Transforming Osaka: Rear-View Funhouse Mirror

With Japan now firmly in my rear-view mirror, I feel some self-applied pressure to present a bunch of poorly-informed conclusions about the ancient, infinitely nuanced land through which I just stampeded. It turns out rear-view mirrors aren’t a very good tool for detailed analysis, especially when one is driving forward. Summing up Japan after 10…

Transforming Osaka: Getting a Handle

Trigger Warning: Toilet Talk. Nothing too squicky. Jevon tells a story (third-hand, though most of his greatest hits are autobiographical) about a young woman visiting Japan for the first time. Upon disembarking, she had a mighty need, so she sprinted to the airport bathroom and relieved herself so fast, she didn’t notice until after she…

Transforming Osaka: Animal Planet Edition

There are not a lot of stray cats and dogs in Osaka, at least not in the neighbourhoods we’ve frequented. Plenty of Osakans walk their dogs, all of whom appear to be small breeds. Since there are probably not many ways to exercise one’s dog in the city, some owners will cycle down the sidewalks…

Let’s Baseball!

On the train to the Osaka Dome, Jevon warned us that Japanese baseball tends to be a more conservative game—more cautious teamwork and mutual support, less grandstanding. “That’s fine,” I said, “I wouldn’t know the difference anyway.”  I’d been to maybe two previous games in my entire life, and honestly they felt pretty prudent, especially…

Transforming Osaka: First Impressions

First impressions of Osaka. An endless city, one district or prefecture bleeding into the next, over and over, with arterial highways that soar overhead and ding you automatically for tolls every few kilometers, courtesy of a system called “Electronic Toll Card.” This means that the most common sign you’ll see on Osaka roads is, appropriately…

Transforming Reunions

Soon, alarmingly soon, I’m going to Japan for the first time. I have my passport, thank Ganesha, and I have enough new podcasts on my phone to while away the intercontinental flight, but otherwise I’m bleakly unprepared. I’m heading into foreign territory with no language skills and hardly any currency. Worst of all, I’m armed…

Transforming Rocks and Hard Places

Odysseus was trying to get home; he missed his wife. To reach Ithaca, his ship was forced to navigate a perilously tight passage flanked by two sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis. Upon the advice of Circe the enchantress, he sailed closer to Scylla, losing six of his crew but preserving his ship. Travel makes me…