The Land of Many Surprises

July 10th, 2012By Category: Culture, Travel

With a culture that is in many ways very different to my own, this cannot come as a huge shock. On first moving here, I had several experiences that surprised or amazed me and subsequently reminded me of just how far from home I was.

Experiences like seeing tons of little wooden shrines in the vicinity of my apartment and watching myriads of Japanese people  hop off their bicycle, light some incense and pray to these random, rustic structures. Or like walking past people on street corners handing out tissues that I was allowed to take. . . for free! (My father really enjoyed this particular part of Japanese culture when he came to visit – he’s always been a little thrifty). Or even like using the disposal areas of a McDonalds restaurant  where I was expected to separate my rubbish, dump the ice from my cup and place the cup in another bin. Such a contrast to the dump-it-all-in-the-same-place attitude I employed back home.

Of course, nothing is more of a surprise than the small things you find around your neighbourhood. Even when living abroad, we can all be at fault of sticking too much to our routines so naturally, some things can go unnoticed.

For instance, when I lived in the suburbs it took me a good few months to discover the free zoo that was only a five minute walk up the road. As the city was sister cities with Launceston, Tasmania (the bottom island-state of Australia), there were even Wallabies (small Kangaroos) and Emus (kind of like Ostriches). I ended up spending a lot of time on the weekends there, petting the animals. There was even one animal there that I still cannot identify – kind of a cross between a rabbit and a small deer.

Nevertheless, a free zoo near your apartment. Surprising, right?

Now that I live in the bleak, building infested environment that is the inner-city, I never expected to find anything of such interest apart from perhaps a vending machine that stocks Dr. Pepper (of which there is, right outside my place). But that was until I stumbled across the temple/shrine that you see pictured.

I decided to take an alternate route from the station home as it looked like it was going to rain. So I zigzagged in and out of back streets, wondering which one would lead me back to the main road and hoping I hadn’t gone too far yet. That’s when I looked to my right and saw this monstrosity.

Monstrosity I say, because it pretty much is just a giant monster/demon shrine. It was so huge and so detailed I almost stacked it on my bicycle from surprise. What the hell was such an interesting place doing hidden in the back streets of downtown Osaka?

And while the orange eyes frighten me to death and haunt my dreams, this is probably the most surprising thing I’ve  discovered in Japan since I found out that Pizza Hut is only two streets over and I don’t have to pay for delivery anymore.

Ah Japan, even after a year – you still surprise me.

(The zoo mentioned is Satsukiyama Zoo, located about a 20 minute walk or 5 minute bus ride from Hankyu Ikeda Station – check it out)

Author of this article

Emma Perry

Emma is a kindergarten teacher and freelance writer living in Osaka, Japan. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she enjoys travelling (mostly to warm places), meeting awesome people, watching Rugby and riding roller coasters. You can read more of her work at

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