Thursday, March 24, 2005

live the Osaka adventure!

The Osaka run went fairly smoothly, despite two hitches: a delay in the Japanese passport control line (a bit disorganized that day), and the fact that I hadn't brought along any passport photos for my visa application.

The flight over went smoothly enough; it was a nice day in Incheon when I took off, but a cloudy, brooding, lightly raining day in Osaka when I landed. I suspect that the city wasn't happy to see me back so soon. "Only been eight months, asswipe!"

I didn't bring along directions to the Korean Consulate this time, simply trusting my feet to walk the same path without getting lost. It wasn't that hard: you have to take the Nankai Rapido (Alpha or Beta) train over to Namba Station, which is the terminus. From there, you walk out the exit beyond the front of the train, then follow signs to the subway, eventually looking for Exit #25 out of the subway station. Do a 180 once you hit the top of the exit, and walk downhill, past a McDonald's, across a bridge, and over to the Korean Consulate. From the Nankai Rapido train, it can't be more than a 10-minute walk.

I got to the consulate around 1:50PM, which was a bit frustrating. I'd hoped to get there about 30 minutes earlier, but as it turned out, the consulate staffers were OK with my lateness. I had to figure out how to use the passport photo machine, but it was a graphically oriented procedure, so even though I don't understand a lick of Japanese, I managed to figure my way through the bells and whistles. (I also got a bit of help from a college-age American girl who took pics before I did.)

The machine takes two shots of you, and you have to choose which one you prefer. Then you have to adjust the view to "crop" the photo tightly around your face. I did this, and the machine obligingly printed out my pics. They made me laugh. Here's what Kevin looks like after 5 days of hiking up Namsan:

your worst nightmare

The lesson is obvious: exercise makes you look like a terrorist.

As you see above, the photos cost me 500 yen, or about 5 American dollars. The visa itself was a whopping 5400 yen (about $54, US), but I'd come with enough cash to cover those expenses plus lunch.

Namba Station had a bunch of foreigners walking through it, many of whom I assume were on their own Korean visa run. I'm still not sure why Korea requires foreigners to leave the country simply to change the visa; a $250-400 procedure could cost only about $50-70 if it were merely done in-country. And why, in a technological paradise, hasn't this procedure been made totally digital yet!?

Ah, well. On ne peut pas tout avoir. You can't have everything, eh?

While passing some of the train stations, I couldn't help noticing that some of the blue-uniformed station staffers didn't look very Japanese. In fact, one dude I saw looked a lot like Kevin Spacey. Maybe it was Kevin Spacey, prepping for a role in a Japanese beer commercial or something. What's up with all the un-Japanese-looking Japanese?

I finished initial visa processing a bit after 2:30PM, and had 90 minutes to kill. I went back into the subway station and wended my way toward the shopping arcade whose name I can't remember. Ate lunch. Looked around for a place to take a roaring dump, but all the restrooms were full.

Then I saw it: a sign for Swissôtel. YES! PRAISE JEEBUS! Shitting in luxury is what I dream about. So I followed the signs, took a few escalators, and discovered a marvelously accoutred restroom. Bliss. Well... almost.

Unfortunately, the cubicle was outfitted with that same menacing electric toilet I blogged about so long ago-- the kind that gave me nightmares during my trip to Fukuoka, the kind with the "bidet" (I use the term loosely) that fires a laser beam of water directly into your asshole. East Asian bidets reflect the East Asian temperament: they're impatient and indelicate. To read more about my previous horrifying experience, see here.

The bidet button's icon is very misleading. It portrays a pair of buttocks (shaped like a rounded W or upside-down McDonald's golden arches) with a stream of water moving assward. The stream is depicted as a gently forking dotted line.


Some of you are wondering whether I pressed the button, anyway. Let me disabuse you now: there's no way in fucking HELL that you can get me to press that button ever again. My asshole is trembling in fear as I type this.

I went back around 4PM, got my passport, headed back to Osaka-Kansai Airport without incident, and then noticed, around 6PM or so, that the skies were clearing. Heh. Osaka was happy to see me go. I can't blame it: all I did was get a new Korean visa and leave a blob of crap in a toilet.

Thus ended another very brief visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.


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