2007 Traveling – August 5, OSAKA

At nearly 20 million people, Osaka isn’t an easy case-study when it comes to “drive-by” tourism.

After the long boat ride to Foukoka and refamiliarizing myself with the currency, language and habits of the Japanese, I bought a twenty-thousand yen ($200) railpass to see the entire western half of Japan. Before heading there we spent the night in a Japanese spa, sense neither me nor my traveling companions ever thought it very adventerous to make hotel reservations.

Spending the night in a spa is an experience nobody should miss. First off you get clean as hell, as in rubbing your skin until it turns bright red (which everyone can see cuz, well, it’s a bathhouse). I’m reminded of the Greek gymnasiums, where back in the day training the body was just as important as training the mind, and it was casual to have libraries in gyms and bathhouses. Japanese have that, and it seems like scrubbing and exercising goes right along with reading and studying in the spa.

We had to travel through three hours of Japanese countryside on a high-speed bullet train before arriving in Osaka Station Terminal. Osaka is a city surrounded by water, the “water capital” of the world, the “food capital” of Japan, Osaka to me was just plain old big as hell. From the Osaka towers you can look in every direction using a telescope, and still the buildings seem to extend indefinately.

Serrendipitously, one member of our group (not saying who) flirted enough with a Japanese girl to get us reliable directions to the hot spots. The first was Osaka castle. The last picture is from the top of the castle we visited, though to get there we had to move through a carnival of festivals and celebrations, losing each other in the mess of rock concerts and cheap beer while the sky was perpetually filled with balloons and helicopters.

Finally at the castle, my mind maintained its meretricious blur as the highly-reputable castle seemed far more like a medieval fortress than the “sustained”, “subtle” architecture from “Dark Ages” Japan. In fact, the Castle is surrounded by two seperate moats, then built ontop of three gigantic foundations.

It was sweet! Though our tour of the castle was maimed by the lionizing of one of Japan’s greatest unifiers, who also attempted to “genocide out” the Kingdoms of the Korean Penninsula in the sixteenth century, the axe-wielding Toyotomi Hideyoshi. I recall my brother’s girlfriend expressing her nationalistic attitude: “How can they treat him like hero? He is monster!” My response: “Andrew Jackson wasn’t all that great either.”

Anyways, on to the Osaka nightlife…

Ok I barely remember it. There’s two big spots for nightlife, one that’s “Western orientated” and another that’s authentic Japanese, obviously we went to the authentic one.

Here’s what we got: Incredibly talented dart players winning drinks galore while we sat around consuming expensive cocktails (miniscule, actually) and watching older Japanese businessmen hitting on the younger boys and girls. I guess we got the authenticity we desired…

Osaka was fun. I can’t begin to encapsulate it within a single blog…It’s big, and there’s lots of water.

P.S.

Something I learned in Japan the last two times I came: The Japanese are nothing like Koreans. Where Koreans are super-shy, self-conscious, and a bit naive, Japanese will stare you down and offer intelligent conversations at a whim, though they really don’t care so much about you. Japan’s far cleaner, and though it’s people are far more polite than Koreans (Koreans will spit at your feet, casually.), they are also a bit less honest and overtly friendly. But we talked to many in Osaka. And, just as last time, the ostensible pride from the most sexually liberated country on earth hits you harder than the stunning lights, the steaming pork ramen and the overly-modern bullet trains. Unlike Koreans, they are revelling in their perversions. Or perhaps perversions is the wrong word, none of them are perverse, in fact, as Erich Fromm would have said, when taboos are absent there is also the absence of shame. Japan is surreally free when it comes to sexuality.

P.S.S. Even though Osaka is the ninth-biggest city in the world, I was completely unhindered walking the backstreets at 5am. Japan lives up to its reputation. Like Korea it’s strangely safe.

A Map of the water city

City’s website

March 27, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , . Travel Blogs.

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