Juggling Japan – Day 5

Have you ever woke up on a nice, mellow day, stretched in bed, stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, then said to yourself, “Nope. Let’s just get up a few hours later”, and dozed back to sleep? Well, pictured that exact moment, but in a Japanese style bed instead. That was the exact feeling I felt when I woke up at the cozy hotel the following morning, and drifted back to sleep after I pressed the Dismiss button on my phone alarm. It was somewhere around 09:00 when we finally got up, two hours later from the original wake up call. This is the beauty of independent traveling. But of course, every beauty has a beast. And in this case, the beast would have to be our stomach. By the time we had finished washing our faces and brushing our teeth, our stomach growled in such a way that would make a lion hides in a corner. We had nothing but a couple of instant ramen which Puput had brought. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

We had our breakfast in the hostel’s common room, where we sat on the dining table with an Indian guy with his sandwich. There was no way I was going to eat my breakfast face to face with a stranger in an awkward silence, so i broke the ice with the young Indian guy, and in no time the three of us submerged in conversations about random things. We talked for half an hour, until it was finally time for us to get going and explore Osaka. First stop? Osaka Castle!

 

Osaka Castle (source: http://www.osaka-info.jp)

 

Osaka Castle, or Osakajo, is one of Japan’s famous castles. It’s relatively close from the Osakajokoen station, but a bit tricky to locate unless you know your way around the entire two square kilometers of Osaka Castle Park. And by “you”, I mean “we”. And by “tricky”, I mean we got lost. It didnt matter, though, because the park was gorgeous and packed with people celebrating autumn. Puput and I got pleasantly distracted and we took plenty of pictures under the beautiful orange leaves, we didn’t even mind when it started to drizzle. After a while, though, we grew a bit tired of getting lost and decided to focus on finding the stunning castle. When in doubt, follow the massive crowd, and voila! Across the river, with its gorgeous walls and moats which served as defense measures, there it stood, the majestic castle.

 

The view after exiting the station

The view after exiting the station

When in doubt, follow the crowd!

When in doubt, follow the crowd!

Let's enjoy the view..

Let’s enjoy the view..

Pleasantly distracted.

Pleasantly distracted.

Finally, across the river...

Finally, across the river…

Finally, Osaka Castle!

Osaka Castle!

 

The rain has started to get worse by the time we were queuing to enter the castle. The admission ticket costs 600 Yen, and it will take you all the way to the tower where you can see the entire Osaka Castle Park from above. There were only two elevators that would take us to the top of the tower, and it was relatively small. Thankfully an employee was there to keep everyone in order so none of us had to squeeze our way in. One interesting part about these elevators: they could only go up. So when you’re done taking in the beautiful view from the tower, you will need to take the stairs to finally exit the castle. I think this is a really smart strategy because visitors will not clash, plus they get to exercise! 😀

We got a gorgeous 360 degree view of the Osaka Castle ground from the top of the tower, a perfect spot to see Osaka’s autumn leaves (koyo). As always, Puput got tons of beautiful pictures from the observatory deck. The only negative thing about it is the fact that it was a bit crowded so we had to struggle a tiny bit to walk around. But that certainly didn’t rain on our parade.

 

Observatory deck

Observatory deck

Osaka Castle ground..

Osaka Castle ground..

Ms. Busy Photographer :P

Ms. Busy Photographer 😛

 

Speaking of, the rain had turned into a drizzle by the time we got out of the castle. We decided that it was time for lunch, so we headed to a nearby food stall to get a bite to eat. Puput ordered a cold soba while i got myself a nice hot octopus okonomiyaki. There were several logs behind the food stall where we could sit on and eat, but it was a bit tricky for us to eat AND hold our umbrellas at the same time. Besides us, a couple of old Japanese men were sitting on a different log and one of them noticed the picture of a sumo wrestler on my umbrella and tried to comment on it. I could only smile awkwardly because i didn’t understand what he was saying. I did understood when he asked where we were from, so I told him and he smiled awkwardly back. 😀

After lunch, we decided to start shopping for souvenirs, especially for the famous Green Tea Kit Kat bars. For that, we went to Shinsekai, a very crowded and lively district. We were taken aback at first by the craziness of it all. It was a clear contrast to the serene Kyoto and busy Tokyo. I guess what Mrs. Kishimoto said about Osaka was right: it’s noisier than Tokyo. We bought so many chocolates and cookies in the shops in Shinsekai, and even got to take pictures inside a giant Pocky box (one of Japan’s most famous snack) and the Biliken statue. Psst… When you do find a biliken statue, don’t forget to rub it’s foot before or after you take a quick picture because it’s said to bring good luck. Puput and I had no idea about this so we just walked away after we took the pic. 😦

 

Welcome to Shinsekai :)

Welcome to Shinsekai 🙂

look at the crowd!

look at the crowd!

Can you see the Tsutenkaku tower? I can!

Can you see the Tsutenkaku tower on the back?

We forgot to rub Billiken's foot!

We forgot to rub Billiken’s foot!

A giant Pocky !!!

A giant Pocky !!!

 

Exhausted from all the shopping and picture taking, we went back to the hostel for a little nap. Then around 7 PM, we set out again for another round of exploration, this time to Minami, Osaka’s major city center. Reachable on foot from Namba train station, Minami is highly recommended to visit at night time. The city came to life in a way that’s overwhelming yet exciting with all the colourful neon lights and people walking from every direction. Known as the city’s most famous entertainment district, Minami stretches from Namba station all the way to Shinsaibashi station and consists of several streets. Based on several researches before our Japan trip, we decided to focus only on Dotonbori, which is said to be the perfect area to experience Osaka’s famous nightlife. And by golly, what an area! Dotonbori clearly wastes no expense in maintaining its title as a food destination from the way it’s decorated by giant displays and moving signs. Some of the famous ones include Kani Doraku crab sign, Zubora-ya (a fugu / blowfish) and Kuidaore Taro (mechanical clown). Last but certainly not least, the giant neon sign of Glico Man, a symbol of Japan’s famous candy manufacturer.

 

Welcome to Dotonbori! (source: commons.wikimedia.org)

Nightlife in Dotonbori

Nightlife in Dotonbori

Puput with the Glico Man display

Puput with the Glico Man display

Kani Doraku sign! I’m a proud Cancerian 😀

Last but not least, the giant neon sign of Glico Man!

Last but not least, the giant neon sign of Glico Man!

 

There’s an old saying in Japan, that a person from Tokyo will spend his last dime on footwear, a Kyoto man will spend his on a kimono, while a person from Osaka will spend his on food. After spending the rest of our night exploring Dotonbori’s festive area, and looking back on our early experience in Shinsekai, I guess I can see where that old saying was coming from. 🙂

 

Day 1 in Osaka: Done! :D

Day 1 in Osaka: Done! 😀

 

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