Posts Tagged Umeda Sky Building

March 29, 2006 part 3 – Translating for my dad

After getting rained out in Nara, my parents and I decided to return to Osaka and find some indoor activities. The first thing that popped into my head was a visit to the Umeda Sky building, yet another thing I had done on my solo trip to Osaka last year. The building features a giant glass elevator, a glass walled escalator, and spectacular views of Osaka. It was still raining, so we didn’t get too much of the city view. We did enjoy some of the cool models they had depicting life in old Osaka.

Osaka model

The Sky Building concluded a full day of walking and sightseeing, so we decided to call it a night and return to the hotel. Getting back would involve a walk to Umeda station, two subway trains, and a search for our hotel. My dad decided that he wasn’t interested in any more walking, so he suggested that we take a taxi. I told him that taxis were expensive in Japan, but he said that he was on vacation and didn’t care, so we left the building and found a nearby taxi stand.

Taxis in Japan are very different from taxis in Canada. Japanese taxis have automatic doors and drivers in uniforms with white gloves. Canadian taxis absolutely do not have either of these things. We got in and I asked the driver to take us to Park Hotel Rinkai.

This was the first time my parents had been in a taxi in Japan, so they were understandably excited. As soon as we started moving my dad started talking to the driver. The driver nervously responded with “Sorry, no English”. I explained to the driver in Japanese that my dad keeps forgetting that not everyone in Japan can speak English. When my dad saw that I was able to communicate with the cab driver, he asked me to translate for him. I fumbled my way through such questions as:

  • What kind of car is this?
  • Do all taxi drivers wear white gloves?
  • In Canada the taxi drivers are mostly immigrants. How about in Japan?
  • Is the day shift in Osaka busy?
  • Do you like your job?

My dad is a friendly person by nature who loves talking to people, so this is just normal for him. Even though my Japanese had improved immensely since moving to the country two year ago, I had trouble keeping up with the back and forth communication. There were times when my vocabulary wasn’t good enough to either say or understanding something, so I filled in the gaps with some educated guesses. It was a good challenge of my Japanese abilities, but I was mentally exhausted by the time we reached the hotel!

I have nothing but respect for people who can professionally translate a conversation for a living. It’s not easy at all!

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July 5, 2005 pt2 – Missing hotels and glass escalators

After spending the afternoon exploring Himeji castle, I returned to the station to catch a train to Osaka. The station area is an interesting contrast to the massive 400 year old castle that dominates the view. All of the buildings are big and blocky. There is an interesting mix of office buildings, fast food restaurants, hostess bars and kimono shops.

I was happy to get back on the train and off my feet for a while. I took a Tokaido line rapid train to Osaka, which took about an hour. I could have also taken the shinkansen, but I would have spent more and only saved about 15 minutes.

Osaka station is HUGE. The station area combines both Osaka station and Umeda station. It serves over 2 million passengers each day, and is one of the top 5 busiest train stations in the world. I managed to navigate my way through Osaka station into the connected Umeda subway station to catch a train towards my hotel.

I had made an online reservation at Park Hotel Rinkai, an inexpensive business hotel in central Osaka. The online reservation explained that the hotel was close to two different subway stations. This statement was true, however the subway stations themselves were connected together in a sprawling underground maze. Navigating a confusing subway station after a full day of exploring a castle is difficult. I went to street level and found that all of the buildings looked very similar. This combined with no street names made locating the hotel an exercise in frustration. After about 30 minutes and several creative uses of four letter words, I finally found it thanks to street maps and some luck.

I booked the hotel both for the location and the cost. My single room was only 5800 yen (about $58) per night. This seemed like a good deal for being centrally located in Japan’s second largest city. I checked in using Japanese (the staff didn’t speak English at all), and went to my room. At this point I realized why the room only cost 5800 yen – it was TINY. The room was about the same size as my single dorm room at the University of Manitoba. There was a single bed, a desk, and a tiny bathroom that somehow jammed a toilet, sink, and deep bathtub / shower into a space better suited as a closet.

Despite being small, the room was clean, fairly quiet, and well equipped. Also, it really was close to the train station if you knew the correct exit number. The TV had regular local channels, but for 1000 yen I could buy a “movie card” at a vending machine near the elevator that would allow free unlimited access to all the movies for 24 hours. And when I say all the movies, I mean ALL the movies. There were brochures that gave hints to the different options available. Watching them all in 24 hours would have been impossible.

On a likely unrelated note, there was a sign on the TV indicating that I could order an in room massage by calling the front desk. I looked at the English translation of the hotel guide for details (always read the hotel guide to find where the nearest fire exit is), and the guide explained that yes, a masseuse could be ordered. I am going to assume it was a real massage, and not a “massage”. The bigger question is how could anyone get a massage in a hotel room that tiny.

By this point it was still before 8:00pm. I changed clothes and headed back out to the subway station to seek out an attraction from my guidebook – The Umeda Sky Building. The building is famous for its design: it looks like a table on top of two glass towers. There is a glass elevator from ground level to the 35th floor, and a glass walled escalator takes you up to the 39th floor. A glass walled escalator is an interesting experience, especially at night when the city it lit up. Not recommended for those afraid of heights.

The escalator lets you off at the 39th floor, which offers amazing 360 degree views of Osaka. It’s also possible to go up to the rooftop “floating garden” for an open air view of the city. Unfortunately it was raining at the time, so I didn’t spent much time on the rooftop. If you like unique buildings or tall places with a good city view, Umeda Sky building is a cool place for both in Osaka.

I spent a long time looking out the windows at Osaka before finally deciding to call it a night and head back towards my hotel, and towards a long overdue dinner.

(2015 Note) Unfortunately Park Hotel Rinkai has closed permanently. It was a good, inexpensive place to stay in Osaka. I ended up staying there 2 more times before moving back to Canada.

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