I was feeling self-congratulatory on the train to Osaka. All of our other plans had fallen through because of the typhoon but we had a train pass and hotels in Osaka were cheap so we made a last-minute decision to head there from Nara. I’d never visited a place without a binder full of research and in this case we had no tourist information at all except one of those maps that are really just big advertisements for expensive restaurants and souvenir shops.
Oh my plan was so clever; it would have been a great subject for a blog post. Right after arriving in Osaka we set about putting my plan into action. (Okay so it was actually me doing it while HOB hid behind me looking embarrassed.) Here was the genius plan: head inside the most upscale looking Western hotel chain and stop by the concierge desk as if we were paying customers. “Oh help help, we are unexpectedly stuck in Osaka because of the big, bad typhoon! Can you please give me lots of brochures and maps and help me find UNESCO World Heritage sites and Bunraku puppet shows?” And the nice concierge ladies smiled and handed over the same map we already had.
Try a different hotel. More nice concierge ladies gave us that same map. Try several times to visit the tourist information center, which never opens (perhaps because it is a holiday weekend). Check into our cheap hotel and are given the same stinking map. Really stress out the earnest desk staff asking for things that turn out to closed due to the holiday. Practically cause smoke to come out of their handheld translation device imploring them to find us a dance or music performance.
After giving up on my clever idea of using hotel concierge as proxy guide books, I consulted google. I found a promising looking shrine and we walked to it. It was closed for the holiday. We gave up on the idea of sightseeing and wandered about, eventually ending up in an area where girls dressed as maids beckoned us to sing karaoke and sip coffee alongside owls and hedgehogs. Gah, quick escape….to a street that just sold nothing but plastic food.
Friends, things were not going well for your favorite cultural tourists.
We were in search of street food when I saw this colorful mural, which turned out to be the entry to a supermarket. A supermarket!? More like a Murakami print, I’d say.
It was the Murakami supermarket that made me finally relax and enjoy Osaka on its own terms. This was not a city obliged to produce UNESCO sites on demand during holiday weekends. This was a city best appreciated as a giant pop art installation.
Perhaps we will meet again, Osaka. Next time I’ll bring a guide book and more appreciation for your pop aesthetic.
But I’m never going to set foot in a maid cafe.