Another gray day here in Japan, but if the weather forecast is to be believed, tomorrow should be much nicer. I roll out of bed and shuffle my way upstairs where Megumi-san has prepared for me a nice breakfast. Today: Tuna, quiche, strawberries, and an onigiri for the road.
Still haven’t fully adjusted to fish as a breakfast food, but the cognitive dissonance doesn’t keep me from enjoying the home cooked meal. Megumi and I talk for a bit in English and Japanese before I’m done eating and ready to begin exploring Osaka proper.
After hopping by the local Starbucks for a hot coffee, I head on down to the Subway to make my way into Osaka. It’s about an hour’s journey from the outskirts where Megumi lives to the “DenDen” district of Osaka. Politely translated as the “electronics district” it’s really a nerdy, weeby, mecca for fans of Japanese popular culture.
From the outside, many of the storefront are plain and unassuming, but inside I often find 6 or more stories of shopping to be had, everything from model kits (giant robots, historical military, racecars, trains, planes, etc), video games, comics, character figurines, ad even an “adult novelty” section on the top floor of most places. There’s plenty to see as I wander through the shops, wishing I had more space in my luggage to fit a model ship kit; Seeing some of the professional displays (where pictures were forbidden) was really inspiring. It looks like it would be a fun and relaxing hobby.
One thing that I found both incredibly amusing and a bit out of place was there were several “tactical” shops where you can buy replica firearms or all shapes and sizes. They’re very close to looking like the real thing, and they’re commanding real gun prices too. But it’s something I’d expect to see at my local gun shop in Texas, not here in the anime-district of Osaka.
Real guns are illegal in Japan, of course, but realistic replicas like these seem to be no problem at all. If it’s all the same to you, Japan, I’ll spend $1000 on something functional, but props to you for trying.
After a few hours of window shopping, I leave DenDen Town with a small keychain as a souvenir and head towards the “Namba” district.
Lots of little hole-in-the-wall shops; Almost like a Japanese china-town and I hear a lot of Chinese being spoken on top of the Japanese and English from tourists. The weather isn’t fantastic, and I need something hot and rich to lift my spirits. I’ve already tried the local delicacies, how about a burger?
It’s a tiny storefront, seating for maybe a dozen people in all, and I sneak in to the last remaining table and get myself the craziest burger I see on the menu: A tempura-shrimp, beef, and egg burger, and a nice beer to wash it down with.
I hear english from the couple sitting next to me and strike up a conversation. Christopher and Mizuho! Chris is an american expat living in Osaka now, just got a job working as a programmer. According to him, Japan is really lagging in the software world because all the newest programming languages aren’t translated to Japanese very quickly, leaving their home-grown programmers a few years behind the cutting edge. Mizuho also speaks english quite well, no doubt due to being married to a native speaker and the fact she studied overseas at the University of Utah.
We have a lovely meal together, share stories, and connect on facebook. A fine way to spend the early afternoon. I wish them both all the best.
I end up wandering my way through town to what I expect will be some good places to visit, a giant buddhist shrine and the Osaka Museum of History. Unfortunately, I find the museum is closed today for reasons I don’t understand, and the temple as well! Still I’m able to snap some pictures from the outside.
Near the history museum sits Osaka castle, another reconstructed fortification much larger than the one in Okayama. The cherry blossoms are still in bloom around the grounds, and I bet in the sunlight it would look even more majestic.
There’s also a pair of time capsules buried here, nuclear vault style. One to be opened every hundred years, one to be opened by the people of 6970. Sheesh, I can even imagine what human civilization would look like that far into the future. Things have changed so much just in the last 200 years.
To end the day I work my way back to one of the main train stations where there is a big pokemon gift store hiding somewhere. A friend back in the states asked me to pick up a souvenir, so I go wandering in search of it. It takes me a while to find: It’s buried up on the 13th floor of this shopping complex! But my mission ultimately successful I shuffle my tired feet back to the subway for the crowded trip home.
The weather should finally get a bit more sunny tomorrow, which I’m eager to see since Kyoto and other historic cities are next on the list!
Until next time, cheers everyone.