“Hi Sir, have fun and enjoy the New Year’s Eve”, the friendly receptionist with glasses managed to guess my intentions when I was about to leave the lobby of Hotel Kaga.
“Hi, you know that….Hahaha….You too, Sir. See you”, I lightly joked.
“See you, Sir”, the receptionist was still smiling.
I started walking on street with the ambient temperature near zero degrees Celsius. My face froze as I followed my swing of steps towards Dobutsuen-mae Station. For the third time I passed Saka-suji Avenue.
“Tonight there will be a lot of drunk people on the streets”, I thought reminding my logic to continue to be careful even though Japan is a safe country.
My Enjoy Eco Card was still effective until that night to explore underground alleys of Osaka City. Now I was driving with Osaka Metro Midosuji Line carriage to Namba Station. I purposely put Dōtonbori Canal as my last destination in Osaka City and I cleverly placed it during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“Surely there will be lively”, I excitedly thought.
The train I was in was full. Some of them were not Japanese faces. Surely they were travelers who intended a same thing as me, enjoying New Year’s Eve. My journey to Namba Station went very quickly because from Dobutsuen-mae Station there wasn’t a single station which I passed. I would be there in ten minutes.
Exiting the gates of Namba Station, I walked along Mido-suji Avenue. Keep heading north. My estimate was that it would only take ten minutes to reach Dōtonbori Canal. But it was been twenty minutes I still haven’t arrived.
“Wow …. I must have strayed”, my face began to wry.
I ventured to ask a traffic policeman who seemed to be on guard on a side of sidewalk.
“Sir, do you know where is this place?”, I opened my phone and showed a neon Glico board with a picture of famous running man.
He kindly smiled and nodded while joking excitedly “Oh…There….There”.
“Thank you very much, Sir”, I waved as I walked away from him.
“You ale welcome”, the policeman looked around again.
Ten minutes of retracing the path I had taken earlier, I saw several groups of European tourists heading in a direction. I was sure that was where I was headed. I followed that group of tourists. Sure enough, they were also headed for Dōtonbori Canal.
The Dōtonbori Canal at ten o’clock was already lively. The body of canal was filled with tourists, while restaurants and bars seemed to be full. Rich tourists would prefer to wait for New Year’s Eve from restaurants and bars which offer warm air. But I decided to wait for it at the bank of canal, wandering around here and there, trying to enjoy the atmosphere even though I was distracted by freezing air of Osaka.
An hour passed as I walked along each side of canal, then I took my place under the bridge, hoping to find some warm air. But in vain, the air had fallen below zero degrees Celsius. When I couldn’t stand the freezing air, I rushed to a Takoyaki stall. I deliberately queued, waited for order, and ate it for a long time in front of stall to get exposure to warm air which gushed from stall’s stove.
Almost half an hour I took advantage of that situation to manipulate cold temperature. Until finally I kicked myself out because the queue of buyers started to get crowded. I returned to the canal half an hour before New Year’s countdown.
As I struggled back against the cold on a side of the canal, I heard faintly familiar language and accents.
“Ngenteni kene wae cah, ra sah adoh adoh (just waiting here, bro, not too far)” a fainty setence was heard, it was Javanese Language.
I looked back, four men and two of them with long hair were sitting on the side of canal, holding a large bottle of alcohol. It was indeed an effective way of fighting the cold. It reminded me of a alcoholic drink I had because I bought the wrong one at Narita International Airpot on other day. But I haven’t given up, I won’t drink it.
I continued to endure the growing cold. My hands started to go numb. But I tried to stay calm. Until finally five minutes before the countdown arrived. Tourists began pouring in along the sides of canal, restaurants and bars abandoned. Everyone hoped there would be an elegant fireworks display. Until the time came, the count really began.
“Tennnn….Nineeee….Eightttt….”, the count was getting louder
“Threeee…..Twoooo….Oneeee…..Happyyyy Newwww Yeearrrr”, but everyone felt silent for three seconds.
The atmosphere of Dotonbori Canal remain quiet, nothing special. Fifteen minutes later it was still the same, quiet.
“Ah, failed miserably”, I was getting annoyed.
Other tourists began too complain. There would be no fireworks display. Until finally ten young Japanese took the initiative to acquire the atmosphere by climbing bridge railing. They took off their clothes and left their underwear in freezing cold. Then one of them started screaming.
“Threeee….Twoooo….Oneeee”, while swerving jumping like a beautiful jumper with their head plunged into the water first.
Then the same behavior began to be carried out by their friend who was ready and standing on bridge railing. Counting to three countdowns, his turn jumped into the water. And the show stopped until the tenth person. At least what they did could cure the disappointment of all visitors to Dōtonbori Canal.
By one o’clock in the morning. The air which initially felt warmer because of the crowd of hundreds of visitors was finally disbanded. The temperature quickly cooled back as visitors began to leave the Dōtonbori Canal. I started going from that place towards Namba Station.
A few minutes later, Osaka Metro took me back to Dobutsuen-mae Station. I was very lucky that my Enjoy Eco Card (One Day Pass) was still valid even though it had passed the expiration date, which was 00:00 am. Maybe this would be a bonus from Osaka Metro for New Year celebration.
Until Dobutsuen-mae Station, then I left it at a brisk pace. Saka-suji Avenue was deserted, even my steps was marked by an incident of a drunk driver who stopped his car in the middle of road until several people tried to push him to side. At an intersection I turned along with hearing a greeting“Helloooo….Happyyyy Newwww Yearrrr, Sirrrr”, a man was riding a bicycle with his right hand holding a bottle of alcoholic drink.
“Happy New Year, sir”, I replied to show friendliness.
Until finally my steps arrived at Hotel Kaga. I felt relieved that I came in hotel safely without less anything. The receptionist was still faithful to his duties, waiting for his desk with discipline.
“Are you happy, Sir?….Good luck for you in the new year”, he smiled at me.
“Sure, Sir…I hope so for you”, I replied. “It’s time to sleep”.
“Yeah….Heve a good sleep, Sir”
I left him for the lift, it took me to third floor. I unsteadily stepped into room. Entering the room, taking off my boots, pulling up the folding bed, and without taking a shower, I immediately threw myself down and quickly fell asleep.
Meanwhile, the bottle of alcoholic drink which had been swallowed by accident two days ago was gracefully standing on a small table in my room. Yess, I didn’t touch it on New Year’s Eve. That means, the alcoholic beverage bottle adventure ended early that morning. Because by noon I would leave Osaka and heading to Busan.
South Korea, I was coming!