Japan 2015 — Day 3: Osaka — Umeda; Minoh


It doesn’t take long for D and I to adjust to the time dif­fer­ence, so we sleep in glor­i­ously late before greet­ing the blind­ingly bright weath­er out­side to vis­it Minoh Park. Minoh is a city about 15 km north of Osaka City and is best known for Meiji no Mori Minō Quasi-National Park, one of Japan’s old­est nation­al parks. It is one of the best places in the Kansai Region to see the autumn col­ors in a nat­ur­al setting.

Osaka — Umeda


Any trace of the cloudy and wet weath­er fore­cas­ted for Osaka has van­ished by now. Even the damp­ness from the pre­vi­ous day has evap­or­ated under the crisp blue skies.


We come across this build­ing with the word ‘Atlantis’ atop it and fake stone/​concrete render and water­falls cov­er­ing its facade. We see people com­ing down the fire stairs, and intend to Google what weird estab­lish­ment it was but always for­got. Googling it now, it’s Hotel Atlantis, a love hotel with sev­en floors fea­tur­ing six world regions and out­er space.


We’re on the hunt for a Chococro St Marc’s Cafe but we end up in the base­ment of a the Hankyu Department Store where we spot this very awe­some birth­day cake — the place­ment of the blue­ber­ries cor­res­ponds with the days of the month on a cal­en­dar, and the square for the cur­rent day (i.e. someone’s birth­day) is marked with a red currant.


Outside the Hankyu Department Store we see Christmas dis­plays gra­cing its windows.


Just as we’re about to give up on find­ing a Chococro St Marc Cafe and settle for the Travel Cafe, I spot it right in front of me!


The Umeda branch of Chococro St Marc Cafe is the most lav­ish we’d see dur­ing our trip.


D orders an iced cof­fee, while I try their iced yuzu cha. The iced yuzu cha would be one of two things that keep draw­ing us back to this cafe dur­ing our trip. It’s refresh­ing with, as D aptly describes it, the uplift­ing fla­vour of yuzu. I sur­mise that it’s made from yuzu marmalade, but we’d have to come back and watch them make it to confirm.


The black ses­ame crois­sant (above top) is what caught D’s interest and sparked our quest for a Chococro St Marc Cafe in Umeda. It’s some­what of a let down though, being only 10cm long and not being very strong on black ses­ame fla­vour. The eggs bene­dict roll (above bot­tom) is what cements our love affair with this cafe though. It’s still warm from being fresh out of the oven, the eggs are oozy and the salt­i­ness of the ham and hol­landaise just make this ridicu­lously deli­cious and so more­ish that I told D I could hap­pily eat many more of these (and we do, later!)


With our quest for Chococro St Marc Cafe over, we’re finally on a train to Minoh Park.



One trans­fer and two trains later, we’re at Mino-O Station.


We’re greeted at the entrance to the sta­tion by this ador­ably grumpy mas­cot for Minoh city. We later find out he’s a samurai with a tender heart called Takinomichi Yuzuru.


The walk to the entrance of Minoh Park from the train sta­tion is very intu­it­ive — you walk in the dir­ec­tion of the shops.


We spot a bunch of yuzu paraphernalia. The area around Minoh is known for its yuzu. Yuzu grown in Minoh is dis­tin­guished from that grown else­where because it is raised from seed rather then grafts.


On the walk to Minoh Park, we see an exposed lift that’s part of the hotel com­plex situ­ated on the moun­tain behind.


At the entrance to Minoh Park we meet vendors set­ting up shops see­ing oas­ted chest­nuts, and try­ing to tempt passerbys with samples.


There’s a foot bath at the entrance. It’s com­pletely empty when we take a look at it in the morn­ing since people gen­er­ally use it after their trek back from the water­fall. It’s com­pletely packed on our return and we opt out of risk­ing con­tract­ing hor­rible feet diseases.


Another old man is selling fresh per­sim­mons out of the back of his van.


And this shop set up next to a res­taur­ant is selling dried fruit, includ­ing mango.


The use of wood in Japanese archi­tec­ture imme­di­ately elev­ates the eleg­ance of their buildings.


And we’re finally at the start of Minoh Park!


We see beau­ti­ful man hole cov­ers depict­ing the maple leaves and the water­fall fam­ous in the area.


Even their fences get beau­ti­ful consideration.


Minoh Park is known for its autum­nal foliage, so we’re vis­it­ing earli­er on dur­ing our trip in Osaka.


A rocky river runs through much of the walk to the waterfall.


Here, we’ve just reached the first set of res­taur­ants along the walk.


It’s still early in the day (~11am) so the walk is rather calm. The morn­ing crowds have already made it to the water­fall and have yet to turn back.


It’s a beau­ti­ful day, mak­ing for a beau­ti­ful back­drop with the sooth­ing sounds of water.


We reach the grounds of Ryuanji Temple around half way into the 4km (8km return) walk. Moss, autum­nal foliage and a stone bridge on a sunny day? The best!


The temple grounds serve as a rest stop for big groups. We encounter a bunch of ele­ment­ary school kids on their excursion.


Ryuanji Temple is part of the Shugendo moun­tain wor­ship reli­gious sect. It looked to be a very recent reconstruction.


Outside the temple are ema and for­tunes attached to its wall. Ema are wooden plaques upon which Shinto wor­ship­pers write their wishes or pray­ers. Separately, if you receive a bad for­tune, wor­ship­pers fold up the strip of paper and attach it to the wall of wires along­side oth­er bad for­tunes in the temple to ward it off.


Monkeys dec­or­ate the base of the stone lan­terns out­side the temple as well as this rock.


A loc­al gen­tle­men rid­ing through on his bike tells us that the view this bridge is amazing.


So we make our way across.


And so the view is beautiful!


Back on the trek to the water­fall, we pass by this sign embed­ded into a maple leaf.


And a sign about wild mon­keys, with strict instruc­tions not to feed them, or tempt them with food, or approach them.


Past the temple begins the steep­er half of the walk to the water­fall. The walk is also more for­es­ted and obvi­ously in a val­ley. We see people walk­ing in heels!


The steep­er incline leaves us rather tired. Luckily, the Japanese account for everything and there’s a rest area, along with bath­rooms and some shops half way there (about 3 km of the way).


We refuel with the curry pan we bought at the dis­coun­ted bakery last night. The dough’s gone a bit soft, but hungry stom­achs do not discriminate.


By now, the scenery is all green and gets a bit repet­it­ive — we just want to get to the waterfall!


We reach some shops about 85% of the way there.


There’s sounds of gush­ing water get­ting louder, but we’re still only see­ing the river.


But! The sun breaks through and we can see the water­fall in the distance!


A view from the red bridge is man­dat­ory if don’t want to push through the crowds of people con­greg­at­ing around and behind the seats in front of it.


The views with the autum­nal foliage and the river make the trek worth it.


D and I aren’t keen to join the crowds con­greg­at­ing in front of the water­fall, so we look for high­er ground to enjoy the view, and find it at this lookout.


The sun’s at its highest (at all oth­er times, the sun is just low enough to be always in your eyes) so we get a beau­ti­ful view.


There are (pricey) food shops in abund­ance at the waterfall.


After see­ing the water­fall, we head back the way we came, and drop by a couple of shops for some snacks that had caught our eye. First, are yuzu cider (non-alco­hol­ic) and yuzu juice. They are deli­ciously refresh­ing and we go back for more for the road!


And of course, we can’t vis­it Minoh Park without try­ing their mom­iji tem­pura, or deep fried maple leaves. The maple leaves are pre­served in salt before lightly battered and deep fried. The don’t really taste the leaves, so they’re really just tasty and crispy crack­ers with the taste of sesame.


I’ve always liked yuzu, and after the yuzu drinks, D’s on board. We buy some yuzu marmalade.


And vis­it some more shops around the sta­tion to see what oth­er yuzu things we can find.


Yuzu soft serve! It’s vanilla ice cream fla­voured with yuzu, and topped with a drizzle of yuzu marmalade. Delicious!


And I find some cards with Takinomichi Yuzuru.

Osaka — Umeda

After Minoh Park, we head back to Umeda for some shop­ping and din­ner. There’s a long con­course over­look­ing all the train plat­forms at Osaka Station that con­nect the north and south build­ings of Osaka Station City.


We take a quick look through Uniqlo in the Daimaru on the way to Tokyu Hands. We find this sur­real sec­tion selling prin­ted T-shirts — mostly fea­tur­ing vari­ous char­ac­ters from the Disney fran­chise, includ­ing Star Wars.


Above Uniqlo, we spot an ABC Cooking Studio, a place that gives les­sons on cook­ing in their fully decked out kit­chens for very reas­on­able prices.


And then we’re back to the Yobodashi Camera build­ing for din­ner at Kushiya Monogatari.


Kushiya Monogatari is a 90 minute all-you-can-eat, cook-your­self kushiage (deep fried skew­ers of meat and veget­ables) restaurant.


You can find all sorts of skew­ers in the fridge — there’s English as well as Japanese describ­ing what each type is if you’re not sure.


Amongst oth­er things, we try the baby wien­ers, the mini taiyaki, white fish, mush­room, pork, chick­en, egg­plant, baby corn, takoy­aki, quail eggs, kon­jac jelly and prawns. The prawns were super tasty — we had a lot of them!


To cook them your­self, you’re dip the skew­er into the bat­ter (right) and then the panko (left)…


…before drop­ping them into the deep fry­er at the centre of the table…


…and retriev­ing them for their deep fried good­ness. D man­ages to turn the baby wien­er into a per­fect octopus like in anime on his first try in the deep fry­er, which put mine to shame as only half the legs splayed out as they should. Not to worry though, as I per­fec­ted by the time we fin­ished eating!


We were nurs­ing food babies by the time we fin­ished with the kushiage, but we man­aged to squeeze in some fresh fruit and jelly (left, clock­wise from top left: peach, cof­fee, grape, apple). Indeed, the fresh fruit made us feel better!


And these bam­boo jars hold evid­ence of (most of) our kushiage con­sump­tion. Another plate held anoth­er bunch of skew­ers with the prawn tails.


After din­ner, we see the winter illu­min­a­tion at Osaka Station City. While pretty, the scale of it — much exag­ger­ated in pho­tos of it on the sub­way — was a let down, like last year.


Osaka is still bust­ling with activ­ity, but the exhaus­tion from our morn­ing at Minoh Park and our food babies beckoned us home.