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June 24th, 2019

Osaka: -June 23

Friday I finally got to Shitennouji temple, which is huuuuuuge. The inner walls/arcade enclose an area like a football field. They were surrounded on all sides by market stalls -- yes, there was a flea market going on in the outer ward of the temple. Which also includes a cemetery, various subbuildings, and judging from a map later, I think a whole sub-complex I missed.

In the inner ward is a 5 story or so pagoda, that you can climb up to the top. Very tight spiral staircases (actually, two of them; I was proud of myself for realizing signs said to take one up and the other down.) There's a hall in the middle of the ward where the interior walls are covered in murals of the life of Buddha. Originally I would have said Indian-style art, but I'm more certain simply that the art depicted Indians. Then at the north end is another hall, where the murals show Chinese/Tibetans/Mongols in high mountains; I think I made out the words Bamiyan and Hindo Kush (which I would call Hindu Kush, but whatever.)

The market provided me some unexceptional peanuts and some excellent tangelos for cheap (500 yen for 13, I think that would be decent even by California prices, let alone Japanese supermarket ones.)

I wandered over to Shinsekai, had okonomiyaki at the English-friendly Usagiya, and found a flaw in the transit system. My feet hurt a lot by then, for the second day in a row, and I wanted to go home with a minimum of walking, but there weren't any great routes. I was right on top of a subway station and a streetcar line, but they didn't connect directly with anything useful, and I balked at a 3-leg trip. I ended up taking the subway to Tengachaya to explore another part of town, which wasn't too exciting, though I found a sort of walled residential area. Then headed home, and found that the JR Loop, going to the closest station by me, was running only every 15 minutes, so I had to wait 10 at the station.

There are buses too, but Google seemed to be showing 20-30 minute headways.

Some time before I'd found a Horai store, selling a few kinds of dumpling: gyoza, siu mai, pork bun (butanman). W had said they were meaty and dull, but W prefers Chinese potstickers to gyoza, so I figured I should make my own judgement. I like the gyoza, but the siu mai weren't so much meaty as gelatinous, would not buy again. I don't particularly like pork buns, especially steamed ones, at the best of times -- too doughy -- so didn't try.

At some point I switched from wearing my new hat to using my umbrella as a parasol. It's somewhat translucent but still helped keep the sun off my body. Hat just keeps my face from burning, head still gets sweaty.

After two days of achy feet I decided to stay in most of the weekend, studying Japanese or reading things. Made a shopping trip yesterday, armed with the names of things, including garlic and ginger; I thought I bought a jar each of minced stuff, but got home with two jars of ginger.

I was getting self-conscious about eating lots of white rice, non-calorie nutritional value zilch, or white bread, and was happy to read that soba is made from buckwheat, which isn't even a cereal, and has a more complete protein profile. So I got some of that, prepared and not. I see pork-vegetable-soba-ginger-sesame oil stirfries in my "cooking at home" future.

(And if you're in a restaurant facing the choice of udon vs. soba, "abused and maybe enriched wheat" vs. "whole seed buckwheat" might help you decide.)

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sushi score!

Despite buying all those groceries last night, I decided to look for floating (conveyor belt) sushi, or kaitenzushi places. A couple west of me in the mall, one 10 minutes east of me. I tried that, figuring the more boonie it was the cheaper it would be.

Spoiler: I had like 29 pieces of sushi for under $18.

Spoiler: that was too much sushi. I walked it off for 45 minutes and still felt bloated.

The place was Sushiro, apparently a chain. People were waiting but as a solitary person I got seated at the counter right away, in front of the belt. Also had a touchscreen, with English option, for ordering stuff if I wanted, or calling someone at the end to tally up. Three tiers of plates: 100 yen, 150 yen, and I never saw the last one so whatever. 100 yen for a pair of tamago, but also for a pair of tuna. I think a plate of 3 different pieces of salmon was 150. 2 pieces of eel were I think 100, one dark piece of presumably 'better' eel was 150. I ended up having 11 100 yen plates and 4 150 yen plates. Apart from the egg plate, all were fishy (or meaty: one seemed to be beef nigiri.) And decent size pieces, not tiny, like a couple of my thumb widths in width. Recall that 100 yen is basically a dollar.

I'm not that unfamiliar with kaitenzushi being cheap: a floating place in Portland Oregon had $1 for egg and maybe $3 for salmon, when in restaurants elsewhere it would often be $3-4 just for egg. But still, dang!

Some other things took me a while to figure out. Hand wipes were hiding above my head. There's a jar of green tea powder -- like matcha, but presumably not actually high quality matcha -- to mix with hot water from a tap. No little soy sauce/wasabi mixing tray, I had to re-use an empty plate. Jar of pickled ginger and bottles of soy sauce at my spot, but little wasabi packets go by in a bowl on the belt. Not to be confused with the little packets of red pepper going by in a bowl on the belt. Fortunately I now know to look for wasabi (in hiragana).


In other things... I was walking along a main street, noting how dead it was. I saw the tall apartment buildings, and wondered how much ground level retail there was, and tried to pay more attention. It's mixed: many just have a lobby, or some private parking (that was actually for a fairly short and setback row of apartments.) Others do have businesses, restaurants or even paid public parking! But yeah, it could be more ubiquitous, especially given that you'd think some 12 story building provides lots of its own customers.

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Damien Sullivan
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