Well well, fellow droogies, things have been a malenky bit horrorshow lately.
Those of you who understand what I mean have likely read `A Clockwork Orange` by Anthony Burgess (if not, I recommend it). Those of you who know me would probably now wonder why I was using the `nadsat` speak used in the book myself… Surely he copied it from the Internet? He hasn`t actually *read* a book has he?
Several more than usual in fact. If I think about it for a second, I`ve probably read more in these past four months or so than I have done before I came to Japan in the past five or six years. A little odd considering how much I enjoy writing, that I could never find time at home to read. Anyway, I`ve just finished `Norwei no mori` (Norwegian Wood – the English translation from Japanese ^_^;) and have now moved onto `The Life of Pi`. It`ll be interesting to see if I continue to read when I get home, or if my computer sucks me back into the depthless void of the World Wide Web every night, instead of the wholesome goodness of a book ^_^;. I`m sure a balance can be struck.
Moving on, Dave and I in Osaka. I moved my holiday forward one day so that I could meet up with Dave at Hanshin Home and travel to the Tempozan Harbour area in Osaka the following day. We left just after 9.00am, once I`d talked to Kataoka-san briefly about my staying longer at Shiso Home, and made our way first to the Liberty Osaka Museum. It was based in an exceptionally nice area, or, the streets around it were. I can`t think of the correct words to describe it; but it gave a hint of a `green`, contemporary, urban housing estate. The roads near the museum were usually quiet and open, and there were small sculptures and artwork along the stretch leading up to it. A bright pink block of flats was opposite the entrance, which also held a sign telling us the museum was closed until next December for renovations. On to the suizokukan (aquarium) a little earlier than expected then…
A quick trip around the subway line and a twenty-minute walk towards the sea later, we were standing in the road between the huge piece of architecture that is the Suntory Museum (hosting graphic art and including an iMAX theatre for good measure) and the equally impressive Kaiyuukan (Osaka aquarium). I snapped a few pictures here and there, including one for a young Japanese couple who approached me asking, and walked past the display of penguins outside the entrance of the aquarium. Dave was busy gazing teary-eyed at the street entertainer in the square that day and envisioning himself in the centre of the crowd of people with his pack of cards and sleight of hand ^_^ heheh. He was showing me a couple of his practised tricks the night before and is actually getting quite good – I`m sure he`ll make it if he really wants to try busking with his guitar and magic tricks.
We bought an audio tour to accompany us around the aquarium. I was a little surprised to hear the staff speaking fairly fluent English, but I suppose I shouldn`t have been considering it is a major tourist attraction – we didn`t see that many gaikokujin there that day, or no noticable ones I should say. The aquarium lived up to it`s hype – it is indeed a very good one, but I was feeling a little ill around midday, so I didn`t appreciate it as much as I could have done. The theme was slightly different to aquariums I`ve visited before, utilising the aquatic life in the Pacific Rim volcanic belt and life belt (The ominous `Ring of Fire` and spritely `Ring of Life`). My favourite part was probably the end of the tour, when we entered a dark room filled with tanks of `transluminescent` (translucent + luminescent) jellyfish (kurage). Although none of the specimins actually emitted any light of their own, it`s romantic to think they do with the array of backlights making them all sorts of mystical colours ^_^.
The gift shop was packed with sundry gifts; the most bewildering of which was the hybrid creation of an aquatic-sanrio product. That devilishly cute `Hello Kitty` character riding on the back of a Whale Shark! Arrggh! The horror! Dave and I browsed the Tempozan harbour village for a while afterwards, finding a children`s shop on the second floor with lots of Ghibli stuff, among other things. One of the `other things` was something really only those who came on the trip last July can appreciate – a flyer and video rack of none other than our fabled guitar-wielding `CLAM man` – Eric! (CLAM CLAM CLAM! I got one, I got one, digging for clams!). This guy is a popular kid`s entertainer on NHK, singing English songs. Think of Sesame Street, but with songs that don`t make a blind bit of sense ^^;.
Dave and I stopped at Mr. Donuts before going to see our iMAX movie, `Blue Oasis` – like a short undersea documentary you`d see on the television, but in 3D – pretty cool ^_^. We ate ramen afterwards before heading back to Osaka to search for our Capsule Hotel (usually catering business men – and curious gaijin – who can`t make it home that night after working late). Much mis-direction and bickering later, we found it, typical tourist stylee. We asked in a restaurant whose staff were closing up for the day where the particular hotel was we were looking for, only to be directed literally 10 metres around the corner to an entrance of the same building! We`d walked right past it o.O;.
It was worth the hassle though – about 13 pounds for the night and one of those bizarre Japanese experiences. We were given a locker which contained a light robe which all the men walked around in (this particular hotel was men-only) and a capsule number. I`d half expected it to be a huge luminous bubble looking out over the city, but it was more like a room of airline storage units – about 40 in each corridor of two rows high. A beige plastic interior with a television embedded into the ceiling of each compartment greeted our amazement, along with a control panel for the alarm clock and radio/T.V in the far wall. Dave an I were on the second level, so we had to clamber up the steps and slide ourselves lengthways into the chamber. I didn`t feel at all claustrophobic, and there was ample room to sit up comfortably and turn around in. The main things that struck me just before I went to sleep was there was only a blind pulled down over the mouth of the chamber separting me and 39 other snoring men, and that; the snoring, televisions, hacking coughs and other strange rustling sounds (emitted, admittedly, mostly by Dave and I with the food we`d purchased from the convienience store not long beforehand ^_^;).
We explored the complex that night. The lounge area had several bookcases of manga, extendable chairs like you find at the beach, only with cushions, arcade machines with the uniquely Japanese type of games you can find (i.e. adult Mah-Jong and what not) and a communial television. There was also a massage parlour attached to the lounge area. Upstairs on our floor had a smaller lounge where you could buy cheap meals like noodles, to nourish the hard working souls staying there. We also had out first Japanese bathing experience – not quite an onsen, but close enough to experience the, well, experience, of communal bathing. We observed carefully for a few minutes to get an idea of what to do, before stipping down, grabbing the provided towels to cover our modesty, so to speak, and entered the showering area. (You have to wash/shower before entering the bath in Japan.) There was a sauna, spa and a large bath with warm water to relax in. Onsens are quite similar to this, but some are outdoors, mixed, or have special properties to enrich the body and/or mind – like, for example, are beneficial for sufferers of athritus. Like the preoccupation with food, I can understand the Japanese love for bathing a little better now – it was very refreshing ^_^.
I`d better push on with this post, as I`m almost out of time on the Internet. The night`s sleep made me realise why people don`t stay in capsule hotels that often after the novelty has worn off. It could just have been me, but I woke up several times and the thin mattress seemed just to accentuate the hard plastic surface below me. It was also difficult to fall asleep with all the sounds around me, even though the background music I put on from the radio all night was a nice touch. Dave and I checked out and spent the rest of the day before I returned to Shiso looking around Namba shopping area. I also lost my purikura virginity when we hopped into one of the booths and produced some (slightly worrying) posed shots ^_^; hehe. Purikura are small stickers you can get printed from machines in Japan – like jazzed up photobooths where you can write things on the photo, add `bells and whistles` such as hearts, stars, cartoon illustrations, and choose themed photos. It`s really addictive ^_^.
Since the weekend I`ve been back into the usual routine at Shiso, with the program and carework. Nothing much to report, other than I`m going skiing with some of the staff soon. Also, I`ve recieved offers from my main choices for Universities, all unconditional as I have my A levels. I`ve also decided to stay on doing volunteer work and travelling until the end of May this year – three months longer, which means I`m now at the halfway point in my time out here.
I`m off to write letters. Apologies for the unusually long descriptive post – I guess I`m making up for the lack of variety during the weeks at work. Until next time then ^_^.