Parking garages and orderly light shows
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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Here are some neat Japanese ideas we have noticed:
1. The revolving parking garage. You drive your car into a tiny covered forecourt, park it on a big revolving disk and get out. The disk then turns your car around and slides it away into the innards of the building.
2. Elevators that don't move until someone approaches. These might exist elsewhere but I haven't seen them and they are a nifty power-saver.
3. Wind-powered highway lights. These are little round disks (about the diameter of a grapefruit) perched on little poles along the side of the highway. The wind created by the cars and trucks that speed by spins the disk, thereby powering a little light to guide the night-time driver.
When we finally wake up at about 10am, exhausted from all our recent eating, a big western-style breakfast of eggs, sausages and hash browns is waiting for us.
Speaking of eating, we take lunch at a popular downtown restaurant that specialises in okonomoyaki, the local Osaka dish, which your own personal chef fries up at your table. Okonomoyaki is known as 'Japanese pizza' but it's really more like an omelette containing cabbage, eggs, flour and meat, topped with some brown sauce and mayonnaise. It tastes better than it sounds.
Osaka really is chaotic. Eveywhere you turn, you bump into another little Japanese person. For such polite, respectful people, they never say 'excuse me' and bumping one's way through a crowd is quite normal, like human pinballs. We bounce around the major shopping area, a crazy futuristic neon-fest with 3D billboards and flashing lights at every turn. It is mainly young people around here, the girls with their mini-skirts, leather boots and 'Hello Kitty' handbags and the boys with their designer jeans and rebellious raggedy hairdos.
There is a strange phenomenon in Japan called Pachinko. Pachinko arcades are everywhere, recognisable by the enormous signs outside and the incredible noise inside. Pachinko is a gambling game, very similar to the slot machines you find at casinos, only it requires a tiny degree of skill.
Besides okonomoyaki, the other Osaka delicacy is takoyaki - deep-fried octopus balls. (Just to clarify, by 'balls' I am referring to the shape of the item, not the part of the octopus that is used to create it.) One particular stall has supposedly the best takoyaki in town and there is a suitably big line. Unfortunately it is not the most delicious taste I've ever tried - rather slippery and leathery in texture and gooey in taste.
We fight our way on and off another train to Kobe, a nearby city. Every year, Kobe has a big festival of lights around Christmas time so we, along with 900,000 other people, decide to check it out. Having gazillions of people descending on this one small area would be a bit chaotic so the local police or whoever erected a long series of fenced-off roads to herd people through in an orderly fashion.