Thursday, March 29
Woke up to a cold room again. Despite the fact that weather here is about six weeks ahead of what it is at home, they skies are still gray. Not a good sign for Canada. I brought my Winter jacket, packed my Spring jacket (forever optimistic) a small amount of spring clothes and three sweaters. I have hardly worn my Spring shirts and I am still awaiting opportunity to enjoy the light weight of my other jacket.
Toast, eggs and tomatoes for breakfast. The tomatoes are very fresh since they are local... Fresh tomatoes are something we haven't had in Ontario for several months now. The Sakata's have mastered "Clark Coffee" - the opacity of which rivals that of lead - so I'm very wide awake today.
With a warm breakfast brewing in our guts, we took a walk through the countryside. Japan is a very busy country and very crowded. However, we are staying in the country where there is still a lot of traffic and driving on local roads looks a little like Rally Racing, but it's very peaceful. We took my nephew, Dean, with us around umpteen million farms growing rice and.... actually I can't remember most of the other unfamiliar things. Mostly rice though.
Up the hills and down the hills and help Dean throw a rock into the water and walk up the hills and down the hills and carry Dean and let him down when he starts to whine and walk up the hills and down the hills and help Dean throw a rock into the water. Tired.
Shortly before taking this trip I bought new shoes - much to the dismay of my coworkers who believed that comfort was more important than a shoe in one piece. However, I should really have considered the fact that I was shortly to travel to a far away land and do sight-seeing. My ankles were feeling the effects of the morning walk, but that didn't stop me from going into Osaka in the afternoon with my brother, John, for little reason more noble than a drink or two.
Here was that busy world you see on television and in movies... most notably "Black Rain" (with Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia) which is set in Osaka. In fact, there is one scene at Dotonbori where I was at. Imagine a Japanese Times Square - or Dundas and Yonge in about five years - and that is Dotonbori. Just a hell of a lot of neon signs. However it is very different than when I visited New York's Times Square since those signs towered thirty stories above me. Here, the buildings are not really any more than a dozen flights high. Sixty feet of neon only fifty feet above you. Kicks ass.
Some of the shops kind of reminded me of a cleaner "Blade Runner" world - only without the Atari ads in the background.
Humouring my brother, we went to the Eddie Bauer and HMV. I can see these stores at any time in Canada but it's a little more rare for him. However, in the HMV I could have spent 20,000 yen easy on compilation and live albums you just don't see in Canada. European imports, New Zealand imports, "Live from Tokyo" Oasis CD, two CD Japan-only set of Green Day songs - definitely the best HMV I have seen. Unfortunately the DVD region code is different in Japan than for North America - meaning that if I buy a DVD movie here, it won't work in Canada because of a little chip inside Canadian players that only let DVDs bought in North America work. Curse the MPAA. I saw a lot of 2,000 yen DVDs there including "2001: A Space Travesty" - a Lesley Neilson movie that hasn't even come out in the theatres yet.
We walked through the streets of Osaka where John used to work and live when he first came to Japan. We had a couple of beers with our chicken and chips in Murphy's - an Irish pub John and fellow teachers used to frequent. Owned by a Japanese man but it is bartended by Irish (and Australian?) hosts. With a small room and no windows, you can go in there and forget that you took an elevator up six floors in a Japanese city to get there.
I got a couple of pictures of Dotonbori before leaving for home. Although there are few coffee shops in Japan (very rare) the vending machines on every corner usually include hot or cold coffee in a can. It sounds worse than it is. You actually get used to the buzz and the craving pretty quickly. Contributing to the addiction is the fact that vending machines are even frequently found in the country on the side of the road - a pair every kilometer or so.
Black coffee in a can is gross. Cafe au lait in a can rocks.
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