It’s better to have seen once for yourself than heard a hundred times from others. Supposedly.
But is it? Do we really even see for ourselves?
When I went to Osaka, I “knew” to expect a different city from Tokyo, let alone nearby Kyoto.
I think I encountered that, too.
But did I do so because that’s how it is? Or is it because I expected it?
When we travel (and even when we don’t), we need to be aware of this.
Our familiarity with home, the place we live, blinds us to things we have seen too often, but never really looked at.
Our expectation of other places shapes what we will see and feel of those – and it may be true. Or not.
Osaka certainly did feel different.
I did not have so much interaction with people that I would want to base an opinion on that.
But, the head of “Gasthaus 44 Higashimikuni” where I stayed for the first night was nice and interesting to talk with.
The shop assistant at BIC Camera Dotonbori with whom I discussed and from whom I finally bought a Sony RX0 was pleasant to talk to and not sales-y.
Drop Inn Osaka (for the second night) was equally pleasant; people in eateries I went to were forthcoming.
And when I stumbled upon a Goma-kane fire ritual in the middle of the bustle around food and fun in Dotonbori…
… I couldn’t remember which (other) sects performed that ritual, so I asked one of the monks there if that was of the Tendai Buddhist denomination.
He had no problem with my less-than-rudimentary Japanese at all, and it turned out it was the Shingon school of Buddhism these monks belonged to.
I could have found this in other cities as well, but anyways, the Panasonic Center Osaka with its presentation of how they think people would want to live was particularly interesting to me…
Even just walking around and taking it all in, bustling and busy though it was, it did feel different from Tokyo. It felt different from how Kyoto, my next stop, would feel.
Maybe it was all the fault of Roads and Kingdoms (and their great book on Japanese food culture experiences, “Rice Noodle Fish” [affiliate link to Amazon]) having described Osaka as more relaxed and outgoing.
Maybe the difference was that I had just come off my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.
We like clear answers and exact learnings, but my lesson from Osaka is this:
Feel what and how you do about a place. But consider the possibility that your feelings are not truth. Not even your truth.
All the more reason I’d like to head back to Osaka and see if I’d again feel good about this city a second time around. Preferably with my wife, not least as the eating and shopping opportunities both seemed equally as great. :-p