2 March 2010
Woke up early again, so booked my accommodation in Osaka and had a leisurely breakfast. Chatted to the German, his brother had arrived from New Zealand.
I negotiated the tube like a local, right to the Imperial Palace Gardens.
There is a museum of gifts presented to the Emperor and Empress of Japan on official occasions. The UK gave a commemorative lamp from the Deep Navigation Coal Mine in June 76 , Shetland lace shawl when Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip visited in May 98 and in May 07 an embroidered box and letter from Helen & Douglas House Hospice for Children. The Peoples Republic of China gave a very intricate full orchestra made of jade and polished wood. I thought the thing from the Netherlands looked like a massive multi-headed bong but is was actually a tulip vase - easy mistake to make! Even the modern art that looked like a green snowman given by the Spanish would have beaten the DVD box set Obara's Administration gave us! There's photos of the Emperor and Empress during the 60s - he looks very official and she was a bit of stunner!
The metro system is a little bit like London's except the tube map is more geography representative. I walked to a convenient station, rather than taking 4 trains over 3 changes, and caught the metro to Mitsukoshimae (Z09) where the currency museum is. It is attached to the National Bank of Japan. I used to collect coins when I was younger so this is right up my street. It starts around 3c-4c BC up to modern day. It was fascinating.
One interesting thing is that when Japan started trading with the West they insisted that foreigners exchanged their gold and silver coins to local currency and back when they left. This was to keep Japanese money in the country (a bit like today). The gold to silver ratio was 1:5 in Japan but 1:15 everywhere else. Foreign traders were making a packet by bringing in silver coinage and exchanging it to local silver, converting it to local gold then converting the gold back to western gold!
God it's cold. Stopped at a little coffee shop for a sandwich and a warm-up! Continued my journey on to the Suitengu Shrine - Seven Deities of Good Luck. Praying at this shrine brings good luck with pregnancy, giving birth and the avoidance of flood damage - go figure!
After a quick pray I went to Akihabara. This place is the Tottenham Court Road of consumer electronics. Next door to almost every computer shop there was a porno shop. No wonder I.T. people have a bad name. The first one I came across was 6 stories high, filled with porno movies and books. Most of the stuff you would see in Amsterdam but almost 2 of the floors were filled with what can only be described as sanitised softcore child pornography ranging from cartoon/anime to provocatively posing 6/7 yo girls in school uniforms and/or swimsuits. It was quite unsettling. What was even stranger was the fact the whole place was filled with smartly dressed business men - not a flasher mac in sight.
Along with I.T. shops Akihabara has hundreds of coin-op parlour. Strangely you have to traverse through 3 or 4 floors of those machine that have a grabber. The grabbers were grabbing anime dolls or big posters of cartoon school girls with loads of cleavage. If seems perfectly normal here.
Every 5 of 10 meters along the main street there are pretty girls with long bouncy hair dressed in school uniforms enticing you into their club. I couldn't see any obvious entrances with signs but I think it was strip/lap dancing.
Was starting to feel a bit flu-y to headed back to the hostel. Had a nice hot shower to warm up and set out for something to eat.
Japan has loads of noodle bars. So I stopped at one that looked simple. Apart from the owners family I was the only one there. They were watching a show on telly about some people eating really disgusting food - fried egg with melted cheese and bits of meat! i.e. omelet! I got chatting to the eldest daughter who was probably about 6. Her mum helped with some English words. She was very interested when I said that the fried cheese meal was something we eat in England a lot. She, very observantly asked if everyone in England was really fat to which I unfortunately had to say Yes. I was showing her some pictures on my phone of some English food, a couple of pictures of the Santa's we built over Christmas and the snow outside my house. The rest of her family came over to see, Mum and the youngest daughter - language was not a problem pointing, actions and a couple of words created a clear understanding. By this time the restaurant had filled up and a helpful stranger offered to take my photo with them. They were lovely.
Walked the short distance back to the hostel. Swapped stories with the Germans and went to bed.
Photos on my FaceBook page.