I will be going to the city of Osaka this time round. Osaka is Japan's third largest city and it is actually the main transit point for me to get to Koyasan. I departed from my dorm on Friday morning (friday is Japan's Thanksgiving day, a national holiday) and took the 7.30am bus to Nagoya. From there I transit to the 9.15am bus from Nagoya Bus Terminal. At the station, the holiday crowd can clearly be seen, with buses departing for some popular destinations (like Takayama and Kyoto) having tickets sold out for the day at the Meitetsu Bus Centre. I arrived at Osaka station some 30 mins behind schedule at 1pm.
Based on tourist guides, there are no outstanding sights to be seen in Osaka, other than city skyscrapers and shopping. So the plan for my first day there is to visit the area around the main Osaka station, shop at Yodobashi Camera Mall, tour the Umeda Sky Building, visit Osaka Aquarium and follow through the sights around Namba, the southern district of Osaka.
Here are the main office buildings in front of Osaka station. Osaka is largely divided into the north and south district. The Osaka station occupies the north district which is known as Umeda. The south district is called Minami.
After taking a stroll around the commerical area of Umeda, I went north past the station to Yodobashi Camera. I heard from my friend that there is a Uniqlo shop on the 7th floor of Yodobashi Camera. The first 6 floors of the building display electronics products. I skipped through the first 6 floors and went straight to Uniqlo. This is the largest Uniqlo shop I have been to so far and after some browsing, bought a 2,000Yen warm jacket. This warm jacket will be very useful for my trip to Koyasan and subsequent stay in Japan. On the way out, I walked through the 6th floor which showcase the latest gaming systems.
Not far from Yodobashi Camera, there is a pedestrain pass linking to the Umeda Sky Building. The Sky Building is one of the main landmarks of the northern district. On my way to Osaka by bus, this building can be seen from afar. The design of the building is somewhat similar to the La Defense's Grande Arche in Paris. There is an international fair being held at the ground floor of the building when I was there.
2. Osaka Port
After a quick lunch break at Yoshinoya, I went on to Osaka-Ko(大阪港) where the Osaka Aquarium is situated. I arrived there around 3.30pm. On my way into the Aquarium, I was momentarily attracted by the golden surface of the sea. It is glittering like gold, reflecting the light from the sun, unfortunately my camera is unable to capture this gold effect. Here is how it looks like from the photoshot.
I went on in to the Aquarium. The Osaka Aquarium cost 2,000Yen per entry. It is one of the two main sights in Osaka recommended by the travel guides.
There are many tanks in the Aquarium and they focus on the sea habitats around the main tectonic lines of the Pacific. The highlight of the Aquarium is the large whale-shark. I noticed that the whale-shark is accompanied by schools of fishes wherever it goes.
When I left the Aquarium at 4.50pm, they were preparing for the night lightup. Normally during the day, the Aquarium is just another big dark blue boring looking building. But during this period at night, it does look pretty with the Christmas lightings.
Directly opposite the Aquarium is a large ferris wheel, with the full moon at the background (today is the 14th day of the lunar calendar).
I took the subway next to the southern district of Osaka, the Minami. From the station, I walked into the Shinsekai(新世界), which has a pretty retro feeling to this place. The tower in the background is a landmark building back in the 1910s. The shops generally look older in this area as compared to the rest of Osaka.
Past Shinsekai up north is the popular electronics district of Denden Town (Nipponbashi). This is a must visit place for electronics, computers and anime enthusiasts. Directly to the left of Denden Town is the Namba station. The Namba station has a large shopping mall attached to it known as Namba Parks. I hanged around Namba station for a while to get a good feel of the place and conduct some research on the trip to Koyasan.
On my way back to Nipponbashi, I chanced upon one of Osaka's speciality, the Takoyaki - Octopus Balls. I bought a set of 6 Octopus Balls from this stall for 300Yen.
The staffs are busy preparing and serving the customers.
I turned north past Nipponbashi to enter Dotonbori, a popular street for shopping and entertainment. It is lighted up by lots of neon lights and mechanical signs. There are two main photographic sights in this place which is highly recommended for night shots. The first is the Kani Doraku mega crab shop sign.
The second is the Glico Running Man.
At the end of Dotonbori is another shopping street call the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade which spans a length of 600m.
I made a quick left turn from Shinsaibashi halfway through to explore Amerikamura (America village). There is a Statue of Liberty at the top of one of the buildings. The theme in this area is America pop culture and shopping.
Overnight in Osaka
For my first night in Osaka, I planned to stay overnight at one of the capsule hotels. The reasons are I didn't want to make any formal accommodation plans here as this is only a stop-over trip and I wanna check out the cosy feeling of staying in a capsule hotel again. I was planning to stay over at a capsule hotel that is quite close to Namba station. Unfortunately it is fully occupied, and I was surprised as it has 500 capsules and only suitable for men. I moved on to my second choice, one which I had just past while walking through Amerikamura. Thankfully I was able to retrace my steps and check out on it. They still have lots of places left and the night stay cost 2,700Yen. It offers free internet services. After a quick dinner there, I was preparing to turn in at 11pm and depart by 6.15am the next day for Koyasan (read the next entry on Koyasan for the next day adventure).
I got back to Osaka station at 9.30am in the morning from Koyasan. I was initially planning to be late for the meetup with the rest, but after some conclusive evaluation, it is best that I am punctual for the meeting. They were planning to get a 1-day Osaka pass which cost 2,000Yen per day. It includes free entrance to 24 sights in Osaka and free unlimited rides on subways.
4. Cruise on Santa Maria
We bought the pass and were off to our first trip - the cruise around Osaka Port via the Santa Maria ship. The price is 1,500Yen but the pass is able to offset it. Here is the ship docked to the port. There are two cute looking mascots of the Peter Pan pirates which allow visitors to take snapshot with them. They were there by the side of the Port bidding farewell to the passengers when the ship departed.
Here is a group photo.
The ship ride is 1-hr long and it travel past Universal Studio Japan to the north and Cosmosquare to the south. Here is the view of the bridge spanning to Osaka Port from beneath.
5. Osaka Castle
Our next stop is to Osaka Castle. On the way from the subway to the castle, we came upon the Osaka City Museum. As the museum is included in the day pass, we just went for it. The top floors of the museum offer a good view of the Osaka castle and the parks surrounding it.
In the museum, one of the main feature that attracted us is the lovely model of Osaka in the past. The miniature people and buildings is really painstaking created. There are also archaeologists at one of the floors which happily share their insights on the excavation of Osaka to visitors.
Here is Osaka castle. The original castle has longed been destroyed and this is actually a rebuild of the castle in the last century. There are elevators leading to the top floor of the castle and the interiors of the castle is modern looking. It is really in stark contrast to Himeiji castle which I will share at later postings.
The castle museum is dedicated to the warring period of the Momoyama era and the second unifier of Japan - Toyotomi Hideyoshi. We climbed all the way to the top and is rewarded with this beautiful paranomic view of Osaka city.
We decided to hop-on the Osaka castle train to get back to the subway. It is also included in the Osaka pass.
6. Shitennoji and Zoo
Our next stop is Shitennoji (四天王寺). At the top of the Pagoda is a holy Buddhist relic. We visited this temple on the way to our final destination for the day trip, the Zoo.
There are quite a number of animals being showcased in the Zoo. The below picture show the Lions resting.
After the zoo visit, we are back at Shinsekai. I had visited this area during the first day. After a quick dinner with the rest, I am back to Osaka bus terminal at 5.50pm for the journey back to Nagoya. As this is the last day of the 3 days holiday, the bus encountered a massive jam at the outskirts of Nagoya and arrived at 10pm to the Nagoya Bus Terminal (1 hour after its designated time). I took the last bus back to Tokadai and was locked out of my dorm. Luckily I am able to get back in by scaling a low wall and accompanied one of the resident through the password lock main door.