今日は! Enchantée! Nice to meet you! Schön dich zu sehen!
If you´re thinking of the ancient parts of Japan, apart from all the glitter and electronic, you´ll have probably pictures of shrines and temples in mind, of Geishas and Sakura (cherry blossoms), Mount Fuji and Buddha figures. Just to tell some stereotypes. Unfortunately the majority of that old traditional heritage was destroyed during World War II by the Americans, so you won´t be able to see a lot of that in Tokyo, Yokohama or Kawasaki.
Only the Southeast of Honshuu, the biggest one of the 4 major islands of Japan, was spared from the bombs. So you still find there ancient japanese wood houses, a huge number of temples and traditional old towns. The most famous and greatest there are Kyoto (京都市) and Osaka ( 大阪市), whereas Kyoto as the old Imperial capital of Japan is actually the symbol for ancient Japan anyway. If you walk down the streets in the famous Gion-district, you feel like you´re in another century, probably in the Heian-or Edo-peroid where Kyoto was Japan´s capital for over 1.000 years.
A few days after we (my family and me) arrived in Tokyo and got into our new apartment, we took a shinkansen-train to Osaka to explore the old face of Japan. It was the first time I went with a shinkansen and I was quite excited about it (although the tickets are rather expensive). Speeding up to more than 250 km/h we were in Osaka after about two hours. We decided to stay there and visit Kyoto by train because of the better and cheaper accommodation possibilities.
So we arrived in Osaka and knew little about it. We´d heard that it was for a short time a capital city as well and that it was popular for its comedy and cabaret scene. As soon as we were at the station we immediately noticed a difference between Osaka and Tokyo: People were dressed more relaxed, there were (surprisingly) more Western tourists and most obviously there was an extremely hot tropical weather. Japan´s summers are generally known as very hot and muggy but being at the geological height of Northern Africa increased even that effect.
We had only short time to look around in that kind of obstinate city but the impression I got was easy-going, non-touristic and way more provincial than Tokyo, even if that sounds odd for a town with more than 2.6 Million inhabitants. You just realised that you are in a completely other part of Japan. The streets were clean but not focused on good-looking and the whole ambiance was at least more original-japanese. People had a darker skin colour than the residents of Tokyo (which is not very difficult) and seemed generally more relaxed. We weren´t able to watch a comedy show there (we wouldn´t have understood anything anyway) but I could understand why it´s quite a good space for cabaret and humorists there.
Funny fact by the way: In Osaka the people always stand on the right side of the escalator not as in Tokyo. The both cities do not like each other so the local folks do that as a protest to show their independence.
The only big thing we explored in Osaka (apart from delicious food) was the Osaka Castle or Osaka-jou (大坂城) but that was impressive by itself. It´s a huge multi-storied fortress, built up in the 16th century to defeat attackers and to show the force of the former monarch as well. We went the stairs up to a history museum which is inside the Castle and after that to the looking platform on the top. There we had an overwhelming view over the city and a nice place to take photos. That rewarded the heat and the long stairs as the temperatures were extraordinary that day.
In the evening the weather was a bit more bearable and we went to look for some good food spots. The cuisine of Osaka is known all over Japan and abroad, especially for udon (うどん– thick noodles usually in some sauce) and oshizushi (押し寿司– kind of “pressed” sushi). And we really had some very good Japanese dishes, even if we didn´t find a traditional restaurant immediately in our area.
I actually liked the more relaxed informal atmosphere of the city. It was rather a welcome change to the more high-end side of Tokyo (depends on the district of course) though it was once not that easy to find something appropriate for us to eat (and we were hungry). It is just something that doesn´t appear on the top of a foreign tourist´s bucket list but that does not mean the city isn´t worth a view.
いってらっしゃい! -Have a good journey! -À tout à l´heure! -Halt die Ohren steif!
The one who wanna have a full passport