Spent 4 weeks in Ōsaka (Mar 16–Apr 11). While a certain pandemic currently wreaking havoc across the globe did add some (first world problems level) stressful moments here and there, COVID related things were largely interesting to observe rather than concerning, and the trip overall really enjoyable.
As public transport was off limits (except for a Kagoshima trip that had been planned and booked since ages ago) the spacial rage of my endeavors was defined by what was reachable on foot. The fact that the Japanese workforce seemed largely determined (or forced) to 頑張る their way through the pandemic meant that there were still quite some areas with high pedestrian traffic. My mornings therefore often involved a bit of route planning for lunch and grocery shopping, min-maxing against potential direct and indirect exposure to other human beings.
- planning of flights was a bit chaotic
- [Via China!] In early January, while in a bit of a hurry and currently not at home, I had decided on a flight by China Eastern Airlines with transit through Shanghai. Hitting the pay-for-realsies-this-is-a-legally-binding-agreement button it wouldn't accept my credit card. Confused and bummed out that I'd probably had to get a more expensive flight at another time I gave up for the moment (later realized I still had a default set payment limit on my CC of 500€ which is why I coudn't pay).
- [No? How 'bout Korea?] A few days later I found a connection through Seoul, operated by Korean Air, for a reasonable price which I promptly booked. As the outbreak of some virus in China hit the news I though I had dodged a bullet. Thank goodness that CC transaction didn't go through. Well ... shit hit the fan and travel restrictions from and through Korea to Japan got stricter and stricter by the day. I then spent some days working with the Korean Air service hotline as my ambient noise of choice and was able to cancel my booking (full refund approved, money yet to arrive).
Note: props to Korean Air and thank you to their service hotline staff. Communication of relevant information was timely and comprehensible, decisions on their pair seemed fair, and hotline staff was friendly and helpful.
- [Also not an option? Ehm ... the Netherlands?] While the Korean Air part of the story was progressing gradually, I already was on the lookout for alternatives. Because at this point in time the world already had largely abandoned travel plans to Asia yet airlines were still operating their usual amount of flights, I found the KLM connection I used last year via Amsterdam was quite cheap even without booking well in advance. The moment I cancelled the Korean Air flight I therefore went straight to KLM and booked. Even though flight times were slightly adjusted as time went on and there was a bit of confusion and service hotline shenanigans midway through, in the end I pretty much traveled according to what I had booked at this point.
Note: props to KLM and thank you to the cabin crew on both the long haul flights I took for being awesome. (That being said: a toll free service hotline like the one Korean Air offers would be nice.)
- was pleasantly surprised about the availability of hand sanitizer everywhere and even the occasional free mask
- stepped foot on the island of Kyūshū for the first time (Kagoshima :)
- 黒豚 is delicious
- visited the southernmost tip of Kyūshū
- ↑ rode a car on the left hand side of the road for the first time (my one and a half years of bicycle experience in Japan interestingly didn't help with the confusion all too much)
- not being able to enjoy things like public baths, events, etc. I made the most out of food
- Müsli for breakfast—because Müsli. Sadly lots of imported stuff and therefore also expensive (成城石井 has a good selection btw.); at least the fruit was local (apples mostly, at times khaki)
- ate all the メロンパン
- realized that avocado with soy sauce is delicious
- scouted for lunch options on 食べログ, aiming for places that'd open at 11 and pac-man'ing my way there such that I'd arrive 10 minutes before that, allowing me to often oder, eat at a normal pace and finish before anyone else would enter
- made a thing out of eating food dragon ball characters are named after
- got my hands on a Carcassonne strategy guide (gotta love Japan's enthusiast and self publishing culture)
- got two masks by a random passerby wo noticed me walking around outside without wearing one
- got to experience Domino's 日本ならではの気遣いのサービス空箱
- was grateful for the information and entertainment by NDR's Coronavirus-Update, Der Held, Logbuch Netzpolitik, backspace.fm, @davechensky, Digital Homeless Yohei and many more
- felt weirdly looked after, receiving e-mails from Germany's Auswärtiges Amt about the availability of commercial flights back home in April
- was super interesting to have a comparison of the situation in Germany between mid March and mid April without having lived through the gradual change in between
Next time I visit I'll have to go on a 銭湯 frenzy.
As a comparison to the 1020 days this time, I took me 1301 days from 0 to 2000. Given I stopped to actively search for new kanji to learn just for the sake of it at 1800, extrapolation shenanigans (code) put reaching 2200 somewhere between September 16, 2023 and August 10, 2024.
Largest contributors to the 100 new kanji that seemed worth remembering were 漢検 preparation and books. Depending on how my reading habits and 漢検 aspirations develop I wouldn't be surprised to end up writing a 2200+ entry at some point. Another possibility I see, is that at some point I deviate from my current procedure of learning to read and write every kanji and create a separate recognition only deck. Maybe for names that would make sense? I don't know yet. Natural exposure might be enough for that. Time will tell.
Spent 6.5 weeks in Ōsaka. Having had many things to do in mind and being aware of the limited amount of time, things felt a bit rushed at times. Nevertheless pleased with how the stay went in general and what I got done. :)
- Book hunt
After finishing 『九州は横浜のどこですか？』 on my Kindle last year, I struggled to really get into another book. Only my physical copy of 『日本語雑記帳』 found its way into my hands from time to time. I therefore went on somewhat of a book hunt this time and spent many hours in BOOKOFFs and a considerable amount of my short Tokyo trip in 神保町. What I ended up bringing home with me is:
- 『世界の文字』 (done reading)
- 『日本語びいき』 (almost done reading)
- 『活版印刷三日月堂』 (half way through the first of the 4 books)
I made a conscious decision to switch from QUERTY to フリック入力 on my phone years ago in order to internalize thinking of the words I input as being made up of かな and not Latin alphabet characters. While in Ōsaka I found out about 親指シフト and ended up getting a cheap keyboard labelled accordingly for testing. Got it to work on my Ubuntu 18.04 system using oyainput. Time will tell whether or not I'll have the frustration tolerance and endurance to make the switch. Will also have to test if a Votex CORE (the keyboard I'm using most of the time currently) can be programmed accordingly.
Took the 漢検 5級 as well as 4級 and passed both. :)
- arrived early and saw a parade of ちびっ子 streaming out of the building :3
- question sheets were basically huge (257×379 mm) 圧着ハガキ, resulting in quite the sound when a room full of people simultaneously opened them
- sitting next to me taking 4級 was a 9 year old D:
- Can recommend 大阪府立中之島図書館 to everyone in Ōsaka looking for a quiet space with air conditioning, power sockets and free wifi (registration required, was a bit buggy on PC but ended up working)
- Entered a Carcassonne tournament (カルカソンヌ日本選手権). Won 2 games and then was destroyed twice by more serious (nevertheless super nice) contestants.
- Visited people at 京大 and met again with colleagues at NII
- Attended 活版WEST
- Stayed at a 旅館
- Finally got to the end of うぶんちゅ！ chapter 12 after translating the first few pages some time last year.
- Visited 遊舎工房 and got some keycaps
- Was able to eat at 丸香 and MENSHO again while in Tokyo
- Went to see 下赤阪の棚田, which ended up being a ride a train, then ride a bus, be the last person left in the bus, walk a bit, talk to the ground keeper of a school and be let through a few gates you're not supposed to go through as an outsider, arrive and be the only person around type of trip—i.e. a diametric opposite to the sad state of over commercialized tourist destinations—i.e. awesome :)
- Saw a person poking out of a ticket machine for the first time. :'D
Location wise Ōsaka was nice to explore the Kansai region a bit, but didn't quite click with me the way Tōkyō did. Guess with a bunch of disparate, rather niche interests, Tōkyō is hard to beat just because of its sheer size.