Sunday, October 01, 2006

Viva Osaka!

This past week has been pretty crazy and busy for Matt and I. We worked Monday, as per usual, but had less (basically no) time to prep for our elementary classes since we were kidnapped and taken to create bank accounts. A good thing since it meant that on Tuesday we were paid. Then Tuesday and Wednesday we went on an Osaka adventure to secure necessary documentation for ourselves.

I'd never been to Japan before and like many people from the West I'd always sort of lumped Asian countries into the same little box. So when we landed and started getting around Osaka it was quite surprising how different things were from Korea. I can truly understand why people would get upset when you confused one for the other. Physically Japanese and Korean people are distinctly different looking and from what I saw, they generally act a lot differently too. Their cities (well the ones I've seen) aren't much alike either, except in the fact that they are huge and filled with lots of people. Japanese people seemed to be more concerned about "fashion" and as a result we saw a lot of bizarre clothing, haircuts, make up, etc. Osaka also had a lot less neon and their buildings were tall but generally only had one, or maybe a couple, store in it. In Korea the buildings are covered in signs and each building houses numerous stores, etc in one building. Osaka also seemed more spread out than a lot of Seoul I've seen and it did seem easier to get around because the streets seemed to be organized on something resembling a grid. Here there seems to be a lot of random side streets and alleys and it can make it confusing to try and find a place. And the creepiest thing about Japan that I noticed was that *no one talks in public*. I've heard about this phenomenon but I had forgotten about it and sort of thought that it was one of those old traditions that nowadays have faded out. According to my Korean coworkers, in the majority of Asia no one talks in public but somehow Koreans missed that memo and people talk all the time here. There is few things creepier than being surrounded by tons of people but having almost complete silence (except for traffic noises and advertisements).

There was another Canadian on our flight who was in Osaka for the same purpose. His name was Jeff from Guelph, Ontario. So we hooked up on our quest to brave the Osaka subway system and find the correct exit so that we could find the consulate. Finding the subway and getting on the correct train wasn't too difficult but once we got to the station it was a bit of a gong show trying to find the correct exit in the subway labyrinth. I felt really bad for Matt since he was crutching like a banshee and getting really tired and sore. I think he developed blisters in places where no one is meant to have blisters. We found what we thought was the correct exit and then it turned out we were totally wrong (they had more than one exit 25, just to make things easier for tourists, I think) and so I put my foot down and hailed a cab. Luckily Matt and I had decided to withdraw Yen of our own (Mr. Lee had given us money to cover costs but just enough) so that we could do stuff and get souveniers. So 5 minutes later we'd found the consulate and a major portion of my anxiety had subsided.

The application was a bit intimidating and we had no idea if we were filling out some questions correctly or not but as it turned out none of that seemed to matter since the next day things were processed. It was sort of scary wandering around Japan for an evening without our passports (especially when our hotel wanted to see them- but they settled on our driver's licences). After we finished at the consulate we ate some McDonald's in celebration (also because it was close, familiar and allowed Matt to sit down) and then decided to ride this giant random ferris wheel that was across the street. There were no other carnival ride sightings while we were in Osaka, for the record.

We took a cab and checked into our hotel (which was pretty nice) and then had naps and showers and set out to explore Osaka nightlife a bit. Another difference was that in Osaka sex seemed to be everywhere and there were also lots of places to gamble all over the place. Maybe we were in a sketchy area, I have no idea, or maybe we just haven't been in Seoul enough. There were "sexy" massage parlours and lingerie shops all over the place and in our hotel there was an extensive (complete with pictures) menu of porn stars. We had a good time wandering around and everything seemed to be open really late or 24 hours.

The next morning we found our way back to the consulate, picked up our passports and wandered around some more. We had sushi (in Japan!!!) and then meandered back to Kansai International Airport. We found the Air Canada desk and then found out that they couldn't refund the tickets. Since then Matt has contacted some people that have a clue at Air Canada and found out that the mechabitch at Edmonton was totally wrong in making us buy those tickets. We're pretty choked since we're paying interest on Matt's credit card on these charges and now we need to go into Seoul on Wednesday and find the Air Canada place (yes! there is one, stupid Edmonton worker) and get the refunds before everything shuts down for Chosuk. I hope karma catches up with the lady and we're going to formally complain and request that they give us the money for our credit card interest charges. Probably nothing will come out of it but atleast we'll know we tried.

Anyway, Japan was fun but we're glad to be back in Korea! Here are some select pictures and the rest can be found here!

The ferris wheel; the boys in the ferris wheel; view from the ferris wheel.

Our hotel room.

Toilets in Japan are more complicated and dangerous than I ever imagined.

Me rocking the hotel slippers.

So TV in Japan seems to be even more bizarre than in Korea. We did watch Full House dubbed in Japanese (Bob Saget's voice has never been more deep or manly) but this little gem was by far my favorite. It was called "Super Piano Lesson" and consisted of two concert pianists (one better than the other) going over a very complicated piece by Liszt. This was one of the only programs in English that we found.

We saw 3 of these crab restaurants on the same street. Yes, it's animatronic.

Amazing what you can get at the 100 Yen store ($1 store). Back home Scurvy busting drinks and Amputated Arm Nubbin covers would be way more expensive.

All food consumed was very delicious.

The Fashion Leg Shop was devoted to all things sock-like. We learned some sweet dance moves from this instruction video that was playing in a random storefront. Some tips (taken from English subtitles)- be sexy, sexier, sexiest and then serious. Box step like no tomorrow and then shake it alot amongst video animated sparkles.


Anonymous said...

Yay! You posted the picture of you giving peace.I LOVE IT!

kristybruce said...

I hope you did not drink the CC Lemon, because that stuff is nasty!

Oh, and as a side note, it says "70 lemons' worth of Vitamine C in every can". When you get the larger bottles (like 2 litres), it reads, "140 lemons' worth."

Interesting. But disgusting.

Natty said...

I want to be there!!! so so much fun! You are v. brave and v. lucky!

Thanks for the description and stories and such!

ambearo said...

The CC Lemon stuff isn't that bad! It's just like carbonated lemonade. Sometimes that's the price you have to pay to stay scurvy-free! I wish we'd seen one of those big bottles.