Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Land of the Rising Fun – Erich

Japan started out stressful, but once we got past that, it has become an incredibly enjoyable (though expensive) place to be. We have been in many countries now, and all of them were in many ways foreign to our American ways of doing things. But Japan is thoroughly foreign, more so than many other places we have been.

Part of that is the lack of Latin letters, or even an alphabet that is similar to ours like Cyrillic or Greek. But that's not all of it. Japan just has a lot of differences in culture, foods, and society. I'd love to show you some of them, perhaps mundane in some cases, but all interesting.

Let's start at the grocery store. First, there are totally foreign foods to us. Sometimes we can figure out what they are, like these long white mushrooms. (We used them in dinner last night and they were delicious.)
I don't know what that speech balloon says, but I like to imagine it is "I'm a fun guy!"
Other things we have no idea what they are. I call this a melted wax cucumber, though I am not actually confident that inside of it is anything cucumberish. We have not tried this food.
This evolved in nature? Surely not for its aesthetic qualities.
We did try octopus and it turned out to be quite good. Though it is noteworthy that in Japan people seem to be less squeamish about their food looking like it did when it was alive.
You can still see part of the head, sucker!
Though we did try various greens that we don't have at home, I don't know what they are called, but they are good.

The way they package things is unusual to our way of doing things as well. For example, here you can package your own sliced salmon with the skin still on it.
Salmon, on the rocks
But your carrots are prepackaged individually. Each carrot is in its own plastic bag.
Now in the convenient wabbit size package
But even in a foreign far off land, there are tastes of other places. Note the American cherries. (They might actually be grown in the U.S.A. That seems likely.)
A stellar representative of our nation
But less likely is that this Italian Lime Fanta has anything to do with Italy. We certainly never saw it there.
After all, if it were Mongolian Lime, it wouldn't have the indefinable air to it, right?
Other shops are also very antithetical to our experience. For example this tiny, narrow store sells two kinds of products: men's shoes and cigarettes. What's the connection? I have no idea!
Maybe the idea is that you smoke while trying on the shoes
But if you want cigarettes and the men's shoe store is closed, don't worry. Osaka is filled with outdoor vending machines. They are everywhere. Including some that sell alcohol and others that sell cigarettes. (Perhaps there are no age limits here? If so, I'm not sure how they would be enforced.)
No, these aren't hard to find
Retail outlets and restaurants naturally need to get your attention to sell their wares. So what could be better than signs? Big signs? Signs in all kinds of shapes sticking in and out of your building?
This one has moving legs

I love how he goes through the building

I have no idea what the hand and brush store sells
That's not all you might find sticking out of a building. How about a rock climbing wall on the outside of your building and several stories above the ground?
For the high adventure lifestyle
The foods available at some of these restaurants are, as one might expect, not your standard American fare. Though sometimes it seems a bit too out there. I'm not sure what Horse Sashimi is, but I certainly hope it isn't what I think it is.
All opposed to horse sashimi, say neigh.
Even at a familiar restaurant like Burger King, you might see some more Japanese menu choices.
There was also an avocado burger
Like any big city, Osaka has the need to control water flow. They have storm drains, canals, and manholes. The canals move with a surprisingly swift current, and inside some of them you find turtles.
Soaking up the sun
As for the manhole covers, they are their own form of public art. Most of them have something interesting on them, and some are painted.
Sewer entrance decorated with a castle

Or honoring the fire department

Or maybe a pretty flower or two.
Finally, let me end with the Japanese love of costumes. We saw a Cosplay Cafe at one shopping center. We have seen several people, mostly women, dressed as anime characters. Generally, we don't recognize the specific character though. But perhaps best was while we were visiting Osaka Castle, we saw a castle man!
A castle on your head? Think he falls down a lot?
You gotta love Japan. The Far East is far out!

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