One Morning in Osaka, Japan

The Dotonbori Area of Osaka, Japan. Photo By Marta R. Garcia

On our second day in Osaka, we got some culture.

My family (Mom, Dad, brother, and sister) and I had landed at Kansai International Airport the previous day. The airport sits on an artificial island off the coast of the Japanese mainland, just a few miles from Osaka. It cost the Japanese government $20 billion to build the island, which in Japanese Yen is…also a lot of money.

Supposedly, the island is sinking at the rate of about two inches a year. This is not what you want to hear when you’re going through customs, jet-lagged and stressed out from an 11-hour flight.

We had to drag eight bags of luggage across a train ride and a cab ride, before we finally got to our airbnb. We grabbed a bite to eat, and then crashed for the night.

On our second day in Osaka, my father and brother got up very early (just before sunrise) and decided to go for a walk. Well-rested, and freed from the scramble to get our luggage across a foreign city where none of us spoke the language, we were able to relax, and enjoy the area.

Osaka isn’t like a stereotypical Japanese city. It lacks the pastoral greenery of Kyoto, or the ultra-modern cleanliness of Tokyo. It’s dirty and grungy. Cigarette butts dot the sidewalk. Tall gray buildings sit crowded together, as if huddling for warmth (not that they needed the warmth, Japan was bloody scorching when we went to visit.) Street vendors stand on the side of the road, selling gloriously greasy food.

I like it. It’s sincere.

“I want to show you this app,” My dad said, partway through the walk. “It lets you take a picture of something with Japanese writing on it, and then it translates the writing into English!”

We were standing in front of a hotel less than half-a-block from our airbnb. A skinny brown building; non-descript, almost hidden in the forest of old buildings. It had a sign up front, next to the sliding door entrance, and my dad tried to translate it. As often happens when trying to show someone a nifty new toy, the app wasn’t quite working, and my dad had to fiddle with it.

The sliding door to the hotel opened, and out came a young couple. The man was very casual; messy hair, a black t-shirt and old jeans. The woman was striking; nice trench coat, fashionable boots, and long brown hair.

Just as the couple passed us, the app started working. It translated the sign, which read: “Rent a room for two hours.”

We turned back and the young couple had separated, the young man turning to the left, the young woman turning to the right.

A few moments passed before all the pieces added up in our heads.

“Oh,” My dad said. He put the phone back in his pocket, and we continued our walk. We got sushi at a 7-Eleven.