Osaka, Japan: Couch Surfing, Osaka Food and Geishas with Giggle Sticks

In Osaka we continued our Couch Surfing adventures and, as we stayed with two hosts in this city, we thought we’d write a separate blog about the experience.

First up was Taka. Staying with Taka was fascinating. He lived with his Dad on the outskirts of Osaka in a place like no other. It was a mix between an 80s office, a Makro cash and carry warehouse and a supercar graveyard. Taka’s Dad is a racing car driver, driving in events around the world and has a clear passion for cars. So the ground floor of their house (along with the basement) is a huge garage with beat up old racing cars and Porsches plus all the usual junk everyone slings into a pile in any garage around the world. In the back of the ground floor garage, 2 rooms have been created which is Taka’s bedroom and lounge, along with a small kitchen and bathroom. Not quite what you’d describe as traditionally homely, but definitely a boyish charm to the place…and the smell of engine oil. That said our futons on the floor in the lounge were comfy and it was quiet and dark so we slept well.

A small part of the garage and car collection at Taka’s
Taka rocking it

Taka himself was working hard to improve his English before going to live and work in Australia with his girlfriend. Utilising the teaching skills we developed whilst volunteering in Cambodia we were able to advance his English a few steps (especially by teaching “Ay-up”, “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya” and the different pronunciation of Ship, Sheet, Shit and Sheep).

Taka also taught us our Japanese names

Taka was the one who first introduced us to local Osaka food. On our first night we queued 40 minutes to get into an Okonomiyaki restaurant. Okonomiyaki is basically a Japanese version of a pancake but fried in front of you and layered with meats, eggs and vegetables. Delish! The following day we tried Osaka’s Ramen (soy-sauce noodle broth with vegetables and pork) which was the best Ramen we ate. And on the final day he cooked us Chankonabe, a Japanese stew eaten in mamouth portions by sumo wrestlers (ok, this dish isn’t from Osaka nor has a local variation but still fantastic and worthy of a mention) before giving us a traditional Japanese goodbye tea ceremony.

Taka letting it stew
Chankonabe time
Green tea for our tea ceremony

Taka was a great and fun guy to spend time with who can cook an awesome meal, get you drunk on old Brandy (dug out from the garage junk pile covered in dust) and do a mean Mr. Bean impression. He also took us on a day trip to Nara. Winner.

To top it off, on dropping us off at the station his last words to us before speed off into the sun were “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!”…funny man. Hopefully we’ll see him again when we head to Australia. 

Our second host was a Michael Jackson crazy lady called Toshiko. Toshiko actually gave us her whole second house to stay in which was remarkable.

We were very excited when Toshiko told us she was taking us to a Geisha show and asked her lots of questions about the history of geishas, their performance, their beauty and sexual prowess…but it wasn’t until we got to the theatre and saw the poster for the show that we realised something wasn’t quite right…it turned out it was a male geisha show! The show was held in the little backstreet theatre which was jam packed with old ladies and there was a real buzz about the place.

Rob getting settled in with the girls

The show started and the old ladies went wild – cheers, shouting, screaming…were we actually at a Justine Bieber concert?! It turns out that these male geisha have somewhat of a superstar-esque following and the lead in our show, Ryotaro Okawa, was one of the biggest heartthrobs.

The star of the show

The show starts with traditional dance performances (with an element of humour introduced), then comedic sketch performances and finally a return to traditional dance. During the final dance lots of the old ladies took the opportunity to go up to the stage and pin considerable amounts of money onto their favourite Geisha, blushing and giggling madly as they got to touch their sexual idols – obviously says something about the marital affairs of a whole generation of Japanese couples.

Big fans
Nothing up the sleeves of these Geisha; but something in the kimono
Watch out

It was great fun, even if we had no idea what was going on most the time. Ryotaro did call us out during the interval as we were the only non-Japanese in the audience. We have no idea what he said but the audience found it very funny. 

Overall, it was like a British panto, mixed with Monty Python, mixed with Chippendales. Pure Japanese craziness at its best. At the end we got to meet to meet the stars and have a photo taken with them.

On a separate night Toshiko came over and cooked a local delicacy of Takoyaki. Takoyaki is a batter cooked into round balls with octopus. The fun part of Takoyaki is the cooking. You use a special machine and have tools to continually turn the little balls of digestive delight to ensure they don’t burn. Eat them hot as soon as they are cooked – yummy!

More great couch surfing experiences! It was indeed a great honour to stay with Taka and Toshiko and continues to prove what amazing experiences you can have with total strangers…with or without giggle sticks being involved.

Want more: Check out our blog on Osaka: The Hyper-Mega-Epic-Super City here which talks about this amazing city’s sights and cool districts.

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