Saturday, April 21, 2007

Osaka, Day 3 and 4

After grabbing breakfast, we took the train out to Fushimi Inari, where there are a bunch of shrines and gates (tori) up on a hill.


The Tori.

And more Tori.

Funny and really confusing advertisement for coffee found on a vending machine. My brother tells me that the woman is some famous pop star in Japan.

Me at the shrine at the top of the hill.

Mini waterfall-like thing.

After Fushimi Inari, we met up with one of L's friends in Kyoto to go see the Cherry Blossom Dance. This is a traditional dance that is done only once a year (although they do something like four shows per day for a month straight) by the best Maiko (apprentice Geisha) and Geisha/Geiko in Gion (the Geisha section of Osaka).

Besides the costumes, the sets were really impressive (there were a lot more, but I didn't feel like posting twenty photos of sets).

The next morning near the train station, there was some sort of stuff going on:

Some guy dressed in a traditional infantryman uniform.

Kids drumming and some guy doing some sort of dance. (More Youtube footage.) It actually sort of looks like he's at a rave or something like that. After that, it was back off to the airport and then back to Seoul. Much food was consumed, and a very good trip was had.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Osaka, Day 2

On day 2, we explored Osaka. We got up in the morning, took the train further into town, and then got on this old-school electric street car. It was very old-fashioned. Pretty neat.

The street car went through the streets for a bit and then got out of traffic on its own private set of tracks. We went for probably about 5 stops or so and then got off to go find another temple/shrine. The temple is supposed to have this one shrine that's inside a tree (I think the tree basically grew around it?). There were also a lot of fox statues, which are somehow supposed to represent a good harvest... not sure why.

Inside of a shrine with many lanterns.

Big gate.

Cool bridge. I've seen similar in some of the Japanese gardens in the states (I think the one in Portland, OR has one).

Crafty fox.

The shrine in the tree.

After that, we made our way over to "den-den town", which is like Osaka's version of Tokyo's Akihabara or Seoul's Yongsan Market (electronics districts). We weren't actually looking for any electronic goods, but L wanted to go check out an anime/manga shop there. There was all sorts of anime/manga-branded products (or "swag" as L likes to call it).

This one was particularly funny... get your own anime loincloth! I don't know who the target market of this is, and I'm not sure I want to know.

Walking around, we briefly went through another small shrine. This statue was really neat as it had been completely taken over by some sort of moss or moss-like plant.

You can't escape Hello Kitty when you're in Japan...

So what do Japanese think about Americans? I'm not totally sure, but we did visit "Amerika Town". In the states, we have things like Chinatown and Little Italy, so it makes sense that other countries might have America-towns as well. The difference is that in the US, the ethnic centers are typically populated by people from the country for which the neighborhood is named after. I don't think there were too many non-tourist Americans here though. Anyway, there's a replica of good ol' Lady Liberty on top of a building.

A random intersection of Amerika Town. McD's is there of course...

Later that evening, we met up with two of L's friends for dinner, and then even after that we dropped by a Japanese arcade. They have a lot of interactive games there.

DDR of course. (Man, we sucked.) Other games include banging on big ol' Japanese drums (taiko), a pretty neat game where you threw plastic balls at the screen to break or squash stuff, and plenty of other "rhythm" games similar in concept to DDR (e.g., the DJ mixing game, the guitar game, smack buttons in rhythm game, etc.).

This one was pretty funny. It's some sort of zombie/monster game, but instead of hitting, cutting and shooting the bad guys, you must *type* to kill them. The line on the side of the machine is great. On the front, it also says "Type or Die!!!", "The Apocolypse draws near" and "Abject terror awaits!" This would probably make high-school keyboarding/touch-typing classes more fun.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Osaka, Day 0 and 1

Last Wednesday afternoon right after class, I ran back to the apartment, grabbed my backpack, and caught a bus for the airport. Later that evening, I found myself landing in the Kansai International Airport right outside of Osaka, Japan. The reason for this trip was to visit a good friend (L) of mine and Sue's that we knew from both Yale and Seattle.

The covered markets around L's neighborhood. We went to a little Izakaya nearby where she knew the owner. We had dinner and a few drinks but didn't hang out too late. Went back to her apartment to plan the next day's activities.

So Thursday morning we took the train out to Himeji where there's a big castle. I'm told that this is the castle that puts the rest of the Japanese castles to shame.

Pretty picture of the castle framed with cherry blossoms. I apparently managed to hit the tail end of the cherry blossom viewing season (which only lasts about a week or so).

Warning sign in the castle. But what if write something using neat penmanship that's not a scribble?

Spears and muskets.

We then went off Akashi where we went searching for some of the octopus snacks (Akashiyaki) that the area is known for. (Refer to the food page.)

Some sign for a restaurant. I just found this really entertaining as the expression on the octopus' face is one of total surprise like he just won that fish in the lottery or something.

As the afternoon wore on, we made our way back to Osaka. We took a leisurely stroll from the train station along the water over to the Osaka Castle.

Along the way, we saw a very entertaining scene of a guy net-fishing off the side of a jet ski!

Osaka Castle.

Close up of some of the stonework. After having seen Machu Picchu last summer, while very good, the Incan stonework is still at a level higher than that of this Japanese stonework.

Close up of the Osaka Castle.

After resting up at the apartment for a while, we went back out in search of dinner.

On the way, L showed me this silly "cafe" where basically you pay money and you can go and sit around and play with dogs and puppies. There are menus where you can but doggie treats and what not. I suppose its's probably less hassle than owning a dog in a crowded city.

Large Japanese cities seem to have a problem with old men making unwanted advances (accidental contact or even outright groping) on women. So during certain hours, there are some train cars that are reserved exclusively for women.