Last Bang In Osaka Oct 30-Nov 6, 2015

 
Compared to Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka doesn’t merit much of a sniff if you’re into Japanese history, culture and art. Where Tokyo is reserved and worldly, Kyoto is elegant and snotty, Osakans are Newfies by comparison. Supposedly food and  shopping demons, they’re also into manufactured fun. The comic capital of Japan, it’s also home to Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland, one of the world’s biggest aquariums and our exit gateway airport.
 
Maybe it was just our part of town Den Den, the electronics haven, but Osaka reminded us that Japan isn’t all manners and courtesy and cleanliness. Den Den had homeless, litter, jaywalkers, more smokers than we’d seen since Rome, police presence, and dirty (not by our standards) streets. While other parts of Osaka weren’t like this, homelessness, poverty, prostitution, and gangs are dark under bellies and yes we saw homelessness inTokyo as well. They were great for directions.
People with tattoos are associated with gang membership. That’s me standing in the centre, with all that ramen, I put on a few pounds but can now fill out a jock strap.
Supposedly many foreigners with tats are refused entry into onsens (public baths)—the most Japanese of experiences. Trish and I got in a few times to hotel onsens after bandaging up our minuscule bits of ink and some of he higher end hotels allow you to book your own private onsen. Having only done same gender onsens, I’d miss bathing naked with the boys.
 
Gangs are also associated with the many brothels and ‘massage parlours’ found everywhere, not to mention the prolific Pachinko gaming establishments. We walked in and walked out of one as the smoke alone drove us out. Sad places, indeed.
 
 
One in 6 Japanese lives in poverty, which is only surprising because of our stereotypes of Japan. We think Canada is only marginally worse….with almost in 5 kids in poverty.
And as we said earlier, attitudes and practices towards and about women are still evolving. It is a very traditional society in many ways.
But what irks us the most, and these are tiny points in a sea of superlatives, is a rigidity and inflexibility. To prices, to rules (though foreigners get a pass) and to the way things get done and have to be. They’d let you walk away from a sale rather than discount it 3%. They’d leave a hotel room empty than offer reductions. If you’ve lived here ( and we hope to someday– more on this in a minute ) this would be maddening.
While Osaka was sobering, we had also intended to use it as a base to Nara and two nights in the holy mountain of Koya, but bad weather and Trish’s bad foot axed Koya.
So even with our minds on leaving, we tried to rest but also have fun, eat in this food Mecca, and shop. Which we did lots of.
 
We took a one hour Taiko workshop and had lots of fun banging the big drums. For Warm up exercises we played Rock, Paper, Scissors with our feet. The worse taiko drummer ever is on the left.
 
Conveyor belt sushi:
This elderly couple ate and drank more than double us and were still going strong after we dropped $40 on a belly loving feed of works of art.
Grilled salmon…yummy
 
Octopus
??!!!
Mackerel
??????
Uhhhhh snapper?
Yes it’s kinda sad like most zoos, but Osaka Aquarium, one of the largest in the world, has things you’ll never see live….great jellyfish, Rays and penguins.
But really, Toronto’s is better.
 
Rented apt from Takehoshi on the left. He and his artist friend Chizura took us to a local , you guessed it, a ramen joint. They served only bbq pork ramen in a pork base…medium or large…$6.45 each. All you can eat rice is included as it goes so well with the broth.
Chizura also makes and sells kimonos, jewelry, bags, charms, etc….here she’s given Trish a gift…quite a talent she is
Nara
Japan’s ancient capital going back to 8th cent. We were happy to crash a wedding.
Here it looks as  though bride’s mom and sis are posing while bride is being fussed out by photographer.
 
 
 
Forget which holy site this was but we loved the darkness punctuated by beautiful lanterns.
 
Monks literally pounding rice down.
 
Todaiji Temple, is 8th cent temple is one of the most significant Buddhist sites in Japan. It houses a huge Buddha 13m statue of Daibutsu and is the largest wooden structure in the world.
Inside is
 
The ubiquitous set lunch.
Much of Japan lunches this way.
Soup, rice, cold green tea, pickled root veggies of some sort, maybe a salad, some shredded raw veggies, something hot as an entree. The fish looked gross to Trish it was perfectly fried and bones and all, it went down. Her shredded beef was 2 thumbs up. 1500 yen, about $16.50 total
 
Tonkatsu….pork cutlet breaded in panko. Nobody fries as well as the Japanese. And with the bottomless carbs, you’d think obesity would be more of an issue. Not. One rarely sees a soft drink with a meal or snack, so they’re not as addicted to our arificial sweeteners.And we suppose a fish and seaweed base is healthier than our meat n potatoes. There are reasons they love longer awith healthy lives than most of the world.
Here I got pork cutlet with grated radish, Trish got the chicken cutlet in a cheese and tomato sauce. Miso soup and bottomless rice and pickled turnip.  600 yen or $6.50 each.
 
Deep fried octopus balls, aka takoyaki…wheat batter, tempura bits, onion, ginger…gooey as they’re topped with sweet plum or soya sauce, sometimes a Worcestershire derivative, mayo, dried shredded tuna
 
If Japan had to change its name, these would be viable options:
Ramenvile
Sampleland
Clean
Shhhhh
The Republic of Salaryman
Soyanara
Toto
Not China
Final notes:
You’d think five weeks would allow us to do all we wanted in Japan. But the list of things we missed or couldn’t do is long. Can’t do it all, eh?
Europe seems like a distant memory but we met and hung with fantastic people who helped make this one of our best travels and we’d like to acknowledge once again our Euro and Japanese friends.
Jolly Gulla then kindly Julia in Iceland, sweet Hilco and Jessica in The Netherlands, the happy wanderer Lorella in Italy. The future of Japan with Koki and Kseniya in Tokyo who gave us a great start, and Aki the Couch surfing master…all were fantastic hosts and people. They and others such as Ashraf, whom I’ll see in Malaysia, helped made this trip. Dom Arigatou.
 
So after nine weeks and 24/7 together, it’s time Trish and I to part. Not because we’re ready to kill each other. No, never, not even in her worse PMS/travel fatigue moments. Trish has done remarkably well given her health challenges. Extraordinarily well. She’s my hero. We are each others’ wing man and I wish she were coming to Myanmar and India instead of home. So separating and heading off in opposite directions hurts, real bad. To all our loyal followers (all 12 of you), do me a favour and save Trish from her own cooking and cook her a meal. Just don’t make Japanese.
 
 
(Not expecting good enough internet in Myanmar, so may not see you soon….thanks so much for following us)
 
Wayne and Trish