(DEAR SWEET LORD THIS IS LONG, LONG OVER DUE! I must, MUST DO BETTER) So first a not on the passing of time:
" It is already well into May. . . wait, WHAT! My time here is flying by at warp eleven. My weekends are typically supercharged with friends, food, sights, hiking swimming (well not yet but oh so soon!), cooking, and planning for the week that will inevitably follow the joyous ruckus that was miraculously crammed into two days. In summation, over a month has passed in what felt like the blink of an eye. I have many, many stories worthy of telling, but this post isalready written from oh so long ago and will be an adequate sacrifice to the mildly ignored interweb gods that be. I will try to catch up in the next two weeks with my chronicling of my time here. One of my new goals is to write more, so perhaps that will be the fire that gets me off my ass, and back to typing and thinking on writing. (One can only hope ne?"
The ceilings are low, and in an all too typical way I have to duck my head as I walk about (else risk a lump). Every table, booth, or bench is full to the brim with young Japanese people eating, drinking, and laughing. Two huge grill stations send out plumes of sweet smelling wood smoke, as the grill masters use dramatically long tongs to snatch various glistening fresh cuts of sea life from baskets lined with ice just in front of the fire pits. Glasses clink and you hear the words oishi and umai (both forms of delicious, or wonderful) coming from mouths full of flakey white fish. I work my way to the back corner table, behind the kegs, with its tiny un-backed chairs. We, the only two foreigners in here, were lucky to have Corey’s friend Ryo with us to get us the reservation. He orders a sampling of sea creatures and when asked what he ordered he doesn’t really reply – he just smiles knowingly. The small plates of food begin to roll in: grilled whole squid in ginger and shoyu (perfectly cooked). Corey, “That is so damn good! We gotta get another of those.” And we do. Everything: the squid, scallops, flat fish, three different types of small river fish, octopus, even the pregnant fish filled with their own babies then grilled in onions and garlic – it’s all just delicious. When asked what something is, Ryo responds in the way I now would expect most younger Osakan’s to reply. “Fuck the what is it man! Just eat it! It’s delicious.” Over the course of the meal we did squeeze in one plate of grill asparagus, and to round out the missing starches of the night we each had a few beers to wash down our banter and sea born feast. It was the best meal I’ve had in Japan; the presence of excellent company (which it seems I am never lacking these days) added to the night, but oh the food. I could not find the place again if I had to. I can tell you it is in Umeda (the centerish of Osaka, business skyscrapers and neon lights). It was a part of my weekend of being directed through a maze. Guided by friends and strangers I’d like to count as friends now through a noisy clustered mass of cars and streets, city like subways, and the biggest public transportation station I have ever had the pleasure of getting lost in. I am still recovering from my weekend in earnest, but man was it worth it.
So on to the rest of the story I suppose, or rather the filling in of the gaps. I went on a little mini spring vacation to the second biggest city in Japan, Osaka. Now, traditionally Osaka was the merchant city, and it’s always had this little rivalry with Tokyo. Osakan people think people who speak Tokyo influenced Japanese sound stiff and overly mannered, while to a Tokyo native Osakans come off as gruff and crude. Osaka is also the self-proclaimed food capital of Japan. I took a high way bus up on Friday, and spent my first two hours wandering Umeda Station (which in my defense is connected two subways, the JR Railways, JR commuter lines, the Airport Shuttles, and the Bus Station not to mention the snaking network of shops that course through that busy mini city) attempting to find the bathroom. I will also excuse my utter lack of direction with the fact that I awoke Thursday with a slight fever, a cough that set lightning a crackling through my lungs, and virtually no voice. I found my way to the Osaka Aquarium (BUT ANDREW YOU”VE BEEN THERE BEFORE! I love aquariums, and being that I had my fancy lovely new camera it seemed the perfect way to waist time in a relaxed space). After two hours and 153 pictures of jelly fish I headed to Shinsaibashi (famous restaurant district to meet up with my roommate from Tokyo Orientation, Carter (you may also remember him from such exciting posts as Naked Man).
Carter and I met up, and immediately went for grub. He is in Osaka almost every weekend, and being a fellow foody knows some damn fine eateries. Classically trained Mexican was on the menu for tonight. The place had charm and enough character to go around for years. Friendly staff, really really good food (the highlights for me were the slow cooked pork tongue tacos), and the margarita on the rocks made it quite the lovely dining experience. The lime and tequila helped my throat feel that false kind of better that you hope will last all night because you know when it goes away it’ll probably hurt worse. Then we met up with Carter’s friends and hand a long night of meeting new people. We slept in a capsule hotel (If you don’t know what this is, it is a rented bed and that is it. You rent a bed that is enclosed in a pod that you crawl into to sleep. Just enough space to sit up. No extra. Very cheap accommodations for frequent city commuters.)
The next day we went to an onsen (Japanese bath house) to wash away the smell of cigarettes and tortillas from the night before. Carter went off to meet a friend, and I met up with Corey (insert story about best food in Japan yet here). After I returned to a bar from the night before where there had been a fairly healthy crowd of English speakers. Carter and I wound up spending time with these Japanese chefs who spoke English very well, and seemed to think our food fascinations were endearing to say the least. They were fun beyond reckoning and kept us out till 8 in the A.M. talking and listening to live Brazilian music. After a night of no sleep, Carter departed for Wakayama and I was graciously entertained and fed well by my new Japanese friends who stayed with me until my bus left for Kochi at 1:30 that afternoon. The bus ride home was. . . well. . . filled with soar throats, uncontrollable coughing, and lots of napping. Traveling while sick, it seems makes, you sicker. Spent the rest of the week getting the green gunk outtalk my lungs, and terrorizing my office. My JTE’s all went a scattering at the mere sound of my raspy cough, and to this day they have not been seen near me (joking). I'm all well and fine now. More, more, more updates long over due to come. But now . . . . bed! but first Jelly fish and a turtle! for more go to my flickr page: