On letting my parents loose in Japan

I should begin this post with the caveat that the original post was burned down during the Meiji Restoration, and reconstructed during 2012.

On Sunday, March 25th, Mum and Dad flew into Narita Airport, Tokyo.

By Monday, March 26th I was ready to call the embassy to find out if they had, in fact, made it to Japan, but they finally managed to get the internet working and Skype me.

They spent a few days without any mishaps (that they’re admitting to) and, after bunking off work a little early to catch the Shinkansen, I met them in Osaka on Wednesday night.

After checking into our hotel (a lovely place with a church inside the reception), we went for okonomiyaki for dinner. Dad was horrified when they ran out of draft beer, but aside from that it was a successful first dinner.

We wandered the streets of Dotonbori that night, where Mum began a short-lived and passionate love affair with UFO Catchers and the taiko game (like Guitair Hero but on traditional Japanese drums).

Early the next day we took a train to Kyoto where we spent as little time as possible in the dreaded station and went straight out to Arashiyama, where the famous bamboo forest is. We walked to Tenryuji temple, which is probably one of my favourites, then kept walking through the bamboo until we reached a clearing with a view down the valley.

It was at this point that I realised with horror that my parents had packed binoculars for bird watching purposes.

I almost left them on the mountain.

While attempting to get back to the station, we accidentally found ourselves by the Hozu River, where a few sakura trees in blossom, people eating ice cream, boats on the river and beautiful clear skies gave every indication that spring was in full swing in Kyoto. Lovely!

After a stroll by the river, we took a train to Fushimi Inari to see the world famous torii path, which was just as impressive in real life as it is in the pictures. We walked for ages through the winding trails–keeping a close eye out for wild monkeys–until we really couldn’t walk any more.

We took a different path down and wandered through a small marketplace where we bought yatsuhashi (Kyoto sweets) from a smiley little woman in an apron. It was a really lovely day.

That night, back in Osaka, (after a short rest at the hotel) we went to an izakaya (a sort of Japanese tapas bar) for dinner.

Using the touch screen ordering system, we ordered lots of delicious food and hot sake. The screens have pictures so it’s fun and easy to get food, but since I can’t read a lot of the names and descriptions, it can be a bit hit and miss. Luckily that night was all hit, and we ate and drank merrily in our little booth.

Post-dinner, I dragged Mum and Dad to karaoke where we did nomihodai (all you can drink) karaoke until three am.

Yes, that’s right, my parents were putting Celine Dion to shame until three am.

As we were leaving karaoke, Mum suddenly realised she didn’t have her camera, and despite a good look around the karaoke box, and returning to the izakaya, it was unfortunately nowhere to be found.

The next day we had onigiri and ice coffee for breakfast sitting on park benches in Amemura while watching the (weird and wonderful) world of Osaka go by.

When we’d had our fill of the triangular rice balls which Dad insisted on calling origami, we headed for Osaka Castle, most of which was burned down in the Meiji Restoration and reconstructed in 1856. Despite that, it’s still a nice castle that they’ve turned into a very informative and well-layed out museum.

Sitting in the surrounding park afterwards, nomming on softcreams and looking at the view, a Japanese man approached us and wanted to chat.

As usual, I was happy to chat to him, mostly in Japanese, about where we were from, what we were doing in Osaka and how nice the weather was.

After a few minutes of chatting he asked me if he could give Mum a present. Anywhere else in the world I would have been dubious about letting a strange old man loose on my mother, but since we were in Japan I told him to go right ahead.

From his pocket he produced an origami peacock made out of beautiful Japanese paper and he presented it to Mum, who was delighted.

Then, deciding Dad would feel left out, he taught me to make an origami boat and gave that to Dad, along with a little chicken to go in it.

I remembered I had a metallic silver fern sticker in my wallet, so I gave it to him as a thank you, and in true Japanese tradition he then produced a little bag of plastic Japanese cartoon figurines and thanked me for my thank you.

To curtail the Japanese thank you game, we decided we had to get going at that point, so with many bows, thank yous and hand shakes, we left Osaka Castle and our new friend and headed back to the hotel.

Having a few hours to spare, we went to an electronics store where my Japanese was pushed to the absolute limit trying to buy Mum a new camera. I somehow managed, and both Mum and I were very happy with ourselves.

That night, we met Rachel at the HIPS building and went to an izakaya she recommended for dinner.

We waited close to two hours for a table to come free, by which point Mum was looking like she would rather be in bed with the covers over her head, but we were finally shown to a booth where we had delicious food and plentiful beer.

After dinner we had another arcade binge–UFO Catchers, taiko games and even indoor fishing!–before leaving Rachel at Namba station and heading back to the hotel.

Naturally Dad and I were accosted on the way by a GIANT SOFTSERVE AND EVERYTHING TOPPING shop, so we bought stupidly large sundaes with five different flavours of ice cream and six different toppings each.


Despite the lost camera, I declare Osaka to be a huge success. The weather was great, the food was delicious, the jokes about the Meiji Restoration were numerous, the walking was often and the UFO Catchers were bountiful.


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