Osaka nostalgia, part one.

It didn’t rain today.

There’s a familiar sight…

I say this because The Weather Channel website swore it’d rain (80%), so I took my new/old umbrella… and lugged it around Osaka all goddamn day. I’m glad it didn’t rain, and had it done so, I would have been thankful for the umbrella, but when the weather report says 80% chance of rain, you kind of expect water to fall from the sky. And speaking of rain, I made sure to drop that borrowed umbrella back off at ほっかほっか亭、asking the day-shift woman to thank the night-shift woman who’d lent it to me.

The day began auspiciously; a lovely girl on my first train kept looking my way and smiling when I made eye contact. She and I spoke briefly after getting off at the same station, but we weren’t going the same place. Still, a good omen.

The little onigiri-ya I visited last year. It tasted every bit as good as I remember.

My first stop was Kawachi-Kosaka, the neighborhood where we stayed last year. I intentionally held off on breakfast until I got there, so I could have nikushigure onigiri at my favorite shop. The guy didn’t recognize me at first, but then he realized who I was. He was the second person to compliment my Japanese for the day — the first being a random guy in the morning with whom I made conversation while using the computer. I guess I got better? Anyway, the onigiri was as good as I remember, and I got a photo before I headed to the U-Community Hotel. Miki wasn’t working yet, but two of the other employees recognized me. The current WVU students went to Tokyo this morning, but that’s okay — I don’t know them too well. I tried my card at the nearby post office ATM, but no luck. By the time I got back to the hotel, Miki had come to work early, and we spoke a bit before she had to start and I had to go.

A welcome sight.

My next stop was the somewhat-distant Kinki Daigaku, walking more or less the same path as I did so often last year. I tried the international office, but the only people in were a couple women who recognized me from last year. They also complimented my Japanese, which felt good. Not wanting to hoof it all the way back to Kosaka, I instead hoofed it to Nagase station, which got me to Nipponbashi and (by extension) Den-Den Town. I shopped a lot, but found nothing on my want list (except for two soundtrack box sets that were too expensive for me). Seriously, the stuff I want must be super rare now, so I really didn’t buy much. The maids were out in force, gorgeous as ever. The Nipponbashi Gee! Store was still there, only it was an annex; they’d opened a larger one a few blocks away. Also, a few things I learned today via merchandise:

  • Angel Beats! has apprently experienced a resurgence in fame; I saw a lot of AB! stuff for sale, as well as featured on UFO-catcher signs and in A-Too drawings.
  • The iDOLM@STER also seems to have had a jolt of popularity from the recent anime series, but the merchandise is all COSPA, meaning it’s overpriced.
  • Tiger and Bunny, which I learned about last year at Otakon, is apparently a big deal now, judging by the volume of merchandise. Odd, since I saw nothing about it last year.
  • Serial Experiments Lain hasn’t been entirely forgotten; Gee! had some leftover shirts of recent make. (Sadly, the Lain-picture ones were all super small, and I didn’t recognize the design on the one that woulda fit me.)

Afterward, I called Jin and coordinated to meet her near a large intersection, and killed time while waiting by talking to a busker for girls and a spokesman for a nearby condo. Jin arrived looking super cute, and we went off to Namba to eat at a place she highly recommended called Daruma. There was an actual line for the place, and when it was our turn, we held off for seats at the counter (since neither of us likes the floor). She chose the food, based on asking me what I liked; it was primarily kushi and deep-fried stuff on a stick, and it was all tasty. When it came time to pay, I swear I had a tug-of-war with her over the little clipboard with the checks… and I lost. She said working at a company (with a recent promotion) meant she could pay. I jokingly told her (using causative, yeah!) that she’d made me feel embarrassed. Apparently, my turn comes when she eventually visits America. Fair enough.

From there, we wandered to Doutonbori, and she let me use her phone to call Alyson, who lives only one stop away from there and said she’d come as soon as she changed out of her work clothes. A helpful Japanese woman took our photo while we waited, and Jin repaid the kindness by photographing the woman with her kids. Japanese get the concept of tourist pictures, more so than Americans, anyway. (I photographed an Indian family later, thereby balancing my photo debt.) I also chatted with a group of miscellaneous Americans who work in Japan, but were from all over the States.

Alyson arrived after half an hour or so, introductions were made, and we were off to a coffee shop. We stopped at a place that looked vaguely Starbucksish, which is funny, since SB is popular in Japan as well. They both got coffee-related things, while I ordered blood orange juice in a hardcore voice (I’d used it outside when reading the menu, and Alyson dared me to use it when I ordered). I paid for Jin that time, by god. Listening to the two of them — Alyson and Jin, whose first langauge was not Japanese, yet they spoke fluently and effortlessly — I realized I have a long way to go, but that I’ve also come a long way. I told both of them that somewhere around last year, I’d figured out that the more Japanese I learned, the more I understood how little I knew. (Alyson translated that for Jin, since I didn’t even know where to start on that grammatical mouthful.) Alyson and Jin got along famously, by the way, and Jin even asked Alyson to tutor her in English, which Jin had expresed interest in learning, so they exchanged numbers. After coffee, Jin needed to go home because she was due to start work at 5:00 in the morning. We saw her off, and while she was buying her ticket, Alyson told me that Jin had mentioned to her while I was ordering that my Japanese had substantially improved since the previous year. (People keep that up and I’m gonna get a complex.) We threw hugs all around, and Jin left for home.

Alyson and I knocked around the area a while, catching up and swapping stories. She directed me to a Citibank, which she said might work with my card (since no other ATM had all day), but it, too, was a no-go. (I finally just transferred the money to my check card and decided to eat the percentage hit.) We sat on some side street in Amerika-Mura and talked a while longer, and then she walked me to my station before my 終電 (last train).

Tomorrow, I’ve got plans to meet my friend Yuuki (the only university guy who didn’t beg off because of plans or a part-time job) and Kotaro (who normally works in Tokyo at Itochu, but is in Osaka for a wedding). Later, I’ll see Miki, then head home. Checkout’s at ten, though, so I’ll have to drop off my heavy duffel in a coin locker — probably at JR Namba, since that’s where I seem to be meeting everyone. (I’m sure as hell not lugging that thing around all morning and afternoon.)

Speaking of being up early, it’s late and I should go to bed.

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