Friday, 1 January 2010

day #4 in Japan

[Note - my camera died before I got the opportunity to take many pictures on this day, so the pictures used are not all mine (credit is given etc)]

Yesterday's intended but cancelled trip to Osaka and Kobe took place today, although we still managed to be horrendously late despite having an extra day to get ready. We got up at 8.30 instead of 8, and were ready to leave by 10.30. Unfortunately we were supposed to be in Osaka by 11, however, and it was about an hour and a half away.

After getting breakfast at the 7/11, Jay phoned and told us his 母さん (Okaa San ((host) mother)) had invited us for dinner, so we had to return home to collect the present we bought in case such an opportunity presented itself. This added another 45 minutes onto the journey.

In the end we were 2 hours and 45 minutes late.

Apologies were said, and we then began looking around. First on our list of places to go was マクドナルド (McDonalds), for some cheap sustenance, then we made our way to Hep Five (shown below (courtesy of Wikipedia)). Hep Five is a large shopping centre with a ferris wheel on top, as you would expect. We didn't have time to look around the shops and so headed straight up to the wheel.

As we reached the top, I began thinking "what would happen if there was an earthquake now?"... Not a great thought to have at 106 metres, I assure you. Luckily that didn't happen, and instead we had a smooth rotation which provided some rather striking views of Osaka and the surrounding areas.

At the bottom of the ferris wheel was the entrance to JOYPOLIS, Osaka's delightfully named video game filled equivalent of the Trocadero. Jay encouraged us to go inside, and recommended "Living Dolls", a disturbing attraction about a woman who needs organs to help her daughter survive. She tries to harvest the organs of the visitors, but something goes wrong and instead she ends up killing herself or something - I don't quite remember because it was all in Japanese! There was a lot of pitch black darkness, shaky chairs, and creepy noises though. All fun!

Next on our schedule was ペリクラ (Perikura), something I'd been looking forward to for quite a while. The concept is simple - take a photo booth, make it slightly more camp and girly, and allow the user to decorate their pictures afterwards. We went for one of the least girly machines (traditionally Japanese high school girls use Perikura but it is a touristy thing as well so I feel no shame!), chose the least girly backgrounds, and decorated our pictures in a purely comical sense:

I particularly like the one on the right :)

After we'd had our fun in JOYPOLIS, we headed to the station to get a train towards 大坂城 (Osaka-Jo (Osaka Castle)). The woman in the shop in the train station noticed the Canada badges on my bag, and began talking to me. Jay jumped in as translator and she explained how she'd been to Canada before and enjoyed it, and asked how we were finding Japan. How lovely.

The grounds of the castle were nice, and we got to see more of them than we needed to because of a failed shortcut. On the way we tested a water fountain for it's strength, as there seems to be no cap on how powerful the water jets are - this one managed to easily shoot water above my head for example. Dusk began to settle as we approached the castle, and the full moon provided the perfect atmosphere. I think I took a photo on Jay's camera but I haven't been able to retrieve it yet if I did. Look at this photo from Wikipedia instead:

Beautiful, eh? Those perimeter walls are around 40 feet high I'd say.

By this time we were risking being late for dinner at Jay's, and so we had to leave and make haste to the nearest station. On the train(s) we ran over ground rules for visiting Japanese houses again to make sure no faux pas were made, and we managed to arrive only 20 minutes late.

Introductions were carried out, interpreted by Jay, and we took our seats at the table. I say took our seats - we actually sat on the floor as is traditional in Japan. The meal was already on the table, and was exquisite: sashimi (raw fish), a selection of vegetables, rice, and numerous other delicious dishes were there for us to enjoy. Jay's host family were also incredibly generous with alcohol, and gave us a plentiful amount of beer, sake and whisky. It is customary to top up others' drinks when they run low, and considered bad practice to top up your own (one of the ground rules we covered on the train!).

Jay's 父さん (Otou San ((host) father)) was very friendly, and encouraged us to drink with him quite a lot. He told us stories and showed us photos of Jay's time in Japan, then asked us about how we were finding it and other similar things. He was a great guy!

I think one of my favourite things about the meal was the fact that guests were welcome to nap in another room when they felt the need. It created a really relaxed atmosphere which was nice, and gave us the opportunity to talk to everyone at least a little bit. After the meal I detailed above, なべ (nabe (a Japanese "one-pot" dish)) was served.

It was delicious.

Boiling water is placed in a pot which is heated from below, and noodles, vegetables, meat, and whatever else is placed in the water to cook. The resulting soupy broth is really tasty, and all the things that have been put in it make it even better. We also had the traditional new year's mochi in the nabe (pronounced nar-bay) broth, although it absorbed the flavours of everything that had been in there beforehand and tasted quite different to the sweet mochi we were used to.

After the amazing meal, we gave our present to Jay's host family. We thought a prestigious British product would be good, as it would be something of a novelty whilst not being cheap and tacky at the same time. We decided upon Harrod's English Tea and some Clotted Cream Fudge of the same brand. We said つまらない もの ですか (tsumaranai mono desuka) when we presented it which translates roughly to "what a boring thing". This is considered extremely polite, and caused them to laugh at us (not in a mean way). They thanked us profusely and we sat back down. They then presented us with traditional New Year envelopes containing gifts which was amazing.

As is traditional on New Year's Eve in Japan, we went to a nearby temple with some of Jayson's host family (his uncle and aunt I think). They paid our cab fare, and showed us around the temple grounds. There were food stalls EVERYWHERE, and a massive queue to say the New Year's prayer. We joined the queue, and waited for around 15 minutes during which time I decided what I would say. Once we reached the front of the queue I threw ¥5 into the donation box and said my prayer.

The prayer replaced any New Year's resolutions I would have usually made.

By this point it was around 2am, so we headed back. On the way out of the temple grounds we got our fortune, and mine was 半幸 (half happy). Apparently this the "second best" fortune you can get; the order goes something like happy, half happy, a bit happy, not happy, unhappy, very unhappy. I was happy about this, although I was unable to translate any of the other information on the fortune sheet! I am still attempting to do so ha.

We walked to the nearest train station, thanked Jay's host aunt and uncle, then waited for a train home. It was 4.30 when we arrived back in Kyoto, and we were glad to get to bed when the time finally came.

No comments:

Post a Comment