Halfway mark.

Friday was the end of our second week of classes and the day that ended half our trip.

Classes were unremarkable (but never boring); Japanese with Oomura-sensei and demographics with Professor Joyce. Afterward, the guys and I went to lunch at MOS Burger (okay, Josh got something at 7-11), and we met up at the International Student Center for our trip to Osaka Castle with Oomura-sensei and Kana.

The impressive Osaka Castle.

One does not simply walk into Osaka Castle. The train station lets out at the end of an overpass bridge with stairs down at the other end, and then you have to walk through a park into that part of the city. At a distance, you can only see the top of the castle, a lot of foliage, and then the sloped walls that lead into water. To get up to it, you cross a wooden footbridge over the water, then wend your way up some paths and stairs until you finally emerge beside it. It’s pretty damn big.

Nearby the castle was a domed concert hall. Oomura-sensei told me  he’d seen people like Celine Dion and Backstreet Boys (minus one) there, and when I asked him if he’d seen anyone else, he mentioned Kazumasa Oda. I’m familiar with one of Oda’s big hits from several years ago, 「ラブ・ストーリーは突然に」, and started singing a little. Kana, walking in front of us, was amazed I knew it and immediately nostalgic (it is the eighth-best-selling single in Japan, after all).

The castle, like many old castles, has been destroyed and restored many times over the years, and the current incarnation includes modern elevators and restrooms. Our method went as follows: We took an elevator to the fifth floor, walked up to the eighth, then went down one floor at a time to see the exhibits. Photography is not allowed on the third and fourth floors, but everywhere else is okay. You get a very nice view of the surrounding city from the top via a balcony, and the inside holds a lot of ancient artifacts (some replicas, some authentic).

If you visit a famous site in Japan, you can get a stamped piece of paper to prove it, whether you stamp it by hand or use an electric machine (or both, I’d imagine). Osaka Castle is part of this stamp network, so I got into a loose line for the machine. Just as I was reaching to put the paper in, a kid slid in front of me and started trying to work his paper in instead, distractedly talking to a nearby friend. Without even looking directly at the kid, I quietly said, “おい、待て.” The kid looked up and immediately stepped aside, mumbling, “どうぞ.” Proof of the hierarchical part of Japanese culture, I’d guess; I doubt that would have gone the same way in America.

Dressed for battle and ready for glory.

For a small fee, the castle has an extra souvenir opportunity: Guys can wear a colorful period-style vest and helmet for photos, while girls can wear a kimono. Oomura-sensei (via Kindai) generously paid that fee for us, so the five guys (four from WVU plus Oomura-sensei) suited up and had many photos taken (I got to wear a magnificent helmet with the peacock-like spikes). The girls then donned kimonos and got their own photos. When we got to the gift shop, I found myself being sidetracked by my groupmates to help with the cashiers or to suggest items (which I was happy to do), but finally managed to get a couple souvenirs.

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You can see how modern it is from the back.

Afterward, we exited the castle and relaxed in a small tourist area beside it. Oomura-sensei bought us each some soft-serve (I got a vanilla-grape swirl), and we took a few minutes to enjoy the nice weather. Our way back was through town to a different station and came back to Kawachi-Kosaka.

I’d been getting along with Kana from all the times she’d come along with us to club activities or outings, so while we were headed to the station, I cued up that Oda song from earlier on my Nano and handed her an earbud. We managed to sing about half of the song before we arrived! Everyone said goodbye, and the WVU group boarded the train for home.

I attempted to take a short nap, but was unsuccessful, so Warren and I headed to the MaxValu to get dinner. For the rest of the night, Josh, Warren, and I put together the framework for a short PowerPoint we’ve been asked to do for the English-only area next Monday and for Oomura-sensei’s class the next day. (There’ll be two other presentations from our group as well; we’ve split into three.)

It’s hard to believe we only have one more week of classes and then a week of 遠足 (excursions).

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