Osaka – 13th April

We were a little relaxed getting up and getting moving today. We have several days here so that we have some time to see the sights of Osaka and surrounding areas. We had decided to head out to Osaka Castle today, but first Phil wanted to check out Don Quijote, which is a mega department store that sells everything you could ever want from alcohol to Canon lenses, souvenirs to whitegoods and everything in between.

We have decided to buy another bag to send home with Dallas. We can send home some things that we have already bought and things that we brought over with us that we shouldn’t have. It will also give him some room to pack some extra things too. Given that we will need to take home for him the things that he left in Tokyo, it sounded like a fair trade to us.

We went for a walk, priced bags and had a look around. We headed back to meet Dallas to head to the castle. We ended up catching a cab out to Osaka Castle. It was quite a distance away from where we are staying. It was so imposing and yet so beautiful with all of the cherry blossoms. Although their peak was quite some time ago, they are still beautiful. We wandered around the grounds for a while, enjoying the beautiful sunny weather and the stunning grounds.

We headed up into the castle area. They were selling some French champagne by the glass in honour of the cherry blossoms. Why yes, I think that would be lovely! It was quite special drinking this beautiful champagne, surrounded by cherry blossom trees all to the backdrop of the beautiful castle.

We lined up for tickets and entered Osaka Castle. We caught a lift to the 5th floor, and then climbed the stairs up to the 8th floor. The views were stunning. The wind was quite fierce up here though. I spotted a small pond from the top of the tower, that I wanted to check out.

We had a look at some of the exhibits on the way down the stairs inside the castle. There were some beautiful artefacts. I headed straight over to the pond, however the weather had become cloudy, unfortunately.

We headed back into Osaka as we had another tour booked tonight. This was another one through Intrepid Travel, Urban Adventures – Kansai Soul. This tour goes to different places from the tour we did last night, except for the Dotonbori Canal. Dallas decided to join us on this tour, late this afternoon. Luckily there was space available for him.

We met Fumiko and Marcello (a lovely man who was training to become a tour guide). They were very welcoming. We headed off with our first stop at the Kumoron Markets. It was busy but more with local people picking up some food on the way home. There was a stall selling these weird looking sea creatures. We had never seen them before and asked what they were. Fumiko didn’t know the English translation so we google translated it and discovered they were called Mill Shellfish. They look like an animated monster.

We continued in the market and Fumiko showed us some different Japanese vegetables including some radish. It doesn’t look like our radishes at all. It is longer than a cucumber, as wide as a potato and white. Dallas walked past a seafood shop with some of the huge oysters he had in Miyajima Island. He asked Fumiko if he could buy one and eat it. She organised for them to cut it up and eat it sashimi style. Whilst he was doing that, I went into another shop. I still need to get something for Mum. Lots of things caught my eye, but there wasn’t anything that I loved for the price that it was. There was a market stall selling dried fruits. I tried some (a lot of food places have the option for you to try their foods before buying, however there is no expectation that you will buy their wares even if you do try them). They were so nice. We ended up getting 2 packets of ginger with sugar and one of apple. It was 3 for 1000 JPY (about $12 AUD).  Dallas tried some other vegetable chips and he loved them too, so he brought a packet of them.

The next stall that Fumiko took us to was selling Oden which is a traditional Japanese home cooking dishes. It was at Ishibashi Syokuhin within the Kumoron Markets. Fumiko bought a selection of vegetables, which we all tried. It was different.

She then showed us these weirdly shaped octopus. It had a hard boiled quail’s egg inside it. We did not try them. The next food we tried was beef cooked on a bar b que. It was delicious.

After our food experience within the Kumoron Markets, we headed out into a different section of Osaka. This was a section with a lot of anime and manga shops. We also saw some girls dressed up in different costumes. Dallas loved this area. He absolutely loved Dragonball Z when he was younger and so this was taking him back to his childhood. There were lots of quirky items everywhere.

Our next stop was Kitchenware Street (Doguya Street – I think). This was in another market and had absolutely everything that you would need for your kitchen at home or to set up a restaurant. Some of the plates and bowls we saw were exquisite, however I would have to carry them for the rest of the trip. What a shame. We also saw a shop in this area that sold the plastic food that restaurants buy to display what their meals look like. It was NOT cheap. They even had food items as ear rings. Completely quirky. I don’t know why anyone would want to buy fake fish as earrings.

After here we continued into an ‘entertainment quarter’. Fumiko was explaining that Osaka has a strong comedy culture and a lot of the Japanese comedians started in Osaka as Osakans have the best sense of humour in Japan. There were also lots of Pachinko areas. Pachinko are like our poker machines (or slot machines in the USA), except that the Japanese don’t play for money, they play for prizes. However, Marcello pointed out that right near the Pachinko areas there would be a little discreet window where you can ‘sell’ your prizes to get money.

It was in this area that Fumiko took us to a place that sells Takoyaki (a wheat flour batter filled with minced or diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion). Phil and Dallas both felt that these ones were better than the ones they had last night. They were so hot that the flakes on the top were moving because of the steam coming out of the balls. Unfortunately, Dallas didn’t see this before putting one in his mouth. It was the quietest 3 minutes with Dallas. He was very lucky that he didn’t burn his mouth. He was much smarter with the next one, letting it cool down first.  I took their word that it was delicious. We went past a Bic Camera place and I asked if they would be able to fix my watch. The battery had gone flat when we arrived in Japan, and we hadn’t been able to get it fixed. With Fumiko’s help, we got it sorted and they told us it would be 15 minutes. I went to check back in 5 minutes and it was done. It was about the same price that I would pay in Sydney to get it repaired.

Our next stop was into Dotonburi. This was crazy. Fumiko took us to the amazing peaceful Houzenji Temple that we had seen with Barun the night before. Given that it was Saturday night, it was packed. We saw running man again, and some girls were singing and dancing, so we watched that for a little while.

Fumiko then took us to her favourite place for steamed pork dumplings. I had never had them before, but was prepared to try them. They! Were! Amazing! It was 551 Horai. I memorised the place and worked out how to get back here.

After this stop, we headed to the subway to go to Shinsekai. This was another area that we hadn’t known about either. Barun had been telling us that this area was popular but had a bit of a bad reputation due to some protests at the local police station. Fukimo took us to a skewer place and Marcello taught us how to use the sauce. You can’t double dip as the sauce stays on the table and everyone uses it.  We had some fried skewers, Phil had another chuhai, Dallas had a plum liqeur while I had a ginger ale. This was our last eating place and it was perfect. The food was delicious. I’m glad that we hadn’t eaten anything before our tour!

After our food we headed out to the street. We had decided to get a cab back to our hotel, but wanted to drop Dallas off at his hostel on the way (or close to his hostel anyway). Luckily we had Fumiko with us who helped to explain to the cab driver where we wanted to go. We farewelled our amazing tour guides and went back to our hotel. What an amazing day.

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