because there were no exporting costs factored in.
Early morning in the city. Stores don't open up until 10 or 11ish.
If I wasn't planning on spending hundreds of dollars on food and alcohol, I'd probably pick up a tiny camera. The other thing I found strange about the stores here were that childrens toy stores contained excessive amounts of cartoon porn, and I don't mean scanitly clad pictures like one would see in a sports illustrated swimsuit issue, I'm talking fully nude big titty women kissing each other in an erotic fashion. There seems to be little to no line between normal comics/manga and "adult" comics/magna. It made all the toy stores look like Spencer Gifts. Fascinating. Anywho, once we hit up all the stores we made our way to Osaka castle. The grounds of the castle are free to explore, but we had to pay 600 yen to get inside.
The inside of the castle is a museum which had a few interesting things to see - swords, armor, decorative screens, etc. But the coolest thing about going inside is the view from the top of the castle. However, that being said, as far as views are concerned, I highly suggest skipping the inside of the castle and getting your views from the Umeda Sky building. This place was awesome. It's a strange building (see pics below) described in the Lonely Planet guide as a "Space Age version of Paris's Arc De Triomphe". It costs 700 yen to get up on the roof, but it is totally worth it for the view, as long as it's a clear day. We got up a bit before dusk, which is probably the best time to be up there. We got the day view, the sunset, and the night view of the huge city of Osaka.
There are vending machines literally every 500-1000 feet.
It was damn beautiful. This place is one of many places in Japan that would be best visited on a date. If I lived here, I would tell every girl I dated that I have never been to the building (or that I have never been on the big ferris wheel, or the Fushimi Inari shrine, etc.) just so I could get them there on a date. So if you can get a chick up there on a date, it would be a great move. In the gift shop I found a set of pudding cups that were set inside a cardboard box to unfolds to resemble a hot chick with pudding tits. It didn't fit in at all with the rest of the kitchy Osaka souveniers, but at 370 yen, I couldn't say no. The basement floor of this building is set up like an old-time japan feudal village, but a village filled with places to eat. We found some affordable Katsu there and enjoyed a meal before we hopped back on the train for Kamo. A long day of walking (12 hours+), but great for working off all the drinks I consume during the all-nighters.