Day 7: Osaka in the Morning

I awoke after my first night in Osaka with a fresh set of eyes and a roar of excitement. My hotel was in the heart of Osaka, and I wanted to race out into the day, but first I had to face the continual challenge of my trip, breakfast.

The  breakfast  in the states varies by location, but for me it was always a bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit. I’d grown tired to scarfing down rice balls for breakfast, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel offered breakfast.

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Japanese breakfast is really interesting. Rice is a big part of it, but then there was fruit, eggs, salmon, and salad. It was quite delicious and without further ado I headed into the streets of Osaka.
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The hustle and bustle were everywhere, but it seemed more personal, more real as if the people I was watching were more than just their job. It was a stark difference between the mornings in Tokyo and the ones in Osaka.  IMG_1277 IMG_1278This wall of vending machines was one of the many I spotted. I really wish stuff like this would catch on in the US. So many cool little bits and bobs!

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Like these underpants for your phone. IMG_1280

or whatever this is…do I want to know? IMG_1281 IMG_1282 IMG_1283 IMG_1284 IMG_1285

As my journey wound on I found myself wandering Den Den Town, which is Kyoto’s local electronic and geek district.
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Yes, those are all body pillows, and yes the are used by fans to cuddle up to their anime crush. IMG_1298

Osaka tower! I don’t know why every major city in Japan has some sort of tower, but I am guessing it was a fad at one point. IMG_1300

uh….wait?IMG_1301 IMG_1303 IMG_1304 IMG_1305I’ll end with something I spotted as I headed out of downtown Osaka in the redlight district, (though at the time I didn’t know it was the red light district.).

IMG_1263Quite a few of the manhole covers in Osaka were painted! They are  a beautiful little example of how even the urbanest areas can add culture to themselves. More tomorrow dear readers!

Japan Night 2: Two bars and a crossing

When I was a kid I wondered why fantastical realism was so popular in the anime I watched. Every anime hero found some lost shrine or hidden place and I having grown up in a population dense but geographically spacious area could not truly appreciate the mysticism of having things packed so tightly next to one another. Most of the buildings I encountered were multilevel and filled to capacity with every type of shop imaginable. I recall quite on accident pressing the third-floor button on an elevator and having it open directly into a restaurant.  No foyer, no hallway, and no host stand, just a table with two people eating, maybe 3 feet from the doors. Tokyo is a place bisected by time, with the very old clinging to the edges of where the very new is not.

I returned from my first trip into Akihabara tired, as I was still sick. and I slept for a few more hours before I decided to head out. The sun was setting as I trecked along.

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It was odd, and many people questioned why photograph this man’s converse, but it reminded me a lot of home, and despite being gone for only a day or two international travel tends to summon up homesickness readily.
IMG_0494One of the few one on one interactions I had with someone who was japanese. Harajuku is very close to Shibuya, and there was actually a photo op location near my hotel, so I ran into these lovely ladies. Not pictured is the part where they took about 20 photos of themselves with me.

after narrowly escaping the lovely ladies above, I read online (read 7-11 WiFi)  about a bar that was also a collectables store, and so I headed out in search of it, and despite Tokyo’s incredibly hard to navigate address system, I found it!

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the stock , and On the second floor of a (relatively) small building was a little shop called mint. From the outside, it looked like a card and comic shop. I ventured in browsed the stacks, found some deals, and then found the bar. IMG_0485The bar is ingenious. The tables had play area below a glass sheet which covered the playing field, meaning you could drink and even spill on accident without having to worry about getting your game of choice dirty. The bar also featured sports betting from what I could tell.


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When I finally pulled my jaw off the floor and got back to Shibuya crossing it was in full swing. I have never seen so many people all walking all at once, except maybe at Comicon, but instead of being overweight pop culture aficionados, they were  all well-dressed Asians. (quick note, I saw only 2 people in my entire time in Japan who didn’t look like they’d spent considerable time in front of a mirror. Both of those 2 people were old ladies, who had a look of IDGAF about them.)IMG_0529 IMG_0526 IMG_0512

Sorry for the blur, I took these while moving through the crowd.IMG_0505

As I walked along I found this wonderfully beautiful dress. It was in a bridal shop and the color and cut really caught my eye.

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This is something we need here in the States. It’s a smoking room. Japan is very strict about where you can smoke, and this is one of the area’s designated for smoking. I can see this being really useful when it rains or snows. IMG_0496BEHOLD THE BEHEMOTH That is Starbucks. I actually never tried Japanese Starbucks. A 12-ounce coffee was 5 USD and I decided to stick to canned coffee.

IMG_0532So to be completely off kilter I decided to visit a bar in Shibuya. I settled on one right up the street from my hotel, a British-themed underground pub. (for a country that has earthquakes the Japanese seem to be enamored with being below ground). Within I drank the best damned Rum and Coke I’ve ever had. They added a fresh lime, and it was glorious. Even at the time the comedy of the situation was palpable, as I was sitting in Tokyo, in a Brittish Pub, Drinking and American soft drink mixed with a Puerto Rican Spirit.

I’d like to say I went galavanting into the night and that I was too drunk to take pictures, but I did not. I had three drinks, and then stumbled back to my hotel, and passed out. (pardon me for being a light weight!)

Day three-tomorrow dear readers! Thanks for reading!

Japan Day 2: My First Subway Experience

One of the things I really wanted to do in Tokyo was see the Legendary Tsukiji fish market and eat Sushi for breakfast. I’d been told to really get a sense of the place you had to go early in the morning but as luck would have it, I was quite indisposed the day after my trip to the Meiji. So I awoke around 8 AM and headed to the train station.

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Oh yes~ I forgot to mention. I make notebooks, and I’d made one for the Japan trip, ( Thinking about it I want to make another) and I found the a traditionally dyed, paperback book cover that fit perfectly. It is from this notebook that I am pulling back quite a few of my notes. IMG_0364 worried that I wouldn’t be able to find my way, around especially since google maps would have used data. Luckily, I was able to mosquito off enough free  WiFi to find my way around.

IMG_0366Excuse the poor quality, this was my first tentative shot of a subway station.

IMG_0368My jetlagged brain seemed to be intent on missing rush hour. (not that I minded). So about 90% of the subway cars I rode in were mostly empty, quiet, and clean.

IMG_0371The streets near the fish market were empty, and silent save the pass of the occasional car whizzing by or the caw of a crow.

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Canned coffee is the greatest Japanese trend that needs to catch on in the states. It is the boss.
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Early morning streets are beautiful in their own way. IMG_0377

Vending machines in Japan are the coolest. I made it a habit to photograph them as I found them. By the way, Japanese sodas are way less sweet, and consequently less caloric. (but only a little).IMG_0374

A play house with casks of Sake outside. Not sure why, but heck it (like most of the country) was a visual feast.IMG_0381More quiet streets. By the time I came back, these walkways would be filled with vendors.

I don’t want to overload anyone so I think I will continue on my quest for Sushi Breakfast tomorrow!

Japan: Day 0.5

Last we left our hero he’d arrived in Japan safely (which makes sense as air travel is actually much safer than most other types of travel) and had to face down the scourge of customs.

Actually, it was quite easy. I filled out a few forms, answered a few questions from a beautiful Japanese customs agent (and she was beautiful) and found myself in the lobby of Japan’s central airport.

Now the benefit of a travel agent kicked in. You see Tokyo international airport is not in Tokyo. It’s actually 20 minutes of freeway travel outside Tokyo. The normals means of traveling into and out of the airport is either by car, which I didn’t have or by bus.

I was dreading trying to navigate the Tokyo bus system while jet lagged, slightly intoxicated, (the plane had free booze) and sick, when I recalled that my lovely travel agent had booked me a car.

What I was expecting was a vanpool from the airport to the city, and I looked for my ride. I found a young Japanese driver impeccably dressed holding a sign with my name on it. He spoke more English that I did Japanese, and after a quick confirmation. What I found was this.

IMG_0248A private car. I had never felt so…classy. We drove in silence more out of the language barrier than anything else. Outside a gentle rain was falling. This was the first stirrings of a tropical storm that would shadow me through Tokyo and Kyoto, and I would lose once I made it to Osaka.

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The outskirts of Tokyo were more heavily forested than I thought they would be and minutes passed on. Lighted bridges passed to my left and the Tokyo highway system snaked through the city. There was no traffic and few drivers. I smiled as I realized nearly every car on the road was Japanese, and how logical that was.

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As we passed into the Shinjuku district, the location of my first hotel, things began to swim before me. The exhaustion and ickiness I felt melded with sheer awe. Here around me the city of Tokyo swarmed, people walked with umbrellas, bright lights shone about me, advertisements blared from trucks, the universe moved and I was a small rather insignificant part of it.

IMG_0251After some time, and going up a one way street the wrong way, I left my driver with a smile, checked into my first hotel, and passed out expecting when I awoke to be sleeping in my own bed.

Japan Day 0

I left for Japan slightly after my 25th birthday. It was a cool morning, and I awoke at 6am packed and ready. I had the sniffles, which I attributed to allergies, and I got a coffee with my parents and sister as we prepared to take on  the traffic to the flyaway. (this was before I discovered the wonder that is Flonase. )

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I’d fought my parents on the idea of taking the fly away, it seemed less grand for some reason, but in the end it was much easier than fighting the traffic to LAX.

I awaited the plain in my typical goofball fashion and took far too many selfies.

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I didn’t take any photos of the flight as I spent most of it in horrific sinus pain. Protip, changes in atmospheric pressure do not go well with clogged noses.

That being said I was able to watch a few movies, and catch a few ZZZ’s. I chatted with a retired army man who was going back to work on a base, and we exchanged numbers, but unfortunately I was too timid to get back to him, and I had my own agenda.

As I walked through the halls of the airport, it hadn’t quite hit me that I’d left the states. Airplanes are little time machines, you go in and come out a different place, but you can’t really grasp the idea that you have gone anywhere. Travel itself is an odd phenomenon, even local travel. If you break it down to its base levels, it’s all based on trust, you trust that this place isn’t in the states, you trust that the airplane ride wasn’t some big set up.

My brain was hesitant. A dream I had worked to achieve since I was 14 was starting to coalesce into reality. The daze of allergy meds and the cut of jet lag added a certain dreaminess to the process.

Then, I saw this.

IMG_0247It was then it came together, it was then I shoved my hands up in the air and felt the elation of 11 years in the making. I was there, I was in Japan. So far from my own, I was home.