Day 5

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Monday, May 24—Osaka

As Advertised: Breakfast will be available in your hotel this morning, prior to a day filled with several Plenary Sessions during the convention hours. Tonight is the host hospitality event for those who have been confirmed.

After rising at 5 a.m., we had breakfast in the Checkers restaurant on the second floor of the hotel, again enjoying a wide variety of Japanese and international cuisine. Having now experienced the convention shuttles and having examined a map of the area, we had determined that the OICC was within reasonable walking distance, so we left about 8 or 8:30 on a pleasant and scenic walk along Nakanoshima Promenade beside the Dojima River. Little did we realize that we were actually on an island: Nakanoshima (Central Island) is a narrow island between the Dojima and Tosabori Rivers that closely resembles the Ile de la Cité in Paris. On the islands east tip (which we did not see) is Nakanoshima Park, one of the Top 100 Green Areas in Osaka, and one of Osakas first parks (opened 1891). I later learned that rivers make up 10% of Osaka’s area, and “City of Water” is a popular nickname for Osaka.

At the OICC I got my credentials visaed and received a VOTING DELEGATE pin, and we turned in coupons to collect our gift bags. At another booth I picked up my Park Festa tickets and information about Dotombori Night, both of which were Host Organizing Committee events. The gift bags included a coupon for rail passes, which we went to yet another booth to collect. This Kansai-Pass package included two rail passes, a Welcome Kansai! Guidebook and Welcome Kansai! Guide Map, and a brass Yokoso Japan! bookmark. The passes were valid during the convention period (May 23–26) on JR-WEST rail lines and the Surutto Kansai subway network in Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe.

Having eased my mind by taking care of these “essential” tasks, we took a shuttle to the Osaka Dome for the day’s plenary session. We arrived about 10:30 a.m., having missed two keynote speeches and some entertainment, but we happened to join Tom and Joan and Dad for what remained.

When the session was over, we joined the mass exodus and with some difficulty located the collection point for buses back to the OICC. We got separated from the rest (having fallen into conversation with a couple from Scotland who had visited in our area, staying at the summer home of our former next-door neighbors) and ended up on different buses, but we rejoined in the parking lot of the Osaka Municipal Museum of Modern Art, where the buses dropped us off. This parking lot was described in the Official Transportation Guide as being “one block east of the RRH” (elsewhere it was described as “half a block”), but in fact it was at least two long blocks, which proved very difficult for Dad, given the heat, the uneven pavement, and the throngs of people (including obliviously rude teenagers unprepared to yield the right of way to an elderly man with a cane).

Eventually we all arrived at the OICC, and Tom, Joan, and Dad collected their gift bags and other goodies. We ended up splitting up at that point. Dad went on alone to the Rihga Royal Hotel, and Barney and I soon followed. We navigated the labyrinth of small rooms until we found the Secretariat room, where I collected copies of the convention press release and a “3” sticker for my badge (indicating that I had attended three Rotary International Conventions).

At that point we were going to go on to the House of Friendship, but we ran into Dad, who wanted a PDG (Past District Governor) ribbon and “11” sticker for his badge, so we trudged back to the Secretariat office. In our wanderings around the second-floor gallery we repeatedly passed and looked down on the portion of the hotel lobby where Dr. Genshitsu Sen, chairman of the 2004 Osaka Convention Committee, was conducting a demonstration of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, though we never had a chance to participate in it.

Tom and Joan, who had caught up with Dad earlier, went on to the so-called House of Friendship to look for something to eat, and we never did catch up with them. Presumably they were as discouraged as we were by the crowds and the unappealing (and overpriced) lunch offerings. Dad went downstairs to get a taxi back to the hotel (where he ended up taking a nap and then venturing back out to the train station to explore the culinary offerings there), and Barney and I returned to the OICC to have lunch at the Café Cube on the mezzanine overlooking the open-air lobby of the convention center. It was by this time after 3 p.m. (judging from the 15:50 timestamp on the receipt), so it was not too surprising that most of the entrées that looked good to us were unavailable. We settled for “hash beef” and rice, followed by pastries, and enjoyed it as much as possible when spending ¥3200 (which worked out to be $28.81) for lunch. As we lunched we had a good view of the snaking lines of convention-goers who had bought A Century of Service: The Story of Rotary International and were having it autographed by a panoply of RI officers.

Fortified, we returned to the RRH to again scope out the vendors in the HOF, now somewhat less mobbed than before. The official convention logo pins, offered by only one vendor, were all gone, so I settled for an “unofficial” version that included Osaka Castle. Unaware that the official convention pins would be a monopoly, I had expected to be able to find the pin at the booth of Mr. Pin. The Rotarian businessman and philanthropist known as Mr. Pin is a well-known sight at Rotary conventions, catering to the hobby of many Rotarians (especially Interactors and Rotaractors) of collecting pins from around the world. I had brought a supply of City of Fairhope pins, as well as some from Mobile, and I swapped some of these for some rather cheap and shoddy pins from Brazil offered by two young Brazilian hangers-on (the young man and woman on the right of this picture). But Mr. Pin himself supplied me a Brisbane (2003) convention pin in exchange for one of my Fairhope pins. We then walked back to the hotel, arriving about 6, and were in bed by 7, utterly exhausted.

This was the evening when the “Host Hospitality Night,” Dotombori Night, was offered (5–9 p.m.), to be held at Minato-Machi (South-Town) River Place on the Dotombori River. I had tried without success for months to make reservations for this free event; ultimately, we were told no reservations were required: we could just show up. No transportation was being provided, however, so we would be on our own to get there, and the actual nature of the event was somewhat vague, though the flyer we received had pictures of various orchestras, dance troupes, and other entertainers, and there was mention of food and beverage stalls. I am sure we would have enjoyed this event if we had gone, but we were just too tired to consider it.