First, I must introduce you to Kenji, my bartender at the Holiday Inn Osaka Namba
When I said Yasushi was my favorite person in all of Japan, I was like 50% accurate, I blame the whiskey. While Yasushi is the customer there, and he picked me up every day and took me to lunch every day, Kenji is my BFFFLIJ =D
Kenji and I got into a gift giving competition. It all started because I love Japanese Whiskey and ordered the Yamazaki 12, and we got to talking and he poured me some of his personal bottle of Hakushu (which you can’t buy anywhere and I’d never tried). So I had to bring him something in exchange. I had some awesome botanical soaps from Carl Linnaeus’ botanical garden in Uppsala, so I let him pick his favorite flavor…. Then he gave me a masu (that I still have and love, I actually portion my rice with it like a OG) and he started giving me all kinds of other things! Some mizunara to infuse whiskey with, drinks, and before you know it, we had basically swapped all our belongings, and now I’m a bartender at the Holiday Inn Osaka Namba and he’s a Field Service Engineer with TriFoil Imaging!
A couple of quick stories, that first picture is a bottle of Baijiu. If you haven’t tried Baijiu, just know two things: it’s the most consumed alcohol in the world by volume (Chinese moonshine basically), and it tastes AWFUL. So bad that it’s internationally known for tasting awful. I LIKE THE STUFF. But I recognize it has a fierce, ethanol forward flavor lol. ANYWAY, the point of this story is – some things are the same everywhere. You know how in America you’ve got that one friend who will be like “OMG This is so GROSS, You GOTTA TRY IT.” and next thing you know you’re eating it and you’re like “Oh, god! That is gross!” Like it doesn’t make any sense, but when I saw the Baijiu and we got talking about it, Kenji was like “OMG, hold on, I’ve got the worst one – YOU GOTTA TRY IT” lol. It’s times like this you realize something is just try of humanity everywhere 🙂
Pic # 2 is just my tribute to Japanese quality in manufacturing. Those are Birdy brand bar equipment, I believe designed by an Italian and produced in Japan – they are the best of the best. I guess I’m kind of a nut for Japanese things, my Japanese kitchen knives, my Toyota, etc… But, I just appreciate that this is one of those things Japan can lay claim to as part of their culture/history. They make dope ass shit.
On my last trip to Japan, I brought Kenji a bottle of San Simone from Torino, we had a glass together, he invented a cocktail, and then he gave me a shot of his absinthe that he bought in Czechia and illegally imported because it’s got higher contents of some chemical than Japan allows. I’m sure this isn’t the end of our gift giving game, but it’s a good stopping point 🙂
For my Portland friends, if you haven’t been to Bible Club PDX, YOU HAVE TO GO. There is one other Bible Club in the world, Bible Club Osaka, and it is equal in greatness. Not as busy, so you don’t get the same “experience” as you do in Portland, but as soon I said something about the Yamazaki Sherry Cask, Yoshida-san put that $1000 per shot bottle of delicious in front of me the rest of the night, just to taunt me XD
Before I forget, I want to tell you a little story I keep experiencing called “It wasn’t what you thought.”
One day I went to 711 to get coffee, reached into a fridge, and it was HOT. Like the coffee I grabbed must have just come out of a case that was sitting in the sunlight, and clearly the fridge was broken. It took me until my next trip to Japan to realize, that there are just “hot fridges”. Ya know, for people who like hot fricking coffee? The takeaway is, things aren’t what you think sometimes.
Another one that took me even longer to figure out – the bathroom window. When I checked into the Holiday Inn Osaka Namba, the bathroom window like opens into the room, so like, if you had two people there, you could watch the other person shower? So weird, man Japan is weird. Oh wait, no, actually I had to check into a hotel in The Netherlands, to see a similar setup, to realize, I’m just a moron and a lot of hotel rooms are designed that way, and it’s probably not creepy it’s just so you can shower and still see your room! I dunno maybe you’re watching the news while you shower. SO. The takeaway is, I guess, your conclusions are gonna be wrong sometimes. Either that, or I’m just a moron sometimes =P
These deer man, they basically own Nara.
A couple of quick notes, the popular cartoon pic is supposedly so popular a show that everyone tunes in Sunday night at 7pm or whatever to watch it. Yasushi told me that people of all ages watch that show, almost everyone in Japan according to him! Vending machines are EVERYWHERE in Japan, and I’ll say it again, takoyaki is DELICIOUS. The little dice thing was a gimmick the restaurant had, where you pop the button and it rolls the dice. If you get some special combo, you’re food is free! We didn’t win =(
So, there are like, 5% as many trash cans in Japan as there are in America. I carried an empty plastic coffee cup for a good 2 miles before I found a trash can in Nara. It’s nuts. I did figure out one trick though, a lot of times the vending machine will have a trash can or recycle bin next to it. I think the idea is you eat n drink right by the machine. So yeah, you will experience this, I’ve talked to a few people who visited Japan and that was the first thing they said to me “Dude! What do they do with their garbage?!”
CREAM (The Money)
Japanese people have this in common with Germans – they love their cash. There is actually no way to buy a train ticket without cash at most of the stations. There are banks of ATMs everywhere, and they are always busy. Shops have these enormous elaborate coin counting machines with flashing lights and beeping sounds and shit, like a high speed coin counter. Everyone dumps their change in it to pay. The highest value coin is ~$5.
The Streets of Osaka
Regret – A Short Story About Photos
So, one morning, 9am, on a Thursday, I’m walking through Osaka Namba and I come across a guy SPRAWLED out in the hot sun. I’m not kidding this guy was sprawled out, in the middle of a cross walk, with a guy doing the asian squat next to him on the phone. My instinct is to help and not be a bystander, but I don’t speak fucking Japanese, so I had to just observe for a second…. I quickly noticed the trail of vomit and the water bottle, and his buddy was on the phone getting help – I’m sure he’s gonna be ok. They just partied a little too hard. BUT – my story isn’t about that, my story is about how I regret not taking a photo. It was just like an amazing visual scene. At first it looks grim, then you look a little more and realize it’s just a kid who drank too much. And I thought about taking a picture but didn’t. It was enTIRELY reasonable I could have got a photo, and I did this “too shy to snap a photo” thing. I did it one more time, and told myself I’ll never do it again.
The other time was the alleyway from the above photo, but also in the early morning. The alley is entirely empty, all the shops are closed, and walking towards me was a guy probably in his 70s with a cane, and he was completely hunched over. Like his upper body was parallel with the ground, the bald top of his head was what you could see cantankerously crutching it’s way down the alley. I didn’t take a photo. And I should have, it would have just been a visual treasure. Moral of the story – embrace the inner photographer in you when you see something stunning 🙂
A LOT of places in Japan you are expected to take your shoes off. Not even a majority of the places I went, but at least a half dozen in total for me 🙂
Last but not least, let’s talk toilets. I didn’t actually get a picture of a fancy one, so I Googled and stole one, but half the toilets in Japan are absurdly fancy, the other half are a hole in the ground u gotta squat over… or maybe that’s just for pee, I DONT KNOW, IT’S WEIRD
It’s worth noting – that last squatty weird one is actually visible when the door to the bathroom swings open, so if you were using that, peeps in the lobby are gonna see you whenever someone comes in and out of the bathroom. Weird man.
OK, almost done, a few fun videos, and then my closing notes 🙂
OK, between the two posts I think I gave you a good taste of Osaka. After visiting I know I want to go back and see other parts of Japan, and other parts of Asia as well. This was my first time anywhere in Asia and it was the most “different” of anywhere i’ve been. So if you’re thinking about visiting some day, definitely do it.
Alright, I’ve written enough. Goodnight you guys 🙂