May 28, 2007

Osaka, Encore

So, this blog is in danger of becoming a "Log of Places I Went With Kori," given that that's basically what this post, the last post, and the Tokyo post are. And given that we're doing Kyoto again this weekend, that's probably what the next post will also be about. I do feel vaguely odd about this- as this particular installment of Diesel Sweeties points out, it is a little weird to blog about one's girlfriend on a regular basis. But, given that she's done the same thing to me, I think it's all good.
Also, I feel compelled to point out to ya'll that yes, I have a girlfriend, it's awesome, I'm in love, everything's nifty, and the world is full of awesome. Everything is kickass with Kori, and I might as well just go out and say it rather than being all coy about it.
We checked out Osaka last weekend, which was quite nice for me, since my only experience of the city was via a work trip that was colored by a drunked haze brought on by my superior. So, it was nice to go back and actually see the city.
In Osaka, we made our way to Amerika-Mura, or America Town. It's a nice area, full of various types of nifty shops, hip places, young people, graffiti, etc. Walking around Amerika-Mura is a nice reminder (at least for me, who lives in Okayama) that Japan does, indeed, have some really cool, hip, weird, people in it. For quite a while, Kori and I just sat in a public square people watching whilst eating tako-yaki, Osaka's regional specialty. There were groups of girls in matching wigs, kids dressed up in hip-hop regalia, punk and goth types, and various other wandering fashion plates. It was Sunday, and we wondered how all of these people looked during the work week. For instance, there's this one guy who works behind the counter at the Circle K by my apartment, who has this bizzare quasi-shaved head-it's shaved around most of it, but still long in the back with this sort of dyed crest-thing coming up in the back. But, I've only ever seen him in his orange and blue Circle K uniform, selling me onigiri and bad bento. I thought of that weird-haired guy, briefly, whilst we watched various other weird-haired people parade around us. We wandered around a bit and eventually found Osaka's Umeda Sky Tower, a rather impressive glass-and-metal structure that offered a nice panoramic view of the city- the pictures from the top of a skyscraper are from the Umeda Sky Tower. Tres nifty.
But, what I really want to talk about is Osaka Castle.
Osaka-Jo is sort of funny- it's been burnt and rebuilt a bunch of times, which is sort of admirable in a Pheonix-style way. It's also just sort of comical- the place seems cursed, almost, to get destroyed every so often. I wouldn't be surprised if a freak earthquake or metor took out parts of the main tower in the next couple of years.
Anyway, the place is pretty neat. From the outside, Osaka-Jo sort of resembles Okayama-Jo with its black-and-gold casement. A very nice and helpful tour guide on the approach mentioned to us that when Tokugawa rebuit the castle, he didn't really build it for war. He built it, as the guide put it, as "a symbol of his authority."
That's putting it mildly. With the black casing, the gold ornamentation, the gilt tigers rampant on the uppermost part of the tower, the gleaming fish on the roof, all say "I'm Tokugawa, bitches!" I imagine the shogun basking in SnoopDogg-ian splendor, surrounded by scantily-clad attendants and wearing enormous, gaudy, gold chains in some sort of sumtuously decadent chambers. Tokugawa- medieval gangster warlord, showing off his bling to his opponents and underlings.
Upon entrance the castle lost any appearnce of gold-clad history, and instead revealed itself to be an entirely modern museum style building. Sure there were lots of maps, dioramas, historical videos, timelines, etc. All sorts of educational, PBS style stuff. Stuff that probably was really, really edifying. But none of that stuff, no matter how wonderfully educational, was not nearly as cool as the displays of samurai armor.
Now, I'm 26 years old, and I like to think of myself as what is generally known as an "adult." I can do adult things like pay bills and use credit cards. I've got a job and wear a tie on a regular basis. I'm pretty freakin' grown up.
But damn are swords cool. I know, I know. War is bad, etc. But, whatever. There's still a part of me that's an adolescent who thinks swords and armor are awesome. In fact, I have this sneaking suspicion that I've actually become more adolescent in the last few years. Being secure in one's adulthood allows for a sort of revelling in kiddy stuff. It's sort of like guys who are secure enough in their masculinity and not hung up on macho bullshit that they're man enough to hold their girlfriend's purse. That kind of stuff- being assured enough of something that you don't have to prove it all the time. Am I making sense? No, probably not. But, anyway...
And helmets and armor and spears and bows and cannons and gauntlets and more swords! It was pretty frikken' cool. (Regrettably, there was a prohibition on taking pictures inside. Sorry, guys.) The various suits of armor did look pretty outlandish, and a lot of it pretty impractical. I thought that such things as giant sets of antlers jutting from a helmet was purely the province of fantasy illustration, but apparently there really were people who were batshit insane enough to go into battle with deer parts on their head. There were also a remarkable number of masks on the helmets, all of which probably made the wearer look all the more frightening to his opponents.
I thought about this looking at the armor, and imagined that the average foot soldier was probably just some guy conscripted from rice fields and given a sharpened stick or something. But the samurai, the guys wearing this crazy armor, were trained, well-equipped, usually mounted dudes who, as Kori put it, "looked like gods." There were probably all kinds of guys who dropped their spear, ran in terror, and then got mowed down by a guy on a horse wearing scary animal parts as a hat.
The top of Osaka-Jo offered a nice view of the surrounding greenspace and the city, as well as a close up of some of the blinged-out fish things that are all over the castle's roof. We climbed down, and found a pleasant plum grove near the castle, and sat by the moat for a while.
Travelling is of course wonderful. I'm constantly intoxicated by the fact that there's a plethora of things and places here that I've never seen before. But travelling with someone is far better. I'm glad that now when I venture out into Japan, Kori's there and we can bounce our various opinions and ideas off of each other. We made our way back to Amerika-Mura, and found a fashionable Italian/Chinese (?!) restaurant.
Sitting there, I was reminded that Japan is indeed a rather hip country. Okayama isn't exactly the epicenter of coolness, so it was quite the breath of proverbial fresh air to eat in a place that had a small amount of coolness to it.
I had to say goodbye to Kori so we could catch our respective last trains to Okayama and Tokyo, but fortunately we're seeing each other again soon. I mean, this country isn't too huge. The prefectures are about the size of American counties, and the whole thing is filled with supertrains that zap you anywhere quite quickly.
So, it's back to Kyoto soon. It'll rock.

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Karen!! said...

Wow those are amazing pictures! And ooooooooooooohh oooooooooooohh Joe has a girlfriend :)

Sydney said...

The picture of you on Kori's blog is just the best picture I've seen of you! Congrats, Joe! You deserve nothing but the best!

Beau said...

Joe and Kori sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G... Naw I am just kidding, I am happy for you Joe. Keep the posts coming, it gives me somthing to read when I am bored at work.

Eric said...

That's good news Joe, but what happened to the Joe that was like "I'm going to be celibate & just take a break from women while I'm in Japan." Or was that just a lie? I don't know what to believe in anymore. Also, that is a very cute picture of you on Kori's blog.

Those are some cool pictures of Osaka, too bad about not taking them on the inside. Of course, they told us not to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel and I did anyway. No flash, no foul, as far as I'm concerned. Be the rule-breaker we all know and love. Go to work with your tie crooked!

Kori the tomorrow lady said...

ha ha. I'm announced.

funny the different things we notice. I hardly paid any attention to the armor and pointy bits... so at least if you lose your adulthood over them, you won't lose your manhood. It's hard for me to get interested in costumes unless it's trying to figure out how to steal the designs use them to make sexy SCA wear (oh yes, I am THAT vain). Antlers just don't make the cut...

I was much more fascinated by Americamura culture and the view over the moat. ;) but alas, I am a slow blogger. the chase is on!

Colin said...

Alas. I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art last summer and saw a bunch of swords and armour and was bored out of my mind. So I guess what I'm trying to say is...NEENER NEENER NEENER, I'm more mature than you!