It wasn’t only the cleanliness of Osaka’s streets that caught our attention. It was the artistic attention to detail that graced the very sidewalks. Stanley was the first to notice, fascinated as he is by a city’s mechanics: how does the subway work, where are the utility lines, what is that beautiful manhole cover doing in the middle of the sidewalk? I might never have glanced down, and if not, I would have missed one of those items that most aptly described the place we were visiting. Manhole cover works of art – who would ever have guessed – and each one we saw was different from all the others.
That discovery led me to thinking how wonderful are those visits that are put together by a surprise of coincidence. Like this one to Osaka, starting with that rousing welcome I gratefully witnessed from the balcony. No one can plan this experience.
Close to the end of our day, we walked into a food court, expecting some food. We found colors, flags, streamers, paper kites, and outside the opposite door, a crowd of people clapping in time to a performance of some sort. We decided the food could wait; we went to see what was holding the crowd’s attention. A young juggler spun flaming batons, then tossed them into the air, catching as they came down. He spoke constantly to the crowd through a tiny microphone strapped to his ear, and they laughed and clapped in response. The music was loud, the crowd delighted, the entertainer vibrant. The flaming torches added just that touch of danger and sparkle.
It was time to return to the ship. We sailed away as the enormous ferris wheel on the wharf lit up. To predict cool weather the next day, blues would appear, warm weather would lite up with red. After a day filled with man hole cover works-of-art, an Instamatic camera buff, metropolitan young men, a geisha on the subway, a torch-swirling comedian, a slow ferris wheel softly lighting the night and predicting tomorrow’s weather should not have surprised me.
It had all started with booms from a bass drum as the band welcomed us to Osaka. If we had been in the room we paid for, we would never have seen this heart-warming welcome. Especially when we travel on cruise ship, we look for the best travel deal possible. We had reserved and paid for a cheaper interior room. We’d really only be there to sleep, so what’s the big deal? A couple weeks before we sailed, we got an email announcing an upgrade. We’d been moved to a balcony room. A day after that, we received a second email announcing another upgrade – to a mini-suite. Until we arrived in Osaka, I hadn’t been all that impressed. An interior room on a ship is nice; the mini-suite is also nice, just more spacious. But I was very happy to see the welcome that Osaka gave that morning, and I have the balcony to thank for that.