Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Osaka - the most fun place in Japan?

Osaka is our new favorite city in Japan. Here's why; it's fun, really fun. There is joy in Osaka and we can't say that about all of Japan. It can be kind of a buttoned up, melancholy place to live. Osaka lets it all hang out though.

If Kyoto is for steeping in the old and contemplating Buddhism, Osaka is for reveling in the new and eating and drinking until you drop. If Tokyo is where you go to see masses of Japanese people, Osaka is where you go to interact with them. Because here's the thing - people in Osaka are more outgoing and friendly and they seemed to speak a lot more English than we're used to. Most Japanese people are really polite and helpful but that doesn't make them outgoing or friendly. Osakans were smiling and joking around with us. There were street musicians and magicians. It now makes sense to us that most of Japan's comedians come from there.

Perhaps another reason we liked Osaka so much is because it's a little grittier than other parts of Japan we've seen. There are some seedier areas, which came as a relief really. We saw graffiti and garbage (gasp!) and hosts/hostesses/escorts galore. We also saw the first homeless people (well, just men) we've seen in Japan. We even had a beggar or two approach us. Now, it's not Guatemala City or Managua or anything, but it was a bit dodgier than the rest of Japan, in a good way (except for the homeless folks, of course). It never felt unsafe, just edgier.

We took the opportunity to do most every fun touristy thing there was to do. Maybe we should mention this too - there's not a ton of must-see sights in Osaka, unlike Kyoto which has them to spare. It was kind of nice to not feel pressured like we did in Kyoto. That said, we did a ton of stuff.
  • We saw the view of the city from the top of the Umeda sky building and rode on the largest ferris wheel in the world.

  • We visited the National Museum of Art Osaka and saw contemporary pieces by Japanese artists.
  • One of the highlights was the aquarium - photos to come in a later post but let's just say that we got to pet the fish. Here's Josie petting a sting ray. It was soft like velvet!
  • The girls went to Spaworld which was ridiculous and awesome at the same time.
  • We reunited with J & A and visited the castle.
  • We played arcade games and took hilarious photo booth pictures.
  • We went to a standing shot bar and sang karaoke (twice). That's the kind of place it is!
  • We daytripped to Kobe and ate and ate - more posts coming on all that too. Here's a classic fake food pic to tide you over....
  • We people watched a whole bunch. This Japanese gal pretty much sums up Osakan fashion. Fur is IN! Yes, that's a fake fur tail hanging from her belt :)

Gosh it's an exciting, dynamic place. Sure we were helped by the company we kept, but it seems impossible to not enjoy yourself in Osaka. We recommend it to everyone who loves fun.

Here's a quick panoramic video of the Dotonbori area of Osaka near the river at night.

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