Osaka from 500 feet and 30 miles

My arrival in Osaka was sadly predictive of my stay there. I was met at the airport around noon, taken to the office I was working at, and about 1:30 AM I got in a taxi and found myself heading to the hotel that had been arraigned for me – the Stargate. I was impressed by how easily the taxi driver understood where I wanted to go, until I got there and realized that it was an unmistakable landmark… a 54 story tower surrounded by 3 and 4 story buildings.

My room was pretty typical of other Japanese business hotels I have been in. There were two beds linked by a control console for the lights and the electronic “do not disturb” sign (pretty clever, actually) with a built in alarm clock, a small sitting area, a desk, and a bathroom. All in all a pretty standard hotel room. What made it (and the others) particularly Japanese to me was that the bed and chair heights were noticeably lower than most other places, the bed was rock-hard, a cotton yukata and disposable slippers were furnished, and the toilet was fitted with a “Japanese super toilet seat.” Most of that was only discovered the next morning, however, as by 2 AM when I finally got into the room the only thing that mattered was setting the alarm clock and going to sleep.

The morning brought a hazy view from the 43’rd floor of mountains, the ocean, and a metropolis stretching between them all the way to the horizon. Osaka was somewhere in the gray mass. There was a breakfast buffet with a variety of western and Japanese breakfast items on the top (54’th) floor with a remarkable view of Kansai airport on it’s artificial island and the causeway linking it to the mainland. As the week progressed the views became progressively clearer, until on my last day I could see all the way across the bay.

After breakfast it was down to the train station and off to work again, and then back at 11 PM for another quick sleep and repeat the cycle the next day. Before I left for Osaka I had looked up some things to do, and on my last full day there it looked like I was going to get a chance to have some time for sightseeing. Unfortunately there were some issues to resolve, and instead of having an early day I ended up working through until 6 AM the next morning… and made it back to the hotel in time for a quick nap, a last breakfast, and check-out before heading back to the airport to return to Tokyo. In the end I spent 5 days in Osaka (or rathar Kansai) and saw the airport, the hotel, and my temporary office.

That said, I was able to notice a few things… In Tokyo people stand on the left of an escalator / moving sidewalk and walk on the right; in Osaka they stand on the right and walk on the left. In restaurants they tend to expect you to order when they bring the menu or else to verbally call the server to you, in Tokyo they tend to stop by after you have had a few minutes to look the menu over. Osaka also has much more expressive warning signs for getting your hand caught in a subway or elevator door… in hindsight I wish I had taken a picture.

The flight back to Tokyo, also on Star Flyer, was a fleeting memory. I was awake for takeoff and landing but beyond that I was more or less out, and the monorail trip back to my flat was essentially on autopilot.

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