May 23, 2011

Golden Week

Golden Week is one of my favorite times of the year. Around the first week of May, Japan has 4 public holidays. They are so close together, that it is usually possible to take a week off of work, but only take 2 vacation days. It is one of the busiest times to travel both within Japan and to and from Japan. This year, Showa Day fell on April 29th, Constitution Memorial Day was May 3rd, Greenery Day was May 4th, and Children’s Day was May 5th. I decided to take off the last week of April and the first week of May so that I could enjoy a Double Golden Week!

I spent the first half of my Double Golden Week in Hong Kong and the second half in and around Bangkok. But, to get out of my rural town, I first had to take a night bus to Osaka, then take the train for about 90 minutes to get to Kansai International Airport (Nicknamed Kankuu). And from there I flew to Hong Kong.

On the overnight bus to Osaka. At the next bus stop (after the one I got on the bus at), the driver came up to me and asked if I understand Japanese. After I said he, he responded, "oh, good. The bathroom is over there." And then walked away. This left me with an expression resembling this: o.O

Outside Kansai Airport. The airport is to the right and the train station is too the left. I believe the thing overhead is a roadway.

You can see more pictures in the full post. (more…)


March 8, 2011

Osaka: Dotonbori

Filed under: Cuisine, Domestic, Food, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 5:08 am

It seems that no trip to Osaka is complete without stopping by Dotonbori and taking a picture of the Glico running man sign. The Glico running man may be the most recognizable symbol of Osaka. Dotonbori is an area famous for food in a city famous for food. Osaka is a port city and various delicacies of the sea are easy to find in Dotonbori. Whether you want sushi, octopus balls or crab, you can find it in Dotonbori.

The Glico Running Man has been at Dotonbori since 1935. Glico is an Osaka based company that makes sweets, so eating their products will probably not help you cross the finish triumphantly like the man on the sign.

Doesn't the running man look somehow larger in this reflection? I wonder why.

The Kani Doraku Crab has been above this crab restaurant since 1960. He is 6 and a half meters long and his arms move.

This giant hand is coming out of the wall to grab a piece of maguro, tuna. This is not mechanized and does not move.

This demon is above a store front that sells takoyaki, octopus balls.

March 7, 2011

Osaka World Expo Park: Tower of the Sun

The first World’s Fair to be held in Asia was the 1970 World Expo (日本万国博覧会) in Osaka, Japan. The controversial symbol of the 1970 World Expo is the 65m tall Tower of the Sun (太陽の塔), which vistors to the World Expo Commemorative Park can still see the tower.  I read in the Lonely Planet that many people thinks it looks like it was made by a child. It was actually designed by Japanese artist Taro Okamoto and he was 59 years old when the Tower was completed. The easiest way to get to the park is via the Osaka monorail.

We first see the Tower of the Sun peeking out over the monorail tracks from across the highway.

2 of the tower's 3 faces are on the front. The top face is called the "Golden mask (黄金の顔)" and the bottom face is called ”The Face of the Sun(太陽の顔)”

The back of the Tower has the third face, "The Black Sun(黒い太陽の顔)"

Reflection of the Tower of the Sun on the windows of the monorail station.

March 2, 2011

Various Osaka Pictures

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 5:37 am

Here are a couple more pictures from Osaka, most are from shopping over the New Years holiday, so it’s basically a continuation of my previous post.


I saw a lot of young girls rocking the pair look (ペアルック pe-ah, ru-ku. That's Japanese-made English for wearing matching outfits). But I also saw these matching dogs sitting together in a bike basket.


More matchy- matchy clothes. These are Lolita style dresses for sale at a costume store. The clothes at this store were actually pretty cheap but also pretty poor in quality.


Frosted Flakes tankini? Sounds Grrrrrrrreat! If you look closely you can see a Pez bikini in the background.

February 28, 2011

New Years Sales in Osaka

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 10:28 pm

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!


Sign announcing the sale.


It seems like fur is really in right now. I wonder how much of it is real fur and how much is imitation fur.


More fur, and leopard print! But if the point of fur is to stay warm, then this outfit is a massive failure.


There's fur on the boots too. For the cheap cheap price of 6,520 yen (about 70 USD)! (Is that cheap? I dunno. I think they could be cheaper.) I like the squirrel sitting next to those boots.


Fur's in for men's fashion too.


There were many girls with megaphones entice people into their stores by promoting their store's sale. Look at the eyelashes.

sale girl

Another girl with a megaphone trying to get people to shop in her store. Check out those eyelashes and that bow! This girl actually asked me to take her picture.

February 25, 2011

DIY Ear Piercing Kit

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 6:16 am

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.

ear piercer

DIY ear piecring kit for sale in Osaka.

February 23, 2011

Osaka Skyline at Night

Filed under: Domestic, Kansai, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:01 am

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.

OsakaOsaka at Night

Another view of Osaka


Bridges in Osaka. Osaka is a port city. It sits on the sea and has many rivers running through it. That's what made it so perfect for becoming a major center for trade.


More of Osaka. Can you see the red oval just to the right of the center of the picture? That's a ferris wheel on top of a shopping mall.

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