So, I'm in Osaka. I'm there visiting the Waffle King, and yet I haven't been in The Presence yet. You'd think that would start to wear on a body, two days into being in his domain. Well, it had. I stuck near my computer (most reliable source of communication since my phone died and I hadn't sussed out the use of the hotel phone yet) and arranged to meet that night, after figuring out how I'd failed to meet the night before.
Went out to Osaka Castle (Osakajo) to get my touristy, samurai-interested, historical nerd fix in. Osaka Castle was the site of the ascendance of the Tokugawa Shogunate, where Tokugawa smacked down the prior rulers of Nippon and said, "nice place, think I'll keep it." It was a just a few blocks from my hotel, so I walked over and wandered for a few hours.
It's set up with the moats and protective groundworks in place. Apparently while setting up the area around the castle for renovation they discovered walls and moats which they subsequently unearthed and restored. This may have happened a few times, since as late as the 1970s more defensive structures were discovered and returned to seventeenth century appearance. It's really great, visually, and all the walls and moats make for a good walking tour of a lot of different views of buildings, shrines, and the surrounding cityscape.
The castle itself is eight floors high, on top of the existing mound of the castle, and is surrounded by wooded parkland. As a result, the view from the top is fantastic, even though the castle is technically not as tall as a lot of the tall buildings.
I tried some "local food." "Local food" turned out to be rice and barbecued chicken, so it really wasn't much of a stretch. Probably a good thing, because I'm a big picky jerk when it comes to food. Please note this sentence, as it will be relevant later, vis a vis octopus.
Picked up some souvenirs for the poor Americans, trapped in their Western Hemisphere, and got some more walking around done. Just walking around was great. I would walk through six blocks of standard commercial / residential Osaka and then find myself in a block completely occupied by a stone and wood Shinto shrine. Since I'm entirely ignorant of the Shinto religion, I'm glad there were other tourists there with cameras to reassure me that I had not missed a sign somewhere condemning me to prison for seven years for violating the holy precincts of the temple. The architecture and design were amazing. I wish I knew more about such things, but as is, I enjoy the hell out of it.
That night the King and his betrothed wrapped up affairs of state and came to find me, since I had proven myself incapable of finding them. They were well, and looking good -- it had been a few months since I visited them in upstate New York. We grabbed some alcohol and went to a nearby city park. CULTURAL NOTE: this does not make me a scumbag. Public consumption of alcohol is ordinary and acceptable, even to the extent of having beer and cocktails available in vending machine. So there.
After catching up till late that night, I sent the royal couple on their way. I went up to get some sleep and managed to find anime about Japanese girls playing baseball. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as some know. I was really starting to enjoy Osaka.
The next day, I napped and walked some more. My hotel had sheets on the bed, but not a sheet for sleeping under. The only bedding was a thick comforter, which didn't kill me despite the summer heat. I did have to moderate how much I did, and at what part of the day, but that's just reasonable. Morning's good for wandering around, and midday for siesta. It was just awfully warm for a little nap. That evening, we met up "by the giant crab" near Shinseibashi, which was shockingly not specific enough, and I almost failed to find everyone again.
I did eventually find my dinner party. They were Chris, the Waffle King, Mizuki, the Waffle Intended, the Barbaro family (the House of Waffle), and a coworker of Chris's (and his adorable girlfriend). I want to say Chris's friend's name was Aubrey, but waiting a month to write about things is a bad practice and should be avoided. I do recall that he and his girl were moving to the Phillipines soon, and decided my life was essentially boring, because I was not moving from one Pacific island nation to another one with a gorgeous woman. I may be using the wrong metric here, but it made good sense at the time.
We hit a buffet fondue-style place, with the open oil cookers and the batter and food on sticks. I tried to moderate my intake, which I advocate at a buffet, but this proved ill-advised when everyone else finished up and was ready to leave. However, while there, I did try takoyaki. That is to say, octopus hush puppies. Maybe "hush octopi"? I doubt it. Anyway, they were pretty good. I would have stayed on and drank and eaten and eyed up the cute waitress further, but the Barbaro family was heading back to the hotel for some rest, and the rest of us had to engage in more public intoxication.
We were joined after dinner by a number of Australians. More on them later.
I don't know if this whole post will post, so I'm going to end here and resume after the break.
--1:14 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, I don't know why but I can't type lately
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