Exploring Osaka

Originally published on 2 June 2006. This post is part of a series of e-mails to home from my first solo summer abroad in Japan!

Hello again! So I rode to Osaka with Yoko in her car. It’s a 2.5 hour trip with several tolls along the way. It’s expensive for her to go home! It was a little after 10:00pm by the time we left Ise. The late-night drive was pretty fun! We talked about differences in Japanese and American superstitions and culture (it’s bad luck to cut your nails in the evening in Japan, just in case you ever need to know, and they don’t consider it bad luck to open an umbrella indoors). We got to her house a little after 1:00pm (we stopped at a couple of convenience stores along the way), and went right to bed! Her mom is so sweet. She greeted us at the door and showed me where my room would be, as well as the bathroom and toilet, and said Yoko told her how much I love oatmeal, and I could have some of hers in the morning! I guess I’m known as the oatmeal girl?

So anyway, their home is sort of a Western-Japanese mix. They have a Western toilet (ah, answered prayers), but the beds are all low to the floor. No tatami floors, though. They live in a really big place compared to most Japanese homes.

So I woke up the next morning, got ready, and fixed my much-anticipated oatmeal. It wasn’t the instant kind, so I’m not sure if I did it right, but I was so glad to have some whole grains! (Little luxuries mean so much when you don’t have them readily available!) I’m not sure where her mom gets the oatmeal, but there’s none in Ise! I was also pleasantly surprised to find sliced strawberries and apple slices on the breakfast table, which are expensive in Japan. Hooray for fruit!

Enough about my breakfast obsessions. Yoko and I left for downtown Osaka around 10:30am. We walked to the bus, took the bus to the train station (I’m in awe of the train stuff–all the stations in large cities are just like airports), then took the train into Osaka city. Oh, and I snapped a shot of this in the bus:

Everybody needs a little KFC!

We looked around at some shops, then went to the Natural Kitchen for authentic Japanese health food (as described in What I Ate in Osaka). After lunch, we walked to the Cat Cafe. So fun! For 1000 yen (a little less than $10), you can have tea or coffee and play with the cats for an hour. For only 630 yen you can play with the cats for an hour, no tea or coffee. There were all kinds of cats–long-haired, short-haired, Siamese, Scottish something or other, and several more. They were very cute!

So after that, we walked around looking at shops some more. I got a purse (I’m such a girl), a fan, and a Japanese-looking notebook, since travel journal #1 is full already (don’t worry, I brought more!). The notebook is really cool b/c the lines are up and down instead of horizontal. I didn’t realize it until I’d already bought it, but I think it’s better than a regular notebook b/c of it! It’s apparently for Japanese writing, which is up and down and written right to left. I think I want to buy a cheap Japanese book, just to have (since I can’t read it!). I just decided that. I’ll have to be on the lookout!

We also met her friend (sorry, I don’t have a clue about how to spell his name). Yoko wanted me to meet him and said he has huge muscles for a Japanese man. He can’t even find long-sleeved shirts for himself. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture. He was nice, though!

After meeting him, we went to the place where these famous Japanese characters are. One is “the runner guy” and the other is “the drummer guy”. Yoko said they’re very famous, and I think I’ve seen them before, but I don’t know anything about them beyond that!

We made our way back to the train station, where we ate at a Chinese cafe. They really go all out with the atmosphere thing in the authentic places!

We got back to her house around 7:30pm, and her sweet Mamma was preparing a real Japanese meal! We had Bonito sashimi (Yoko must have told her I like it!), seaweed and cucumbers, tofu soup, chicken in sweet soy sauce, and pumpkin (and other favorite!). The way they prepare pumpkin here is SO good. They make it with sweetened soy sauce and boil it some special way. Her mom knew how much I love pumpkin, so she waited to make it till I got there! I got to watch and help put the foods on the table. Kind of like helping Dad and Mom cook at home when I was little. Nice little reminders of home are so pleasant knowing I’m so far away!

Next up is Kyoto, and then the train ride back to Ise!

I love you! Write soon! Whit

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