Osaka-jō and a Snorey Foot Massage

Day 5 – Tuesday, 2 April 2024

Barely any sleep on the overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Osaka. The train in from Kansai Osaka Airport to Osaka Namba at 6.40am slowly filled up with commuters looking even more zoned out than I was. Seb napped a bit as the carriage filled up – “filled” to the strict Japanese standard. Belatedly, I moved those bits of our luggage that I could lift to the bits of the overhead rack I could reach. The press of humanity kept pressing.

I can see people not quite seeing global domination from here

Got to the Kamon Hotel Namba (small but very funky, much recommended, a spit from all the buzzing spots of Minari (the southern bit of Osaka, says the guidebook)). Way too early to check in, but we dumped our bags and walked like zombies into the streets. Found a café, ate a range of toasts (all the sensible people) and a katsu sando (your correspondent). Then went looking for Tsûten-kaku (excuse my circumflexibility, the damn keyboard will let me put a macron over an o but not a u), a romantically hideous tower in Shin-Sekai, for a view over the immediate area. Got a view of the bottom of the tower, but no more as it wasn’t yet open. Still, learned how the subway system works. Instead, went to Osaka Castle.

Osaka-jō is a century old replica of the original which was built in 1583 and sacked (by Tokugawa Ieyasu) in 1614. According to Wikipedia, the main keep, or tenshu, was built by Tokugawa starting in 1628. In 1660, it was struck by lightning, igniting gunpowder and catching fire. In 1665, lightning struck again and burnt it to the ground. This all proves something, including that they were right in Kuala Lumpur not to let us keep fucking around in a lightning storm, whether wholly immersed in a pool of water on a hotel roof or daring the gods to do their worst on top of the largest lightning rod for a thousand kilometres in any direction.

Whatever the gods’ intention, the tenshu was rebuilt in the couple of decades leading up to the establishment of the short lived Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere that ended at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see this diary a week from now. The queue reached the “30 minutes from here” sign, and none of us could be arsed lining up that long to see a mock up. So, back to sitting under cherry trees in full bloom, then back towards Osaka Namba, where Anna had found a place that offered – nay, specialised in – foot massages.


The above narrative will tell you how short of sleep we were. The valiant staff of Foot Therapy in Namba could not accommodate all four of us at one go, so Anna and Seb signed up for the 25 minute service while Raf and I went round the corner to Cafe Gasuto (that’s “Gusto”, for those playing “Pick the Transliteration” – not always an easy game). We tried ordering via the tablet. It gave us (yes, we pressed the “English” button) some instructions we didn’t understand. We pressed the button marked “call a waiter”. The waiter gave us some help and pointed vaguely. We found a place that served some drinks that didn’t seem incommensurate with the price we’d paid, so we poured ourselves some, drank those and then chatted about whether we were entitled to go back for more. We had no idea. It didn’t matter. We went back to Foot Therapy, to find that 25 minutes was a massive underestimate, so sat and waited while Anna and Seb got foot massaged to paradise. Sure. Waiting rooms are cool. Whatever.

Then came our turn and, lo, either it was a slow day or we smelled nice or they’re just superb people there at Foot Therapy, because we weren’t in and out in 25 minutes either. The only trouble came when my complete exhaustion had its inevitable effect as I was lying, flat on my back in a warm room listening to soothing music while someone made all my troubles seem irrelevant. I swear I stayed awake through the entire left foot. Damn sure I didn’t last the right. Still, this is an age of miracles and wonders and, at the end, I was able to make my phone say, in Japanese, that the entire experience was wonderful and that I was very sorry for the snoring – I had had very little sleep last night. We chatted, then, via phone and Anna and broken English and Japanese about the father of one of their staff, so enamoured of Australia, that he uses as his online handle “Maito” – that’s “mate” to you and me, and to him, and to anyone who gets the reference. Transliteration.

Then back to the hotel, and if they weren’t ready for us we were prepared to be mildly indecorous in the lounge until they were. Needn’t have worried. The room was an absolutely perfect example of the “catering for backpackers” art. Four separate capsule beds, each wide enough to sleep two very well acquainted people, bugger all facilities in the coffee making vein, a good shower. I loved it. I slept on a futon throughout my entire undergraduacy and I’m not now certain why I ever turned my back. Because my back felt great in the morning.

But the morning is, as they say, another day. I knew that the instant I achieved horizontality that I would also achieve oblivion, so dragged my bag in through the door, gave frankly no shits about the rest of the family – hell, the majority of them are adults, these days – flipped on the voice-o-mat on my phone, flobbered “wake me at 5.30” at it and that was the very last thing I knew until 5.30, proving that voice recognition is real, baby.

Regained some species of consciousness in accordance with the above instructions and found myself in a silent room, three other bed/cubbies all drawn down and silent. Showered for the first time in mumblety-whatsit hours, put on something and went out with the short intention of finding a bar at which I could sip a drink and write this diary. Foiled by two things: bars in that area of Namba make Peel Street look positively spacious – I saw one establishment apparently making a living with an entire customer serving space accommodating five people – and my kids texted me fifteen minutes out saying where are you, we want to come and play. So out they came.

OK, so you tell me if it’s real. Someone’s a freak here, I’m just hoping it isn’t me

We stopped at Hozen-ji, a temple in the middle of the neon carnival of Dotonbori. In the morning, at Osaka-jo, I had been hesitant at the shrines while those (to judge by their appearance) for whom this was a natural expression had offered their reverence and ceremony. This time, comforted by the ambience (a quiet spot in a boisterous neighborhood), the crowds (read, lack of) and the historic resonance of the shrine (saith the history books, important to those working in the “water trade”, ie sex workers, a profession most sincerely respected by your correspondent), I decided to make my obeisance, only to be stopped by the realisation that the smallest offering I had on me was a 10,000 yen note. Well, respect is all well and good, but I swore to come back when I had some coins.

We strolled on through some of Osaka’s loudest spots, eventually doing a full loop probably three kilometres long, unable to take up space in a bar (accompanied by a minor) or a micro-restaurant (accompanied by a minor and a minor-major, neither of whom would commit to being hungry enough to justify taking up space in a restaurant that might seat twenty, max), and so to bed. Still, Osaka on a Tuesday night is alive. What it looks like on a Saturday, I have no idea, but to be twenty here would be quite something. Hoo-wee.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *