Visa Run To Japan

This time last year found me in the Middle East, and now it's Sept. 11th once more. What a day for me to be in the air. Still, if that's what it takes to get a Working Visa for Korea, then who am I to object to a chance to see another country?

I've just come back from 24 waking hours in Osaka, Japan. Not enough time to gather much of an impression about their town and culture, but some odd little things nevertheless. A girl who'd lived in Japan for three years told me she thought that they could accomplish anything they set their minds to. Hmm...when you land at an airport built on an entirely artificial island, built especially for the purpose a few kilometers off the mainland, you sorta have to agree. Still, no matter how fascinated you are with the beautiful terminal, Japan is calling and off you go.

The first thing you notice is the punk kids on bicycles, the old men on bicycles, the women bringing their kids to school on bicycles, two young ones carrying themselves and about 10 designer bags on a bicycle - and no one paying any attention to mere pedestrians. :)

Still, armed with 6 words of Japanese (including, "Bonsai!"), and the ability to get lost in any city in the world, off I set. Next thing you notice in the shops is that everything is really expensive. I'd say about 1.5 times the Irish prices. To get around the accommodation cost, you can always go sleep in a "Capsule Hotel" - basically a Morgue, with blankets. Japanese businessmen, loaded up on Saki use them when they are out for the night and can't remember how to get home. Still, not needed in this case, 'cause the company was picking up the tab, so I checked into a plush place downtown. I had 10,000 yen for accommodation, and the bill was 7,000 yen - then I saw the sign for Japanese Massage in your room - only 3,000 yen. The thing about temptation is that it gets a bit ridiculous is everyone resists it - someone has to give in, or it just becomes meaningless. :) :)

Refreshed and relaxed I set out to conquer Osaka. There's not a huge amount to see, if you've been in Japan before, but fortunately I hadn't, so everything was shiny and new. Osaka castle isn't a great castle by Japanese standards I guess, but if you've never seen any Japanese castles it's feckin' great. Ditto with all the temples and shrines. (Marked with a reversed swastika on the tourist maps!)

I used to be able to tell Japanese people from Chinese people, and I spent my time looking at the Osaka locals to see if I could differentiate them from Koreans - apart form style and fashion, I couldn't tell any difference. (Koreans and Japanese hotly contest this - they hate/despise each other.) For some reason Japan invading here from 1910, to 1945 didn't go down too well.

I found Japanese people really friendly though, especially on the way back to the airport when I lept up three stories of escalator steps taking two at a time and fell into the departing train. Luckily it was going to the airport - but I'd only bought a normal ticket and I'd jumped on an express train. That's a 1200 yen difference (1us$ = 117yen ish). Oh dear.

I was really dreading when the inspector came around. I tried my "I'm a dumb foreigner, pity me" routine, but it didn't wash. He was ready to fine me, and take me off to the police at at airport etc.. Real nice guy. Then he offhandly asked where I was from. "Ireland" - "Ah I love Ireland" And off he walked. :)

Sometimes being from a no-army country really does the trick. :) Stil, me being in the air and today being what it is, a little thought for the people who died in the Sept. 11th attacks.. Even the Koreans can't complain about that.