Sunday, December 25, 2005

Osaka Part 1

Saturday, December 17th
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, with about 2.48 million people. It's known for it's good cuisine especially okonomiyaki (Japanese style omelet) and tacoyaki (octopus balls). Osaka is also known for it's great nightlife, having Universal Studios, a great aquarium, and the yakuza. The yakuza are the Japanese mafia. Check out this great website called "Quirky Japan", they have great information on less traveled places and all kinds of quirky stuff in Japan. And there's quite a bit of information on the myths and truths about the yakuza under the crime and conspiracies section -

We left for Osaka and met my friends Akiko and Brian at 11am. Akiko is my friend Yukiko's younger sister. She lives in Kentucky with her American husband. We went to their wedding in Kansas about 1 year ago. Brian works for a company that supplies electrical equipment to Honda cars, so he came to Japan on business and Akiko visited her family. I was really happy and honored that she wanted to meet me in Osaka. It was a mid-point for both of us to meet there (about 1 hour from Himeji by train). None of us had ever been to Osaka, but with Akiko being Japanese and Brian being fluent in Japanese, we felt really comfortable about getting around this huge city.

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I really enjoy traveling and anytime I go somewhere new and get to explore I become giddy with excitement. We walked around one area of Osaka called Namba. The first area we went to was a fish market with all kinds of fish and seafood that was quite gory. In particular, there were fugu (blow fish), a delicacy in Japan a small part of the fish is poisonous, so special chefs have to prepare it. However, a teacher at my school told me that some fugu are raised so they are not poisonous. Anyway, this market had fugu everywhere and it was expensive, around $100 for one fish. We saw fugu that had been gutted but it was still breathing and another was beaten over the head and it was sitting in ice with a price tag on it and still breathing as well. It was really gory.

We found an oknomiyaki restaurant and ate a lot of food. Afterwards we went to an area of town that sells kitchen supplies and plastic food displays. Many of Japan's restaurants have plastic food displays in front, so that people can see what types of food are available. It's cool looking, a little cheesey too, but very helpful for me especially since I can hardly read! The area was this huge covered mall with hundreds of stores that contained industrial size kitchen supplies. It was fun to wander around.

Then we found a YARN STORE!!! This wasn't just any yarn store, this was the YARN STORE OF ALL YARN STORES!!!! In Himeji, there aren't any yarn stores that are stand alone stores, yarn is mostly found in a craft store or a department store. I was grinning from ear to ear when we found this place. It wasn't a big store but it was crammed with yarn. It had wall to wall cubbies filled with yarn from floor to ceiling up to the second floor. Including huge tables in the middle of the store filled with more yarn. I can't tell you how happy this made me. Brian, Akiko and Julian hung out and watched me as I madly touched and groped every variety and color of yarn! I went back the next day and bought yarn and Julian reminded me that we plan to return in 2 weeks to pick up Shay, so now I have time to plan what I want to buy for more unfinished projects. I try not to buy yarn without a plan mostly because it's expensive, but if I had lots of money I would have a room filled with yarn, actually, I would just own a yarn store. There's so much more to write about yarn and crafting in Japan that I will save it for another blog.....

After the yarn store, we went for some yummy coffee and then we headed for Den-Den Town (or the electronics area). Both Julian and I were so lucky that day, me with yarn and Julian with the electronics area of Osaka. He was in heaven wandering around the various stores. He went back 2 more times during the weekend.

During the course of the day we found out that Akiko and Brain had never played the taiko drumming game, so we found a gaming store and played a couple of rounds of taiko. I was planning to do some purikura with them, but we didn't find a machine and we got distracted with so many other things.

For dinner, we went to an amazing ramen shop! It was soooooo delicious and good, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. They also had the best gyoza (fried dumplings) that I'd ever had (except for my mom's, Honda-san's, Shino-san's, Marje's and Kathy's gyoza). Julian went back a second time. Then we walked around some more and said good-bye to Akiko and Brian. They had to get back because they were leaving for America the next morning.

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