The plan was always for the first leg of my trip to take place in Hiroshima, with the next leg taking place in what is known as the Kansai region, more precisely the area in and around Japan’s third largest city: Osaka.
After waking up this morning, early thanks to me and my crazy circadian rhythms, me and Mami departed via Shinkansen to Osaka. It was a nice quiet 1hr and 30m ride to Osaka, a city with many memories for me, from both last year and when I was ryugakusei (international student). Joining us in Osaka is Mari-chan, another friend that made last year. Her English isnt as good as Mami’s but she is still a lot of fun, and, like Mami, super cute.
The first thing we wanted to do was eat. Now both of these girls are very Americanized and love meat, especially steaks and burgers (no you wouldn’t know this by looking at them), so we decided to go to Outback Steakhouse.
I do try to eat local foods when I am in a foreign country and thus far I have done pretty well, though I have come close to puking a couple times, however, there is a time when you just want some real meat; so I got and ate a full rack of ribs here, much to the delight of Mari and Mami because I eat “like a monster”.
After eating our fill, it was time for some good clean fun, and in Japan there is nothing better then some karaoke to enjoy yourself with friends, and they dig American songs. I don’t know why, but I love Japanese karaoke, more then I suspect I will ever like American karoke; don’t know why. I got to sing some Journey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Aerosmith. Its just good clean fun
Lets be honest, Japan is a consumer based nation. The amount of shopping here is insane, if they have space for a shop they put a shop there. They convert alleys into whole shopping markets, they build insane underground labyrinths that are malls, they build malls 12 stories high. It is INSANE the amount of shopping they have and how they blend things together. Most of the shops are located around the major stations for the rail service, and Osaka station is no exception.
Old Osaka station
New Osaka station:
The latter is one of the tallest buildings I have ever seen and combines the rail station with an impressive outdoor shopping mall
Even though I see this sort of thing everywhere, it still makes my mouth drop. Japan’s consumerism is second to none on the planet. Yodobashi Camera might be a prime example of this. Yodobashi is the department store of department stores. This place has just about everything and is one of my favorite electronic stores in the world. Also, cell phones (ketai denwa) play a huge role in Japanese society, so huge that keeping it charged is a matter, almost, of life and death. I found this to be ingenious inside Yodobashi Camera
Pay some yen, lock your phone in and have it speed charged. My guess is this was in response to the dramatic rise in the use of smartphones. Interestingly, despite being an advanced cellular nation, Japan never did embrace the smartphone until recently; Android and iPhone are now enormous here and it is such an emerging smartphone market with highly sophisticated users, many companies (Microsoft) are test driving their new products here to measure adoption.
Finally, I made an attempt to head to the outer area of Kyoto to visit Mami’s parents, but I have to be in Hikone early tomorrow to help with my host mothers English class so I broke it off. But before I did, I got this shot
I am always amazed at how Japan blends old with new and how the train system is so tightly integrated with the surrounding community. So after turning around I head back to Osaka via Kyoto station before taking the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. The subway got me to the next hotel: Ramada
Tomorrow I will be in Hikone with my host family. Finally get to give them their gifts and get that shot from the top of Hikone-jo that I want so bad. Should be a fun time