This took a while to recap, with my job and actually maintaining some sort of social life, but we’ve finally arrived at the last part of my family’s great Japan adventure: Kansai!
We left Tokyo at 11:30 (ish) on Saturday. It wasn’t much time for Kansai, just Saturday evening and all of Sunday, but it was a good way to end the trip. Something a little less frenetic than Tokyo, with fewer crowds and a slower pace. They actually preferred Osaka to Tokyo and my mum said that, if she ever comes back to Japan, she’ll base the trip out of Kansai and only go to Tokyo for a couple of days. Reverse the itinerary. Osaka is undeniably a fabulous city, so I totally understand the love. We also had a great hotel. It was kind of inconvenient, in that we had to take a couple of subway lines to get to Namba, which happens to be the best train station ever, but the room was really big and nice, overlooking a river. So that was lovely.
Saturday evening was devoted to Osaka itself. First, we did something I’d never done, or thought about doing: the Umeda Sky Building.
As you might have assumed from the name, it’s near Osaka-Umeda (it’s at 1-1-88, Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, less than 10 minutes from the station on the Yodobashi Camera side) and it’s amazing. My mum loves architecture, which is why she wanted to see it (as you can see from the picture, it’s two skyscrapers that connect at the top floor), but it’s so worth visiting for anyone. It’s 173 meters (~568 feet) tall and you can go all the way up to the top, which gives you a 360-degree view of Osaka. First, you go up in a really fast elevator, made of glass, then up a glass escalator, then you pay ¥700 (for adults) and can go up to the rooftop open-air observatory. We went early evening, before sunset, but apparently it’s open till 10:30, so you can also get a night view.
It was so cool, one of the coolest tourist-y things I’ve ever done anywhere. If you’re in Osaka and have a free hour or so, I really recommend it. The view is spectacular and the building is fascinating. A winning combination for this kid.
After the Sky Building, we went to Namba to eat at my favorite Japanese chain, Italian Tomato, then went on to Dotonbori. I’ve talked about Dotonbori before, so I went go into detail on this one, but it was fun to take them because it’s so famous and interesting. My sister won more UFO catcher prizes, because she rocks those things and was a little obsessed, then we called it a night pretty early, so we’d have enough energy for Nara.
I know this is kind of an unusual decision, but with only one day left I decided to take my family to Nara rather than Kyoto. This is mostly because I prefer Nara to Kyoto, but also because it’s less crowded and Todaiji is amazing. They were pretty worn out and the crowds at Kyoto tourist spots are always going to be worse than crowds in Nara, which is just as lovely, but less famous. Actually, I think Nara is more beautiful than Kyoto overall, but it doesn’t have as many well-known sites so fewer foreigners go if they only have time for one.
As I expected, despite being tired and hot (it was really hot that day), they enjoyed Nara. We didn’t feed the deer, but we certainly saw enough of them, and my mum in particular was impressed by the Daibutsu. It’s just so big, you can’t help but be a little awe-struck the first time you see it. It’s one of those things, you know? Despite knowing how big it is from guides or whatever, you can’t quite realize it until you’ve seen it in person. There were a ton of school groups, mostly junior high and elementary school sixth graders, but it wasn’t too bad overall and we had plenty of space to take pictures and have a good time.
And that was it! We headed back to Osaka mid-afternoon, ate a late lunch at Namba, and did a bit of shopping. Then, on Monday, I got them back to the airport and headed off alone to Matsuyama. I ended up crying in the airport, and being really sad for a few days afterwards, but that’s all right. It was just such a fantastic 12 days, exhausting and full, but brilliant. We saw and did so much and, despite a few pitfalls along the way, they really liked Japan. In fact, my mum said she’d like to come again, if I end up back here for any significant amount of time, which is likely. So, I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a success! Now I’ve got about nine weeks left in my contract, which means about nine weeks till I head back to the States for a while. That means there’s a lot going on in my life, and Japan Version 2.0 is coming to a close, but I’m okay with that because it just means I can move forward, towards a proper career and, yes, Japan Version 3.0, because, despite being done with ALT work, I am still not done with Japan.
So that’s it for the trip write-up series. I’ll be back soon, hopefully sooner than these posts were coming out, with other things going on right now. Some good, some bad, and no doubt some very weird. You know, business as usual in the land of the mikan.