Very few places were open just after New Years in Osaka, but there were some stores open. My friends and I wanted to go somewhere or do something, so our only option was to shop!
February 28, 2011
February 25, 2011
I remember getting my ears pierced. Everyone had told me stories of the big metal gun like thing that felt cold against your cheek as your ear got ripped apart. But when I went into Claires that sunny summer afternoon, they had used a relatively small, white plastic gun to mutilate my ear. And it hadn’t been that painful. (The pain came later.)
It seems that know piercing one’s ears has gotten even simpler and the device you need to make a hole in your ear, even smaller. In Osaka, I found these DIY ear piercing kits. They’re slightly smaller than an ear and come with birthstone earrings pre-inserted. All you need to do is clean your ear and prick a hole. Cost:￥1,470 or about $15 per piercing. So about $30 to get one in each ear.
February 24, 2011
After visiting the Silver Pavilion on snowy New Year’s Eve, we headed across town to the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji (金閣寺).
The Golden Pavilion lives up to its name and is actually golden, unlike the silver pavilion. But, the Golden Pavilion is not an original. The first time I visited the pavilion, I marveled at the spectacular temple covered in gold leaf. Then I read the book Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, which is a fictional retelling of true events. In 1950, a monk burned down the Golden Pavilion. The current temple is a reconstruction dating from 1955. It’s still a great place to visit, but I was rather disappointed to find out it wasn’t original. I felt like I’d been lied to.
February 23, 2011
At New Years, it is tradition to go to a shrine to pray for the new year. Many people flood into shrines at midnight and for the next few days, major shrines are packed with people.
So, while staying in Osaka around New Years, my friends and I decided to go to Kyoto for a day. It’s only about half an hour train ride away from Osaka. very close. We figured if we went the day before the new year, we would beat the crowds. We were also planning to visit temples, not shrines. (Temples are Buddhist. Shrines are Shinto. )
But we failed in our attempt to beat the crowds. Everywhere we went was packed with people. Even though it wasn’t the traditional time or place to visit, it was still a time when most people had vacation from work and there were tons of people taking the opportunity to travel. Also, unlike Osaka, which had relatively warm weather, Kyoto was cold and snowy. We got caught in a snowstorm there. In this post, I have pictures from the first temple we visited, ginkakuji, the silver pavilion (銀閣寺). I visited this temple before a couple years ago in the springtime. You can see those pictures here.
I spent New Years in Osaka. Osaka is usually considered Japan’s 2nd largest city with 2.6 million people. Actually, the city that comes 2nd in terms of population is Yokohama, with 3.6 million people. But Yokohama is basically an extension of Tokyo, so if you look at the Tokyo metropolis as one entity, then the Osaka metropolis would be number 2. However, there is another way to calculate population that does place Osaka second. If you look at the number of people who are in Osaka by day, the city surges to 3.7 million. People commute in from bedroom suburbs and nearby cities such as Kobe. So, during the day, Osaka is bigger than Yokohama.
Osaka has a really different feel from Tokyo. Tokyo is the capital and the center of big business, but Osaka is more of a center of industry. It originally was built up as a city of merchants, so it was never high class. Osaka culture is all about food. And there is a lot of good food in Osaka. Osaka is often referred to as the nation’s kitchen (天下の台所). Some of the famous food of Osaka include Takoyaki (octopus balls), Okonomiyaki (lit. made as you like it, sometimes called a Japanese pancake, but also sometimes compared to pizza), and sushi.
While I was able to eat some good food in Osaka, I wasn’t able to do much sightseeing. In Japan, Christmas is a great time to travel because everything is still open, but New Years is another story. Almost everything was closed from December 30th through January 3rd. One place that was open was the Umeda Sky Building, which has an observation deck that offers a great view of the city. We went up there after dark and I took these pictures.
February 22, 2011
Going along with the snowman from my previous post, here’s a picture of my friend being greedy for snowmen.
After one particularly large snowfall, a friend and I decided to make a snowman outside of our apartment building. As he slowly melted over the next week or two, he went through several transformations.
February 21, 2011
Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She was about 1 mile away from the hypocenter during the blast, but did not sustain any injuries. However, ten years later when she was 12 years old, she suddenly became sick and was diagnosed with leukemia. Her family was told she would die within a year. While she was in the hospital, she started to fold paper crane because there is an old belief that you may be granted one wish of you fold 1000 paper cranes. According to the Hiroshima peace memorial, she completed her goal, but according to a book about her life, she never had enough paper to complete all the cranes. Sadako passed away 8 months after being diagnosed with leukemia.
After her death, her classmates started to raise money for a memorial. The Children’s Peace Memorial (原爆の子の像) was completed in 1958. Everyday, people bring thousands and thousands of paper cranes from all over the world to be placed at the memorial.
February 20, 2011
For those who have never encountered a Squat toilet, the traditional style in Japan, here are some instructions on how to use one.
February 19, 2011
Every Japanese elementary student recognizes the Atom Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. It is as famous in Japan as the Statue of Liberty is in the US. Not only do they study it in school, but they also see it on TV, especially around August 6th, the memorial of the dropping of the bomb. There is always a big memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on August 6th.
The building was first made in 1915. And before the war, it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (広島県産業奨励館). When the bomb was dropped in 1945, they were aiming to hit the T-shaped bridge located right near this building. The bomb detonated 600m (1,968 ft) in the air and 150m (450 ft) away from the Industrial Promotion Hall. Considering how close it was to the bomb, it was left surprisingly intact. And because of that, it did not get demolished during the initial clean-up after the bomb. Eventually, it was decided to keep the building and preserve it in its post-bombing condition. It now serves as a reminder of the destruction that took place in Hiroshima and the power of the bomb.
The very first time I came to Hiroshima, I remember walking past the atom bomb dome on the way to my hotel. At night, it get lit up and looks quite eerie. I also had not been told that we would walk right past the iconic building and was surprised to see the ruins in display. But as we were walking past it, there was a concert happening across the street at a stadium. With all this cheering going on in the background, here was this symbol of destruction.
Anyway, on to the pictures.