October 31, 2005

A Bizzare Ride Through Osaka

"He who by reanimating the Old can gain knowledge of the New is fit to be a teacher."

This past weekend passed by as quickly as the short-lived pop and fizzle of a cheap firework. Though I will refrain from calling last Saturday and Sunday a "dud," they certainly weren't what I had made them out to be, which is yet another lesson on the cafeteria-like buffet of life's humbling experiences. We, as creatures full of expectation, lick it all up to the last drop.

As my friends Peter, Mac, Ben, and I made it to the Loop Line platform at Osaka Station just in time, I perceived people who were remarkably similar despite their costumes. In fact, many people wore the same costume (I even had a Doraemon twin, who attempted to bond with me by relating the fact that we had purchased our costumes at the same chain of multi-purpose retailers, "Don Quixote"--I wasn't that impressed). The train pulled up to the platform. Drunken gaijin (most with attendant Japanese girlfriends) flocked into the train cars, goaded on by some sense of revelry that the occassion allowed. En route to the first stop, I found it hard to breathe. My mind turned back to magazine images of a soccer crowd in some South American country swarming a fence and crushing a few of the lowest members to death. Ok, the crowd in the train was certainly not that extreme--neither in zeal nor in magnitude. At the first stop, people got out of their car and ran into a different one. Why? A bored excuse for retaining some sense of ritual (i.e. trick or treating would be a little too childlike and unfruitful) in a land where a Westerner's orientation--rules, reasons, methods, and explanations--are not part of Japan's homogenous social fabric. After about four or five of these "changes" (which all involved the same thing), I got bored. Thus I befriended two witches--aka Harumi and Asami. We talked about Japanese literature--mostly Natsumi Soseki--while being pressed against the windows of the muggy JR train. At Tennoji Station, everyone deboarded the train. Confusion broke out within our group: Pete and Ben got back on the return train, Mac and I got out at Tennoji (missed the train because the process of relieving ourselves took some effort in our costumes), and I continued my talk with Harumi. During the separation, Godzilla (aka Mac) took it upon himself to terrorize the couples of Osaka with a roar that struck fear into the hearts of all passerby. Finally, after an hour of waiting and various Halloween antics outside Namba station, we met up with Super Mario and Friends again. An unhealthy and mazui dinner from Royal Host in our tummies, we set off to find our car, our place to sleep, and our peace of mind.

In the morning, I felt as if I was somewhere in old Japan. Waking up to the smell of fresh tatami, the sound of birds, the feel of a hard bed (thin futon on said tatami mat), the sight of early sunlight through the 障子--or shouji (sliding paper-screen door)--filtering onto my eyelids, and the taste of cool, dry autumn air in an unheated room, I found it hard to believe I had been in a Doraemon costume in a crowded Osaka train the night before. Perhaps I was imagining things for a second--a scene from a different life, or from a Beat Takeshi film. I got up, opened the screen door a crack, and observed a peaceful garden scene of close-trimmed dwarf pines and some small birds playing. Then a van drove by, blasting an advertisement for some product out of a bullhorn (only five or so feet from the window where I slept). It was only 7:20am.

So now I am into a new week. Things will start feeling November-like soon. Leaves will turn a deep red, then fall off their branches. I will travel a bit, drink more hot drinks (the switch from beer to shochu and hot water is a welcome one), write more, study more, continue to expect things and encounter the unexpected.

Pictures to follow...


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