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2019 - Japan - Day 6

Last year I celebrated my birthday 5 hours later than normal as I was in Florida. This year I celebrated it 8 hours early. This got me thinking about what all this travel across time zones does for your body. Am I actually a few days older or younger than what I think I am. I quite quickly realised that of course it all evens itself out as and when I get home unless I keep crossing the international date line. Then like Phileas Fogg I would be in quite a muddle.

Anyhow I had decided that I would have a proper celebration when I got home and have all my cards and presents waiting for me. However it was still nice that when Karen eventually remembered that today was actual my birthday that she had brought with her a present of a T shirt and the plans to take me away to Porto for a weekend in September.

Breakfast was again had in our room and we waited until we saw that Neil’s plane had landed at Osaka before checking out and making our way to the Train Station to get to Osaka ourselves. Despite the station being crazily busy, there was hardly anyone else waiting to get on our train. We had been told yesterday that we didn’t need to make reservations for this trip and so hopped into a deserted carriage. Unbeknown to us it was a First Class carriage and as luck would have it we were busted by the first conductor we had seen on all of our train journeys. He was very polite and nice as we pleaded ignorance with a smile and agreed to move. We were in carriage 11, apparently the unreserved carriages were 1 - 5. We moved along to carriage 10 which was almost deserted and just sat there instead, as I knew we only had a few minutes further to go until we got to Osaka. We would never have made it all the way to carriage 5 before we got there. I will be testing you on all this later.

From the JR station we had to catch the Osaka Metro to Namba station. This was as straightforward as it could be whilst wheeling our luggage and going against the tide of men in suits going the other way. Nevertheless we made it. Then we had to walk along something called the Namba Walk, which is an underground walkway for about 800m and lined with shops.

It was all rather pleasant until we got to the point where we had to get back up onto the street. We were greeted with 6 lots of steps. Karen had apparently made a special effort to pack lightly for this holiday and was proud she was nearly 1kg under the airline weight limit. I think all she had done was to put more into her hand luggage which was almost as heavy as her case. The bottom line was that there was no way she could carry her bags up the steps, meaning I had to make 3 trips. I was huffing and puffing at the end. Not the type of the thing I think I should be doing at anytime alone on my birthday.

We wandered the short distance along the street to our Hotel where we left our luggage. We knew that Neil was on the train from the airport and so headed for the Starbucks we had passed underground on Namba Walk sending him instructions how to find us. We were there about 1 hour before he nonchalantly arrived. We think he was very pleased to be here and even pleased to see us, but with Neil its quite often hard to tell. We got him a drink and a roll for some lunch for his whilst he chilled a bit from his long journey.

Around 1pm we decided to explore the vicinity around the Hotel. For the first time this was a brash Japan and so different from what we had seen so far. There were walkways and small roads that were all undercover. There were neon signs everywhere, and a large amount of hustle and bustle. There were gaming arcades, restaurants, shops, and goodness knows what else and it was difficult to take it all in. It was all right in your face. This continued in every direction and every corner. It really was a sensory overload and difficult to take in. It reminded me somewhat of Freemont Street in Vegas albeit on a smaller but longer scale with more variety than just casino’s. Almost every restaurant had plastic food outside showing off their menu. It looked cheap and rather tacky and really not appealing. The prices for the Kobe steaks though was outrageous, or so we thought until we got to the Koromon Market. Here we saw very thin small slices of Kobe Beef that to us looked like slices of fat with a merest marbling of beef selling for £450 each! We were astonished to say the least. The price of the fish was not much better. They were selling crab legs (admittedly the size of my arms) for £80 each. I would want the legs and body of the whole crab along with all its relatives for years to come for that.

Then we came across the Puffer Fish Sushimi stall. We couldn’t see the price but there was a large crowd around it and many people excitedly eating it. Now call me unadventurous if you like but eating a delicacy where if the chef prepares it wrongly you can die, seems a tad outside of my comfort zone.

Virtually every other stall seemed to selling squid. Either in small pastry things or on sticks. They did not look appetising either.

At 2.30pm Neil was starting to flag a little so we went back to the Hotel and were pleased for find our rooms were now ready. It was a very thorough check in process. We were given so many instructions that we were exhausted by the time we got to our adjoining rooms. We were pleased to find these were slightly larger than we have had so far but we still could only have one bag open at a time.

Whilst we let Neil relax for a bit, we had a good FaceTime chat with Barry who was at home on a day off. He wanted to wish me a happy birthday and catch up on our trip. It was lovely to be able to see and speak to him across the world.

At 5pm we ventured out onto the streets and headed to Donoturi. This was another busy area for tourists. The pretty canal is lined with shops and more enormous neon signs. Sadly at this point it started to drizzle so we weren’t seeing it at its best but it was still impressive. I was most impressed by the worlds first elliptical Ferris wheel which was on the front of one large shop. We decided we would try and come back to ride it another time. We went in some shop recommended by Neil as the best and cheapest place for souvenirs. It was manic inside and reminded Karen of BB Adams (for those of a certain age from Norwich). We had to try and fight our way out of the shop after the briefest of time browsing without any purchases.

By now we were all getting hungry. As it was my birthday I wanted to go to the Outback restaurant in Osaka. That was a short metro ride away, however it was a bit further from the station than we anticipated. We had a really good meal and a proper sit down and chat with Neil. It still didn’t feel much like my birthday even though Neil has brought with him a small present for me from the UK. I enjoyed myself with 2 of my most favourite people whilst we chatted much about the 3rd who was absent.

We found a much closer subway to return from to get back to the Hotel. We got totally lost where we were on the Namba Walk trying to get to the Hotel and had to double back on ourselves twice. We made it in the end, although Karen seemed to think we did it on purpose just to annoy her.

Above on street level everything looked so different at night with bright lights everywhere. Yet again, we felt totally secure walking about at night. All of the Japan seems so safe. Earlier today we had seen people secure tables in Starbucks by just leaving their bags or laptops and then wandering off. Back in the UK we would never dream of doing such a thing for the fear of losing them. This seems to be a society where everyone respects everyone else and their property no matter who they are. From what I have encountered there does not seem to be top dogs or under dogs with everyone treated equally with respect. With that thought of why that was we retired for the night after I had replied to a lovely myriad of birthday messages.

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