Trip Start May 05, 2008
Trip End May 09, 2009

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

After China, Osaka felt awesome. There's no other way to describe it: it was so well organized, so clean and so quiet and the people felt so helpful and friendly. In many ways an antithesis of big Chinese cities, who are chaotic, dirty, loud and where people are often boorish. We stayed in a business hotel which was very cheap being next to a men's shelter, but the bums instead of seeming threatening, seemed quiet, peaceful and sometimes very even friendly. We visited Osaka castle and got a taste of medieval Japan which was all the more enhanced by the unexpected surprise of a free guided tour by a retired volunteer, who was 70 but looked to be 50, who told us he just wanted to extend Japanese hospitality to foreigners. After all our experinces in Asia, we kept on waiting for a "catch" that never came: the man was honest and our visit was very enjoyable. Osaka as a city is not very special but it is pleasant as far as big cities go. Downtown is a real riot at night and great for people-watching: especially the shopping arcades where Japanese young people strut along in their favourite outfits. We've seen the most outlandish costumes, straight out of a manga comic. The fashion here is completely different from the west: Japanese girls often wear impossibly high heels and very short skirts, while guys display huge manes of died hair, tight jeans and huge curved shoes that look like a cross between cowboy boots and Middle-Eastern slippers. For those of you familiar with Japanese animation, you might be surprised to know that they are not completely fictional: some Japanese people really do look like the life version of that. Then again, this is probably a young people's reaction to the formalism of the real world: Japanese businessmen and women all seem to wear the same suit uniforms. We should add here, that aside from us loving Japan so far, we don't even find it all that expensive. In fact, if one is careful, one can travel for quite a bit less than in Europe. We managed to go for a few days on $120 a day for the two of us! 
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