Japan 2014 — Day 3: Osaka — Osaka Castle, Tenjinbashisuji, Okawa River, Umeda


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!

Osaka Castle


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.

20141119-DSC01122The 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.20141119-DSC_0094

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.

Okawa River


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…

20141119-DSC01181…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.