Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Dec 23 2008

Tuesday in Osaka

I decided to make due without wearing long underwear this morning when I left the hotel this morning after a mediocre breakfast. Although I could feel the cold through my jeans as I dodged bicyclists on one of the many bridged over the Yodo River, I thought that the walking would surely warm me up eventually.

As I approached the end of the bridge, I saw a policeman on a motorcycle actually chase down, pull over and issue a citation to a scooter rider. I was astonished; I’d forgotten that people actually did things like that.

I followed the subway line to the trendy downtown area where all the department stores are, in search of a bookstore where I was hoping to find a good city guide, as well as the Canon service center to have someone look at my camera. The amount of people on the street made me wonder if it was a holiday. It seems that Osaka is somewhat three-dimensional after all; I just hadn’t seen it. As I stood on an overpass taking pictures of a monk surrounded by the crowds below, a young man, American from his accent, told me he missed living in Taiwan. He said he lived in Xinzhuang. I hope he saw other parts of Taiwan while he was there, as Xinzhuang is not high on the list of must-see destinations. He also said he liked the food there better.

I got directions from a service counter lady to the Canon Service Center, which is located in what appears to be a financial district. The streets there were deserted, but when I followed the arrows to the underground portion, I saw more people. The service center, however, was closed, making me think today really was a holiday. I would like to be using my iPhone via wifi, but Japan doesn’t seem to have heard of anything like that. Wifi is much more prevalent in Taipei than in Tokyo or Osaka. I’d use 3G but the cost is prohibitive.

I walked back through the downtown area, where I had lunch at one of the ticket-run stores in the underground passage, and then through a tunnel to the Umeda Sky Building, which looks like the Arc de Triumph would if it were G-Force Headquarters. A German-themed festival was going on in the square below. I bought a ticket and ascended the structure in an elevator that whooshes up and out of the superstructure like a rocket, surrounded by glass for the last half of the ride. To access the top, you have to take an escalator that is suspended over about 40 stories of nothing. On the roof is a circular platform with excellent 360-degree views of the city. The weather, bright, clear skies, couldn’t have been better. A sign said the sunset would be a 4:20 p.m. Christmas music was playing from rooftop speakers, and guards in overcoats shivered as they took pictures for tourists.

There are a lot of bicycles in Osaka; more, it seems, than in Tokyo. They’re everywhere, many lying on the sidewalks, and you have to be careful not to make any sudden course changes when walking, lest you be clipped by one of them.

There are also a lot of rental agencies. It seems like there’s one on every block, covered with posters of tiny one-room apartments. I couldn’t tell if the prices are more reasonable than in Tokyo. The city does seem a bit more”used” than Tokyo. You see trash here and there, and the people aren’t quite as neat. It’s a bit rougher, at least the parts I’ve seen so far.

The sun was setting as I walked around the area some more, the bottoms of the alleys already in shadow where a group of Western youths had gathered to make loud jokes. I went to an electronics store where I was able to play with all the latest models such as the Nikon D700, the Canon 5D mk II and the Sony A900. All are huge, but I found the Canon the best feeling, probably as I am already used to the Canon layout and shutter feel after so many years with the 20D. At least in the store, I found the Canon also did the best job focusing, though the Sony did well too. The Nikon had a hard time, which I found unusual considering its gazillion focus points.

It got colder as the last light of the sunset faded, and I was getting tired, so I started back towards the hotel, pausing on various overpasses and stairways to take pictures. I’m getting tired of empty night shots and more often than not will wait for someone to walk into frame these days. The camera’s light meter has stopped working altogether, but I’m managing to do without it, judging exposure as I used to with older cameras.

As I was walking back to the hotel after dinner, I was approached by an older woman who said something about “massage” in Japanese. I ignored her, and after I’d passed, she resumed the conversation she’d been having with her friends in Mandarin. It wasn’t the only Mandarin I’d heard in that area. Either I look Japanese, or these woman don’t know any English. I was tempted to respond in Mandarin, but I really didn’t want to get involved.

I really should learn some Japanese, in any case.

posted by Poagao at 9:30 am  


  1. Is that the reason why the Eva air choose this hotel for the package? I mean the Mandarin friendly environment. 😛

    Comment by Daniel — December 23, 2008 @ 10:15 am

  2. It sounds like you saw enough to Osaka to get the feeling its not another Tokyo. It really has a culture of its own in many ways. And you’re right, its a little rougher on the edges, but at the same time the people are more “friendly” (or aggressive, if you like) and less conservative. They like to do things their way. I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but Tokyo people stand on the left side of the escalator; in Osaka they stand on the right side. It is good to know during rush hour!

    I work in mobile communications and I must say Japan is really unique in that it has top-notch 3G services, but WiFi is almost non-existent. If you have an account with the providers you can sometimes use WiFi in places like train stations or McDonald’s or the chain coffee shops, but I’ve never seen free WiFi. Even 60-year-olds use 3G services, so I guess no one ever stopped to think about WiFi.

    Comment by Bryan — December 29, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

  3. I suppose they’re right to ignore wifi; they’ll probably just leapfrog over to faster and more prevalent 4G services like WiMAX, etc.

    Comment by Poagao — January 16, 2009 @ 5:50 am

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