I arrived in Japan in beautiful bright sunshine with no clue how to get to my hostel, and almost no knowledge about Osaka other than a) it’s where the boat lands, b) it has an aquarium, and c) it was in The Simpsons at one point (knife goes in, guts come out, that is the motto of Osaka Fish Concern – hopefully not about the aquarium). Before I even got to my hostel 4 separate people had stopped to help me, not because I asked, just because I looked a little bewildered – one man even insisted on giving me a scarf as a welcome to Japan gift. After wondering whether the fabled Japanese politeness was going to be genuine hospitality or just ritualised niceties, I think I can safely say that people are 100% lovely here.
So, on to the title of this post – no, I did not get married in Osaka. Sighs of relief all round, although I guess that would make for an interesting story. After making it to the hotel (skinny mattress on the floor and pillow that seems to be full of beans, that could take some getting used to), I had a scan of the map and decided to visit Osaka castle. It’s a reproduction built on the site of the original, but aside from the elevators I’m choosing to still count it as old.
It was built… at some point, for… some important Japanese guy, who united the country, or fought off Godzilla, or discovered wasabi or something. I don’t know. Look, it’s pretty! La la la
You can visit the rather picturesque grounds for free, or pay to go inside to see the museum and admire the view, complete with grumpy fish beasts doing headstands.
Yes, I visited the museum and I still have no idea what the history is, nor do I care. Don’t be like me, kids. There were some very strange videos (in Japanese), which had hologram actors projected onto a real 3D miniature scene behind the glass. Very cute, even if I didn’t learn anything from them.
In the evening, for something completely different, I rocketed into the future of Dotombori arcade, possibly the cleanest and most orderly late night shopping area I’ve ever seen.
As well as a ton of shops and restaurants, the area is home to giant food adverts,
claw machine games (Ted seems quite popular, he was also available in coin purse format),
and lots and lots of neon.
I think I can safely say that my first day summed up all my preconceptions of Japan (eating octopus for lunch didn’t hurt either)
I could struggle to fit something borrowed in here.
Oh, I rented a towel! Yay! Pretend that’s interesting!
Osaka aquarium on day two was equally mesmerising, if like me you are hopelessly fascinated by fish. Seriously, if I lived here I would get an annual pass and be in here every week staring at the barrier reef tank (which I have no pictures of because the fish move too damn fast). Even if you aren’t as early amused as me I highly recommend it as one of the biggest and most impressive aquariums I’ve seen.
More otters! Eeee, look how cute he is. Ahem. They also have a sea otter, who eats things ON HIS TUMMY. (Err, if that didn’t immediately make you think of the otters from the future in South Park you probably think I’m very odd right now. I’m sure all the Japanese kids watching the otter thought that too)
Harlequins and neon tetras. Yep, I’ve made it half way around the world to see fish I could see in my tank at home.
Mmm, self satisfied seal
Electric jellyfish! All kinds of awesome
Holy crap those are big crabs
A squid, mid lunch, which was a bit creepy to watch, but probably not nearly as creepy as it was for the squid being watched
Not sure if you can tell in the picture, but the penguin enclosure is SNOWING. No wonder the fluffy one looks so smug
Holy crap those are big fish
Which of course becomes completely redundant next to the star tank of the aquarium, which is massive enough to hold not only a huge array of groupers, sharks and rays, but also
A whale shark. Yes, a whale shark. In an aquarium. A freaking whale shark. That’s some serious big right there.
And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I spotted the cleaners. At least, two of them were cleaners. I initially assumed this guy was on the floor cleaning a filter or something but then as I watched he turned out to be carving ridges on the sand. Yep, he’s creating a Zen garden for the enjoyment of sharks.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Japan.