Before I give the impression that all we did in Japan was walk between places to eat, which is absolutely true for the most part, I have some evidence of sight seeing. This is our third and last day in Osaka, and its a deliciously crisp morning. These are my favourite sorts of mornings.
The streets aren’t full of people at 8:30AM yet, but…
…the subway is! I used to think subways being packed like sardines was somewhat of an exaggeration. As this photo shows, it’s not. And it’s not even confined to Tokyo. All throughout our trip this time, D and I felt that there were a lot more people — locals, and Japanese and foreign tourists. Last time we visited was in November 2011, 8 months after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The heightened buzz of activity we experienced this time round was a stark contrast to travelling during peak hour without being packed like sardines last time!
We caught the train to Tanimachi Yonchome Station to visit Osaka Castle. We were on a mission to see some castles this time, having managed to miss seeing any last time.
Right outside the station is the Osaka Museum of History and in the forecourt was a replica of an old building used to demonstrate the steeply pitched thatched roofs that are a feature in Japanese construction particularly in places with heavy snowfall. Don’t you love the things in your travels that you don’t plan for?
Osaka Castle is a short walk from the station.
Lots of leafy trees line the walk to the castle grounds.
And…we finally see Osaka Castle in the distance.
Shortly after, we make it onto the grounds of Osaka Castle. This is the moat surrounding the castle.
The autumnal foliage and the morning sun just make for the most beautiful scenes.
There’s a large park surrounding the castle and its moat. There’s not much grass around for a ‘park’ but it’s dotted with trees that look just like huge bonsai. And yes I am very aware that bonsai are tiny trees. That aside, the autumnal foliage never ceases to impress!
The main gate to the castle is under renovation, but the approach is still very picturesque. There’s no great barrier preventing people from falling into the moat on the approach to the main gate — I guess they expect people to have some common sense, which is refreshing.
Once you cross the main moat, there’s another inner moat surrounding the castle that you need to cross before you’re in the inner castle grounds.
We pass by a large hall near the entrance to the inner castle grounds.
There are food stalls set up here. D and I had skipped breakfast, thinking there’d be food around the train station (there wasn’t!), so we were glad to see reasonably priced food so close to the castle.
The takoyaki was better than I expected — it was deliciously hot and generous with the octopus in each one. These were missing bonito flakes, though, and we like bonito flakes.
There were a lot of Mandarin tourist groups around the inner grounds of the castle.
Stalls were set up selling bits and bobs and a man with a mustache was busy attracting the birds. By this time, Osaka castle was feeling very much like a tourist trap.
And Osaka Castle — the entire reason we were here.
Essentially all but the top floor of the castle is a museum complete with glass panels housing artefacts and interactive displays.
I love museums and art galleries, but if I visit a building for its architectural qualities, I’m really not all that interested in the museum part of it. I’d find it vastly more interesting if they’d just left the castle as it was occupied, and for that reason I prefer visiting temples to castles.
Anyway, the view from the top is really something! You get 360 degree views of the Osaka skyline and the gardens surrounding the castle.
This is the view towards the train station or the Osaka Museum of History.
This is the view towards the main entrance of the inner castle grounds.
And we spot a baseball field off to the other side.
I was quite excited to spot jagabata at a food store at the base of the castle.
Jagaimo is a hot baked potato with a slab of butter. I’d first come across it while watching the Aria, an anime where the girls rave about how delicious the fluffy, buttery goodness is on a cold day. And it is! It’s a really simple food, but so tasty. In anime the butter is placed in the middle of the quarters, but D thinks they put it on the side so you could control how much butter you want (umm, ALL OF IT, please!).
Inside the gift store, we spot this group of high school students playing a game where you throw shruiken at a target. It’s much harder than it looks, which made for much laughter.
And of course, kawaii Hello Kitty goods.
We debated between catching the subway or walking 2km to our next destination, Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street.
We pass by the Otemae College of Nutrition & Confectionery.
And stop by Keihan City Mall (nothing really notable there) on the way…
…before crossing the Okawa River situated just behind it.
It was a nice sunny day, so a walk it was.
A long park stretches some length of the river once you’ve crossed to the other side. I will never tire of seeing autumnal foliage!
We spot the College of Analytical Chemistry, Japan, on the way, with
We also see an exposed rotating car garage. We’ve seen them before, but N had managed to visit Japan and not spot any, so I took this photo for her benefit. These rotating car garages can get quite tall as evidenced by the one attached to the hotel across from ours.
After a decent walk, we’re at Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street. This is Japan’s longest shopping street, and the world’s longest covered shopping street — it stetches 2.6km and is where the locals do their shopping. We’re here for general shopping, but mainly ’cause I know this street has good food! And also why we weren’t too worried about the lack of substantial food around Osaka Castle.
First off, unagi! This is our favourite eel place. We first encountered this store in Kanda, Tokyo, three years ago. Everyday we’d walk past the delicious smells of grilled eel wafting from its Kanda branch on the way to the station, and then one day, we finally caved and ate there. And we were glad we did.
The food is tasty, but more than that, the prices are amazing for eel. D’s unadon (above, top right) was ¥1300, while mine (above, bottom right) was ¥800. Even at other stores in Japan, it was double the price it was here.
Right afterwards, we see a long queue of people extending from this cart. We’d seen it before we went into the unagi restaurant, but there was no queue so didn’t think much of it. But the long queue people piqued our interest and we like croquettes. So, we hop in the queue with absolutely no idea how to order. We knew they sold more than one type, but couldn’t figure out what they were.
In the end, we ended up pointing to two types on the tray behind the counter. We didn’t know what we ordered, but it turned out okay! We got a pork mince croquette and a potato croquette. They weren’t the tastiest croquettes ever (we were full from lunch, so…), but they were hot and fresh.
And we’re finally back to shopping! The ceiling is lined with torii gates that change colour after every block. So it’s blue now, and next block it’ll be aquamarine, then green, etc.
Some of the stores on Tenjimbashi street have particularly interesting facades. The left is a stylish wooden building, which sells senbei or rice crackers (can’t remember!), while the one on the right sells mushrooms, which is made obvious by the giant bowl of rice with mushrooms atop its entrance.
This is the cutest ad for dry cleaning services.
And of course, this supermarket that is decked out in neon lights. The decor here is so out of place for a supermarket, but so suitable for a pachinko parlour, I’m wondering if it’s not a converted space.
There’s mirrors lining the walls of the space, while the neon lights extend even to the ceiling fan.
Directly opposite the supermarket, we come across another branch of our favourite takoyaki store. We remembered there being one along the street, but I recalled it being more towards the end of the shopping street underneath a bank and opposite the entrance to the subway. Ah well! I guess stores move. This takoyaki was just slightly more special than the ones from the Namba branch — each takoyaki had two pieces of octopus! Yum!
Alhough Umeda was just two stops away from the northern end of Tenjinbashi Street, we headed back to the hotel to ask our hotel to book a wax food making class we wanted to take in Nagoya in two days, but alas the male receptionist refused (even though the female receptionist had agreed to the day before, just that the place holding the class was closed). Ah well, we were long overdue for a rest!
We weren’t all that keen on visiting Umeda — our previous visit didn’t leave us too impressed and we were too full from our previous meals to feel up for the all you can eat kushiage on the top floor of the Yobodashi Camera. But we’d seen advertisements on the subway about the Christmas lights at Osaka Station City. So we out again, finding Namba Walks closed.
We arrive in Umeda. Isn’t it grand?
The last time we went to Japan, Christmas lights weren’t really a thing with the restrictions on power consumption after the nuclear plants were shut down. So this time, we were determined to see Christmas lights because we know Japan really does go all out to celebrate Christmas. The photos on the subway made these lights look way more elaborate than they actually were. The lights in Namba were far more impressive.
A Christmas tree illuminates the frontage of the North Gate Building.
Heading back inside, we spot some cute Snoopy toys.
…and Sylvanian Family figurines too!
And we hydrate ourselves with a fizzy Grapefruit Passion drink by Schweppes.
After having a look around Umeda after seeing the lights with none of the food options tickling our fancy, we headed back to Dotonbori (food central!). We’d walked past Tempura Tendon Tenya multiple times by now, and decided to stop for dinner on the way back to the hotel.
We ended up getting soba and a tempura rice bowl. Now, the rice bowl was a surprise! You see, we get by with ordering by looking at the pictures, and they obscure the rice underneath the tempura (prawn, pumpkin, beans, sweet potato). But that’s okay, having the tempura atop the rice meant that it didn’t get soggy.
We also love our dessert, so ordered yuzu sorbet ¥120.
After dinner, D drops in to McDonald’s afterwards for an affogato to keep him awake while I pack our bags for our move to Nagoya in the morning. An affogato is really quite a smart idea — it uses food that McDonald’s already serves (soft serve, oreo crumbs, coffee) and turns it into something new for their menu!
And that’s the end of our time in Osaka. We really do like Osaka. It’s more personal than Tokyo, and more convenient than Nagoya, Yokohama or Kyoto, yet all the while retaining a certain Japanese charm with its neon lights and oddly scattered traditional buildings.