My first trip to Japan was too short but wonderful. I visited Osaka and Hiroshima. On my last day, I woke up and had Japanese breakfast before walking to Osaka Castle and visiting the temple which honors the patron of the city on the way. The castle was stunning and huge – much more than I expected – mostly though, I was impressed by the moat. After this I took the subway back to my hotel and checked out. Then I walked to Namba Parks, a building with a forest built on it and bought a hard to find toy for Sophia at Japanese Toys R Us. Then I shopped in various malls and ate a nice tempura and sashimi lunch before I caught the electric train towards the airport. I had far too much time before my flight, so I got off the train early in a small looking town and had a coffee, walked through some shopping centers and went to a grocery store. I may have been the only foreigner to visit that town on that day…no one spoke any English at all. It was nice. Then to the airport, still feeling I had too much time but actually, with customs and check in and other stuff – I only had about an hour waiting past the check in and customs. I made a friend in line and we chatted at various times through the travel process. On the flight, I slept and then arrived back home in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s always nice to come back to Oahu, but I’ll miss Japan.
Arriving in Osaka – I admit, I found myself confused. The Japanese I thought I had learned just went away instantly, but luckily workers at the airport seemed used to speaking English and I was able to rent a wifi unit which powered my phone for the two days I was there. I changed $100 USD for about 11000 Yen and with the help of Google, found my way to the Dotonburi neighborhood using the train.
Japanese people are simply fun for me to watch. I try not to stare. The cute kids playing on the train, the exhausted workmen, the hipster youth, the giggling work girls. I love the diversity within the Japanese themselves – I think they are a beautiful people, in general. And yes, I find Japanese women to almost universally be attractive – and slightly bizarre at the same time. From the dignified mother watching her kids on the train to the elf-like girls in the ramen shop to the grandmother type who made the crazy beaker coffee yesterday – not a romantic attraction, although certainly there are beauties that inspire me, but more of a simple liking of them – I simply like Japanese women. Japanese men are also pleasant to meet and talk with – the young barman last night ( I got a beer in an Irish pub owned by a cool Osaka guy, father of four young kids, never takes a day off, has a nice place). I was led there by the night manager of the hotel when I simply asked where there was a pub – he decided I wanted an Irish pub and after much looking at maps and having the desk girl (she was lovely) explain things to me – which I understood quite well – he decided to walk me there.
I had the best bowl of ramen in my life in one of the privacy slurping places – and ordered a side of green onions with peanuts which were like heaven. At the aforementioned coffee in beakers bar, I met a very nice older Aussie couple.
As I walked through the neon lit streets of Dotonbori. I was exhausted, but exhilarated and filled with a sense of happiness. The canals and the lights and the shops and the delighted people watching puppies in the window of a pet shop. And the entire time, I felt safe. No vague sense of being followed or being worried about getting mugged or getting my pocket picked. The tiny slightly smoke-stinky hotel room is fun in it’s difference from a western hotel.This is simply a first taste of a country that I hope I can come back to again and again and again.