Monday, September 20, 2010

Osaka World Performance Festival and More!

Howdy! Just got back from the most amazing weekend in Osaka Tempozan Harbor Village at the World Performance Festival! The first day, Saturday, I went by myself and saw some pretty neat acts. First, check out this robot guy:

Next, there was a girl who danced with hula hoops. Here`s her best dance:

Ever seen a statue act? Here`s one. I knew he was a person right away, but he fooled an old man taking pictures. Here he is, playing a trick on the poor ojisan (grandpa):

Likewise, there were these creepy eyes:

And best of all were the fire performers! Here`s an American who called himself "Rocky." He played the typical tough guy/actually a sissy routine:

Here`s the best fire act, I think, a really funny pair. The guy on the unicycle played the full-of-himself braggart who usually chickens out at the last minute, and the guy balancing on the cylinder and boards was the annoyed boss. Here they go:

At 6:00 there was a combined fire show. These two were the best, I think:

And last of all, they all juggled together in a circle! Pretty cool:

You know, one of the best parts about Osaka is the food! Cheap, inexpensive, American junk food! Every flavored fries, caramel popcorn, KFC, real burgers (not McDonalds or the Japanese meat loaf version), and subway (OK, so that last isn`t exactly junk food, but it`s comfort food), not to mention all manner of international ice cream and sweets. All in the Tempozan food court! Well, I didn`t actually eat all of that, and what I did eat was over a two day period, since I went back on Sunday.

After I got bored with the performers and snacking, I checked out some of the attractions in Harbor village. The ninja house and pirate treasure hunt were gimmicky but cool for someone like me who loves exploring mazes and searching for stuff. But by far the best attraction (for me) was the animal house! They had a llama, monkey and meerkats you could hold and feed (well, usually; they wouldn`t let me hold the monkey or meerkat because it was around their dinner time, but I still got to touch them), and a room for small dogs, one for big dogs, and one for cats! I spent almost an hour in the cat room, mostly cuddling the big fluffy Persian. I miss my cat back home! I`m not allowed to keep pets in my apartment because the land lord says they would tear up the tatami mat. Makes sense, I guess.

Here`s the llama:

I didn`t pay to feed the meerkats, but I watched someone else do it. This video is for my mom; she loves these little guys:

The next day, I returned to the festival with my friend Kayoko. First we went to J-house church at 10:00 for, as always, an awesome service and fellowship. Then we went to the festival and saw two shows, but it was pretty much the same stuff as the previous day. I had been expecting a lot of variety from the “World Performance Festival”, like Indian dancing, traditional Chinese music, Mongolian throat singers, that sort of thing. No, they were all street performers, and I noticed there was a formula to their acts. They all started out with cheap cheesy stuff like balloon animals, miming, etc, and then moved on to juggling, increasingly difficult juggling, culminating with knives, fire, or both, then balancing. The grand finale was almost always balancing while juggling fire or knives. A couple had clever add ons; one guy somehow managed to speak like a squeak toy, one fellow was an extremely gifted pantomimer, and one could stick his head inside a balloon and sing while blowing it up. That was not so much impressive as rather silly if you ask me. We talked to one Australian guy after his act and he admitted that there was a definite formula they learn from watching other successful street performers. He said he`d been making his living doing this for eleven years. You have to be a little crazy to do that, I think, sometimes in a good way, but they all struck me as a wee bit…strange too, especially the last fellow we saw, almost occult with all his demon masks. Here`s his floating ball trick:

About 3:00, bored of the performers, we took a cruise around Osaka bay. The Ferris wheel in the background is the one we took up over the city night-scape later that evening:

We decided after that to see the aquarium, but we still had an hour to kill before the 5:00 discount price, so we hung around Tempozan market place. We went inside this “magic tunnel” that was really cool. Here`s a picture:

It`s an optical illusion. Only the walls are spinning, but it feels as if the whole room is. You couldn`t walk straight to save your life!

And here`s another illusion. Where`s the water coming from?

Answer: The water is not actually being poured from the spout, but being sucked into it. Then the two transparent tubes on the side drain the water back down into the hole.

One more, though this is more perspective than optical illusion. There was an artist doing sidewalk chalk painting. Here`s Kayoko and me on top of the geyser:

We also saw this silver dude, a Japanese version of the Blue Man rock group I guess, though not nearly as cool. Not terribly impressive, but silly me decided to interact with him and I got pulled into his show:

He just made me sit there and hold this guy`s hand. Weird. At least I got a free sucker out of it.

So the aquarium was nice as always. Here`s a cute puffer fish:

And finless dolphin (better named "dorsal finless dolphin, but that doesn`t have quite the same ring to it):

I love the river otters! We actually got to see them swimming this time rather than just being their obnoxious mischievous selves. There was also a baby dolphin with it`s mama, and a penguin with a baby under its fat pouch. We didn`t actually get to see the baby, but we saw the penguin go after several others that came a little too close. Here`s the proud mommy/daddy (you never can tell with penguins, especially since both parents care for the young):

Kayoko went crazy over the shark exhibition. She got to touch a shark and a sting ray for the first time. There was also a short 3-D film and a model of the largest shark that ever lived, (now extinct), bigger than a whale shark!

Ancient Japanese who found the teeth of this beast thought they were the claws of oni (demons).

After that, we watched the beautiful sunset over Osaka harbor while eating ice cream cones (what could possibly be better)?

Dinner consisted of okonomiyaki (Osaka pancake stuffed with seafood; Japanese junk food), and the fries I mentioned earlier.

To top off the perfect day, we rode in the world`s second largest Ferris wheel (the largest being the London Eye). It was so scary! We were closed in on all sides, but the walls and floor were made mostly of glass. It took us up over 100 meters, or 350 feet! Fortunately, there happened to be a giant stuffed Pooh Bear in our car, so we kept hugging it and talking to it the whole time. “How many times have you gone up in this, Pooh Bear? You`re still here, right? You haven`t fallen out yet.”

Here`s a view of Osaka at night from the top:

The whole ride was about fifteen minutes. Then, alas, it was time to go home. We left about 9:15, and I got back to Nabari around 11:00. I was planning to go to Shirahama beach near Toba (not to be confused with Shirahama beach in Wakayama), the next day with my friend Kae (Monday was a national holiday), but she was sick, and I felt pretty tired myself. Plus, according to the Toba locals, the jellyfish have started coming out in droves. Ah, well. So I spent the day resting and planning my upcoming trip to Kyushu during “silver week,” (a long weekend of national holidays). I leave on the night bus tonight! First I`m headed for Nagasaki penguin aquarium (I know, I`m a dork), and then I`m going to Kumamoto to hang out with my friend Diana. Thursday we`re going to Mt. Aso volcano, Friday (when she has to work), I`m going to Kagoshima volcano, and Saturday I`m visiting the seven “hells” (various geysers, bubbling mud, and steaming sand) of Beppu. I`m calling it my “volcanic activity” tour. It`s gonna be AWESOME! Pictures and videos when I get back, of course.

Prayer requests for this week: Safe travel to and from Kyushu! And that the volcanoes aren`t acting up too bad so I can actually see them (admission is closed if they are erupting). And please pray for my friends Kae and Diana who are experiencing some healthy problems.

Until next time, keep loving and praying,
Laura Jane Popp (L.J. Popp)

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