{Shaun in Japan}

Shaun in Japan Blog | Created By Www.BestTheme.Net

Archive for March 2012

Last day in Osaka, Kansai trip part 4

Posted by Shaun

We weren't totally sure where to go for our last day in Osaka, so we turned to my Japanese guide map again (so glad my reading ability has improved to the point that I could skim that thing. It was way more helpful than English resources that came to hand). We ended up picking two interesting looking areas, Tennouji and Nanba, to explore.

First, Tennouji. Tennouji ends in the kanji for temple, but we couldn't find one anywhere. We did find a park with a nice Japanese garden and a zoo (we didn't go because it was rainy and the surrounding park was depressing enough).

Outside Tennouji station

The park outside Tennouji Zoo. Check out that lion's pathetic face.

As cool as it was that there were flowers on these zebras...

Look at those eyes.

Not at all sure what this hippo was supposed to be doing.

I'm not sure what the history behind this tower is (Japanese guide book) but we needed to take a picture with it.

In the Japanese garden.

More Japanese garden.
We found ourselves wandering out of the Tennouji Park area and into Shinsekai. I've never felt so awkward in Japan as I did in Shinsekai. There were people everywhere trying to lure us into their restaurants, to the point where we couldn't make a decision, and one guy even grabbed Laura's arm to get her attention. Then when we finally got to the restaurant where we tried kushi-katsu (fried stuff on skewers), one of Osaka's meibutsu (famous foods), we were stared at the whole time and our waiter forced us to read an English menu and waited at our table until we ordered instead of giving us time to think it over. I had to go to the bathroom at one point, and apparently everyone made Laura feel really uncomfortable while I was gone too. I'm not sure why, but there was a seriously uncomfortable atmosphere. Then after we paid, one of the waiters followed us out of the restaurant calling Laura's name and said something about her Waseda sweatshirt, and we don't know how that guy knew her name. It was super-creepy. We came, we tried kushi-katsu, and we booked it out of there.

 Even though Billikens are not at all Japanese, they're all over Shinsekai (and the rest of Osaka to a lesser extent. Somehow the idea of an imaginary god who will grant any kind of wish if you rub his feet really caught on here).

Me with Kushi-tan, the mascot for kushi-katsu. His sash says "double-dipping in the sauce is prohibited!"
 When you eat kushi-katsu (I was too hungry and awkward to take a picture) you have a big tub of sauce and a big tub of cabbage leaves. If you don't get enough sauce on your first dip, you have to use the cabbage leaves to pick up the sauce.

More Shinsekai pictures:

I'm not sure if this sign was supposed to be like this or not.
After we left Shinseikai in a wave of discomfort and confusion, we headed to Namba and Shinsaibashi, which is basically back in the same area as Dotonbori. We walked around the mall in Shinsaibashi, where Laura bought a really cute shirt and I bought a dress for 315 yen and we found a candy store that had 55 yen water bottles, so we stocked up for the next days bus ride. We also finally found another famous landmark of Dotonbori, the Glico running man sign (it was hiding behind a wall the first night we were there), and I ate some takoyaki. That was basically the last night in Osaka. We found a place to eat in Umeda, but I forgot my camera so I couldn't take any pictures there. It was interesting though, because you did all of your own ordering on a touch screen computer. It was super convenient. No one was staring at you waiting for you to make a decision (Ahem, kushi-katsu place, you could learn a thing or two). I had yakisoba and an avocado-sashimi salad and I decided to flaunt my ability to order alcohol and try kiwi-peach sangria. If Laura hadn't owed me for her portion of the kushi-katsu, it would have been an expensive dinner (stupid sangria). But the computer thing was really cool.

The Glico man! Finally.

Dotonbori canal

Shinsaibashi shopping mall


Looking up at the Umeda Sky Building, where we caught our bus home to Tokyo
The whole trip was a lot of fun, and I think that if I moved to Japan in the future, I'd want to live either somewhere in Kansai or somewhere like Minakami. It's a cliched line, but Tokyo is not the real Japan, and it's important to go lots of places and see that. I was able to come back to Tokyo feeling refreshed this time instead of trapped, and that was a really good thing.

Kansai trip day 3: Kyoto!

Posted by Shaun

Our next mission was a trip to Kyoto. Before heading to Osaka, we made a reservation with the kimono rental shop Sensho Kitamura, so we had to wake up and head out early enough to make our 11am reservation. Luckily it's only like 45 minutes from Osaka station to Sensho Kitamura, but we got lost, so we were late anyway.

The process of getting dressed up in the kimono is completely bizarre. Apparently in the past, when everyone wore kimono every day, everyone could dress themselves, and they'd just shrug them on no matter how they hung on their bodies, tie on their obi, and get to work. Now, though, kimono are for getting dressed up fancy, so having the garment line up correctly with your body is important. Curves are no good for kimono. As the ladies at Sensho Kitamura kept telling us "Nice body" isn't good for kimono.

So how did they fix Laura's and my nice bodies? Towels. Lots and lots of towels padding our upper bodies so that the kimono would hang properly. Eventually I got used to wearing it all, but it was heavy! We also wore leggings and a sort of kimono-sweatshirt (like a "shrug" - are people still wearing shrugs? A short sweater that doesn't close in the front- with sleeves just short enough to be hidden by the under-kimono) under it all so we wouldn't get cold.

After we got all dressed up in our kimono (we're living the proverb I linked in the last post: 京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ - Kyou no kidaore, Oosaka no kuidaore, "Overindulge in fine clothes in Kyoto, overindulge in food in Osaka"), the ladies at Sensho Kitamura also did our hair and we got to borrow a purse to take our valuables with us. Then we set out to explore the city.

We didn't get much exploring done, because it takes forever to walk around in kimono, and to find anything by bus when both of you forget your bus maps at the kimono shop.

But all kinds of people wanted to take pictures of us!

My hair

The back of my kimono

Laura and I in front of Sensho Kitamura
 People who wanted to take pictures with us:

(favorite picture of the entire day)
 Every single one of those high school boys wanted to shake our hands afterwards. It was the most confusing experience. Something about shaking so many hands made no cultural sense. Like, I think lots of Japanese people are like "I'm meeting an American! They shake hands there! Look I know that!" but you don't normally shake hands with people to thank them for a photo, do you? (the fact that I don't know the answer to this question scares me. Like how I can eat noodles with chopsticks but I can't eat pasta with a fork. My pasta skills have never increased, whereas my noodle skills have gotten a lot of use and improvement.)

We were like celebrities. Everywhere we went someone wanted a photo. Even if we were eating ice cream.

Here's the run-down of the sightseeing we managed to do.

In front of the entrance to Kiyumizu-dera

We stumbled across this really cool dragon procession thing at Kiyumizu-dera, but I have no idea what it was about. I bet you a quarter that most of the people watching didn't either.

Koi no ishi, the rock of love. Of you can walk with your eyes closed from this rock to another one a little ways away, you'll have good luck in love. Or something.

I made it. This means something.

I actually photographed Laura in action instead of posing afterwards, so her pics are cuter.

And Laura made it too.

There's the famous view of Kiyomizu-dera you usually see.


The "waterfall" at Kiyomizu-dera. Supposedly drinking the water here means something (one stream is wisdom, one is strength, one is something else?) but Laura couldn't remember so I just picked one at random. And strangers photographed us.
Next we got lost in the bus system somewhere around Gion and headed for Heian Shrine. We made it there right as it was closing.

It was basically closed, so there was no one there. "Look how big it is!"

Walking back from Heian Shrine, trying to find the bus to Sensho Kitamura
So, after being lost on buses and walking about in kimono for many hours, Laura and I finally made it back to Sensho Kitamura, got redressed in our previous clothes, although our hair remained in its kimono style. The ladies at Sensho Kitamura took our flowers and hair sticks, but our hair spray, elastics, and bobby pins stayed right where they were. I'm pretty sure I heard someone who was sitting behind me on the bus back to Kyoto Station commenting on this. He had a good look at the back of my head, which, in it's updo, did not look like someone's everyday hair, and he was saying "Yeah, sometimes foreigners dress up in kimono and go to Sanjusangendo and stuff like that."

We overheard a lot of people talking about us in Kyoto, but it wasn't rude, like it usually is in Tokyo. It was interesting, though. When we were standing in front of Kiyomizu-dera, we heard some boys saying "Nanpa shite ikou ka?" which made us crack up because it means "Should we go try and pick them up?" Mercifully, they kept our distance. Waiting in line to drink from the "waterfall" at Kiyomizu-dera, we heard a group of girls glancing our way and saying "with us," questioningly in English. Laura looked over their way and was like "Shashin torou ka?" (Should we take a picture?) and they got really flustered but really excited that we could speak Japanese. They told us "later" in English and we met up after we had all gotten through the line. When we were leaving Sensho Kitamura, a couple who was walking stepped to the side so we could pass them, saying something like "Ashi nagai kara ne" (It's because they've got long legs, I guess) and I brightly told them that we had been wearing kimono all day so we could finally move our legs properly. They laughed and said we must have looked great.

My host family also told me that Kyoto people have the reputation for being really friendly, but that means they're terrifying when they're angry. Osaka people bluster and yell, but Kyoto people get quiet and stay friendly. Yikes.

After walking around Kyoto, we still had our half-hour train ride back to Osaka, and we were exhausted and starving. We weren't sure what to eat, but then I remembered a review I saw in the Japanese guide map I picked up at J-Hoppers. It was for Critters Burger, the representative burger of Kansai. They were open till 11:00 and they didn't look too hard to find, so we decided to go for it.

And oh boy, was it worth it.

I'm hungry for dinner now, mind you, but my stomach is getting happy just remembering the place. We had root beer floats, which were awesome because root beer is stupid-scarce in Japan, and oh man, the burgers. Our guide map had a coupon for one free topping, so I got an avocado bacon cheese burger but didn't have to pay for the avocado, and Laura did the same with an avocado burger. Even though Japanese bacon is just not American bacon, it was a dream.

Root beer float

I only wish I had more fries.

I should have taken a picture before the ketchup carnage. But they had American mustard! And there was butter on that top bun under the avocado. I never realized I wanted butter and avocado on bread so bad.

Here's the outside of Critters. I'll find you directions if you want to go there. Gotta find my Critters Freak sticker that I picked up at the register.
It was a beautiful, beautiful burger experience, and I wanted to share that with you all. I was moved by flavor.
The kimono thing was pretty cool too.