For those of you who don’t read Japanese, the title says ‘osaka ga suita naa’, translating as “Osaka has really become empty!” This is also, at the risk of taking all of the fun out it through explanation, some clever wordplay (if I do say so myself, which I do): one syllable change, and you get お腹が空いたなあ (‘onaka ga suita naa’), which translates to the very common, very useful phrase for “I’M HUNGRY!”
Both phrases apply rather aptly (although at different points in time and in varying degrees) to yesterday’s adventures in the consumer-crazy, culinary, and cultural hub of Osaka.
Professor Scott discusses with us the fact that Peace Osaka is currently featuring an exhibit on Afghanistan - why, he asks, does America lack this sort of consciousness?
I decided to tag along with my friend Jo (who, incidently, is also keeping a Japan blog) on her class’ field trip to Peace Osaka, a museum that foregrounds the atrocities of war, both those perpetrated and experienced by the Japanese during the 15 Years’ War. With Professor Scott, we attended a screening of a short animated film about the bombings of Osaka – it was surprisingly graphic for a piece aimed at educating elementary-age students, yet at the same time failed to create a visible ‘enemy’ other than war itself. The degree to which post-war victim consciousness affects the curation of Peace Osaka is something I’m still ruminating on – although, ultimately, war IS the enemy.
Both Jo and I left the exhibition feeling rather depressed and fairly hungry, but Osakajokoen (the giant park surrounding the famous Osaka Castle) proved an antidote to both feelings – fresh air, fountains, and food (kitsune udon, my favorite!) do wonders.
We could hear music from the Osaka Lovers concert from where we sat enjoying the view and lunch.
After lunch, we intended to head downtown to Shinsaibashi, where the giant flagship UNIQLO store had just opened on Friday, promising sales and plenty of people watching. Instead of taking the train, we decided to walk all the way there, which proved to be both exhausting and interesting, as we somehow ended up even further north of Osakajokoen before getting pointed in the right direction by some locals – asking for directions in Japanese is rapidly becoming a sort of ritual with me. UNIQLO was simultaneously overwhelming and underwhelming, and neither of us ended up buying anything – the real fun of Shinsaibashi, I think, is simply fighting your way through the streams of humanity, trying on extra-hipstery fashion in the shops, staring at everything in the Hello Kitty Palace for way too long, finding killer deals at Mode-Off, the first second-hand shop that I have encountered in Japan so far.
Japanese parfaits are serious business.
All of that traipsing about Osaka can make a girl hungry, so we were easily persuaded by the delicious plastic parfait displays outside of Fujiya to ascend and partake: Jo had a soft cream creation, and I indulged in one topped with many REAL strawberries – rarities in Japan this time of year (or any, for that matter).
Hipster Kitty, kickin' it Shinsaibashi-side. We bonded over the fact that I have his bandana in the next size up, but he insisted on looking aloof when I took his portrait.
In general, Shinsaibashi overwhelms the senses – a taste of cold parfait, the scent of udon and soba shops, the constant low roar of the thousands of shoppers packed into this artificially-lighted landscape. It is filled with innumerable interest sights – which, to my great regret, I was unable to capture fully with my Nikon due to my own lack of foresight in forgetting to recharge the battery. *Facepalm.*
Outside one of the many restaurants lining Shinsaibashi, Spiderman invites diners to join him in some delicious crab. Bring your own bib?
But by 21:00, stores began to close; people dispersed to their various host clubs, homes, hostels; Mister Donuts put out its タイムサービス (“time service”) sign – all donuts ￥100! The suffocating Shinsaibashi of several hours earlier subsided – 大阪が空いたなあ. Osaka had emptied – at least one small section. As to know a person, one should see them in all seasons, to know a city is to see it in all hours; now, after 12 hours and countless kilometers, Osaka and I have begun to become acquainted.