Twenty-four hours of recycled air, force feeding and little and fleeting sleep, we finally arrive in Japan. Osaka to be precise.
E-un guesthouse, where we alighted, was in Fukushima, a district in Osaka and revealed itself to be an enchanting, hospitable establishment with a certain hippy feel, a lovely lounge playing an eclectic array of ska, two tone and jazz. Comfortable rooms up a steep staircase and warm hosts.
We were delirious the first night, the anticipation and exhaustion creating a kind of hysteria. Leaving E-un the roads were alive with eateries. We stopped by a shabby stall with a bar inside playing Japanese rock, outside were live octopus and this seemed a promising sign. Our first experience ordering food was worrying, a menu in Japanese and not a word of English spoken, something we would have learn to navigate, but we managed to order an octopus tempura. It was quite the finest tempura I have eaten although that may well have been influenced by my sense of euphoria with being in Japan and not far from a bed. Jet lag was kicking in. Next we got a kind of octopus pancake, like a Spanish tortillita but not so crispy, with the green end of spring onion sliced into it. We moved onto another establishment and had more tempura – not as good, but we were happy. Meandering about contentedly we fell upon a novel place (to us, but we would see later that it was quite common). Outside was what appeared to be a vending machine and upon entering with a mixture of signs and pointing it was explained that the idea was you put your money in the vending machine and
were presented with a ticket that duly passed on to the chef, who consequently cooked the food, which appeared mostly be those big soups so common across Asia judging by what the other customers were eating. We randomly picked a dish and presently we collected our steaming bow and slurped down out broth with noodles and duck eggs, rich and delicious.
The soporific effect of all the food and a few lagers forced an early retirement. Around 11 the following morning we stumbled up, showered, and had our first coffee in Japan prepared by our hosts.
And so it was, H took control of transport and thank god as I really would still be there now. As I write this, I have been here a mere 48 hours and used Inner Loops, Subway transfers,
overland, underground, buses, trams, you name it. H used an app and I was happy to be told where to go. Efficient, very clean, but very confusing to me. I s
aw cleaners passing through the trains literally straining their eyes to find some litter, just one piece. The upholstery was
immaculate.. I even saw one cleaner on an escalator using a toothbrush to clean in inaccessible areas.
On we went to Koromon, a covered market street selling seafood, meat and cooked food, dumplings, more octopus, spider crabs, lobsters, abalone, giant oysters, scallops, puffer fish,
sushi, sweet dumplings, sweetmeats, vegetables, fresh wasabi, kobe beef, coffee beans. And that was just what I recognised. Such an array of wares to truly behold and bewilder. My camera was burning as I clicked away like a true gaijin.
I have already started to think of as Osaka as the City of Octopus, specifically the little brown Octopi. Dumplings, pancakes, tempura, millions, literally must give up their lives daily at the altar of the palate of this friendly metropolis.