The nice thing about being on vacation is that you can sleep in, even if you’re away from home. The first-floor shower room I used was surprisingly roomy, and once I got clean, it was time to go to Higashi-Osaka, where I had first arrived in Japan.
A few notes about Osaka: First of all, the escalators. In Tokyo, you stand on the left and walk on the right; in Osaka, it’s the opposite. Something else, which I only noticed the second day, is that Osaka has an older, more lived-in feel. As much as I like Tokyo, I have to say that Osaka has more character and personality as a city than Tokyo or Nagoya. There also seen to be fewer foreigners and more 商店街. Finally, as much as people make jokes about Kansai-ben (the dialect of Osaka and nearby cities), people actually do talk that way; I heard more than one instance of people legitimately saying あかん.
My first stop was 河内小阪, which served as my home for about three weeks. I wanted to save this part of my trip for when I had a full day to devote to it. The area was much less busy than usual due to it being Golden Week, and the shopping streets were mostly rows of silent metal shutters. As I walked down toward the U-Community Hotel, I saw the neighborhood with different eyes; four years had improved my Japanese reading, and I was more accustomed to the sights of a Japanese city than when I was completely new to the country. I had been communicating with my Korean friend Jin (whom I met at the U-Community) since before arriving, and knew she was busy, but I decided to check to see if the other girl I knew from the hotel, Miki, was working. It took some asking, since I didn’t know her family name, but they told me she had since quit the company. My next stop was to be the little onigiri shop I used to visit — I’d actually skipped breakfast so I had room for it — but it, too, was closed for Golden Week. (The lady at the café next door suggested I get some 7-11 onigiri, but I told it her it just wasn’t the same.)
Next was the Aeon Mall beside the hotel. It was pretty much exactly as I remembered, and I was surprised at how thoroughly I felt compelled to explore the place. I walked down past the Osaka University of Commerce and the Yaenosato Driving School (which still had the Hello Kitty cars in use) until I got to MOS Burger — the first MOS Burger I’d ever been to. I still hadn’t eaten, but there was a place I had in mind for lunch, so I only got a cup of clam chowder to go. (I did mention to the girl who took my order that it had been my first MOS, and showed her a photo of us all sitting in the booths from that visit. “That’s right over there!” she said, grinning.)
My final destination in Higashi-Osaka would be Kinki University. I walked the long road back to Kawachi-Kosaka Station, detouring by the first Torikizoku I had found, and passed through the station. Again, the streets were much quieter than usual, with few cars and almost no pedestrians. I tried my best to remember the path to school, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I missed a turn and ended up arriving at the opposite entrance. The campus was basically dead, but open — apparently, there was some sort of orchestra thing going on. There was also a section of the campus closed off for construction, but I didn’t get a look behind the barriers. Even the street in front of the school, normally buzzing with students choosing which restaurant they’d eat at today, had only a few open businesses and a handful of people. My nostalgic walk through Higashi-Osaka finally came to an end at Nagase Station, where I boarded the train.
The night before, I’d walked by a place in アメリカ村 called Rich Garden that featured big, American-style burgers. That was where I’d decided to take lunch. I had a bottled Guinness Stout and something they called a Chili con Carne Burger, which included a thick slice of tomato, lettuce, and red bean chili. The owner was also one of the cooks, and we talked shop a bit (since my last job was at a burger restaurant).
Just down from the restaurant was Doutonbori, so I visited their ドン・キホーテ (and was told they’d only recently had ほうじ茶 Kit Kat). From there, I headed back to Nipponbashi. The maids were out in force, and when I stopped to talk to a few, they seemed surprised that I could speak their language. “Am I speaking Japanese?” I asked them, drawing laughter from all three. Since Namba is only a short distance from Nipponbashi, I finally made my way to Namba Parks and the Carnival Mall. It really took me back, walking around and seeing the ridiculous store names (e.g. Freak’s Stores, Hitman & Co.). While I didn’t check out the theater, I did visit the Namco Land, now much brighter and more modern-looking than it was before. I eventually wrapped up and left, but not before getting a phone call from my old Osaka tripmate Warren, to whom I’d been sending photos all afternoon. We indulged in a bit of nostalgia, and it felt good to talk to someone from that first trip while I was actually there.
Walking back toward the station, I realized I was a little peckish. I spotted a Torikizoku off to the side and decided that would be a perfect place to grab a little something to eat, so I went in and ordered my usual. (This one actually had 発泡酒, and the servers seemed surprised when I told them of my experience in Nagoya.) I didn’t spend too much time or money there, since it was getting late, and eventually made my way back to the hotel.
The Hotel Raizan’s indoor spa stayed open well past midnight, so there were a few hours left after I’d returned. I was sweaty from a long day of walking, and my legs and feet were tired from covering so much ground, so the decision to have a nice soak in the spa was an easy one. It’s still odd for me to undress and bathe in front of other people, but it’s just another cultural difference I run across every now and then. I ended up talking to a Taiwanese guy who spoke no Japanese but whose English was pretty solid. We made touristy small talk for a while before rinsing off and going back into the hotel.
Mike, another of my old tripmates to whom I’d been sending photos, started to respond via messages on my phone while I lounged in the lobby, so we caught up a little as well before I finally decided to call it a night. I’d be leaving the next day, and checkout was at 11:00.