Sunday, April 26, 2015

Japanland: Osaka

The last stop on my Super-Affordable First Tour of Japan '13 was Osaka.

I'm just gonna go ahead and get the obligatory Glico Man picture out of the way:

Don't get me wrong: the teenage me of ten years ago who used to spend a considerable amount of time on filthy, unreliable city buses to get to the Japanese market on 67th and Bell to rent kids' videos, talk with the nice clerks, and try new snacks would've died to go on a vacation that involved seeing the actual Glico Man, and not just the one on the tiny candy box.

Zac - who had come down all the way from Kochi for the weekend and was staying in a nearby capsule hotel to act as an awesome guide - Faith, and I wandered around Dotonbori for a little while. We somewhat drunkenly tried to feed the Dracula statue outside this adorably macabre bar a Butter and Soy Sauce Dorito, but he wasn't having any of our shit.

Little did I know that Japan has over 6,000 of these decorative manhole covers alone, not to mention other, smaller drain covers, and those housing water supply connectors for fire hoses. Gotta find 'em all!

The next day started with Zac taking us to El Pancho, which I bet would be perfect for a large get-together for dinner and drinks, but it also really hit the spot for lunch.

I don't remember how much these mini tostadas and the pretty normal-sized margarita were, but I definitely don't remember being outraged or dissatisfied.

- heavy breathing -

Whenever I go back, I'll take a video of this very cutesy, lively vending machine.

Didn't even ask how much the Venus costume was T_T

And these, these things right here, will eat a hole in your wallet if you're not careful. 
It's easy to forget that coins actually have monetary value in Japan, so after several minutes of popping 100-yen coins in, you're like, "Oh fuck, I just spent like $9 on nothing".

... No words, just feelings.

Extremely inexpensive vending machine swag, plus gifts.

Knew I couldn't afford anything, just took a picture before leaving instead. 
That shop boy is like, "Please."

Zac took me to the Green Mall, because I'd seen pics of it online and thought it looked amazing:

Well, it's nice, but not really a destination of its own. I'd recommend going to the top for the view if you're going past it, though.

And they do have a pretty alright statue of a giant freaky chicken god, so..

Chelsea came all the way down from Mie to drink and hang out that night and the next day.

They decided on a popular kushikatsu (fried things on skewers) chain restaurant, and my adherence to a gluten-free diet once again abruptly subsided for a joyous evening of indulgence. It wasn't even vegetarian, beause Zac and Chelsea were popping different meat and fish things into the oil, too, but oh well. It was decadent, there's no other word for it. 

You get 90 minutes, and for an extra 8 or 10 bucks you can add all the alcohol you can drink to your food experience, which I've since learned always adds up to an embarrassingly large number of skewers. Even if you only have vegetables and get salad on the side it's going to be over 9,000 calories anyway, so it's better to go full bird and be as obscene as possible.

Obviously Zac's post-eating face, and my outrageous dessert creations of fried mochi and marshmallows dipped into the chocolate fountain and covered with soft serve and maple syrup. Also, another bar with a weird statue.

I'd found this kickass-looking bar while Googling called Space Station, and we tried to go, but it's very small - as in, like, the size of a large master bedroom small - and was super busy. They have various consoles at the bar and all around the place that you can use to play vintage games, and the dark blue neon lights really do make it look like an 80's vision of a space station inside. I can't wait to go back.

We ended up finding this other bar with a ceiling of bras, and the crazy Israeli bartender (bottom left) tried to get us to exchange ours for drinks. After some private group discussion, we came back with the consensus that our bras were significantly more valuable that a single cocktail, but that maybe we'd return wearing cheap ones and humour him at some later date.

This bar was also extremely tiny, and at one point we smelled something really nice, and noticed that this guy was up to some new wacky hijinx, managing somehow to cook a large pot of stew behind the bar, where there were no fixtures or anything. He was occasionally tasting it from the ladle and offered us some between serving drinks, but we politely turned that down as well. 
Partly because he was Israeli, Chelsea ended up having a really amusing conversation with some other guys about how awesome it was to be Jewish, and then we talked about different genres of hardcore. It was a good night, especially because I was able to remember how to walk back to the hostel.

My last day in Japan that year was a very warm (especially since I had to carry my backpack again, as I had been in Kobe), pleasant one. We went to Osaka Castle.

My favourite thing from inside was this really cool historical reenactment thing they had, where you look into small square windows onto dollhouse-esque dioramas. Holograms or projections of costumed actors shrunken down to scale then play out the scenes within the "rooms". There are several to go around to on one of the floors, and I've definitely never seen anything like it anywhere else.

There was also the observation deck, of course.

... and Dippin' Dots, because it was toasty. Chelsea and I shared some pineapple or something; I can't remember exactly, but this right here is a good snack stand.

We decided there was just enough time for the Osaka Pokemon Center before I had to catch my plane. Kids in a candystore, it was. I grabbed a few small things, mostly as gifts, and I (predictably) haven't used the adorable nail stickers to this day.

My plane also looked pretty cool on the runway, but I couldn't stop to take a picture, so it came out super blurry.

I think I hit all the essentials: Dotonbori, fried food, getting drunk, the castle, the ultra-cute stores, even the manhole covers and the Pokemon Center. Posting this has made me feel super nostalgic about my first trip to Japan, and I can't wait to actually start making money and to have my (well, our) own place here.