Hello again and welcome to the study abroad Osaka blog! Last week started off with a quick trip to a local Umeda hot spot, the “Sky Tower” building. It’s main attraction is that it’s extremely tall and you can stand on top of it. I’m really not a big fan of tall things so I was not extremely thrilled to go, but it was still fun.
The first thing Bianca, Jay, Alex, and I saw when we went to the Sky Tower together was a beautiful garden in front of the building. Before entering the building, we all decided to take a walk in it. It was full of green shrubs and interestingly carved rocks. At the center of the garden was a red bridge much in the style one would imagine a Japanese bridge would exist in.
After exiting the garden we were greeted by an old friend we had met a few weeks ago. Her name is Hana. Her name is pronounced “ha nah” and it means flower in Japanese. We had met her and her owner a few weeks ago but we didn’t manage to take a picture. She rides with him in his bicycle basket everywhere he goes. They are about the most adorable couple Bianca and I have seen since we got here!
After saying goodbye to Hana and her owner, we decided to enter the Sky Tower. I was not pleased to learn that you take a very open elevator right to the top of the building. It feels like you’re being flung up into the heavens when riding it. I had to close my eyes. When we arrived at the top we paid our ticket, which was about 6 dollars, and entered the observatory. There was a small cafe and lots of people running around looking at the marvels of Osaka. I always knew Osaka was big, but atop that tower you get a real sense of the size of this city. When you can’t see the end of the city in any direction you point, you know it would take a lifetime to experience the whole thing.
Leaving that damn building was also a bit of a challenge for me, as on top of going down that open air elevator, there was a creepy escalator that crossed the two huge towers. I made it, but they didn’t make it easy for me.
After going to the Sky Tower, we decided to get some food. Our friend Alex is a Sushi connoisseur and our friend Jay vacuums anything into his mouth so we decided to try a place that served the famed Japanese Rotating Sushi. It was an interesting experience. I learned that I prefer the Americanized version of sushi more than real sushi, but the Salmon in Japan is in a whole other league in my opinion. Bianca said she couldn’t taste a difference.
At these revolving sushi places they charge you per plate, usually around 100 or 200 yen, which is roughly 90 cents or a dollar fifty. It’s very cheap for Sushi, but it adds up quickly! It is certainly fun to see the plates stack up around you by the end of the meal.
Later in the week, Bianca, Jay and I went to an arcade for a bit of fun. I cannot stress how much I love Japanese arcades. In America they are full of machines that teach kids to gamble for crappy prizes. In Japan, they are truly communal spaces for playing games. Their games are far better than the ones we have here as well. I could talk about this for an hour on its own, so I will resolve to write a separate blog about this
here. Until then, enjoy this picture of us playing a crazy fun version of table hocky where tons of tiny pucks come flying out constantly.
Last week was what is known as “Golden Week” in Japan. Normally students get the week off (besides Friday) to enjoy. However, since the school I attend is a Christian school, we do not get that week off. Or rather, I assume that is the reason we don’t get the week off. However, we all encountered a bit of serendipity this year. Someone called in a bomb threat, which I assume is fake, to the school. This shut down all campuses near and including our campus for the entirety of Golden Week, including Friday. Because of the sudden influx of free time, we all quickly decided to take a trip to the beach. The beach area we chose is known as しらはま(Shirahama).
We stayed in a small hotel we found on AirBnB, which later turned out to be a repurposed old elementary school with tatami mats. The hotel was atop a hill next to a main street with a great Okonomiyaki place. You might remember Okonomiyaki from my first blog, and I still cannot manage to explain the taste to someone who has not had Okonomiyaki. Just know that it is delicious.
The first day we arrived in Shirahama we spent at the beach. There was some sort of Golden Week festival going on there, so the beach was busy and fun. The particular beach we were at apparently had sand imported from Australia, so the sand was very fine and smooth. The ocean water was also much saltier than I had anticipated.
On the way back we found this awesome little installation as well:
It’s a footbath that people can sit and soak their feet in. The water is super hot, so when you get out the portion of your leg that was submerged is several shades more red than the rest of your leg. It’s a great place to sit and talk to people from the town. We had a couple ladies who worked at a nearby bar talk to us. It was great fun and great Japanese practice!
The next day was very rainy so we decided to spend time indoors at an aquarium. I’m not a big fan of sea life, it freaks me out, but it was still interesting to see all the little animals that lurk in the Japanese depths.
Finally, to end our trip Jay, our Japanese friend Jun, and I went to an Onsen. If you are not familiar with what an Onsen is, it’s a communal bath house. I know I sound whiny in this blog but I’m also not a fan of communal nudity. As an American, I appreciate my privacy. For reasons you might understand, I didn’t take any pictures.
Our trip only lasted two days and two nights, but it was great fun. We would have planned a longer trip but our Golden Week break was very short notice.
Considering The Japanese People
Here are a few more esoteric thoughts on the culture in Japan this week: before coming to Japan I had been told by a lot of people with experience in Japan that Japanese people tend to have a need for you to like their country. Although this does sometimes seem true, it has been my experience that it is no longer true with the younger, my, generation.
When we first arrived, you might remember that I mentioned an older woman handing us an orange. This was an extremely sweet gesture that came out of nowhere. It seemed as though she wanted to say “welcome to Japan, I hope you love our country.” I have encountered a few other above 50 or around 50 year old people who had this same feeling behind their actions as well. However, most younger Japanese people tend to not have that feeling behind their words. They may be interested in your culture but not in a way that makes it seem as though they care if you appreciate theirs. This is not to say that they are not nice, they just don’t worry about what you think of Japan.
This might sound a bit odd, but it lines up rather well with the timeline of events in Japan. Back in the 80s when my mom and her friends were visiting and living in Japan, Japan had just exited their post-war period and had begun to compete with other western countries. At the time it would make sense for there to be a national undertone of wanting to be accepted by other western countries and therefore westerners who visit. We talked to our Geography professor about this, and he confirmed that they did tend to have a need to be liked by the western world in the past.
Now that Japan is considered a “civilized” and “advanced” western world, and is respected by other western countries as a strong trade partner and ally, it would make sense that there is no longer a cultural notion of needing to be liked.
That was just something that I had noticed recently, and I will quit my babbling now.
If you’re curious what happened week 7, nothing happened. We’ve been attending school and trying not to forget our homework mostly. It’s Friday here as I write, so the weekend has yet to begin!