Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sights and Sounds of Osaka

As I mentioned here, we went to mainland for Memorial weekend and stayed in Osaka and we were very exited to explore this city. We started off the day with almond and caramel coffee and sandwiches at a cafe down the street from our hotel. As we ate we flipped through our guide books and made a general plan for the day. We agreed we'd start by seeing the Osaka-jo Castle.

Osaka-jo is impressive in itself, but it is also surrounded by impressive grounds that are now a large park area. Walking around the grounds you can see the massive stone walls, moats and gates that have escaped being destroyed all this time.

We were in the process of walking up to the castle when we heard these unsettling loud screams, banging and yelling coming a building along the path. We went over to investigate and saw the building packed with spectators watching people in long black robes and full head/face getups wielding sticks. We watched from the door for a minute, but I decided to slip my shoes off and go inside for a closer look. Check it out:

The castle's history begins in 1496 and has a dramatic past. The castle itself has been rebuild from the many wars and fires and now stands as the symbol of Osaka and is a museum that vividly tells the history of the era, the castle, and the people who lived there through paintings and artifacts on 7 floors of the castle. The 8th floor is an Observation Deck where you can look out over Osaka from the castle.

After the tour we took a break in the park area and saw a Japanese man riding his bike with a cat in the basket wearing and interesting getup. I was excited when he decided to rest on a park bench near us so I could snap this shot. This cat was wearing a shirt, a strange wig/hat and a leash. It was surrounded by pigeons and just sat there. The man then decided to take the cat for a walk and the cat went along on the leash through the park. It was so strange and funny, you just had to laugh.

We then headed off for Umeda. Umeda = shopping. I was overwhelmed by the massive malls, huge department stores and escalators that just kept going up and up. We had lunch at a fabulous Italian/Japanese restaurant on the top floor of the Hanshin Building and it was delish.

We had to check out the famous Sky Building. This two tower building is 173 meters high and the top floors of the 2 towers are joined a the top. We took and escalator up, an elevator ride up and then took another long escalator ride up across from one building to the other. The top floor has some really beautiful, fancy restaurants. For 700 yen you can go up to the roof to the Floating Garden Observatory for a panoramic view of Osaka.

We went back to our hotel to get ready for an evening out on the town. We started out with drinks at our hotel before taking the subway to Namba. Our guide book told us that Namba is the place to go for nightlife and great food, and it sure was.

When we got off the metro we found ourselves in a huge, fancy mall with every high end brand name I could think of.

We weren't in the mood for shopping, we were looking for something in particular and it wasn't at the mall. We found it easily enough, it was Dotonbori Street. Both of us agree that this neon street full of colorful people, vendors and restaurants selling delicious food was one of our favorites, if not the most favorite part of our whole trip. We stopped into an Irish Pub for a drink before dinner (where I took the "Irish-cow-bomb" picture) and just loved this underground bar that transported you to another continent and country.

We continued on down Dotonbori and had to try a famous Egg Tart from a little street vendor. The street had so much going on, I was just constantly looking around and taking it all in.

We went into a little tempura restaurant for some dinner where we split a dinner set. Fried shrimp and pork with rice, salad and miso soup went along perfectly with a cold beer. The best part of dinner was the company. We met Keith and Amy who are traveling the world for a year. Check out the blog of this incredibly nice and interesting couple here.

We walked all the way down Dotonbori street and then wandered back up again going down little side streets and exploring.

We ended the night on Cafe Street where we had glasses of wine in an Australian bar called True Blue. The both of us did not really enjoy our wine, both of us didn't get what we ordered, but we had a nice time in the relaxing atmosphere.

We called it a night and headed back to our hotel. We flew back to Okinawa the afternoon of the next day. We had a leisurely breakfast near our hotel and watched from our outside cafe table all the people in their business suits bustle down the sidewalk and streets and zoom by on bikes. I didn't want to leave this progressive city alive with energy and vitality. We had a wonderful trip and I hope you enjoyed hearing about it!

1 comment:

Mary said...

This was a long one! :) Dotonbori Street is where it's AT! And those kendo guys are intense. I'd run from them based on their screams alone.