Day 5 – Goodbye Okayama, Hello Osaka

Today marks the end of my stay in Okayama. It’s been fun, but a new week and no more races means it’s time for me to pack up and move on.

Rather than book anther hotel, for Osaka I’m doing a homestay with a local family, kind of an Air BnB sort of a deal I guess. But since the host will be busy earlier in the day, I have some time to kill in Okayama. I write up a double blog post and get creative with re-packing all of my belongings now that there’s a pile of race merchandise to carry along with me.

I explore the local “Aeon Mall” while I wait. They’re big round here, apparently, been seeing them in every city I visit. They’re all very clean, very orderly, and often have several floors filled with everything under the sun. There’s even a pokemon store if you feel the need to catch ’em all.

The bullet train to Osaka is packed, and I nestle in between two businessmen for the hour long trip back to where my journey in Japan originally started. It takes a bullet train, a local train, and a subway ride to the end of the line to bring me to Megumi-san’s home: a small but very modern 3-story dwelling. Automtic everything and RFID cards to get in and out of the front door. The bottom floor is my area, and for $20 a night I really couldn’t ask for much more. I have a bed, internet, and everything I need to continue my journey.

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I forgot to bring my phone with me to capture the moment when I presented Megumi-san with her thank you present, a signed copy of The Wayward Astronomer! Of course, it’s doubtful she will be able to read it, but hey, it’s got pretty pictures, and she loved it regardless. Lot’s of “Sugoi!” and “Kakko ii desune” from Megumi and her friend. They especially loved the signature. I told them I practiced it a lot, and we all had a good laugh.

Time continues to pass so I only have half of an afternoon left to begin my exploration of Osaka. The greater Osaka area is something close to 19 million people, including Kyoto and Nara, there’s a lot to see and do these next few days.

I take the subway across town to the Osaka Aquarium, and it’s a refreshing sight to get back to the water. It always puts me at ease, and it helps me feel unhurried even though I don’t have a full day at my disposal. It’s a really cool structure, 7 stories tall with a massive central tank and sort of a spiraling setup as you work your way down and around the various exhibits.

The aquarium tour takes me into evening, and I find a hole in the wall pace to grab some food just next door. There’s room at the counter for 6 people, and I’m the only patron. On offer, fluffy balls of dough with fillings of octopus, beef, and green onions. I have a great conversation in mixed english and japanese with the cook, enjoying the local flavor and keeping my evening relaxed. I wish I remember what the dish was called, but it was way more “airy” than I expected. Of all the flavors, I prefer the beef version the most.

After finishing my meal and saying my goodbyes, I wander back outside into the now-dark city, and hop onto the massive 100+ meter Ferris wheel just down the way. It carries me up over the Port of Osaka, giving an excellent view of the area. The little automated voice explains in both japanese and english the sights and sounds of the area. Apparently, they use the lights on the Ferris wheel to broadcast the weather forecast, and tomorrow, there’s going to be rain.

It’s another hour long subway ride back to the house to finish up the day. I get indoors just as the rain stats to fall and get settled, taking care of the important business of unpacking and washing my clothes. It was a simple and relaxing trip today, but tomorrow I will have the full day to dive into Osaka and explore it properly. Even if the weather might not be the best, I’ll try to make the most of it.

Take care everyone.

-Geoff

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