Osaka - Part 1

The first visual image seen as the ship glided into its berth was a gigantic Ferris wheel.

Osaka - Part 1

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by statesidecruiser on May 12, 2008

The first visual image seen as the ship glided into its berth was a gigantic Ferris wheel. Though the port of Osaka is a 45 minute vehicle ride from the center of the city, it offers a family fun park with a series of attractions that bring the locals out in force for recreation. On the day before a public holiday (the vernal Equinox) it was thronged by parents giving their children a chance to enjoy a safe play day in what amounts to a mini theme park. There is a separate aquarium, where manta rays and small sharks put their snouts next to humans, through glass, to the delight of all. Inside the shopping/eating mall is a small petting zoo, where they can see and pet harmless, furry animals in a non-threatening environment.

As you enter the passenger terminal from the port area via a security-controlled stairway, the initial impression is slightly surreal, as there is a preponderance of the color pink, both in the decoration of the individual snack vendors’ premises, and also the goods they seek to purvey. It is not completely apparent whether all the pink sweets, snacks and foodstuffs are designed to appeal to the youngsters or to their guardians!

Arranged on three levels accessed by elevators, stairs and escalators this is a hodge-podge of fast food outlets, some western, some local confectionary shops, clothing accessory shops, and souvenir stands, with some sit-down cafes and restaurants intermingled in no discernible order. It is pot-luck as to whether your food is satisfactory, edible or even recognizable, but it is a lot of fun to try. There is, however, no regular exchange facility, so come armed with local currency.

One area seems to be designed as a replica of what old Osaka (or any other ancient Japanese town) might have looked like before well intended twentieth-century planners totally transformed its simplicity and grace with skyscrapers and uniform office blocks. Its authenticity gives you the feeling that at any moment a silent hand may reach out with an invitation to enter into a den of vice and iniquity.

Outside this facility in the open air is what is effectively a small village, set round a tiny triangular focal point, and this provides another set of individual cafes and local stores, which sell foodstuffs more recognizable to the westerner and also household needs, in a readily-accessible environment. In fine weather, this is pleasant area to stroll for food or hot drinks, as the air quality is agreeable next to the sea. That is not to say the air quality in town is lacking, but some residents wear masks, and a visitor cannot differentiate between simple local health-consciousness and paranoia about bird-flu, Asian flu and other virus currently frightening the world. ${BestWay} The ride to the center of this city of 5 million from the port is a nightmare vision of the world to come. Roads and freeways suspended in the sky above great metal girders and stanchions loop around and over each other in no discernible order, and far below people are viewed in miniature bustling about their daily lives. Strangely, the vast sports stadium of 50,000 capacity resembles an enormous Mongol hat as we pass.

Back down to earth, the city is much like most modern municipalities. Some areas are in a noticeably original condition and invite worthwhile exploration. However, since a day trip needs to be concise, regrettably those districts remain unexplored by passengers on our ship. It is evident that the subway system is a quick, economical, effective way to negotiate the city, once the traveler becomes accustomed to the names of the train stations.

© LP 2000-2009