If ‘umami’ was a place, I’m sure it’d be Japan.
This country is such a delicious blend of salty and sweet.
So many of characteristics of Japanese culture seem almost diametrically opposed.
In one hour, a polite stroll through stately and dignified ancient temples can ebb into a debaucherous romp through a seedy underbelly of micro bars and vomiting partiers.
The polite and hospitable customs of an age-old country are mostly forefront.
Formal (but warm) greetings, respectful head-bows, shoes off and manners on.
At night though, in the tiny alleys and back-streets of the city, there’s a different world.
A looser kind. “Salary men,” ties and jackets undone, laughing and drinking and yes, even face-down on the concrete sidewalk.
Compadres taking photos of each other vomiting up a night’s worth of fun.
Laughing hysterically at each other.
Bright lights and pop sugared storefronts, eager to show you a good time.
Hotel rooms, rented by the hour.
There’s a real spirit of the people too.
When Tsūtenkaku Tower — an icon of Osaka, centered in the rambunctious entertainment district of Shinsekai — was damaged in a fire and scrapped for metal for the WWII effort, the locals incessantly lobbied to have it rebuilt.
The Shinsekai district is now alive and well, with plenty of local bars and various forms of entertainment to satisfy a bawdy appetite.
All that to say that Japan is delightfully (and even surprisingly) textured, with surprises down every tiny alley.