Osaka Holiday

Osaka’s a good jump point if your planning a trip to nearby Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. But if I had just one day I won’t mind spending it all here. Osaka offer a glimpse of traditional and modern Japan. It’s an impressive metropolis dotted with historical sites.

I’ve always wanted to eat authentic Japanese ramen and tonkatsu all my life in Japan and I decided this is the city where I should do it! There was a food bazaar, offering never-before-tasted Japanese dishes, not far from where we stayed. Most customers were from the offices around Umeda and passengers from Osaka station. I have never seen a busier train interchange.

It was challenging just to ask for directions here. They can’t explain well in English and they don’t exert much effort to. In fact even when they know you don’t speak Japanese they would speak to you in Japanese. But I see this more as a sign of great pride than lack of consideration. You don’t see a Japanese imitating English accents to impress outsiders. In fact, when they speak and write in English, they do so in their own way too.

Clouds over the Northern provinces (could be Ilocos) of our beautiful motherland. A delectable tonkatsu meal after that long flight—best porkchops—ever. Some old sign written in Japanese, English and Spanish; Osaka’s a historic port visited by many western empires when it opened its doors. This I found out, Japanese have a healthy reading habit, and it should not come as a surprise really.

These banners are so cool but I learned that they’re just names of food being served in this food fair. That rice and beef curry, Japanese style, is to die for! The Dragon Ball Z franchise was such a hit back when I was a teenager that one of its character now have a soft drink product of his own. Bikes for rents; these won’t last a minute in Manila.

I enjoyed walking around and observing both people and trains in Osaka station, one of the busiest railway station in the country; the busiest I have ever seen in my life. The hotel I was in had a great view of the station. It took some studying, maps, books and websites before I got comfortable riding trains. I don’t think I really got the hang of it but we did well considering that English is hardly spoken. I took my brother’s advise, “enjoy it (trains), there’s nothing like it,” and I did but not after getting dazed and confused and lost.

The north district’s food haven can be found in the streets of Umeda. It’s crowded, there’s a lot of heavy drinking (and heavy eating) but true to the image that we see of Japan on TV and books, restos were orderly. Discipline is what sets these people apart.

I rarely saw a bike that’s padlocked in the streets. Ironically, in NHK Osaka, the umbrella rack have locks but this I learned was not because they’re being stolen, the locks were made to avoid people picking someone else umbrella accidentally.

They have everything in these small stalls; even meals in bento boxes. Another tonkatsu meal; feeding my pork chop addiction. The iconic Glico man; you can’t say you’ve been to Osaka without a photo with this neon ad in Dotonbori—even Michael Douglas in Black Rain had a scene here. Walking in a sunny weather is easy, the temperature during day time is around 5 to 8 degrees. They say there’s still some winter left around this time.

I read somewhere that the Japanese population is fast aging. I did notice that couples with children are not that visible; children are a rare sight here unlike in other countries where you hear children every where. People in developed countries eventually would have less time raising children, and this is true across the globe, while people in 3rd world countries have time, but not the resources, to do so. Big families are good for developed economies but not for struggling ones.

There’s another reason why I wanted to see Osaka. Black Rain. The Ridley Scott movie that starred Michael Douglas. I love that film; some of its memorable scenes were shot here in Osaka. I have three original DVD at home and one of them is this film.

Traveling to Japan is not as expensive as it used to be—but still expensive—at least for me. We saved up for the trip with the intention of seeing this country’s culture and people which we greatly admired—and of course, to sample the food which I admire even more; some say that Osaka is the food capital, not only of Japan but of the world!

It must be fate or chance that the month of our visit coincided with the passing of my Sister-in-Law. A Japanese whom my Brother met in Yokosuka. I know she wanted us to see Japan; she told me this and I feel that us making it all the way to her Land of the rising Sun is something that made her smile.

March 2015

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