Osaka comic-book store.
This morning we had the breakfast buffet at our hotel (Namba Oriental), which seemed like a pretty good value for about $10. I love the Japanese breakfast -- it seems like such a healthy way to start the day. Yes, you can have eggs and toast if you like, but I'll take that miso
soup, rice, and a salad. Miso
just tastes better in Japan, kind of like Guinness tastes better in Ireland.
OK, now for a quick geography lesson for my nieces and nephews following along: Osaka is in Western Japan, in the Kansai
region. The city is centrally located and we choose to stay here in part for its proximity to some other Kansai cities we plan to see during our two weeks here: Nara, Kyoto, and Kobe.
The city itself has two main areas: Kita
in the north, and Minami
in the south.
Osaka covered shopping area.
We are staying in the heart of the frenetically paced, jam-packed south side. Nothing at all like Chicago's south side! Since the best way to get a good sense of a new place is by walking its streets, we set off after breakfast without a final destination in mind, with the goal to just explore this area. We walked for many hours, and found: shopping, shopping, and more shopping. There are malls (above ground and below ground), boutiques, and department stores EVERYWHERE. There didn't seem to be historic sites to speak of, just shopping. We went into some stores (including a pet shop -- mistake! I almost ended up with a couple or three puppies, which most definitely would have encumbered our travels!)
Along the way, we encountered a Lion's club gathering on Ebisu-bashi,
the main bridge spanning the river here.
He kept staring at me and seemed to be saying, "take me home, please!" (in Japanese of course).
It appeared that there would be a ceremony of sorts, so we hung out to watch. It was just as boring as one would expect a Lion's club meeting to be back home, but there were many people-watching opportunities to be had on that bridge. It is dominanted by an enormous lighted sign called "Glico Man". People kept coming by to take their picture by Glico Man, so we did too.
For lunch, we found a grocery store and made a picnic of sorts. It doesn't seem very common to eat in public here, and we couldn't find a park, so we tried to hide a bit off the beaten path as we ate our maki rolls and salads. People walking by stared at us. We are definitely an oddity here: all day, we saw thousands of faces, but only four of them were "western style" faces - every one else was Asian of one flavor or another.
In the evening we found a cute place for dinner, and I brought my phrase book to show the waiter the Japanese characters for "I am a vegetarinan.
If the Osaka Lion's Club has a grand pooh-bah, this is he.
" The Japanese bend over backwards to be polite and of service. The waiter was very kind and helpful, bringing me to the plastic food displayed outside to indicate the various dishes I might like. Well, there was actually only one, which was a noodle soup topped with fried tofu. (He was quite surprised and delighted that I knew the word "Tofu"!) The soup was ok, but oddly somewhat sweet, and took some getting used to. Steve had sukiyaki
, beef and noodles in a broth, which can be taken out and dipped in raw egg (eeeew). He liked it, and pronounced he would have it every meal simply because he can pronounce the Japanese.
Back at the room, we determined to learn a bit more of the language. So far we only know "excuse me" (pronounced sue-me-ma-sen
) which is used like crazy here, thank you (pronounced arrigato go-se-mas
) and good bye (pronounced sigh-oo-nar-a
). We found a good basic program on iTunes called Survival Japanese, which is excellent.
Managed to stay up until 10 pm, then it was lights out. Sayonara!