Friday, August 1


"I Hate Osaka Castle"

We are out of the headquarters in Tochigi by 7:30 am. We take the train to Tokyo and transfer to the shikensen ( the bullet train dontcha know) going through the Tokyo station to our connection almost as fast as the train. Thank God for the guide , we would have never maneuvered the sea of people . I felt like a fish swimming up stream to spawn. After a three hour trip we arrive in Osaka at the south end of Kyushu about 300 miles away.

Do we take a breather and check into the hotel? No, we plunge right into the tour. The group of sixty is split into bus no. 1 and 2. Our guides are an exacting woman I call the general and on bus no. 2 an enthusiastic man in his 60’s named Michi, who talks a great deal in delightfully mangled English. I like him immediately.

We are off to Osaka castle built in 1568 by Toyomi Hideyoshi, who is credited with unifying a warring country. Great stuff, the massive walls and entrance gates are impressive. The castle is located on the highest point in the city offering a great view but alas, while the outside has a classic look the interior is a modern museum complete with elevator.

Wandering the park, I decide to get a coke from the ubiquitous vending machines. A woman and her two small kids dawdle at the machine. I’m tired from traveling, hot , hungry and cranky- not a good combination. In a fit of impatience and increasing annoyance I go in search of another one and promptly get lost.

Now let me state for the record I NEVER get lost. You can blindfold me, drop in the middle of a forest and unlike the idiots in “The Blair Witch Project” I can find my way out with breaking a sweat.

I look around and don’t see anyone from the group and break into a sweat ( it was 90 degrees with 60% humidity). Ok no problem when all else fails go back to the bus in the parking lot and wait . I manage to find the way back only to find - no bus. Oh shit. I am in a strange country, I don’t know the language, or the name of the hotel we’re staying at and have no money in my pocket.

Oh shit, shit, shit. Hey let’s have the fear of abandonment join in the meltdown shall we? Fortunately a nearby cabbie comes to my rescue and with his extremely limited English and my extremely limited Japanese, he manages to coax me into the cab and drives me to the other side of the park where, lo and behold the tour bus is parked. He has a quick conversation with the other tour guide but all I want to do is get on the bus and calm down.

Later I learn he remembered me from the group and figured out what was happening. How did he remember me? I suppose it would be hard to forget the blonde gaijin who looks like a miniature sumo wrestler.

When the rest of the group arrives from their lovely tour I am too mortified to look anyone in the eye. It’s obvious this has caused concern but our guide Michi saves my ass by explaining to the gang this is not the first time someone has wandered off. After that everyone keeps a close watch on me and I stay close to the group. Not a good way to start a tour.

Ironically once we get settled at the hotel, I to go in search of batteries for my camera and manage to find a large department store a few blocks away by passing through a busy subway station and around a construction site with no problem.

Go figure.

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