We arrived in Osaka around 19h – and we were starving (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast – an eternity ago). We dropped our bags at the hotel and, even though we were feeling filthy and sticky from the heat, the hike and the trip, we set our priorities and decided we should eat before even taking a shower.
We were feeling too dirty to go to a proper restaurant so we just stopped by a small Gyudon restaurant (but more like a fast food-like place.) I can’t say the food was outstanding, but at that point wasn’t going to complain about anything that could fill my stomach.
While eating, we were on our phones, checking the night life options and wondering what we should do. Japan is very famous for its karaoke culture (it was invented in the 70s, in the city of Kobe, around 30km far from Osaka) and in every corner of Japan you can find karaoke rooms and bars. So far, we hadn’t been to any, so decided tonight was the night. A group at the table next to us overheard the conversation and came over to introduce themselves. There was one Japanese guy, a Japanese girl and an Australian guy, who lives in Japan. They said they heard our conversation and the place we were about to pick for karaoke wasn’t that great. They recommended a nearby one that they usually go to. They were going to be there around 10 and said they were happy to save seats for us. We agreed to join them, swapped numbers and after finishing our meal we returned to the hotel to shower, relax (if only for half an hour) and get ready for the gig.
It was a bit difficult to find the bar – even with the address on Google Maps. The houses have no numbers, only names, and since those names were all written with the Japanese alphabet… It wasn’t so simple. It was made even more complex when we got to the street and saw people spilling out of bars that were connected to other bars, like an interrelated web of clubs and bars you had to go through to reach other clubs and bars… Anyway, at some point we found it and there were our new friends, along with our new friends to be, at the back at the bar.
After downing some of that liquid courage we started singing and it was really fun. We had long conversations with the 3 guys we met back in the restaurant, but unfortunately the group of girls that joined later didn’t speak English. As my Japanese wasn’t strong we got stuck in the language barrier – but it didn’t stop us from enjoying each other’s company and singing together. (Even my mom watched a part of the gig by skype!)
We got along very well and it was enriching to swap cultural experiences and points of view. The following day some of us met again for some beers and more talking.
Our Osaka experience was more about partying, getting to know people, eating and drinking well and wandering. The next day we headed to Nara, the capital of Japan from 710 to 794 AD. Nara Park, just like the one in Miyajima is full of deer, and despite what this sign says, they were lovely and peaceful.
The Japanese from back then believed the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. Since then, the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country, and acting as the messengers of the gods.
The park itself is very beautiful, but a bit busy with tourists due to its easy accessibility by public transport.
Talking about public transport, something I found curious in Japan is that they have Women Only wagons.
The earliest instance of women-only cars in Japan was in 1912. They were called “flower cars” and intended to separate male and female students on their way to school. Nowadays it’s used to avoid groping and sexual harassment, mostly during rush hours. Two-thirds of female passengers in their 20s and 30s reported that they had been groped on trains, and the majority had been victimized frequently.