Friday, May 25, 2007

Japan Travelog vol.2 - Osaka

My first night in Osaka was my first time to use the internet cafe as an accommodation. It wasn't awfully bad, but perhaps by no means comfortable. Chilly and smokey, plus the flat type rooms were all taken so we had no choice but to take the recliner seats. Well... the seats weren't bad. What bothered me more was the rustling sounds people made throughout the night whenever somebody moved around. It's an internet cafe after all. Can't complain.

We spent the first real day in Osaka in the Namba area. That's probably the busiest and noisiest area of the city, I think. This is where you can find the famous Glico neon board and the Kuidaore figure, not to mention tons of eatouts particularly of Osaka's specialties takoyaki and okonomiyaki. It was a Friday morning but the place was already bustling with mostly tourists and students on school excursions. Busy place. I went back to the area alone on a Sunday after my friends had headed back home. Well, that was quite a crowd. Not just this Dotombori area but even more crowded in the Shinsaibashi area. My impression of Shinsaibashi was Shibuya made into a single straight arcade. Lots of shops and young people. I had heard before that the fashion in Osaka (actually not just Osaka but also big cities like Nagoya and Kobe respectively) is different from Tokyo. I think I would agree. At least for the girls, it looked like Osaka girls prefer gears on the gal side more than the Tokyo girls like. Strong vivid colors and glittery accessories, too.

The following day we went to Osaka Castle and Shitennoji Temple. The temple ground was pretty big though not vast like the ones in the ancient capital Nara. Still the 1,400-year-old temple is preserved well (of course with nummerous refurbishing and restoration) and is a peaceful place to stroll around. The exterior is good enough, but the impressive features of this temple are the religious (wall) paintings and statues stored inside the halls. The paintings tell the stories of Buddha and Asoka and the art is very beautiful.

I stayed in Osaka for another day after my friends have left, and went to see a shrine called Sumiyoshi Taisha. This was another pretty shrine with unique architecture (I like architecture of shrines and temples). An amazing contrast of vermillion lacquer, deep brown of the thatched roofs and white all surrounded by early summer green. I got to see three Shinto style weddings that morning. They were certainly beautiful especially on a day with such perfect weather, but I have to say that although they were three separate weddings, the way the shrine conducted (conducted more like, than carried out) the weddings were kind of systematic. One right after another. Popular place, good day, I guess it couldn't be helped.

Then I wandered into the Shinsekai area. That's where the Tsutenkaku Tower is (every big city has its own tower). Since I already went up the Castle to get a view of the city I didn't go up this one and just walked around the area at its foot. Shinsekai looked like a block of dozens of kushikatsu (fried... pretty much any kind of food stuck through skewers) eatouts huddling together. Most of these places had statues of Billiken in all sizes placed at the entrances. First I didn't know what it was, but later on found out that this is the famous Osaka god of all-purpose luck. Actually, I just found out that Billiken was designed by an American artist based on the inspiration she got from her dream one night, and the figure went popular worldwide, that is to say back in early 1900s. Is that right? At least, not too many of the Tokyoites know of the god. Anyway.

The following day I woke up in the morning and decided to leave Osaka for my personally most exciting destination for this trip, Kyoto. I've been to Kyoto so many times but like many say, you can visit Kyoto one hundred times and not even see half of it. This trip was particularly an exciting one. Will go on to vol.3.

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