The majority of this page will be related to a 2-day trip to Osaka from August 7-8 but there's some random musings for your consideration as well.

First, while it's been seriously hot and humid here, there were some pretty severe thunderstorms in early August, which happened in the afterrnoon for several consecutive days.  Here's a view of  the ominous sky from the office, looking toward Tokyo Bay.

A store sign: Big Apple, The Dream is filled in the Big Apple.  True.

My friend Jim arrived on Tuesday August 6 to re-visit Tokyo and crash on the floor. He arranged to rent a local cell phone, but rather than giving him the NTT Docomo phone he wanted, they gave him this wimpy little girly phone instead.  He later called them up and got his less effeminate phone but had to deal with some abuse on this for a couple of days.

On the 7th I went with some coworkers (and Jim tagged along) to visit Osaka to review some companies.  I'd been to Kyoto before, but not Osaka.  We took the Shinkansen which runs through Kyoto en route to Osaka. Along the way we went through some farming areas, and I note both the tall power lines and that it's getting more mountainous.

Believe this is on the outskirts of the city.

We arrived at Shin-Osaka station, which is not "Osaka Station".  This is the new station which was purpose-built for the Shinkansen traffic, since two lines terminate here.  Osaka Station is a few miles away.

A view of a regular commercial office area a few blocks from Shin-Osaka.  We had a confused taxi driver get us within a few blocks of our destination before giving up, but unfortunately that was almost further than we were from the station - we walked back after our meeting.  Jim had a similarly confused driver for his journey.  Bring a map to Osaka, but it's no guarantee of getting where you want to go.  (The next day we had another taxi ride that was fine, albeit expensive).

There's a major international airport here as well, and it was common to see landing traffic overhead.

I've gotten very accustomed to using the rail system to get in and out of cities and still find the network fascinating. 

As evening fell I took a few more pictures of the city.

Here as well the red lights dot the tops of the buildings.

Here Jim has an unnatural attraction to the Asahi vending machine that sells the tall boys.

We stayed at the Hotel Monterey La Soeur, which is the sister of another Osaka hotel, the Hotel Monterey. Jim was first driven to that hotel and dropped off, so we went and found him and brought him to the right place.  Good thing he had that girly phone.  It was a really nice place and had a nice view of the city.  It also had an interesting room element which we feature in this video (20 Meg)

It occurred to me I hadn't seen many Japanese flags around so I took this picture to at least get one.

The hotel is well situated near other commercial buildings, as well as the Osaka-jo concert hall, which is next to Osaka Castle.

The view over Osaka-Jo to the castle.

We had the morning free so we went for breakfast and over to the castle.  Many many bicycles.  Also many many cicadas (600 KB).

They tell me Osaka is known as the water city - the rivers definitely play a major role in the layout.

Jim got this Mets soda from a vending machine, and we are pretty sure the design is strikingly similar to another Mets we know about.

This poster was at the entrance to Osaka Castle. We think it means you can't bring your pets in, and they are sad, but if so, why does the dog have a bandaged leg?  A translator would help us.

So now on to Osaka Castle, which was built starting around 1583, but the current buildings are more recent than that, primarily because earlier ones were lost to fire.  Even if the buildings weren't original the castle has an important history involving the unification of Japan.  We didn't have enough time to go inside but took some photos.

Here's Angry Alex reacting to Jim's bad picture-taking.

Here's Happy Alex when Jim takes it the way Alex wants.

Love the design and attention to detail.  Note the top floor is screened in - people were up there, and we assumed the screens were to keep stuff from falling out, like people.

Some other interesting buildings in the area: this one has a large round platform on it.  It's west of Osaka Castle, and I looked at it on Google Earth, which makes it look like a deep-space antenna, or possibly a large helicopter landing pad.  Hm.

We're guessing this building with all the dishes was a government building of some sort.

Nearby is a facility for a local internet provider.

In this picture the main building has an elevator, and curiously that's not a modern addition.  OK, this particular elevator is modern, but it had one of the earliest elevators in Japan, back in the 1800's.

The suite of lights to illuminate the castle appeared, to me, to recall images of anti-aircraft batteries.

Something I didn't notice before, maybe this has been going on for quite a while - is the practice of sealing things like cabinets, manholes, doors, etc to indicate if they have been tampered with. 

Don't know if this Sapporo product has a celebrity endorsement or not.

Even if not, the Suntory Coffee Boss is still the boss of them all.

They also appear to be getting real celebrity endorsements, or if not, it's a very good Tommy Lee Jones look-alike.

And these were just a couple of interesting vending machine signs. 

There was a theater nearby which had this as the poster - it seemed kinda creepy to us.

Finally, the habit of using cuddly animals for transit mascots continues in Osaka, with the "angry platypus".  He's not angry here, but there were some other pictures in which he seemed to be chastising people for not using their stored-value card.  The same logo is used in Kyoto.

Food-wise, you can find a note about a tan-tan variant I had in Osaka.  For our night in Osaka we ate at the IMP Building mall at a Japanese restaurant, and had nabe yaki udon soup, which was one of the few things we could recognize.  It was thick noodles in a fish broth with shrimp tempura and vegetables.  Good but I'd have rather had some quality sushi.  On our return to Tokyo we ate at Royal Host because we wanted a sit-down, it was already late, and it was near the train.  Jim had a very tasty curry special while I felt like the macaroni and cheese, which had shrimp in it.