2007-09-20 History

We got up and ate a European breakfast. I guess the hotel we’re staying at considers this a question of style. Claudia doesn’t mind.

We spent the day at Osaka Castle. I was a bit disappointed to learn that the main tower has been completely rebuilt and houses a modern museum. A hollow shell, in a way. It still looks impressive from the outside, and the fortifications and the moat are splendid.

We ate some Unagi at the restaurant that belongs to the Osaka Museum of History. The chocolate and vanilla ice cream we ordered at the end had pieces of some transparent pudding and pieces of fruit that tasted like canned fruit salad in Switzerland. Those were quite popular in the seventies. And it also had some sweet red beans below the ice cream! I was surprised to learn about the use the Japanese make of sweet red beans. Actually, Claudia reminded me of the one Japanese restaurant in Zürich that served green tea ice cream with optional sweet red beans topping. Ok, so I had repressed it. ;)

We like Mochi – I thought they were filled with red bean paste. But Wikipedia says they are made with rice. Oh well, it works for me either way.

Well, we spent time at the museum and were impressed with they way it presented things. Actual exhibits were rare. Instead, it had tons of info on what the digging sites looked like, the material archeologists work with, and many interesting dioramas.

At the end we tried to rush to the Shitenōji, but we arrived a few minutes after five. We walked around the temple grounds as they were closing up, took a few pictures, and left. I think tomorrow we won’t be coming back here; instead we’ll do a day trip to Nara. But we haven’t really decided, yet.

After the failed temple visit, our spirits were down, and our feet hurt. We went back to the hotel and slept for an hour or two. Not sure how well our jet lag is doing. I don’t feel too bad. When I’m on holidays I usually like to make a little siesta. Claudia preselected three restaurants for dinner, and I picked the Kaiten-sushi Ganko at Float Court, Umeda station. I was surprised to see a Japanese business man gobble down his sushi with his bare fingers. Nobody seemed surprised.

Today we had to use the subway ticket vending machines for the first time. In Tokyo we had our Suica card, when we arrived in Osaka, we bought a 1000¥ prepaid card, and when it ran out, we used the “fare adjustment” machines to pay the missing amount. But back to the ticket vending machine. I knew what station we wanted to go to, and that it cost 200¥ each. I switched the machine to English, and was immediately overwhelmed by many strange options. We retreated from the machine and started looking for help. Just like yesterday, a friendly local stepped up to us and asked whether we needed any help. Yes we did! And he quickly showed us how to ignore the many options and buy the right ticket with just three buttons.

I wonder whether we looked more competent in Tokyo, or whether people here in Osaka are just friendlier. I resolved to step up to tourists in Zürich more often to ask them whether they needed any help. Usually we just walk past and say to each other that we’d certainly help if they’d ask, thinking to ourselves that tourists enjoy discovering things by themselves. I usually do. But here in Osaka I discovered that helpful locals are one of the few occasions where you actually get to talk to people. I expect that this is true in Switzerland as well. We don’t walk up to people and talk to them, thinking that we don’t want to impose ourselves.

Our hotel toilet has a button to make that notorious “flushing sound” to cover the presumed nasty splashing and farting. The only problem is that the artificial flushing sound is loud enough to alert everybody on the same floor to the fact that you’re trying to do your thing…

The hotel we’re staying at, the Arietta (→ Map:Arietta+Osaka) has laundry machines. And we used them today! Awesome. We had no detergent on us, so we went to the reception. “Bla bla bla bla laundry bla bla?” – “One moment please, so sorry…” and confused looks, and then one of the three ladies handed me a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote down: “LAUNDRY” and immediately their faces lit up. “Ah! Laundury!” I smiled. I wrote: “SOAP?” and again, they nodded happily, disappeared for a second, and came back with little bags of detergent for us to use at 50¥ each. Problem solved.

I really like writing down all this stuff at the end of the day using the cheapo iBook G4 laptop I brought with me instead of taking notes and typing the stuff up when I come home. Look how it fizzled half way through India 2005. I still have the notes lying around… Maybe I should just scan them, haha.

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