Hello Everybody, I felt Osaka calling my name again and I was tempted, so following the advice of Oscar Wilde (I’m paraphrasing here – the best way to deal with temptation is to give in to it), I threw the necessities into my little Patagonia backpack and flew out to Kansai International Airport. On the way, I grabbed a quick little breakfast of onigiri and green tea. There are many kinds of onigiri and I should probably write a blog just on them, they are also called rice balls. All onigiri consist of rice and seaweed, but it varies as to what’s inside. There are many varieties…this is what I chose…oishii!
Now when I was living in the States, it never occurred to me how incredibly hot Japan can be. Of course, I never gave Japan much thought at all because it never occurred to me that I would call this place home. But oh my goodness, it is hot and humid. Okinawa is always hot and humid but it’s a subtropical island, so it is expected and it sends you these fragrant little breezes with a hint of hibiscus from the South China Sea or the Pacific depending on your location. Osaka is not that generous, it is a concrete industrial town. That is not to say it does not have it’s charms. It does. Osaka people are lively and rowdy, the timbre of their speech and pattern differs from other places in Japan. It’s blue collar at its best.
When you walk through the markets here and hear the laughter spilling out of the stand- up bars, the tightly-packed restaurants and the overflowing stalls, there is a resounding feeling of companionability. In comparison, Tokyo is business, no-nonsense and frankly, a little cold. I had the same type of feeling visiting Coventry and London when I was in England.
Being an outsider, it’s easy to miss so much, but I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by warm friends who explained many things and taught me some of the daily expressions of Osakans. What is so wonderful to me is the connections that people make with each other. Although language is a barrier, we can connect and understand with a gesture, a look…it’s so amazing. They took me through the markets, into restaurants, temples, shrines, shopping districts, downtown, taxis and trains. They gave me an opportunity to see the city intimately, through the eyes of an Osakan. What a thrill, what a lovely gift they imparted. I am in their debt, which I will begin to repay when they visit Okinawa in the next few months.
After reading my blog for a little while, I think it’s clear that I have a love for the Koreans, their people, their music (BigBang, G-Dragon and Psy), their dramas and of course, their food. So rich and diverse. And just when I think I’ve mastered chopsticks, well sort of mastered them, I go to a Korean restaurant where they give you the ultimate challenge of metal chopsticks…very difficult. But I, like my former dog Baxter, am food-motivated and learned to deliver food to my mouth quite efficiently. Note the vertical placement of the chopsticks in the photos below, that’s Korean style. Japan style is horizontal, just so you know, the next time you’re setting out the plates.
Koreatown is what you would expect, all things Korea, all the time. In the early part of the 1900’s for about 30 years, Korea was a colony of Japan and many people came to Osaka to look for work. Many stayed, some returned after World War II. And while many of the older people that I saw were easily conversant in Japanese and Korean, most of the younger Korean-descent people spoke only Japanese. And enough English to try to entice me to buy their Psy socks…which I almost did!
Walking around downtown I noticed something I have been seeing from time to time in parks and clearings in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and now Osaka. These young people doing synchronized dances like they are trying out for a Broadway show or something. In fact, dance competitions are a big thing over here and this is what was going on. It was awesome to watch these performances, so I share a short piece below.
Finally there was the lights and the crowds of Dotonbori, where there are high end stores and dollar stores in proximity. A mix of tourists from Korea, China and Taiwan mostly, but some locals mixed in. It is being immersed in the human flow, just relax and go with it.
I had a wonderful time, there is still so much more to do in Osaka, maybe next time watch a Hanshin Tigers Baseball game or take a day trip to Kobe, Nara or Kyoto.
I will be sticking around Okinawa for the next few weeks, but my feet get itchy to be out and about and I have a birthday coming up….who knows where I’ll be writing from next?
Have a great week or two until we meet again!