Insomnia and Osaka

I give up. Three hours I got this time. And I was SO tired. I went to bed at 9.30 and it is now quarter to one and I’m wide awake. Ironic, really, as Timmy Mallett disembarked yesterday.

For those who led a more sheltered existence in childhood, Timmy Mallett presented a Saturday morning television show called Wacaday. WAC stood for the Wide Awake Club. So now you see why it is relevant to my insomnia. Clever, innit, this writing lark. 😉

I used to love Wacaday, used to watch it religiously, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him much, as he was being hogged by old people who watch I’m a Celebrity, Please Torture Me in the Jungle and wanted to suck up and have their photos taken. Most of them probably didn’t have the faintest idea who he really was (and I heard several say they didn’t even like him!).  He’s now an artist, and a rather good one at that. Rolf Harris taught him to paint, so he’s quite fearless with colour and the results are stunning. He painted live for us several times and did scenes of places we have been to. Needless to say, the paintings have all been snapped up, despite the four-figure price tags! I’m hoping that some will be made into prints, so that us normal people can afford to buy them, too, but this is apparently by no means a certainty.

So, anyway, I can’t sleep. My body clock has officially given up the ghost. My computer tells me it is 4pm in London, my bedside clock says 1am and my internal systems have thrown their cards up in the air and walked away from the table in disgust.

Osaka was fun. And I finally got to part with some money! In the morning we met up with two of our tablemates, Sonia and Mike, and shared a taxi into Den Den Town. This is the electronics quarter, where all the computer, camera and similar shiny things are sold. Osaka is quite like London in the 1500s – shops are grouped together by product. Hence in London there is Fish Street, and Milk Street and Pudding Lane and so on. We walked down a covered street (nice touch, that) and every single shop sold kitchenwares. Every single one. Chopsticks, pepperpots, ovens, condiment dishes, signwriters, lighting, air conditioning and so on. Everything you need to fully stock a brand new restaurant was available in the one place, in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. You nearly all got bamboo pancake warmers as souvenirs until my dad whispered in my ear “How are you going to pack them, exactly…?”

Of course, when I say “shared a taxi”, I am glossing over somewhat here. Every single taxi in Osaka is licensed to carry four people and four people only. Sonia, however, is tiny and could quite easily fit in my pocket – well, sit on Mike’s lap, anyway. (I kid you not. She’s four foot eleven and thin as a rake.) We managed to find a taxi driver who would take five of us, as long as Sonia agreed to duck if we saw a policeman, but we weren’t so successful later in the day, once the police were up and about, and we ended up coming back in two cabs, rather than one. Made for quite a giggle in the morning though, I can tell you! Good thing we all like each other!

Anyway, Den Den Town. If anyone tells you that Osaka shops open between 10 and 11, just slap them round the back of the head and be done with it. 11.30, if you’re lucky, thank you very much. This meant a fair bit of rather fruitless wandering past rolled down shutters that may well have hidden precisely what we were looking for! Anyway,  we finally found a store that sold what we were looking for. Mike and I bought blank CDs to burn photos onto and flash drives for further storage. I relieved the nice people at Mastercard of about a hundred quid, all in all.

We then found another willing taxi driver who drove the five of us to the Sheraton Hotel. In the basement, there is a rather good restaurant (well, actually there are three, but we went to the President Chibo), which I highly recommend, if anyone’s going to Osaka at any point. They served lovely, simple Japanese food (which has an astonishing obsession with garlic, which surprised me) which they cooked in front of us. It was delicious. I had Japanese tea after. I’d never tried Japanese tea before. Well, you know how Chinese tea is Green Tea with Jasmine in? Well, Japanese tea is black tea with nothing. Just ordinary tea, like we have at home! So now when you serve someone tea, you can ask if they would like Japanese tea or whether they would like milk as well!

We then went back up into the Sheraton proper to use their rather lovely loos (heated seats were a bit startling though!). We then grabbed (two) taxis to Bic Camera. I understood Bic Camera to be Osaka’s biggest camera store. It’s WAY more than that. It’s six floors, for a start, and is basically a department store that is REALLY obsessed with electronics. But it also sells children’s clothes, golf clubs, cosmetics, air conditioning units, white goods, you name it. There’s even a McDonalds on the 2nd floor (apparently).

I’ve been wondering if we should have gone on an organised tour. We did have one booked, but it was eight hours long, so we cancelled it. I’m wondering if we missed out on the “traditional” Japanese stuff. You know, girls in kimonos, temples, cherry blossom, tea ceremonies and the like. Oh well, maybe next time, but even then, not eight hours of it, please!

But we definitely saw Osaka, which is, much like Hiroshima, not a pretty town. It’s just a big city – and don’t let the Port Guide map fool you, it’s HUGE – although with the same temporary-looking overhead wiring we saw yesterday. It is by no means a beautiful place. I’m starting to see why people make such a fuss about London, Edinburgh, Paris and the like. They are very PRETTY cities, particularly if this is what you’re coming from, if you see what I mean. I suppose it’s true of all war-ravaged cities. When you rebuild, you rebuild fast and useful, like I said yesterday about Hiroshima. This is the same, only WAY bigger. And with a rather cool double-decker road bridge, with one level going each way.

I could barely stay awake during dinner, so afterwards, I took the money I owed back to the cabin of the lady who lent it to me and then I went to bed. And here I am, four hours later, wide awake and talking to you. Good thing tomorrow is a sea day. I have a feeling I will be spending most of it asleep!

The ship was moored, incidentally, at the foot of the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel, which Mike went up on. It looked a bit vertiginous for my liking. The pods are grouped into colours and one of each colour contained a giant Winnie the Pooh. We never did grasp why, exactly. Just half a dozen four foot Winnie the Poohs going round and round and round and round every twenty minutes or so. Deeply strange.

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