Daniel in Japaniel

VISA in Osaka

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It’s the end (or the beginning) of the typhoon season here in the Kansai region. I’m tucked away, luckily, in the immaculate computer lab of Ryukoku University’s Omiya campus. Other ABS students are around me. We are all plug in to our respective rainy weather music (personal choice of Jukebox the Ghost)

Although I claimed victory over the travel arrangements that be, announcing to the world that, yes, I will be going to Vietnam. The journey to make my words true has been exhausting. Luckily with the help of a much more gifted Japanese speaker I was able to receive a voucher for the trip; however, because I lack a VISA to Vietnam, I had to take care of that before purchasing the ticket itself.

No problem, a trip to Osaka became necessary (my unfortunate life). Julian and I picked up a round trip rapid pass to the city. It’s actually south of us and, unlike Kyoto, is not boxed in by mountains. So, while urban development makes these cities kiss (common, imagine the Twin cities, reaching mountain to every mountain of this island nation), Osaka continues to spread as far south as Japan’s second largest population finds necessary.

An exhausted state tucked Julian and I in for the thirty minute trip. The unfortunate side of this trip was our time crunch. The Vietnam Embassy, consulate of the general socialist republic blah blah blah, opens for two hours 10-12, closes and then opens from 2 to 4. No problem, we got there at 10:30 and proceeded to push maps and names into the helpful JR staff, getting colors, lines, numbers and hands thrown at us every way. Eventually we master the beautifully simplistic subway system, and get to the Hommachi district around 11.

And now, at no fault of ours whatsoever, we went north from the station (not south). Japan makes everything so simple, that you forget maps are usually oriented on the perspective of the person. In this case, the map was pointing South as North, and so we found ourselves uptown walking back to Osaka-eki.

Eventually we realize this, only after asking every other passerby “Be-to-na-mu?” pointing at our map. Now six blocks north of where we wanted to be, and with ten minutes left to closing time we booked it to the Embassy. Got there right at noon. However, like my mother, the Vietnamese Embassy finds it necessary to set their clocks five minutes ahead. Consistent rehearsal of this system has made them completely unaware that they’re always early. So, they closed the doors on us, handing us forms.

Luckily, they would open in a few minutes. Julian and I composed ourselves, drank Pacari Sweat while we went through brochures of Eco-tourism of Vietnam (circa publication date mid-80s).

We decided to go to our next plan, visit “American Village” or “Amemura”.

Now at this point, of course, we had already created our grossly overgeneralized opinion of Japan’s cities through “is” and “like”. Lemme show you, Kyoto is like Boston: old, humid, quaint, historical hot spot, a surprise it was never firebombed (too soon?); while Osaka is like Philly: industrial, grungy, local population fueling a culture scene. I guess we could go on and think Tokyo is like New York, except clean and houses roughly 120,000 war ready robot/cyborg/machines etc.

So we made our way southwest, ogling the outdoor/indoor market that like a hollowed aorta funnels Japanese through the bright shops, First Markets, Subways (selling foot longs at 8 inches), and 390¥ Thank You Mart!s.

Amemura (American Village) draws a much younger crowd, interested in buying vintage American tees at thirty dollar+ prices. Kanye West blares around corners and the employees chant “Irashaa” “maaseeeeei” like mooing cows, their syllables murmur and carry to the next Reggae themed store.

In a Germany based clothing store, InDesign?, we chatted it up with the employees, asking them, where do you usually go? One was a little ways more south, the other (Junk Cafe) was simply around the corner.

Located on the 9th floor of M building, the front door says “7 DAYS OPEN! cafe all time O.K !!”. Engrish at this point in the trip has faded from it’s original gaudiness. At time, we were unphased, I probably read it and thought sincerely, “this will be great!”.

Of course it was. Lately, I have been hitting the jackpot on tasteful cafe’s. Back home, I was getting to the point where I’d take out every employee of the next techni-colored chalk, beatle cover playing, roasteria (weapon of choice, probably a french press). Now I don’t think there exists a bizzaro-japan version of me who craves exposed brick and vintage 50s steel signs, but I am not him.

There are two sections, a window seat bar area where Pinocchio is playing on a flat screen, Chinese and Japanese subtitles underneath, and then, straight ahead, are red linen covered Norwegian otherwise inspired foam forming furniture. A cute japanese duo are texting, knees together, chatting about something, about sisters.

At the bar Julian orders a “Master Burger” and I, a “Taco-Curry”, both set meals with iced coffee. A Tom Jones J-Remix plays while Julian takes sepia photos of the cafe. Bullion broth in tea cups are brought and for a moment we wonder if those are tea leaves at the bottom or dehydrated scallions. We left a little for the meal (always identify the palette cleanser in these situations).

The about six dollar meals, each, were gigantic. The Master Burger is a teriyaki marinated burger (sans bun) with a soft-boiled egg for a hat and spam and rice as company. The Taco-Curry on the other hand is a crispy cold pile of lettuce, pico de gallo salsa, with Nekojita hot curry and some chili-fried beef sprinkled on top. With the soup-tea, and our iced coffees (that look like fountain soda Coke with it’s tall glass and iconic red straw), it was hard not to gush with each bite. In between bites, the happiness of our meal made us laugh about anything. The view outside, for instance, had in the reflection of a glass covered business tower a scale model of the Statue of Liberty, bought with High-heel and bronzer profits.

In planning for our excursion in Osaka this weekend, it was hard not to want to go back to Junk Cafe but we had to let go, and trust that the clubs will be equally fulfilling.

We went in and out of the surrounding shops looking for the cheap cheap clothes, but after little success we made our way back (with more success) to the Vietnamese Embassy.

The man there hustled me out of twenty extra bucks on top of the fifty dollar fee for processing. Two conflicting sides tell me, one, he was either doing this because I wanted it same day, or two, when I told him my Mom came from the South he up’d the price. Hard to say, but I do know the American before me picked up his for 50$ same day.

The Vietnam ticket woes, sadly don’t end there. Some complications with Wachovia have made money transaction a little difficult (my ticket can only be bought in yen). Actually after lunch at the student Co-op, I plan on visiting the ATM and picking up my tickets.

Tonight, if the weather clears up, the ABS folk are going to have a few games of BPIP (Beer Pong in the Park) followed by the Drag Ball (“Diamonds are Forever”) at Club Metro downtown.

Tomorrow, Julian and I, and maybe a couple others (Charlie and Paul) will meet up with their Antioch friends to enjoy the night life.


Written by Daniel

September 26, 2008 at 8:39 am

Posted in shopping, wandering

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