Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meeting up in Osaka

Backstreet, Namba
Because I know absolutely nobody in Osaka, I went on to and looked there for people, and arranged to have dinner at a Canadian pizza restaurant north of the main station. Because I enjoy partaking of local customs, and when in Osaka, what could be more culturally appropriate than Canadian pizza?

I almost failed to find the pizza: inadvertently I lost the map I'd printed out and although I knew it was north to the main station, that description covers at least half of Japan. Frantically searching and getting more and more confused, eventually I had to call my fiancee back in Hong Kong and get directions, a task made more difficult by Google Maps only showing the kana for each road and nothing she could read out to me.

After two circuits of the same block, it transpired that I'd been standing outside the place I'd been looking for, just looking in the wrong direction. Damn you, dramatic irony. There ended up being four of us: me, the organiser, who is a vertically integrated furniture maker, a lady who's in logistics, and finally a violin repairer, so a rather eclectic crowd. It was really good not to spend a night in a foreign city wondering what on earth to do, and I also got to eat Canadian pizza, which is the same as ... pizza. Maybe if they'd garnished it with maple syrup I'd have felt it was more idiosyncratic. Eh?

Still, one ex-British dominion wasn't enough: after the Canadian pizza, we walked to the Blue Billabong, an Australian-themed bar with a staff and clientele of Japanese (compare to an "Irish" pub in London where everyone working there is Australian and everyone drinking is English), had another drink and then discovered that I'd missed the last train back to Rinku Town, the strangely-monikered station just beneath my hotel.

(It's impressive that Japanese ticket machines won't sell you a ticket to a station you can't get to; from what I fondly remember of London Undergroun, the machines there will cheerfully take your money and give you a ticket, long after the last train has departed and your best chance of making it to Clapham is harnessing some rats to pull you along.)

Our host kindly offered me the chance to stay at his place instead, but since I was meeting people at the hotel first thing tomorrow I couldn't do that, and then offered me 1,000 yen for a taxi, which again I declined because I should have had enough nous to know what time the last train back was. I hope that didn't come across as a rude rejection of hospitality. It does show a certain generosity of character to offer somebody a place to stay after only four hours in their company, but I have a rendezvous with a hire car and an enormous bed that I've already paid for. Plus the train will take me within one stop of my required destination, after which it's either a yomp or a short taxi ride home.

I just hope when I get back to the hotel I haven't dropped anything else out of my pockets that turns out to be essential. Well, that can't be the case, because you'll only read this if I did succeed in making it home. Or perhaps this could just be a message in a Blackberry, found countless years later...

Hmm. Have to think positive thoughts.


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