Monday, 4 January 2016

Suits, skyscrapers and people

Date: Monday 4th January 2016

Weather: Once again, another beautiful hot day without a hint of rain. I can't believe how good the weather has been on this holiday.

MP3 track of the day: common people - blur

I had a lovely lie-in until around 8am, when I used the hotels 'dodgy' shower (more water pours out of the seal around the tap than through the shower head), got dressed and headed out. Though there were two McDonald’s within striking distance, I still wasn't up to facing one of their 'hot cake' breakfasts. Though hungry I decided to head for breakfast after I'd taken an underground train to my first stop of the day; Osaka's port area.

After a fifteen minute walk to the nearest underground station, followed by a twenty minute train ride, I found myself at Osaka's port area. The wind was blowing fiercely therefore, it felt much colder than in the centre of Osaka. I wrapped up tight and walked to my first attraction for the day; Osaka's famous aquarium. Sadly, being 9:30am, it was shut. I had thirty minutes in which to kill and I knew how I wanted to kill it; I wanted to have some breakfast. Sadly options were limited; so much so that those two earlier McDonald’s were starting to look tempting. I went into a fast-food rice restaurant where I stumbled upon the most delightful looking breakfast, and the most horrible looking waitress. I never fancy rice in the morning however, luckily, this rice shop also had a sort of 'hot pot' for sale. When my breakfast arrived it consisted of a bubbling bowl of broth filled with vegetables and noodles. To compliment it were an array of pickles and spices plus, unfortunately, a small bowl of rice. Another unfortunate thing that came with the meal was the waitress. Looking as though she had just entered her 40's, she wore a facial expression which read 'not amused'. I wondered if she had received a call late last night asking her to cover today's morning shift as a college – who is always off ill – had called in sick. Add to that her face seemed to say that her bike had been stolen, that in all of Osaka it was only raining directly on her apartment and that she had been the first person ever to receive a ticket for walking through a 'red man'. She also looked as though she was chewing a wasp. At first I pitied her; obviously life hadn't gone the way she'd planned it when she was a little girl. After she had been rude to numerous customers I reckoned that she had probably been given what she deserves. Once breakfast had been consumed, I made my way back to the aquarium where I paid the £15 entrance fee. I was then whisked up to the top floor by escalators.

I've mentioned it numerous times before but, when it comes to Zoo's and aquariums, I am half in favour and half not. I like the fact that humans – especially children – come into contact with animals so that they learn to respect them and not to fear them. I do not, however, like the fact that these animals are caged. The pens within this aquarium were extremely deep, but not at all wide.

Once at the top of the building you were greeted by animals which live on both land and in the water – otters mainly; which pulled quite a crowd as they are considered cute in Japan. These animals would appear again as you descended down through the building where you saw them within their water environment – due to the fact that the pens were very deep. This set the theme for the place; you started at the top of the building and, the lower you went, the further you were under the sea and therefore, the animals you saw were chosen with that depth in mind. Also, displays were split up into different oceans within the world. Due to the fact that the pens were worryingly thin, I got extremely close to the animals and saw them in minute detail. The range of animals housed within this aquarium was immense therefore, I could see why some had labelled this place the 'best aquarium in Asia'. For me however, I still think that Okinawa's aquarium was better, simply because of the width of the tanks. It was as if the place had been designed for 'city people' who had little time to wait therefore, the animals were forced to swim as close to the glass as possible. Speaking of people; though this was supposedly the first 'working day' back after the holidays, no one had told the thousands of children – and their useless parents – who were charging around the place. I've mentioned before that I think it's a good idea for children to see these animals however, I also think that it might be a good idea for their parents to teach them not to push.

I left the aquarium two hours after I'd entered (and I wasn't wondering around slowly). If I was to build an aquarium, I'd make it like a huge box with the centre hollowed out. The size of the this box would be the same size as a large park, giving the animals a huge amount of room to swim around. The centre of this 'box' would be hollowed out with a maze of tunnels and small chambers where, people could walk around freely. Instead of seeing the fish in 'order'; all fish would be electronically tagged. Every paying customer would receive a tablet where they could bring up details of a certain animal, and it's electronic tag would tell the customer where that animal currently was (the tablet could also have a check-list so you could make sure that you'd seen everything).

Once my aquarium had been designed, I got on with reading about what remained of Osaka that I hadn't seen. Not a lot was the answer; there was the main part of town which was split into the 'northern part' and the 'southern part'. Only the southern part held an attraction which I wanted to see – a museum, which is closed on Mondays – therefore I decided that I would take the underground train back into the centre of the town and just walk around.

Once back in the centre of town I first of all walked north and crossed over the river I'd seen yesterday. This part of the waterfront was as beautiful as the part I photographed yesterday. Once across I made it to Osaka's impressive train station before turning around to head south again. I would certainly say that this part of Osaka is the business end. The buildings touched the sky and everyone I walked past was in a suit. Though Kansai is a rather small part of Japan, it alone has a bigger GDP than the whole of Canada. I walked through this area of 'business' looking up into the sky as often as looking where I was going. Again I would say that time had been taken into how this part of the city would look, and not just it's function.

As I was heading back south I was starting to get hungry. Looking at my map, I was about to enter the 'southern half of the city' and that there was a long 'shopping arcade' which started not too far from where I was. What's more, it cut right through the heart of this part of the city, ending up at the southern train station. Though I had thought that visiting 'said arcade' was indeed a good plan, it actually ended up being the worst idea since General Hague told his men at the battle of the Somme, that they would have a bigger chance of surviving if they walked across no-man’s land. As I approached the shopping street and looked down, it appeared as if the whole of Asia was currently trying to squeeze down it. I decided to walk down, instantly regretting my decision. Not only did I not find anywhere that looked, A) empty and B) appetising, I had to contend with the new '2016 Guinness World Record for the most number of people in one area'. I made my way down this street wondering if it would ever stop. Finally, heroically I made it to another waterfront.

In front of me was a small bridge, packed with people, with tall buildings all around. Down below me, a path ran along the waterfront which was hardly being used due to the fact that no shops existed down there. I therefore opted to go down onto the riverbank and take stock. The southern part of the city was a stark contrast to the north. Where the north had been an orderly place of skyscrapers and businessmen, here not a suit could be seen. Bright lights, vendors displaying their wares and people were everywhere. Small streets ran like a maze through this part of the city, all at one point having to cross this river. I walked, and I walked, and I walked. I was loving the atmosphere however, by 4pm, both my feet and my empty stomach called 'time'. All three of us went to a restaurant where, surprisingly considering how many people there were in this area, we didn't have to wait long for a table. I ordered a steak with some chips which, when it arrived, was so big that after eating it I didn't have space for anything else. After forty minutes of eating nothing but meat and potato, I waddled out the restaurant a little disappointed that I hadn't had room for dessert. Still I had decided to walk back to my hotel and, I remembered seeing a 'shoe cream puff' cake shop earlier that, in a round-a-bout kind of way, was on my way back to my hotel. Though I was so stuffed that I was sure that, if I opened my mouth wide enough, people could see the last bit of my meal waiting for a vacant space within my stomach, I still ordered two cream puffs as the time was 5pm and I still had five hours or so before I would go to sleep. I've had these cream puffs before and let me tell you, they're delicious; so much so that my little face lit up when the lovely lady gave me my goods. “... remember that they have to be eaten within thirty minutes...” she said as she gave me a final smile and turned to serve the next customer. Thirty minutes!

Now, you know that 'Vicar of Dibley' episode where she has to eat three or four Christmas dinners on one day … that is how I felt. I quickened my pace as to burn more fuel therefore, create more 'stomach space'. I ate the first cream puff as I walked back to my hotel and then the second as I rocked through the door. It had taken me almost forty-five minutes to get back to my hotel room therefore, I hoped that my puff was still okay to consume … it was lovely!

So now I am in my room and preparing for tomorrow. With all bar three museums done, I am glad that I have a car hire tomorrow as I would have nothing to do for my final day on Wednesday. What I am not looking forward to is exiting and entering Japan's third largest city via car therefore tonight, I need to plan how I am going to leave and enter the city as quickly as possible, and then work out how I am going to get to my main attraction for the day – Koya-san; one of Japan's holiest mountains – before driving into the prefecture of Wakayama.

One thing is for sure; it is going to be a busy day!

Toodle Pip!

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