Monday, December 3, 2012

2/12/12 – 3/12/12 Osaka, Land of Shopping and Nara, Land of Squeaky Deer


If you cast your mind back to last time I travelled to Osaka, I may have mentioned about a vintage clothing store that Emma adored. Either that or I may have not finished writing up my blog for that part of the trip. Either way, there’s a vintage clothing store in the America-mura district of Osaka that Emma discovered last time and found heaps of vintage clothing for ridiculously cheap prices. When planning this trip, I set aside an entire day for Emma to shop here, as she enjoyed it so much last time. Today was that day. I prepared myself for the experience of lugging around shopping, and sitting in the designated “man chair” for an entire day. My smartphone was fully charged, loaded with the latest version of Angry Birds. I was ready.

Actually, it didn’t really turn out like that at all. In reality, we had a look around a bunch of shops, including the fascinating Den-Den electronic town, which is literally across the road from our hotel. Though mainly, it felt like we spent most of the day at this particular vintage clothing store. Emma found a stack of things she liked, and ended up buying quite a few of them. She had a great day, and while I would be lying if I said that today was my favourite day of the trip, it certainly wasn’t all that painful. Emma was super happy at the end of it, as well, so it was definitely worth the daytrip there.

After our afternoon of shopping, we also looked around the Dotonbori district of Osaka, which is basically where Osaka’s nightlife comes out to play. It was quite similar in some respects to Times Square – bright flashy lights, crowded as hell, and your visual senses stimulated to their pupil-dilated maximums. Add to that the gigantic hanging models on the front of each shop of the food or product that each store sold, and it should complete the picture for you. A really fun place to have a look through, but once again, it wasn’t really our scene so much.

On the way back to the hotel, Emma found an anime/cosplay store that sold various cosplay costumes. Firstly, they are super expensive. Want to dress up as a sailor/schoolgirl from your favourite obscure anime series? You’re looking at a minimum of $300AUD for a decent outfit. Most of them were around the $500AUD mark, too. What Emma did find in this store though, was the “Necomimi”. Necomimi is a headset which has two motorised cat ears attached to it. It has multiple sensors across it, which measure the brainwaves of the user. It then uses these brainwaves to animate the cat ears on the headset. They perk up when you’re surprised, and they twitch slowly when you’re thinking hard about something. They actually work, and it is quite freaky. Still, Emma seems pleased by them!

Aaaaand that’s pretty much all there is to report about today. We didn’t really do all that much, but it was an enjoyable day for Emma, which is the important thing.


Today was my turn to choose where to go. I decided to head back to Nara, a place we visited on our last trip. This time, we only went for a daytrip, as it was far too expensive to stay in the town at this time of year.

We got up early, as we had a full day ahead of us. We took advantage of our hotel’s excellent 500JPY buffet Japanese breakfast. With our stomachs full, we headed out for the train station. For once, we actually arrived at the train station fairly early, with a full six minutes to spare before our train left.

50 minutes later, and we were back in Nara, a wonderful mountain-town of Japan. Nara is famous for the massive park that takes up the eastern part of the city, Nara-Koen. Inside the park lay several breathtaking temples, mysterious lantern-lined paths through pine forests, and, Nara’s most famous attraction, the 1,200-odd deer that roam the park. These deer are semi-tame. Some of them will let you pat them, and they are generally quite passive animals.

That is, until you buy some deer biscuits. Then, depending on where you are in the park, these seemingly placid creatures will fall into a biscuit-lust driven fury. They will mob you en masse, and will bite, nudge and headbutt you until you give up your delicious biscuit-ey prizes to them. Well, this is the case with the ones that hang around the high-tourist traffic areas, at least. If you head up further into the hills, like Emma and I chose to do, you’ll find deer that are timid towards humans, and they will rather eat the leaves and acorns off of the trees than any form of deer-crack you throw their way.

At this time of year, the days in Japan are quite short. The sun sets by about 5:00pm, and any real warmth from the sun disappears by about 4pm. We arrived in Nara just after 11am, and left by about 5pm. This gave us a fantastic spectrum of light to work with for the photographs we took. And many, many photographs were taken. So many photos of deer. Deer being patted, deer being fed, deer accosting us for our deer biscuits, deer. Loads of deer.

One thing I did notice about the aforementioned deer is the sound they make when they call to each other. It is hard to describe. It’s sort of like a cross between someone deflating a balloon while pinching the sides of it, and a squeaky door. It’s bizarre to see these majestic animals, proud beings of the forest, sound like a creaky chair that needs oiling every time they make noise.

My favourite part of the day was when we found ourselves a quiet moss-filled meadow, where we found a small herd of fairly shy deer. It was a great experience to coax them to us using leaves and the acorns we found on the ground throughout the day. I saw one deer off in the distance, sitting on its lonesome. I went over to give it some food, but as I approached it got up. It was holding one of its front legs off of the ground – clearly it had injured or broken it in some way. I didn’t want to scare it any further, so I just put my leaves and acorns on the ground as close as I could to it and left it in peace.

As the day came to an end, we headed back to the train station. I had a lovely day walking around the quiet Nara-Koen, and even looking around the temples inside it was quite nice, and not nearly as packed as the temples we visited in Kyoto. I still didn’t really get my “zen” on, but it was nice to take a breather from the quick pace of the big Japanese cities.

On the train home from Nara, we caught the after school rush. A kid sat next to us who was doing his English language homework. We tried to help him with the answers, but he declined our help.

During my travels so far in Japan, I have been searching for a game called “Ouendan 2”. I bought the original “Ouendan” in my first trip to Japan, and I wanted to get the second one on this trip. So far, I hadn’t had any luck finding it. But, tonight, I did some research into a used video game store in Den Den Electronic Town that may sell it. It was only five blocks south of our hotel! Excited, I headed out of the hotel to explore this store on my own.

After only a few minutes of searching, I finally found it! What’s more, it was only 1300JPY! Bargain! I was super happy to find it, and played it well into the night.

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