18 May After more than 30 hours of collective travel (maybe 1-2hrs nap on plane), we collected our luggage and then attempted to decipher how to get Bus to Hotel. Obviously whilst looking lost and confused a NZ man approached and help us navigate the ticket machine to board an OCAT Bus to the Interchange, where we decided to catch a taxi to our hotel, the Ibis Osaka Hotel, right in the middle of Dotonbori, the epi centre of the Osaka tourist area.
As we were unable to check into our rooms until 2.00pm, we left all of our luggage in a secure area of the Hotel and decided to hit the streets and lanes of Dotonbori, to self-explore the area, shops, people and advertising etc etc. We walked through the Tenjinbashi suji Shotengai mall, had a well-earned coffee stop at Honolulu Coffee, and also tried some Kobe beef for a snack. Of course, I sniffed out a lot of Dumpling, Sushi, Kobe beef and Noodle (Ramen) stores.
After the obligatory typical inquisitive tourist walk-about, we returned to the Hotel and checked into our adjoining rooms and took a well-earned SNAP (Senior NAP) until around 4.00pm.
First executive decision to be made was to head to a local Café/Diner to have coffee and organise next few days itinerary, e.g. places and train lines to visit. Re-energised and a need for a feed, we ventured back out to Dotonbori again to find place for everyone to eat dinner, walked, walked and walked some more, decision making by all very poor, and a decision could not be made. Walked the main street to find subway entrances and came across Pachinko place (bingo) where locals play for money/tokens with prize of small shiny balls (ball-bearings).
Then we walked through Ten-Pin bowling area into a huge Gaming Area, loud and video/electronic games amazing, very very popular places in Japan - gaming, anima and dance interaction games massive. Whilst looking around and in awe of the volume and height of activity, turned around and there’s Brian sitting down in a huge console playing Space Invaders, hilarious….
Finally,we gave in and went back to the Restaurant where I saw Noodle dish with Dumplings and beer, where we could all have an individual dinner choice. So, a decision was finally made after fluffing and walking around for about 20 minutes, entered the Restaurant and were told full, no seats and had to wait on street for around 20min before being seated. Meals were quite good, but dumplings were really good, V.G. along with other meals, and the cold beer. Good Choice…..
After dinner as the sun had set we decided to re-walk Dotonbori to experience the area lit up and specially to see the Glico Running Man, infamous to Osaka.
The riverbank wasn’t as lit up as much as I thought, however at the nucleus of the Glico Man (bridge) was impressive. A BIG day was had by all, consensus was to turn in as we had planned a very busy long day of site-seeing. Karen and I decided to have a night-cap Beer and went into the Sports Bar opposite Hotel and watched some Japanese Baseball on TV. Brian & Nicola straight to room.
19 May Breakfast at 7.20am, and gee was this an experience we have never dealt with. Arrived to Lvl 15, got out lift to walk into dining area and walked directly into a long cue, a cue of guests waiting in line to enter for breakfast. Never have we seen this, quite a site and a laugh really. Then shortly after whilst standing in line, we again had a chuckle when we saw Brian and Nicola turn the corner to see us in cue and the amazed look on their faces as well. So, after breaky we headed out for an action planned day of site-seeing with our first stop to the train/subway network – to navigate the complex and confusing system (initially). What an experience to work out the ticketing system and what train to catch, talk about ‘The Travel Experience’ with a touch of stress, laughs and fun. Stunned, numb and confused not knowing what we were doing, finally got some help from locals in broken English to get ourselves to head out for the day.
First top to the Osaka Aquarium Kiayukan in Minarto to see Whale Sharks, Rays, Hammerheads and more…, but as we walked towards the Aquarium and huge Ferris Wheel Brian saw a Japanese War Ship docked in Port, The JS Kaga (5ys old) which was in especially for a commemorative purpose. So, we took time to walk around and photograph the ship and adjacent displays. Were luckily in time to witness Speeches and Crew members in uniform along with Naval Band playing as part of the ceremony.
After we continued on to enter the Aquarium, but first it led us thru a Jungle Section to see otters and crabs, dolphins, seals and penguins etc. Then it was the HUGE aquarium where we timed our entry perfectly to witness the Whale Sharks being fed at the water surface.
There were soo many marine species in the water, Rays, Sharks and fish, it was my happy place, but feeling very indifferent about the captivity side of things.
It was when I saw 2 Hammerhead Sharks, Leopard and Guitar sharks along with myriad of different rays that I was in awe. Karen knew just to leave me alone and walked on with Nicola and Brian and from memory I felt like I was memorised for around 1 hour and took at least 100 photos’.
After leaving the Aquarium, we went to look through the adjacent Tempozan Mall which was on many ‘Things to do’ when in Osaka, underwhelming, would not recommend. After we walked back through the front promenade of gardens, flowers, water features and the Ferris Wheel to continue our trek back to the train station onward to the Osaka Castle. From the train station walking towards the Castle, we were met with a grand entrance through gardens and a promenade leading up to Castle with huge rock walls/facades and smaller sections of the Castle, like Turret Towers, bridges and moats. Once inside first gate entrance (across bridge) we walked past the Elephant Wall, a huge ‘Slate Like’ slab of stone that formed a major part of the wall structure. Then into the main courtyard where Karen and I tried on some Samurai Helmets and posed for photos in front of the Castle.
After taking in the grounds, buildings and manicured trees’, all 4 of us bought entry tickets to Castle and climbed the 7 flights of stairs, stopping at each level to look at displays of History, artifacts and story boards. We finally reached the top level for a 360dg lookout/walk around view of the Castle grounds and over the city of Osaka ‘Breathtaking’.
After our slow stair descent, we then went to look at the Hokoku Temple (Japanese Ruler), however the Temple was closed for private wedding ceremony, but we still took the time to look over the grounds, signage, parts of the yard and entrances etc.
While walking back towards the train Brian and I tried Osaka’s famous Octopus Ball snack, a small dough ball cooked in a cast iron griddle style plate (not a fan), while Karen and Nicola indulged in an ice-cream.
We then caught the JR line back to Hotel for a quick nap (re-charge) to move onward to the Umeda Sky Building to be there around Sunset.
However, bit overcast (cloudy) for nice sunset by the time we got to Rooftop area. It was however a fantastic 360dg view overlooking Osaka, the main river, numerous bridges and the hills in the horizon. We decided to try to look for a place locally for dinner but alas as normal indecisive and returned to Dotonbori and found a Pasta Diner and had dinner there instead, average. After dinner we returned to Hotel for rest, tidy and sleep.
20 May Breakfast and slight sleep in before joining a Free Osaka Walking tour starting at 9.30am. Got lost and went to wrong location for Start Point (my fault) and arrived last to meeting point. Masa was our tour leader who took us around Dotonbori, first to the Running Man area where he also showed us the Famous Ramen Noodle Restaurant (tick). From there we continued through to local streets and stopping every now and then as he explained some local history, religions and customs of Japan.
Next stop was the Kuramon Markets where he told us about the crazy expensive prices of fresh fruit, e.g. slice of Mango $120US and Melons, Strawberries and Mandarins – crazy prices.
As we walked through the markets the range and style of different foods were good to see and experience, pricing, quality and size, especially the Prawns and Crab legs etc. After the markets we stopped near a local school and he explained about the education system and the chores etc. the children are required to do, e.g. cook and serve food, clean the school and the code of dress and style of backpacks they wear.
Also, about the safety of Japan for all, females walking home late at night and that the children walk, train and ride themselves to school with no fear of danger. We then stopped for a short toilet and drinks break at 7/11. From there we walked to an area that was originally built to replicate Coney Island Fair Ground, which never really successful, and burnt down, and soon after the large steel structure (Eiffel Tower) was scraped for metal for the War Efforts. Next around the corner was a ‘Hello Kitty’ carpark area where the Kitty has no mouth as she speaks from the ‘Heart’, and is an icon, now 44yrs old.
Just around the corner we stopped in an area famous for Street foods and Restaurants of all sorts, Karen rubbed the feet of a local icon (statue) for good luck.
As the tour ended, quite far from the starting point (slightly stranded by the tour), Masa informed us that the Temple I had on the agenda to go see upon was under construction and randomly Nicola said ‘Let’s do a day trip to Nara!’ and of course we all said ‘Yeah why not’ so off we ventured on the JR train system to Nara (deer park).
Finally got there, no real issue and walked from Railway Station up the long main Road, like a paved promenade and we stopped for a coffee (as usual). After a re-charge we were off, soldiered UP the road and hill to the Nara Deer Reserve to look at Temples, Deer and the views.
Karen couldn't help herself and bought some Deer biscuits to feed them, and again she spoke to the Deer telling them to slow down, don't be so greedy and to wait, absolutely Hilarious.
Throughout the Park there were hundreds of Lanterns, traditionally lit to light the pathways in Parks, Shrines and Cemeteries throughout Japan.
This was where Karen gave out the first of our Australian Koala & Kangaroo clips to children, a gorgeous little girl with mother dressed in her tradition Kimono.
Was a great day weather wise and the views and roaming deer were very entertaining and unique? In Japan the religion is Shintoism and they pray, get Baptised and Married at Shrines, however in death they pray to Buddha.
We walked through the park to several sites and made our way back to the Hotel for a 6.00pm Welcome meeting. Well with the walk and 2 train rides we arrived back to Hotel at 6.10pm and we were last to join the Welcome Meeting!!!!!! Oops.
We met our G Adventures Tour Leader (CEO) Kiyoe and the remainder of the group, a good mix of ages, couples and single etc…mainly from Australia, with 1 young couple from Germany.
After the meeting we returned to our room to make 1 suitcase an overnight bag for our early morning trip on several trains, including a Shinkansen (bullet train – 300kph) and a funicular at 900mt ^ S.L. to a Monk Monastery in Koyasan (Mt Koya) for an overnight stay.
In closing, 'Take Every Chance You Get In Life, Because Some Things Only Happen ONCE', & let my stories and experience give you inspiration to create your own Moments.
Another 'Rivetting Moment', to inspire & ignite the traveller in you, to broaden life challenges & experiences!!!