April 19th, 2010

Day 91.  We decided to carry on being tourists in Osaka and make the most of the day.  We travelled out Tempozan Harbour Village to visit Osaka Aquarium and take a ride on what was formerly the largest ferris wheel in the world.

The aquarium was very impressive and filled some cute and some not so cute animals.  It is one of the few aquariums large enough to house two gigantic whale sharks.

Factoid: Osaka Aquarium contains 5,400 tonnes of water behind 30cm thick acrylic glass.  The total quantity of acrylic glass in the aquarium is more than 1.5 times the total world yearly production.

Whale shark - a big fish!

Pretty white jellyfish

Pretty orange jellyfish

The ferris wheel gave us a bird’s eye view of the impressive sprawling metropolis, skyscrapers, bridges, and port of Osaka.

Good view from the top

In the afternoon we continued to try to find a way home overland and booked an onward flight from Cairo to Tunis where we are to catch an overnight ferry to Genoa in Italy.  We plan to travel overland through Europe which is looking a little difficult at the moment, though we’re sure we’ll work something out when we reach Italy.

In the evening we set out for the bright lights of downtown Osaka and to scenes reminiscent of Blade Runner.  In a back street we spotted an eating establishment with customers seated round a bar, each with their own copper cauldron of boiling water.  This looked too interesting to pass up so we investigated further.  We were provided with a tray of vegetables, some sliced meat and a pot of boiling water.  We were slightly at a loss as to the correct procedure (even though we had an English leaflet explaining what to do) and unfortunately all the other customers were half-way through eating so we had nobody to copy.  Annie had just melted a rice cake by leaving it in her hot water rendering it gooey and messy.  Fortunately, a Korean brother and sister arrived at the restaurant, sat next to us, and guided us through the proper procedure for eating Shabu-Shabu.


Shabu-shabu means "shakey, shakey" on account of how you swish the meat in the hot water to cook it

It transpired that the brother lives in Hong Kong and is here both on business and to visit his sister.  His sister lives in Osaka and is a well known popstar!  They were having dinner in this low-key restaurant to take a break from adoring fans.  Having had a lovely dinner with them, they insisted we join them as guests at their regular bar.

It is customary in bars in the Far East to purchase your own bottle of spirit.  Your name is tag is attached to it and it is held for you at the bar.  The celebrity sister insisted on buying a bottle of 12 year old Chivas Regal and her name was tagged to it.  The name tag proved unneccesary as we’d polished off the whole bottle by the end of the evening.  We’re not usually led astray this easily, but the phrase “When in Rome” sprang to mind.  Besides, the brother enjoyed showing us how to carefully drop a shot glass of whisky into a tumbler of beer without spilling it, a practice known as “Bombing”.

The night is still young and the line of empty beer bottles is still short

We had unsuccessfully been trying to experience an evening of karaoke since we arrived in Japan.  We were really excited when the high-tech karaoke console appeared out of nowhere.

21st century karaoke

The brother and sister were fantastic singers.  The brother crooned Korean love songs and the sister sang one of her own songs!  No less than 28 of her songs were available on the karaoke machine.  It was odd to watch her singing beside us whilst also watching her on the music video.  Safe and Annie tried (and failed) to outsing them with, of course, Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart.  We staggered home like students at 4am.

Pop stars!

This was our final farewell to Japan and a fantastic sendoff.  Tonight we were thankful that the volcano had delayed us.

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