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Osaka, the Chicago of Japan

I don't have any real reason for saying that, other than Osaka reminds me of Chicago. There are many rivers. It's cold. Also windy. Kinda grey. And boy do they like to eat fried foods on sticks. These are all things I associate with my visits to Chicago.

Osaka is more "drab" than the other parts of Japan we have visited so far. I don't mean that in an uncomplimentary way; there are plenty of colorful spots (especially Shinsekai, which was gloriously, riotously nuts.)

But overall, the vibe is quiet, industrial, and very "Midwest" (which, I suppose, might possibly be fair given Osaka's geographic location, or it could be an egregiously provincial misreading based on my own localized biases. Who knows.) But it's also at odds with what I had read of Osaka, which was that it was somewhat boisterous. But, given the current crisis, perhaps everyone can be forgiven for a bit of newfound sobriety.

(Which I can't be accused of, given my affinity for the cheap "ginger Beam highballs" which are available everywhere.)

In any event, our Air BnB in Osaka is located in a much quieter, less "touristy" area, and we can definitely feel the difference. The streets are dead silent and usually abandoned. The Lawsons and Family Marts are fewer and further between. Most shops are shuttered, and the ones that are open are second-hand stores and ¥100 stores. It's hard to tell if

this is how things are here normally, or if the overall tenor of hush is due to increasing concerns about the virus. There *are* still crowds to be found, too; during our brief transfer through Nampa Station at 8 pm (which, I guess, is rush hour here in Japan) the place was packed. I've always hated crowds--they're confusing and anxiety-provoking even in the best of times. Passing through one now is even more unsettling than experiencing its absence.

I do like the area that's our home for the next couple of nights. It's peaceful and relaxing, and there's a bustling little neighborhood sento down the block that's tattoo friendly. (It bears noting that "tattoo friendly" does not mean that the presence of an enormously large, naked, tattooed foreign woman won't draw covert glances and comments from community regulars. But really, that's the case in most places one visits outside the privileged confines of hipster Portlandia.) It also had an electrical bath which tingled!

We're here tonight and tomorrow, then we are off to Hiroshima, to revisit the stomping grounds of my misspent youth.

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