One nice thing about a 15 hour time difference is that when one wakes at 2 a.m., then one can pick up work e mails from the prior morning and respond in nearly real time.
Early today I took a walk around Osaka Castle. I liked the way that two fellows were fishing in the huge moat. I marveled at red camellias in bloom on a chilly 40something degree day. I took a picture of the Japanese garden, thinking to myself that this Japanese garden really was a Japanese garden.
I dined on the Japanese breakfast buffet rather than the "western" buffet. The grilled fish were smashing, and the kelp tasted like really, really thin shoestring potatoes with special salt.
There were curious things one sprinkled over things, and seaweed flowed like the nectar of forgotten anime hero trees. Pineapple juice drowned all cares in sweet surrender.
During a break between breakfast and meeting departure, I walked the streets. I brightened when I saw an AM/PM market. I speak the international language of convenience stores. You see, there is only one universal esperanto, and that is found written between the covers of the great book of Quick Stop Stores, an apocryphal text in which no heretical things occur, but the Word is spread in secret rituals.
AM/PM Osaka was not at all difficult to negotiate for a Texan. See, over there? Where the beef jerky should be? That's dried octopus. The world is one great universal equivalence, after all. The hot dog rolling-on-a-spittle-grill dogs stand? Replaced by pre-made trays of sushi-like meals, 480 yen each. Never mind that you can't understand the writing on the magazines bedecked with attractive celebrity faces and splashy texts. You know what they say, really, just as surely as you know which way the wind blows with that TV soap opera where the whole family crouched before a breakfast table, in the slow, winding revelation of stage-managed tears.
I experienced a sense of grace and bought a Diet Coke.
We drove to New Osaka for a meeting. As with last night, bicycles were parked everywhere. People drive on the left side of the road, in improbable semi-compact cars and vans, with little space between cars but few audible horns. English's role as a lingua franca made signs frequently comprhensible.
We went for lunch to a hotel restaurant which made mackerel cry and sing, to my delight. I don't give a damn about any American food serving stands--they ain't, as Mr. Knopfler said, what I call rock n roll.
We took the underground to another place, and it turns out that when one rides the underground, it's just a matter of taste whether one imagines it's more like BART, MARTA or Metro. It's amazing what a sweet thrill one gets from figuring out how to deposit 230 yen. During a pause between meetings, we stopped at a mall for fifteen minutes, in which improbable thousands of clerks waited upon improbable millions of customers, as wares were prominently displayed. Women crowded the chocolate stations, eager to buy sweets for the men in their lives at Valentine's Day. People caromed off one another in a silent, somehow polite, and unobtrusive way, rather like neutrons in a congenial nucleus. The murmur of conversation was everywhere. Gwynneth Paltrow stared down from on high, from a tabloid magazine rack, as if she were a saint who patronizes dubious causes.
A miniature fire truck came down a small lane, lights and sirens blazing, and I was intrigued that the driver had to use his loudspeaker to get motorists to pull out of his way. Everyone on the streets is 20something and attractive. Knee-high boots abound. Things were stereotypically free of clutter. I wish Osaka were my spare room.
Tonight we dined on teppan cooking far superior to our local restaurant, the aptly-named Hibachi Rocks.
I loved the pickled vegetables and the gently grilled beef. Now the movie Lawrence of Arabia plays, while in the distance, people drive and walk and bike, merging into the night as if they were part of it, in some universal metaphor I cannot speak, but which wraps itself around my mind like rice paper.