Monday, January 16, 2006

Osaka: The End

I woke up to the first full day of 2006 with far too few hours of sleep. Despite this, I felt happy, and raring to go. I let Jared sleep another hour, yet that wasn't quite long enough for him, so I let him be a little while longer and headed out on my own to experience a rather unique way of celebrating the new year, the Happy Bag.

On January 1st stores in Japan bag up selections of their wares and then put the bags on sale for a fixed price. Depending on where you shop, you have either no idea or very little idea of what is actually in the bag. The only thing you know is that whatever is inside is worth at least what you paid. Often it is worth more than you paid, and there is the catch. It is sort of a combo of gambling and the thrill of opening Christmas gifts. While I was in Osaka I came to the realization that I need (Need!) two new digital cameras. A nice slim little pocket point and shoot, and a digital SLR for the more heavy duty work. While I need to save up a bit for the big one, I had some disposable income and decided to try my luck at a happy bag to see if I could get discount on a nice camera. As things turned out, I got a very nice little Fuji, and it is about half the size of my current digital. I still use my Olympus a bit, but it is very nice to have more options. I go a great price too!

Once I was back with my new toy, and happy as a clam playing with sleek Japanese technology, I headed back up to Jared's room to deliver a more persistent wake up call. We just wandered around Osaka for a while, shopping, eating, chatting before ending up at one of the coolet arcades I have every seen, Joypolis. Yes the City of Joy, home of photo booths, virtual ping pong, and linked MarioCart. I'm no stranger to Japanese arcades, but this one was a bit more high tech then most. But then it had its low tech moments. Like a super cheesy Indiana Jones knock off treasure hunt that was a total rip off. By and large however, we were filled with joy, so I guess thats truth in advertising at work!

We actually stayed up pretty late, hanging out, chatting and the like. We got up early the next morning, checked out and headed for a last crack at Osaka Castle. Luckily it was open this time, so along with a few thousand other people, we got to explore the insides. It was cool, but between my distinct lack of sleep and the crushing crowds, it wasn't really as cool as I had perhaps hoped it would be. Still worth seeing. On the way out we ran into a strange little street performance. I have no idea what was going on, but it was interesting enough, so we bought some ice cream and watched for a little while.

On the Shinkansen home Jared complained that it was too fast, he wanted more time to enjoy the trip, especially for the amount of money he paid. Some people are just never happy!

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The view from my hotel room. Hello busy JR Line!

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How cool is that, linked horse racing. You too can be a jockey.

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Jared taking a stab at virtual ping pong. Really a fascinating bit of technology.

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As we call it, the drum game, I think the actual title is Taiko no tatusjin. Something like that. The important thing is to pick a song, and drum along. Absolutly tons of fun, especially with two players.

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Performers outside the castle.

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