Osaka: Bowing matches, cute old people, and lots of nekii-ness

Warning: Descriptions in this post are not for the faint of heart and might be nsfw if you can’t handle a little talk of nekii-ness. 😛

We took the Shinkansen to Osaka (our first bullet train ride!). In Osaka, we stayed in a hostel (accommodation style #2). When we reached, the person we rented the room from was a tiny, old, adorable Japanese lady named Sugako. She showed us around the little hostel room which even had a baby kitchen! She was speaking mostly English with Japanese here and there. She then tried to explain to us how the A/C worked and started gesturing “warm” and then “cooool” and started pretending to shiver in the cutest way when showing how the controls worked. Aditi has graciously provided an accurate audio re-enactment below and insisted that I re-create this part as authentically as possible (apologies if it is slightly offensive :P).

Later on, I went with Sugako while she showed me where the bathroom was and we ran into another cute, old lady friend of hers on the way. I said “konnichiwa! hajimemashite” (“hello! nice to meet you”) to her and did a mini bow. The old lady said it back and then told Sugako while still staring at me, “ohashi/ohanashi ga kirei”. At least this is what it sounded like. I am guessing it either means my chopsticks are sweet or my talking is sweet. I am going to guess it’s the latter and take it as a compliment. 🙂

While staying in this hostel, we had to use a public bathhouse which was not exactly nearby. All we had was a paper map from Sugako about how to get to the house from our hostel and conveniently this bathhouse had no official name that we could look up on Google Maps. We didn’t bring our pocket wifi with us either. It was a matter of minutes before we got lost. We stopped inside a diner to ask for directions in Japanese. They told us to look for the “Shobashou” (?) and the “akai kuruma” (“red car”). With these two seemingly disjoint pieces of information in hand, we set out along the main street parallel to our hostel in the blazing sun. We kept stopping people to ask them about the “shoubashou” without knowing what that even was. We finally stumbled across a place with giant red firetrucks and made the connection! “Shoubashou” is a fire station and the “red cars” were firetrucks! A cute guy at the shoubashou pointed across the street to us to show us what we were looking for. Lo and behold, the bathhouse was right in front us.

Once we got into the bathhouse, the first of the nekii-ness (naked-ness) adventures began. [I’m not exactly sure if nekii is the correct word for naked but people kept using it, so here we are.] There was a partition between the men and women’s sections of the bathhouse. The procedure is this: you strip down completely before entering the bath; then bathe next to or in front of your fellow bathing women (unabashedly). Also, the little Ojii-san (old man) who was sitting at the entrance between the two partitions could easily see into the women’s section but no one seemed fazed by this at all. Aditi and I somehow managed to not be weirded out by the idea of taking baths next to each other and then chilling in the hot tub/mini onsen together. I will say this, once you’ve bathed together in a Japanese public bathhouse, your friendship reaches completely new levels.

On another of the Osaka days, Aditi and I decided to check out another public bathhouse phenomenon on a much larger scale — a place called Spa World. This was a place like no other and took nekii-ness to the next level. It is a so-called hot spring complex and boy was that accurate. First of all, everyone was naked in the locker room and we were confused. When we tried to ask one of the service workers there if we could get towels or if we had to be naked, she almost apologetically told us “sou, neekii” like “yeah, you have to be naked”. So there started the hours of completely naked walking through about 15 different types of hot baths. The amazing part to us was how free everyone was walking around completely naked. I am pretty sure we saw every kind of boob that exists in the world. Definitely a liberating and empowering experience! There were all sorts of fancy baths. Some long showers and some outdoor stone baths. Imagine all the kinds of hot springs you’ve seen in your favorite anime and they existed here. After about 2 hours, we realized we were pruning and dehydrating and that the spa-ing had to come to an end. The next day I couldn’t find my shorts for under my dresses and realized I lost it to Spa World (loss #4) :(.

After our night at Spa World, we went to go pick Aparna up from the train station where she planned to reach from the airport. The next morning, all three of us went to the public bathhouse. Aditi and Aparna had just met each other the previous night (i.e., < 12 hours) and already their friendship reached the next level after using the public bath. After the bath, we planned to leave Osaka for Kyoto via the Shinkansen. On the way out of our hostel, another cute, old lady saw us outside and said “Konnichiwa! Atsui desu ne?” (Hello! It’s hot isn’t it?”). It was Aparna’s first Obaa-chan (old lady) and she was so excited!

During our trip, we saw many cool sites like the Osaka Castle, the famous Ramen Museum, and the Osaka School of Music. We ate amazing vegetarian curry at an underground mall there. The waiter was so sweet and he sat down next to us and explained every item and how it could become vegetarian, in a mix of Japanese and English. I wish I had pictures of this beautiful curry with egg and cheese on top but it looks like we were too hungry to take any pictures. 😦

On one of the nights, we passed by a mini-festival (matsuri). We stopped to watch it for a while and it was such a glorious site. The style of singing reminded me heavily of Indian Carnatic music for those of you familiar with this type of music, complete with gamaka and everything! See the video below and tell me if you agree! One thing we kept hearing throughout was “kodomo wo korosu!” (“to kill the children”) which alarmed us and we figured the song was telling an extremely dark story.

Bowing matches: On the first day we went to the public bath, on the way back, we ran into this tiny little Ojii-chan (old man). We first passed him on the way to the bathhouse and he stopped to look at us and then bowed deeply and said “Konnichiwa” then abruptly turned and went his own way. We thought it was so adorable and then continued on our way to the bathhouse. On the way back, we suddenly saw a small Shinto shrine on the side of the road and ran into the same Ojii-chan again! He looked at us and then pointed to the shrine and said “Shinto sama, desu ne!” (“It’s Shinto-sama!”) We were hooked on the little man hereafter and were shocked that we managed to see him twice in the same day. The next day on our way back from the public bath, Aditi casually remarked “hey, we didn’t see the cute Ojii-chan today!” and literally one second after she said that we saw him up ahead about 20 meters in front of us walking in the very distinct way that we remembered from yesterday. Shocked at this crazy coincidence, we ran all the way up to the man without really thinking what we were even going to say to him. We finally caught up to him and wished him “konnichiwa!” We then proceeded to have a 10-minute conversation of which I understood about 40%. We were somehow able to converse with him and learned that he lived in Korea for a long time (maybe?) and that he had a son (also unclear). He asked us questions about ourselves and our trip and we had a really cute conversation! After the conversation was over, we both said “sayounara” and “hajimemashite” after which he proceeded to bow deeply to us a few times. We returned the bowing gesture and turned around and started to walk away. After a few seconds, we turned around and he was still bowing to us to which we bowed back. After another few seconds, we turned around and saw that he had started walking in the other direction but kept periodically doing hasty bows in our direction while walking. It was a very cute, long, bowing match. These bowing matches were very unique to our Osaka trip.

There was another incident where we were trying to take the local train and the ticket machine was especially confusing at this station. These two tiny Obaa-chans saw us and helped us. We said “arigatou gozaimasu!” and they said “doumo!” (also “thanks!”). They then asked “doko kara kimashita ka?” (“Where are you coming from?”) to which we replied “Indo kara” (“from India”). We both then said “arigatou” again and “hajimemashite” and bowed to each other. We noticed a similar pattern as we walked away from them as the Ojii-chan from the previous story. They were walking away but kept bowing to us as they were walking. We ended up on different sides of the platform, and we noticed them across the tracks and they were STILL BOWING to us! Talk about kawaii (cute)!

Miscellaneous pictures from our Osaka trip!

Orchestra performance we randomly came across in the same field as the castle!

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