First real taste

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Hotel and Osaka (first time)

Amazingly, this rather past due post coincides well with what I did just this past weekend. My friend Nathalie and I visited together while wandering Osaka and Kobe. But more on that in another post. First, let’s step back a month to my first real taste of Japan.

After grabbing my luggage from the terminal, I headed out to use the trains for the first time. To give you a better idea of how ridiculous this was for me, let me provide a little background: I know elementary level Japanese and have not practiced it with a native speaker in over 4 years, my luggage was large, the map I brought was not nearly sufficient in explaining the route as I had previously thought, and I don’t have a whole lot of experience traveling via public transit in the States (let alone Japan). Also, it was after dark and I knew the trains stopped running around 10pm or so… I was a little nervous. Jumping ahead, I prevailed thanks to some broken Jap-engrish conversations with the ticket clerks and some very kind English speaking strangers.

One in particular needs accurate representation, I think. She came up behind me while I was very slowly reading the overhead subway map. She asked if I needed help and after figuring out my destination, she offered to not only take me to the right train but also to help carry my luggage! I very gratefully accepted and we chatted in English while she walked me to the train. It was a rather confusing turnabout kind of area so I became even more grateful as we went along. She then buys my ticket and hands it to me before I knew what was happening! Of course I forced money back to her and after the traditional Japanese refusal, she accepted. Right then, the train pulled up. I didn’t even have time to ask her name before she hurried me on and left for her own destination.

This pretty much sums up the whole vibe of my first experiences in Osaka including the hotel staff, random store clerks, and any other person I had cause to speak to along the way. The food, also was exemplary from the conbini (convenience store) to specialty shops. Service with a smile… or at the very least a polite nod. It seems a running trend that some men here just don’t like to smile openly. I imagine that’s much the case at home in the States if I paid closer attention.

The hotel itself was gorgeous (Osaka City Plaza Hotel I think…). Huge open lobby with wrap around glass and running water along the walkways (in-doors). A cute little public foot onsen out front and upstairs was a full onsen. Needless to say, the entire building was a bit warm all the time due to the natural heating. I imagine it might be a bit much in the summertime but the AC unit worked just fine in my room. As for the room itself, it was obviously quite a bit smaller than what I’m used to in the states but to be honest, it was quite cozy. It’s hard not to notice that even though everything is smaller, tighter, closer together, it doesn’t feel too cramped. I believe this is because of the attention to detail that happens regularly around here like the feng shui of the room or fold away tables, multipurpose areas, etc.

As an overall note, it’s the funny little things that got to me first. Not in a bad way, these were just the things that I couldn’t let pass without taking note of them. Like how quickly I learned to bow more appropriately, how delicate people treat things like chairs or money so as not to make a sound, how silent the Japanese are in elevators or waiting at stop lights, the fact that even if you ask a stupid question, they will act as though it’s a real question and never respond with sarcasm. It’s no surprise that us outsiders seem so brash and openly brazen to them.

So if your looking for lots of good eats (particularly okonomiyaki, pastries, or fried goodies) as well as some rather entertaining nightlife (just walk around Namba at night and you’ll see), then Osaka is the place for you. In my opinion, it’s also one of the most friendly and comfy cities I’ve ever been to, and that includes London. Unfortunately for me, cities are just one of those things that even though they’re a blast to visit, I would never want to actually live there. I have that weird need to stick my toes in the earth once in a while, reconnect and center my self.

With love – M

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