(Note: the complete lack of photos is due to my oversight… I forgot to bring my camera on this trip!)
Tourist Monday on the same week I got over my cold included a trip to Osaka to shop. I went with Caroline, and we did some exploring on Namba Walk. All of my efforts to find clothing that fit me were confounded by my unusually big shoulders and tragically oversized feet. The day also included visiting Junkudo and my successful resistance to buying any books. I was at the tail end of my cold, and my recovery thus far was going smoothly. But while I was wandering through the streets of Osaka, one stop in particular brought on a new kind of illness.
After walking to Shinsaibashi, Caroline and I decided it was time for lunch. There was a Mexican place on the eighth floor of a tower, and we decided to eat there. We left the busy streets of Osaka behind and stepped right back into the heart of my hometown.
I come from a place where Mexican restaurants are really common. They’re a dime a dozen, and each one is the same: poorly lit, seventeen variations on the same three or four food items, combo meals or platters… for a moment, I wasn’t in Japan. For a moment, I could leave and call my friends up. For a moment, I could go get an Iced Capp at Tim Horton’s with Melissa before dithering around Barnes and Noble and JoAnn’s for an hour. For a moment, I needed a car to get home instead of a train. For a moment, I was so homesick that I thought I would cry. Between the atmosphere and the food, I wasn’t in Osaka. I was in America, in my hometown, where everything familiar was right outside the door. I wasn’t a tourist or a gaijin. I was a native homebody. For one instant, I was back.
But reality came back the minute I exited. I was back in Osaka, a gaijin who couldn’t navigate her way out of a paper bag and who doesn’t know that Limited Express trains cost extra to ride (at least until that trip to Osaka… I think people could tell I didn’t belong on that train. Maybe because I was sitting in somebody’s seat? Or maybe because I wasn’t wearing a suit and tie…). Japan, for all its splendor, also has its moments of solitude.