After the traditional Japan of Hakone, our new stop is the neon Osaka. Do you want to share takeaway takoyakis with us while we stroll around?
One of the things that’s most striking as a visitor about Japan is this perfect balance between being a technological, fashion, art, you-name-it mecca with this strong traditional omnipresence feeling you get from every corner. Osaka may be the perfect example of this in a more quaint way than Tokyo.
We travelled during the morning from Hakone and had lunch – in a Japanese fashion – inside our bullet train ride. Since the journey to Osaka takes around 4 hours, we knew that we would be able to spend just an afternoon & evening thus planned accordingly: we were going to visit Osaka Castle before the sunset, then climb the steps of the Umeda sky building to have views of the city at night, and end our day dinning one of the delicious specialities of the area at Dotonbori (the foodie neighborhood)
I was far more impressed by Osaka castle than I have originally anticipated. Although the building and its surroundings are undoubtedly interesting, being one of the few last-minute visitors added a magical charm to the sighting. The castle, unlike Himeji (which we were going to see the next day, stay tuned!), is a reconstruction of the original after its demolition at the end of the 19th century. The modern inside hosts a museum which we missed because it had already closed at that hour, but apparently there are encountered opinions about its interest. Nevertheless, I’m sure it would be a good way to learn more about its history besides what we read on our guide.
We stayed admiring the castle until the sun set waiting for a shy little moon to appear. This may look very late but it was actually around 6pm-ish, so we still had an evening to enjoy Osaka a little more.
We opted to see the city from up high at one of the most famous spots, the floating garden at the Umeda sky building. This building is something similar to the Top of the Rock in New York, but with a more peculiar top floor: a clear floating circle suspended between two towers. In fact, the experience consists on two floors, the 40th which is a closed area only reachable by a clear staircase and the open garden itself. It also has another particularity that I’ve never seen before, the 40th floor has lifted benches for two, which provide a romantic place to enjoy the views with your partner.
Back at ground level we took the subway to Dotonbori. Trying to find the subway entrance, which resulted in an unexpected challenge (ha!), we found a street musician playing j-pop music on his guitar. We don’t have him in a camera shot, but I will find the way to show it to you soon, promise! This was one of my favorite surprises of all the trip.
Dotonbori consists of several streets with restaurants one next to the other. It combines big (most of them covered) avenues with tiny alleys, which is what gives the neighborhood that unique modern/traditional look. At one of those small alleys we saw a queue next to a restaurant and since it is always a good sign, we decided to stand without really knowing what the restaurant served but convinced that it must be good. They had a menu outside but all written in Japanese characters, sadly we are still not good enough understanding them (only some words) and had to use the google translate app to discover that they were cooking “pancakes”. That word was enough to know that they had okonomiyakis, score! Okonomiyakis are a speciality in Osaka so it was one of those “must eat” on our wishlist.
With a full belly we walked through the big avenues and the tiniest alleys, finding a temple, the famous Glico sign and the river bridge. At that time Osaka had already won us over many times!
I’ve read that it’s currently snowing in Japan, aw! If you are in a freezing place, hope you are keeping toasty & safe at home. And for those on Australia and warmer places, you know how we envy you right now, ha!
Tokyo – Part I
Tokyo – DisneySea
Hakone and the Takuminoyado Yoshimatsu onsen