Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dotonbori, Karaoke, and Sonoda

I apologise for not updating this last night - we met a fellow Aussie at our hostel and we all went out for dinner and karaoke. But more of that later...

So, yesterday was freezing cold and raining. We went to Den-Den Town, but it was... disappointing, I must confess. I guess we'd all been imagining the likes of Akihabara in Tokyo, this massive, glistening, beautiful sprawling mass of technology, but it wasn't like that in the least. Disappointing, as I said. We ended up giving up on Den Den Town after about an hour and made our way back, to Shinsaibashi, this beautiful covered strip mall with shops and lights and people as far as the eye can see!! It was fantastic! They have a department store there called Uni Qlo, which is kinda like Target, only cheaper. I ended up getting a fleecy turtleneck and a jacket for less than 2000 yen (less than $30 AU). It was awesome!!

We then wandered around Daimaru, a really really upmarket department store - like DJs or Myer, but about 1000 times classier. Really old-school old-fashioned class. Dark wood panelling and marble and stained glass everywhere, about 8 floors high. Doormen wearing emerald suits with peaked caps and white cotton gloves. Kind of 1950s hollywood stylish. There were little stores within the department store too - Prada, Gucci, Versace, the list goes on. I was actually holding a real, original Gucci handbag. It cost nearly $1000 AU. It was just... mind-blowingly cool!

So, after we finished with Daimaru, we headed home and got dressed. I took a bath in the public bathroom - Japanese bathing is nothing like Australian bathing. You start by, in your bedroom, getting undressed down to your underwear and putting on a Yukata - a light cotton dressing gown. Hotels often provide them free of charge. You grab your little bathroom bag and your towels and put your slippers on and head on down to the bathroom. The first room you enter is the locker room, where you leave your big towel, Yukata and underwear in a locker. Now naked, you take your bathing gear (soap, loofah, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush if you want, shaving gear if you want) into the bathroom itself. The bathroom is a long, steamy room. Along one wall are showers, but unlike in Australia, they aren't screened off by walls or anything - there are about... 8 shower sections just next to each other, out in the open. Self-consciousness is NOT the done thing here. You shower, wash your hair, body, shave, brush your teeth or whatever else, sitting down on the little stools provided (the showers are about half-height, the right height for you to sit down at). After you are clean and have rinsed all the soap and whatever off, you get in the bath. The bathwater is about 50'C, and is constantly cycled out. You can spend as long as you like just soaking, it's very relaxing. When you are done, you collect your bathroom bag and head out to the locker room, dry off, put your yukata back on and head back to your room to get dressed. Japanese baths are awesome!!

Okay, so after my bath, I got dressed up, and we - the 6 of us from QUT plus Grant, the other Aussie we met at the hostel - went out to Dotonbori. Dotonbori is the most AMAZING place!! It's a long open-air strip mall, and everywhere you look there's light and noise and people everywhere. It makes the Valley look boring. Really boring. Like, dead boring. And it's such a safe place! Nobody will even touch you, especially if you're foreign! Everyone is so polite. We ended up at a really good Okonomiyaki restaurant. It was SO TASTY, and really filling!! We got our okonomiyaki, and our drinks. I started off with something that is called a Calpis Sour. I get the feeling it's something like a Vodka based drink, mixed with Calpis, which is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. It's a slightly creamy lemon drink... kind of like a spider but not fizzy. Very good. So, after my Calpis Sour (which wasn't sour and didn't taste alchoholic at all!) I got a bottle of hot sake to share with Grant. It was VERY nice. Really good sake! So, that saw us through dinner, and then it was back onto the Chikatetsu (Subway) back to our area, Dobutsuen-mae (Which means "in front of the zoo" because it's near Tennoji Zoo). Once we were in Dobutsuen-mae, we went to a little tiny Karaoke bar, just a little local place. The people there were really nice, for all that they'd suddenly been invaded by 7 drunk-ish foreigners. We had a totally mad time!! The regulars were really awesome about us monopolising the songs. I sang Nothing Else Matters, and then Bohemian Rhapsody, and did Barbie Girl as a duet with David, one of the guys with me on this trip. One of the regulars there loves the Beatles, so we did a few Beatles songs, then we did some Bon Jovi, and ended the night with We Will Rock You. It was awesome.

So, we left the Karaoke bar on high spirits, and wandered around Dobutsuen-Mae. Trav, David, Steph and Grant had found the red-light district the other night, so we decided to have a little sticky-beak. It was... quite an eye-opener. Totally unlike red-light districts in Australia, which are dodgy, seedy and frankly, terrifying places to be; in Osaka, and we were in the really really dodgy part of Osaka, we felt safe. Well... no, we just didn't feel unsafe, if that makes sense. The whole area is controlled by the Yakuza, so as long as we minded our own business and didn't go about causing any trouble, it was fine. We even saw a few businessmen on patrol - they nodded and greeted us, and we replied politely, and went on our way, and they left us alone. It was really quite cool. We spent a good 15 minutes wandering around, and saw some really incredible things. The brothels there are little rooms with a wide opening at the front. The madame sits there and greets you as you walk past, and you can look in and see if you see anything you like. If you do, you can go in and have your fun, and if you don't you can just keep walking; no pressure. The girls there are all very pretty, and the establishments are themed. It was just... mind-blowing.

So, after our little jaunt, we came back to our hostel and I went straight to bed. This morning, I ended up walking all the way up to Tennoji - the next suburb, about 10 minutes away - to the post office to the only ATM that would accept my card. I thought I'd withdrawn 10 000 yen - about $150 , but I only ended up withdrawing 1000 yen - $15. Whoops!! So, I went to the supermarket to get a bun for breakfast, and handed over my money and had hoped that with the change I'd be able to reimburse the money I'd had to borrow the night before, but with only 1000yen I got about 800 yen change - enough to buy the train ticket to uni but not for much else!! Hope the ATMs here take my card...

So, we checked out at about 10, made our way, dragging our heavy suitcases up the stairs - they don't have an elevator or even an escalator at the station! - to Osaka central, then across to Hankyu station and to Tsukaguchi station, about 10 minutes walk from the uni - normally! It took us at least 20 minutes to get there, and my arms feel like lead now!! But we made it!! It was quite nice, the weather today is lovely! Thank the gods it wasn't raining!! So now I'm going to try out the ATM and get some lunch! I'll have some photos up later, once I get them from Mel's facebook!!

Missing everyone!!


Platinum said...

LOL no rubber ducky?! Sounds like you're having an incredible time, and in 20 years' time you'll be glad you kept a blog.

Anonymous said...

Dad says you should have seen the bathrooms in DP camps!