And so it was with a little sadness that our trip to Japan was over. We’d a little time to kill in Kansai International Airport, so we did some wandering around and checking out the souvenirs to be had. I happened upon an English translation of the manga “Ghost in the Shell” and snapped that up.
Unfortunately we almost missed our flight as we neglected to factor in the number of minutes to catch the intra airport express train to the actual flight terminal. Oops! Got used to the ‘little’ international at Tulla. Or the even littler one at the Gold Coast!
Our last day in Osaka was a little sad for the fact that we’d just started to get a handle on the Namba district. Another week or so would not have gone astray. Bic camera is listed in the Lonely Planet as a one liner, but this mega store of everything photographic (and electrical and computers and whitegoods…) was astonishing for the uninitiated. I picked up more SD memory and a GPS unit for my Nikon D300s. 15 minutes is just not enough time to investigate 7 Floors of modern shopping goodness.
Walking the Dōtonbori seeking inspiration for dinner this night, we finally decided upon Okonomiyaki (a savoury Japanese cabbage pancake of sorts). We tried this meal years-ago in Sapporo when as unknowing foreigners, we were not quite sure what to do with a plate of raw ingredients and hotplate. The serving staff then graciously tossed everything together & cooked it as we watched.
Being prepared for that, we were not quite prepared for the rather long queue. Or the fact that the outer queue was for the outer waiting seat which itself was a queue for the inner waiting seat (the final queue!). We were also unaware that at this establishment, a press of the table button was what brought the rapid attention of wait staff, as oppossed to them floating & watching.
Travel fatigue started to settle in on an otherwise delicious meal.
After a day’s catch up with brother Jon, we thought we’d walk him to his connecting train towards the Kita part of Osaka as well as try to find the Sanrio shop to pruchase some genuine Hello Kitty stuff for the nieces.
The thing that struck me about the streetscape which we walked was how similar it was to the classier areas of Melbournes CBD. Just close your eyes, ignore the odd temple, & ignore the fastidiously clean and orderly everything and bang! You’re in Collins Street.
The Sanrio shop was utterly astounding. Four floors of Hello Kitty & friends. Sadly, no instore pictures allowed. Having just discovered the covered arcades of Shinsaibashi (bearing Hello Kitty & other things), another full day would definitely be needed to explore.
Osaka’s Namba district contained many wonderful little cafes which we happened upon. We’d decided to try as many different varieties of food as we could, and of course the only way to eat when travelling is to eat what the locals eat. Many cafes and shops played jazz (which was a nice difference to blaring advertising) and the proprietor of this noodle shop had his alto sax proudly displayed.
I wandered into many game parlours, but not comprehending video games made in the last decade, I pretty much wandered out. The giant Taito space invader was not an indication of any historic games I might be familiar with. And only go into pachinko parlours if you’ve got hearing protection (or are desperate to use the facilities…)
Typically when ordering food in Japan but not speaking nor reading the language nor comprehending the culture’s systems, one is able to order by pointing at plastic molded simulcrums. In this restaurant we were presented with an English menu which had pictures and did lots of delicious barbequed yummies which we could only guess at from pictures. BBQd chicken offal is surprisingly delicious when you have no idea what it is you’re eating.
Osaka was a surprising discovery as a cultural & entertainment hub. We’d changed our plans as we’d intended to stay a few days in Tokyo but this had been deemed off limits by DFAT. An unkind travel guide suggested the best place to stay in Osaka was Kyoto. We found this far from the truth in the Minami (south) area. Plenty happening, lots of places to eat & be entertained. Den Den town with its mix of electronics and manga was an amazing discovery and more than made up for missing the cancelled Tokyo Anime Fair.
Ordering food was an interesting experience. We discovered 2 issues to navigate, the first being that in certain eateries one orders by purchasing a ticket through a vending machine, the second being the ever so helpful Japanese would give us options (eg: Udon or Soba, wasabi or mustard, etc) to which we (not understanding that we were being presented an option) typically answered ‘yes’ which made the Japanese very confused. Or perhaps confirmed their estimation of our Western appetites…
Our overseas trip to Japan had a difficult start, what with a magnitude 9 earthquake, numerous aftershocks, a tsunami, a nuclear meltdown and a volcanic eruption to the south. We decided we’d only cancel the trip & claim the insurance if the situation got worse. Osaka was cold(er than Melbourne) and I’m always cranky hauling 20ish kilos of luggage bertween destinations. Still some hot midnight Osakan octopus balls hit the spot…