Getting my alone time in Osaka

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A bridge at the Sumiyoshi-taisha Shinto Shrine.

I arrived in Osaka on Easter Sunday, though of course no one celebrates it here. Wandering around Osaka that evening was my first time really being alone in Japan, and I wasn’t used to that, so it felt a bit odd and lonely. But soon I relaxed into the feeling, and enjoyed it. I remembered how it felt when I arrived in Sweden by myself so many months ago, or when I was off on my own in Kerala.

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I’ve talked about Osaka once before, when I traveled here for just a few hours with my friends on a day trip from Kyoto. It’s Japan’s second-largest city, and fairly dirtier and funkier compared to Tokyo.
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Osaka street art.

I was reminded that the only thing that connects all these random places, besides my project, is myself. I like being off on my own, and in those moments, sometimes I think I could quietly disappear into the Watson. I don’t know how else to describe that feeling, except maybe that’s my way of keeping this going forever.

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It was when I saw this scene that I first thought of Sweden.
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More from Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine.

I’ve been listening to the podcast S-Town as I travel around (it’s currently #1 on iTunes and I highly recommend it!). The podcast centers around the life of an “antiquarian horologist,” a restorer of antique clocks, and, appropriately, one of the podcast’s themes is time. The profession of antiquarian horology, as I’ve learned from S-Town, is dying because time is so accessible now on smartphones and watches.

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Osaka’s “Tsūtenkaku” tower.
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It was raining when I visited Osaka Castle on my sightseeing day (my other days in Osaka were filled with project meetings). See the castle in the background?

It got me thinking – what does that say about the relationship between humans and time? Now that it is so easy to check, at any moment, what the exact time is down to the nanosecond, do we relate to time differently then we did before? Does this hyper-awareness of the passage of time at all affect the way we approach life? I realize these are ridiculous exaggerated questions, certainly the product of traveling solo and having too much time to think (heh). But what I’m saying is that what’s important here (to me, anyway) is not the measurement of time itself but the way people relate to it.

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This is the Osaka I saw when I was there the first time – neon lights in the Namba / Dotonbori district!
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Dotonbori again.

I don’t think it’s enough just to talk about medical devices, or embedded systems, or the topics of space and time; what’s interesting is how do people relate to these things, and why, and how can we make them in a way so that people have the most positive reaction? How is a medical device interesting if you’re not thinking about how people will use it and how it will impact their health? None of these things matter without that framing (and of course none of it would exist without the people to make it; even time would be a moot point without people to experience it, frame it, and measure it). I’m sure this all sounds obvious – my project has been about the “human response to medical technology” since I designed it over a year ago – but it’s still fun to think about, especially extending that thinking to other disciplines.

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One of Osaka’s specialty regional foods is takoyaki, grilled balls of battered octopus (this octopus is holding one in its tentacle).
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A street vendor making takoyaki.

Anyway, that’s all, and if you celebrate Easter, I hope you had a lovely weekend!

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Hōzen-ji Buddhist Temple, Osaka.
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