With my friend Paul, I spend five days in Osaka, Japan. The trip provided much refreshment, and excitement, not to mention many challenges. It was my first visit to the country, and, I feel, it certainly won't be my last, as there are still many places left to see, and so many new things to learn.
We had several destinations highlighted on our itinerary, the foremost of which was Universal Studios. We spend an entire day there, going on rides and more often than not, queuing for them. The excruciating wait times were worth it, however, for such exhilarating fun, especially on the Hollywood Roller Coaster, my personal favorite. The next morning we followed up that successful endeavor with a trip to the Himeji Castle, a place which came highly recommended by my colleague, whose succinct description of the heritage site was, "awesome." Indeed, as a history buff, I enjoyed walking the storied grounds and climbing through the maze-like interior of the keep which was designed not so much to comfortably house the royal family as to confound the invading enemy. The castle is a must-visit. Other attractions of note include the Osaka Aquarium, and the Tennoji Zoo; both teemed with animals of every shape and size. We also at length ventured into several shopping districts inside of which were myriad stores, selling all sorts of fashion and gadgetry, countless restaurants and several gambling parlors - the Japanese, it seems, love their slot machines as much as the Hong Kong Chinese love their horse racing. Lest I forget, we frequented several video arcades to play the latest and greatest games; Paul played well, while I more often than not got 0wn3d. There is a lot to do in Japan.
Japanese culture, of which I've heard so much, really is distinct and separate from other Asian cultures. Their patterns of action and their peculiar artifacts certainly aren't the same as those which feature prominently in Hong Kong. For one thing, the MTR culture was more civilized and less stressful: people queued up for trains and let passengers alight first before permitting themselves to board; cellphones never rang and cabin cars were as quiet as bedrooms at midnight; and to imagine all of these people enforce their norms without public service announcements, without any coddling, conspicuous signs - that's amazing. What proved difficult was trying to find a garbage can. It was easier to find a vending machine, from which one could purchase a variety of drinks or cigarettes, than a bin in which to dispose of these delectable, perishable goods.
As for the general citizenry, they were most accommodating and hospitable, with several individuals going out of their way to help Paul and I find our way around the dense sprawl of the city. Language wasn't a concern despite our limited Japanese; amazingly enough, our comfort was their concern! I won't forget their selfless service, as one day, I hope, I'll be able to return the favor. That the girls were quite attractive and that I demonstrated a propensity to ask attractive girls for directions go without saying; however, I understand now that their sexiness and sophistication stem not from comely faces but coherent attire. Rather than adorn themselves like a typical Mong Kok girl in a ridiculous neon rainbow palette, with jeans or unseemly spandex underneath dresses, skirts or other tops better left to stand alone, Japanese girls opt for more somber, sensible colors - black and cream-colored - and what's more, they aren't afraid to whip out the tasteful pantyhose or to show some skin, even. We had plenty of time to ogle the ladies, and to their credit, freezing temperatures weren't enough to dissuade many of them from forsaking, icing their shorts, as we saw countless pairs being worn on the street. That's what I call fashion professionalism!
Overall, Japan is a marvelous little land full of the eccentric, as well as the endearing. It was a fascinating place to explore, and I'm thankful that it was done in the company of my friend , with whom candor was not at a premium. We both learned a lot and look forward to the next trip!