The worldwide Augustana College experience

It’s Oosaka…Not oSaka…

So, I know I’m a little late on this whole blogging bandwagon, but I’ll do my best to catch up. I’ll do my best to post a serious of journal entries for each city, but the timing may be delayed due to lack of internet access. Anyways, here are some of my Osaka adventures! This was the first leg of our trip, and we dove right into Japan, immersing ourselves in Japan’s second largest city. We saw such sites as Osaka Castle, The Osaka Aquarium, and Tenjinbashi, one of the worlds longest covered malls at 2.6 km.

August 18th/19th/20th

So I’ve studied Japanese for two years. I’m not fluent by any stretch of the imagination, but at the same time, I’d like to think I can manage in this country. Thirty minutes into being in Japan, I’ve already found my language skills lacking. Severely. In Narida Airport, I was hungry, so I went to a convenience store, or Konbini in Japanese. I decided I could be a little bit more adventurous than Koala Yummies. For those of you that know me, food and adventure never find themselves in the same sentence, but I’ve told myself I need to keep an open mind here. But something in my mouth now, and ask questions later. No more Pop Tarts, Lunchables, and Hot Dogs. Anyways, so buying a random thing and eating is a big step for me. So, I bought Ume. My Japanese language skills allow me to read Japanese packaging, but I am no closer to knowing what it is. Anyways, upon opening, I find a rice ball. Yum. After a few bites, I find the mystery center…It looked disgusting and tasted…Disgusting! A mix of vinegar and general nastiness. A friend of mine who is better versed in the Japanese culinary arts later informed me that Ume is in fact pickled plum. Rough start on the whole food thing, but let’s be honest…I’ll probably try again tomorrow.

August 22nd

Mizu deshitaka? “Water?” I ask. After a nod, Hai, watashi mo. “Yeah, me too,” I continue. And just like that, I made a new friend. While watching a random street performer swallow swords and haphazardly juggle yellow balls, a Japanese man and I bonded that fact that we were randomly being sprayed by water from an unknown source. Pathetic as it makes me seem, I was thrilled to sit next to a happy, talkative local, a large contrast to the Osaka-ans at 6 AM who completely avoided me on the street during my runs. I honestly don’t blame them though, because I wouldn’t make eye contact with me either… Anyways, what thrilled me even more was running into him twice later in the day, wandering the grounds of Osaka Castle, and him smiling and waving like an old friend. Yes, my Japanese is terrible, but communicating with the locals makes Osaka a lot less foreign…I could even call this place home.

Or not. A friend and I decided to go to our first Japanese restaurant. We both have two years of Japanese under our belt, so what is the worst that could happen? Well, I’ll tell you. The waiter brought our drinks as we sat down. Sitting in front of us were two amber drinks with a foamy foam on top. “Sweet, free beer!” I excitedly whisper. I take a swig. “This beer tastes like *insert word here*” “That’s because it’s tea,” my friend informs me. And then there was the issue with paying. Back home, its pretty simple. At Dragon Chef, you pay and take your food to your seat. At Village Inn, you take the bill to the front. And Biaggis, the waiter brings you your check. As Americans in America, we just naturally know. These are the kinds of things we take for granted in the US. In Japan, what do you do? Probably should have done some research beforehand. So we used our Japanese to try and resolve the situation. Eigo o hanashimasuka? “Do you speak English?” Cheating, I know, but it tends to do the trick. Unless the waiter doesn’t speak English, in which case you still rely on broken bits of Japanese, Engrish, and charades. We eventually worked out that one customarily pays for the meal in the Village Inn-fashion. Just an FYI for the next time you’re at a Katudon stall.

August 23rd

One of the most memorable nights so far. We decided to hang out downstairs that night. Let me premise this story with a brief layout of the hostel…We are living on the 9th and 10th floors of a building. One elevator travels from the ground floor directly to our rooms, and that’s the only entrance. At midnight, our curfew kicks into effect, and the elevator stops working. So if you’re outside past midnight, you’re sleeping outside. Outside is a large patio-like area between two buildings. There are a handful of picnic tables and open area to just relax. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity (feels like around 100 during the day, 90 or so at night), a pleasant breeze blows through the area, making it somewhat bearable.

Anyways, so already downstairs were a fairly large group of thirty or so Japanese men and women, two of which were dancing. Wanting to join in, two friends, Dani and Sarah, went over and began talking to them. Next thing  I know, they’re teaching each other dance moves. At first, I was mortified—you don’t really do that in the US. Or at least I don’t. But again this place and these people surprised me. My mortification soon turned to eagerness…Picture time! Another man had the same idea. I’m frustrated I never got his name, but we talked for fifteen minutes. Impeccable English. They’re all in a dancing troupe performing in Osaka in October. He’s also going to Chicago next month for a conference. Small world, eh? Anyways, back to the “cultural exchange.” Dani began teaching the group, which has expanded to four or five Americans and ten or so Japanese, such American dances as the Cuban Shuffle and the “Cotton Eyed-Joe.” Way to represent. Then there were leg kicks, and everybody danced. Of course, there were pictures too. Later, they even performed one of their dances for us. Right at around this time, the Koban came over and told us to keep quiet. They seem to be just as on the ball as our beloved RIPD.

We took this as our cue to leave. Goodbyes consisted of hugs, handshaking, and awkward bro hugs. What really struck me was just the welcoming nature of these people. In America, I feel like we’d put up with the crazy foreigners but after the fact laugh at them endlessly. I truly feel like these people were genuinely having a good time, laughing with us. Or at least I hope!

Our dancing troupe!

And that’s about it for Osaka. After Osaka was Nara for a day and a half-ish, Uji for a little bit, then on to Kyoto for a longer stay.

Osaka Castle

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