Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weekend in Osaka: Day 1

The night before my Osaka trip (Fri. Jan. 8) I started getting that feeling you get when you know you’re on the verge of developing a fever. I’d had a bit of a sore throat since late Thursday night, so the “almost-fever” didn’t take me by surprise or anything, but of course it was worrisome. So I took two Advil and went to bed “early” (10:30pm-ish?).

Saturday morning I woke up with a sore throat, cough, and slight nasal congestion, but no fever, so off I went. It did briefly cross my mind that it might be more sensible to cancel the trip since I was obviously getting sick, but I’d been looking forward to it for so long, and I’d already made all the arrangements and paid for everything, so... I did wear a mask to (hopefully) prevent spreading my germs to other travelers, at least.

My (long) weekend in Osaka actually started with a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. I had a 12:00pm entry time, but they let us in starting from 11:30am. As soon as I got in, I headed for the Straw Hat CafĂ©. Even though (or maybe because?) it only opened at 11:00am, when I got there, all the chairs were already full and there were a couple of people standing in line ahead of me. The wait wasn’t too bad, though—only about 45min.

Unfortunately, even though I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast, with the sore throat and everything I didn’t have much of an appetite. Thankfully, though, the winter menu had clam chowder on it. Not only was the warm soup soothing for my throat, but in terms of portion size it was just right. And, of course I *had* to have a dessert as well, so I had chocolate cake.

After lunch, I headed to the theatre for this month’s original short film, Chuu Zumo (mouse sumo). Since I’d already seen the Ponyo exhibit twice before, I skipped that and just went up to the roof to take a quick picture of the Laputa robot. Following that I went to the gift store.

In October Nate bought me the Totoro necklace. This time, I thought I might pick up the matching earrings. When I looked in the jewellery case, however, I saw that they had some new items: Kurosuke (the little black balls) earrings, a necklace, and a bracelet! The woman working in that section was pretty on the ball and noticed that I was looking at the earrings, so she took them—both the Totoro and Kurosuke ones—out of the case for me to look at.

Up to then I wasn’t sure if I would actually buy anything or not, but I’m the type who buys something 70% of the time if I’ve asked for/received any sort of assistance from a store clerk and since I was tempted to buy something anyway that pretty much decided the matter for me. Naturally I went with the Kurosuke ones. The clerk also told me that the design for the leaf was taken from a leaf in Inokashira Park (where the Ghibli Museum is located) so that was a nice local touch.

After shopping I walked around the first floor for a while. I spent a long time watching both the Laputa and Totoro zoetropes. A zoetrope is “is a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.) The Laputa one has the Laputa robot with birds flying up and around it; the Totoro one has Chu Totoro and Chibi Totoro doing jump rope with Mei-chan. Even though it’s the same thing over and over, I never get tired of watching them.

And that was it for Ghibli for me. The next stop was the Square Enix Character Goods Shop Showcase. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything really new for me to see (I had just been there in October, after all), but it was nice weather, so it was nice just going for a walk. On my way back to Shinjuku Station, a young Korean guy stopped to ask me for directions to Tochomae (I think he was going to see the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Towers). Since that was right across from the Keio Grand (where Tokyo Orientation was held), I should’ve been able to give directions, but unfortunately I’ve got a terrible sense of direction, so I ended up not being helpful at all. ^^;;

From Shinjuku Station I went back to Tokyo Station where I ended up changing my train tickets so I could get to Osaka earlier—about 2 hours earlier than originally scheduled. After checking into my hotel (super conveniently located with direct access from a subway station), I headed out to Namco Naniwa Gyoza Stadium for dinner. I had gyuutonbou (beef) gyoza and crispy fried snack gyoza (curry flavoured) from one shop, and xiao long bao from another. The xiao long bao was a little excessive, probably, but it looked (and was in fact) delicious, so I couldn’t resist.

Then I went to Osaka Castle to take pictures of it illuminated at night. By that time, though, it was pretty late (around 9:30pm?) and I hadn’t realized just how huge the grounds of the castle are. And in the dark it’s pretty hard to navigate, so I got as close as the moat before I gave up and decided to be satisfied with only taking photos from afar. Then it was back to the hotel to end my first day in Osaka.