We thought today would be uneventful - just another bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka. Instead it was insightful and contained some spectacular sights and vistas.
The rain and wind had cleared but low cloud persisted in the morning. On the Shinkansen, we met a mother from Chicago who was showing Japan to her young son. She was quite fluent in Japanese, having earlier lived with a local family whilst working as a tourist liason in Shizuoka prefecture. As we all know, foreign languages are a 'use it or lose it' proposition, so she teaches her children Japanese as a first language. Her son was keen to see Mt Fuji and they were on the wrong side of the train, so we swapped seats for a while. It looked like clouds were going to get in the way but right at the last minute the mountain poked her head into view. The boy was delighted to get his first glimpse of this magical mountain.
At Osaka we checked into the Marriott Miyako which is at the top of the highest commercial building in Japan. The staff made us wonderfully welcome, meeting us at the lift, greeting us by name and whisking us up to the Executive Lounge for a discreet and speedy check in. Our room on the 48th floor was apparently at approximately 220 meters and the Navigatrix went a bit wobbly at the knees, especially given this is earthquake country and emergency helipaids were on the roof of every building over a certain height. Our room was closer to the top than the bottom in the event of an emergency. Even the train had emergency evacuation tsunami instructions - at least on the 48 floor that would not be an issue.
Our room attendant took the time to point out sights such as Osaka Castle and Tennoji Temple which could be seen from our view.
The Japanese work long days, he and the club staff worked 4pm to 8am the next day. Again we gave our small gifts out, our lounge host had taken her mother to Australia and told us that she loved Koalas. When I brought her later two koala key rings and she was delighted and we received a return gift of beautiful origami paper. Our room attendant had two little girls and was also overwhelmed when we gave him some to take home. As said before, respect in Japanese culture is very important. A tip is to take some small gifts with you to Japan and you will be rewarded by conversations and insights into people's lives that you may otherwise miss.
Following a complimentary high tea in the lounge (twice in two days - we could get used to this), we used the tickets given by the hotel to the observation deck on the 60th floor (at 600 meters). It was wonderful to watch the lights come up across this massive city. Osaka and Kansai form a broad metropolitan area which contains over 19 million people. Osaka is a dense high rise metropolis and even though our hotel was some 20 minutes away from the 'centre', the streets were full with people going home from work, staying to shop or heading out to eat. We had a complimentary dinner in the lounge courtesy of Marriott Elite membership thanks to American Express Platinum.
Other places to see in Osaka will have to wait until next time as we are off to Helsinki tommorrow. Sayonara Japan!