An Itinerary in Osaka for clear skies


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Perfectly placed balloon 🙂

Random Observation/Comment #38: Your brain only visually focuses on a section not much larger than your two thumbs at arms distance – everything else is just jumbled together in peripherals.Scenery like the ones from the top of mountains and towers blow my mind.These eyes pay so much attention to detail that I can barely notice the pixels =P.

The weekend was supposed to be a JETs filled crazy time, but one major detail slipped my mind between the essence of JETs and tourists.JETs (think of them as Japanese English Teachers even though it’s really called the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program) are vampires and tourists are zombies.JETs party all night and morning, waking at the crack of noon for some breakfast and a solution to their hangover (which probably leads to an earlier drinking schedule – it’s a vicious cycle).The weekends are free time to drink with friends and coworkers, and celebrate the blessing of a few days with a little less responsibility.

Tourists also haven’t got a worry in their world, but tend to stay awake when the rest of the world is awake for the best lighting effects and regional attractions.They feel an obligation to put their most effort into having a relaxing vacation (I didn’t know relaxing required this much effort).I actually think the super hi-tech, expensive cameras have latched onto their minds and pulled them to capture their next scenery shot and perspective.Who’s controlling whom?You must feed the camera or it will eat you.It whispers to me in the middle of the night during the weekdays (because the bulk of my photography work occurs on Saturdays and Sundays).I was wondering why the battery needed a recharge when I didn’t even touch the camera until a week ago.And yet, it stays powered for a full day of picture-taking – as it continuously feasts on the shades of life around me.I am, in all the descriptions possible, a tourist.

I stayed within the main Umeda area, knowing that I would eventually meet up with the JETs whenever they woke up.It was already my 4th weekend in Umeda, so I had already visited Yodobashi Umeda, HEP5, the whole Namba area, Osakajo Koen, Osaka Castle, DEN DEN Town, and Ebisucho.However, today was special.The clear skies and cool breeze was an indication to climb upwards.All of my past experiences with Umeda hinted rain, so I had put off visiting the Floating Garden Observatory (even when it taunted me with every Hankyu train ride).I’m glad I patiently waited for a clear day, and I suggest those with the clear skies opportunity to definitely head upwards for a birds-eye view.

The Floating Garden Observatory is an instant favorite from the very first sight of the beautiful reflective windows and large halo that connects the two adjacent buildings.The cross-beams and bridges (which are actually escalators between floors) add this exquisite flair.I was initially reluctant to face my terrible fear of heights, but my camera must have taken control of my body.I wasn’t exactly dragged kicking and screaming because my knees were mush and my legs were too weak to put up a fight.For some reason, I thought there was going to be glass floors like that tower in Seattle.Good thing there wasn’t because I would have shat a brick.

For those who can’t even climb a stool without getting scared of heights, I would not suggest going up here – actually I suggest you take care of that fear with some tough love.Any fear of heights less than that should be fine since everything looked like a very detailed painting to me.The windows don’t even angle outwards at the top so you could look directly down (my heart is beating faster just thinking about lying on one of these, 40-stories up).The top floor, right before the roof, is tiled white with cute little clear seats on every side of the circle (not the outside though).There are elevated chairs and strategically placed cafes around this floor.I’ve personally found this floor is better than the roof for photography purposes.

The very top has these ugly gray spikes all along the perimeter to prevent crazy tourists from jumping the fence or something.These annoyances force me to zoom-in, or at the very least aim for 65:35 sky:building ratio (which just isn’t my style).You’re actually not even close to the edge of anything (probably to prevent people from throwing stuff off the roof) so the fear of heights should be replaced by the awe of the 360 view.I spent most of my time trying to find some type of detail to focus my gaze.I always feel better to see moving cars in the distance when I’m in these picture perfect situations.It’s like the little pinch or nudge that makes sure I’m not dreaming (or looking at a large postcard poster wrapped around the building).

If you want to get in the scenery and not show up as a silhouette, your camera must be set with a flash (preferably SL to light up the background as well).The overcast doesn’t help, but since you can angle yourself towards the sun, I’m sure you’ll find a manageable angle and blend of squinty faces and shadows.Hmm, I bet this would look absolutely breath-taking at sunset, but I’ll have to adjust my schedule so I’m not exhausted by 5PM.

Anyway, the pictures in the air conditioned top floor were perfect as long as you chose a window that was not dirty (most were very clean) and there wasn’t a light source behind you to cause any glare.You’ll probably get great pictures of 3 out of the 4 winds.Out of the 60 or some odd pictures I took, I really love the view that follows the train tracks across the river and into the distant city – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there.

To highlight my day, I met a large group of high school Alabamians who were all sight-seeing and following a 10-day exchange program, similar to the one I attended 5 years ago (damn – I’m old).I spent about an hour following their friendly tour guide and spoke with the students and teachers.They picked my brain while we walked around and had lunch together.I’ll dedicate a completely separate entry to them because I don’t want to stray from my topic of “places to go in Umeda if the sky is clear.”I’ll leave the reflections of my past and suggestions for the future separate.

This entry is getting dreadfully long, so I’ll outline what I did this weekend and write in more detail throughout the week:

Saturday:

10AM – Flower Garden Observatory – this entry

12 PM – Lunch with Exchange Program Alabama Students – next entry

1PM – Tenjinbashi 6-chome – 3rd entry

1:30PM – Tsutenkaku Tower with Billiken

2:30PM – Tennoji Zoo

5:30PM – Spa World – 4th entry

8:30PM – Shabu shabu dinner

10:00PM – Namba and Dotonbori wandering

11:00PM – Met up with JETs for a quick talk and introduction

11:45PM – Head home because I was exhausted and didn’t want to spend what I approximated to be $15 Karaoke, $35 Pure, and $25 Capsule hotel

Sunday: – Kobe entry, maybe separate entry for shabu shabu reflections

10:00AM – Head towards Kobe – Rokko Mountain

12:00PM – Cable car & bus rides

12:45PM – Rokko Garden Terrace

2:30PM – Mt. Rokko Country Club

4:00PM – Cable car & bus ride – commute was terrible

5:30PM – Shopping for groceries to make my own Shabu Shabu dinner =)

7:30PM – Flight of the Conchords!

9:00PM – Ping pong!

Monday: Holiday stroll entry

9:00AM – No bus…

9:30AM – No train… Oh, a holiday!

10:00AM – Decide on Kobe

10:30AM – Forgot Camera, head back home

11:00AM – Back to the Hankyu Railway

11:30AM – Sannomiya

12:00PM – Shinkobe

1:00PM – Got lost on a trail

1:30PM – backtracked to find some waterfalls

2:00PM – Hike up the mountain

3:30PM – Walk through the garden

4:30PM – Cable car ride of 100 pictures

5:00PM – Back home

6:30PM – Shabu shabu again!

~See Lemons Love These Blue Skies