We got going a bit later Saturday morning—we were all tired from our long day the day before—rising early for the 6:30 service and then the late evening with Bethy’s host family. We thought today might be a lighter day and earlier evening, but we were mistaken!
No matter what, the laundry just has to be done–even in Japan. The hotel only had dry cleaning available which would have been astronomically expensive. Friday night, we’d asked at the desk about laundry and understood there wasn’t laundry on the premises, and the desk clerk couldn’t point us to a Laundromat. We asked again after Saturday’s breakfast (a delightful buffet of both Western and Japanese choices), and the morning desk clerk pulled out a map and drew some arrows. The Laundromat was only 2-3 blocks from our hotel. We’d gotten everything organized before breakfast, so off we all went to the Laundromat. It looked just like Laundromats everywhere. We had packed some liquid Tide packets and ended up doing 3 loads of laundry.
Bethy and Stan managed to acquire enough 100 yen coins to operate the washers. Bethy and Jennica wandered around a bit while the washers did their washing thing. It took 3 iterations to do the drying, which is just like every Laundromat I’ve ever used in the States.
We rested after laundry—perhaps longer than we should have, since I freaked at the time and whether we’d have time to go the museum and still meet Ash(sp) at 3:40 at the train station. Consensus was reached that we’d go to the aquarium, leave early if necessary, and be heading back to the train station by 3:00.
Train—a bit late, but we got there
We weren’t the only foreign visitors. Monika was there from Austria; she was spending 6 weeks in Japan. Boon was there from Malaysia and we encouraged him to come to the Ft Worth AG next July. It turns out that his company is opening a subsidiary in Houston, so it’s quite possible he’ll be able to do it! We exchanged contact information.
Finding the fireworks
Everyone was excited about the Japanese fireworks, which seemed a little unusual, but it sounded like fun—fireworks are fun, fireworks with a group of people is even more fun. We took the Hankyu train one stop to shorten our walk—but our walk was still pretty long. Shortly after getting off the train, some men were handing out fans. Several of us took one and a woman who had taken the Mensa test that night asked for a bunch and distributed them. They turned out to be equivalent to banners in battle as they helped keep us together as we threaded our way through the crowd. At one point, someone asked the crowd control man who had a megaphone to announce that the Japan Mensa people should all go to the right. I didn’t understand the announcement—but I did catch the “Mensa” part!
Every little while, the people in front would hold their fans high in the air for those of us behind to follow. I was in the second set of people, so I raised mine for those behind me. I had no idea where Stan and the girls were at that point and was hoping we hadn’t lost each other completely! I wasn’t sure we had a destination, but it turned out that we did—a couple of Japan Mensans had skipped the meeting and gone to stake out a spot to watch the fireworks. They had a large tarp spread out and there was plenty of room for all of us. As with houses, the tarp was considered an “inside” area and we all took off our shoes. It meant that we all had a clean area to sit! As with any group, we chattered, nibbled, and chattered some more.
Oh my gosh—I didn’t know what Japanese fireworks would be like! The firework show seemed to go on and on, and there were arrangements and combinations and individual fireworks I’d never seen before. The show lasted for 50 minutes. Several times into the show I thought they might be starting a grand finale display, but then more fireworks went off! After the show, <name> told me that they had set off 10,000 rockets. I’ve never seen fireworks like that before and it has probably spoiled me for American fireworks for a long time!
After the fireworks ended, the group decided to hang out rather than try to leave with the huge crowd. There must have been hundreds of thousands of people there—Osaka is a big city and much of it was watching fireworks with us! We sat around and talked, we walked down to the vendor area where I tried the Japanese version of hard lemonade. We all decided we’d rather walk to a subway station than deal with the crowds at the Hankyu line, so off we went. At several points, people splintered off to find their way home, and we eventually got to a station on the red subway line. Success! We took the subway with one of the women and she waved goodbye to us at the Shinsaibashi station where our hotel was. Another late and incredible night!