MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2017
Tuesday, 11 November, 2014 20:30

Back To The Big Smoke, Osaka

Another Pleasant Rail Journey ….
We departed Kanazawa shortly after 9:00AM for a very pleasant 2 1/2 hour rail journey to Osaka.  Travelling by train in Japan is a great experience.  Trains run on time, are spotlessly clean and very comfortable.   There is so much to see with varying landscapes and an insight into the real Japan.  Virtually every piece of level ground is either a house, a building or is being farmed.  On the other hand the mountainous regions remain largely untouched and are so beautiful, particularly in Autumn.  The 2 1/2 hour journey just flew by and before we knew it we were in Osaka.

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Typical landscape as seen from the bullet train

A Contrast To Tokyo ….
The subway trip from Shin-Osaka Shinkansen station to Shinsaibashi was painless, followed by a 400 meter walk to our apartment.  This country is so easy to get around even though there are limited English signs.   The constant announcements in Japanese at the train stations and on the buses seem largely redundant.  The area where our apartment is located is called Amerikamura and is close to the famous Shinsaibashi Arcade.  It is an interesting area, predominantly for the youth generation with funky shops, night clubs and restaurants.  It is very similar to Harajuka district in Tokyo.  It is a great place to have an apartment for the week.  After a walk around the area I decided that Japanese must get very tired during the day as you can rent hotel rooms by the hour in this area.  Some of these rooms are very fancy with round beds and mood lighting.  Seems pointless if all you want is a power nap.

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Miniature Statue of Liberty on top of a building in the Amerikamura district

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Typical night scene in the area of our apartment

Orientating Ourselves ….
Our first afternoon we spent orientating ourselves and finding a supermarket for some basic supplies for our apartment.   We were lucky to stumble upon a huge supermarket in Namba, the neighbouring suburb and had a great time exploring the products on offer.  There is no English on any labels and you rely soley on pictures to decide what to buy.  Even to buy milk is difficult as we found out when we had the strangest tasting Corn Flakes one morning followed by white tea that was undrinkable.   What is fantastic and cheap are the pre-prepared meals and the sushi and sashimi which we both love.  Food in general seems to be 20 to 30% cheaper than Australia and alcohol about half what we pay.   A bottle of whisky or gin is about AUD$10.

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Frozen food in the supermarket. You need a good picture to work out the contents

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Freshly prepared sushimi at the supermarket. Tasty and relatively cheap

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Freshly prepared satay sticks avaiable at the supermarket

Off Exploring ….
On our first full day in Osaka we decided to walk the Tenjinbashi-suji arcade.  This is a covered street full of retail shops, restaurants, bars and pachinko parlors and is 2.6 km long, the longest straight shopping arcade in Japan.  It is where the locals shop and has a great atmosphere.  During our walk we lunched on okonomi-yaki, a delicious pancake filled with cabbage, egg, green onion, shredded meat and a most delicious sauce, not unlike chinese plum sauce.  We stuck our heads into a couple of pachinko parlors but these places are deafening as the game uses 10mm ball bearings in what looks like a vertical pin ball machine with up to 20 balls rattling down at a time on each machine and there are hundreds of machines.

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Entrance to the 2.6 Km long Tenjinbashi-suji Arcade.

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Pachinko Parlour in the Tenjinbashi-suji Arcade

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Liz enjoying a delicious okonomi-yaki in the Tenjinbashi-suji Arcade

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One of the fresh food shops in the Arcade

The Best View In Osaka ….
Our next stop was the Aerial Garden Observatory at the Umeda Sky Building.  This observatory is on the 40th floor bridging two buildings and provides a 360 ° view of Osaka.  We timed our visit to coincide with sunset and had drinks overlooking the skyline of Osaka.  Well worth a visit if you are in Osaka.

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Evening drinks at the Umeda Sky Building Observatory

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View of Osaka from the Observatory at night

Osaka At Night ….
The city takes on a completely different atmosphere at night when the neon lights come on.   It transforms into one big party like New Years Eve in Melbourne, minus any drunks.  Shinsaibashi arcade at 8:00 PM at night is amass with shoppers.   Dotonbori, the night club and restaurant district is packed with people and everyone is happy and laughing with no signs of bad behaviour. It may be different at midnight but us oldies are in bed by then.

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The famous Shinsaibashi arcade at 8:00 PM at night

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The Dotonbori district of Osaka. A restaurant and night club district

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The Glico Man. The most photographed neon in Dotonbori

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The Crab restaurant. The second most photographed landmark

Another Side Trip ….
Saturday was a perfect day weatherwise so a quick decision was made to visit Kobe.   On the subway to Shin-Osaka station, hop on a bullet train and 13 minutes later we were in Kobe.  Our first stop was the Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway (read cable car).   It is one of Japan’s largest herb gardens with 75,000 herbs and flowers.  We caught the Ropeway about 1 km up to the top of the mountain and then slowly walked down through various displays of herbs and flowers including glass houses with more exotic varieties of plants.  Upon reaching the end of the gardens at the middle ropeway station we then caught the ropeway back to the top station where we enjoyed a light lunch.  This visit turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.

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Ropeway (Cable Car) to the top station of the Herb Garden

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Interior of one of the glass houses at the Herb Garden

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The glasses houses at the Herb Garden

Going Loopy Again ….
We then hopped on the Kobe Loop Bus for a quick tour of the city finally ending up in Chinatown where we enjoyed a Peking duck snack before walking the full length of the Motomachi Arcade back to the Kobe train station to hop on a local train back to Osaka.  Kobe is a fairly modern town with the buildings being relatively new as many of the buildings were destroyed in 1995 by an earthquake which killed 5000 people.

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China Town in Kobe

Back In Osaka ….
We awoke to a wet Sunday so decided on a visit to The National Museum Of Art, Osaka which displays works of both Japanese and foreign artists.   This was followed by a visit to the Osaka Science Museum which is interesting given that everything explaining the displays was in Japanese, not unlike the supermarket.  But we now know the Japanese for milk,  ミルク and skim milk ミルクのスクリーニング.  We’re working on yogurt next.

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Large mural at the Art Museum

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Entry to the Science Works Museum

Exploring Namba ….
Namba is one of the main shopping districts in Osaka. There are multiple shopping centre developments and department stores in this area all interconnected by basement walkways and intergrated with subway and regional railway stations.  In total it is a massive development and on top of one of the 8 story buildings is a two story garden complex which is very impressive particularly given it is all decorated with Christmas lights.  We estimate the total Nanba Shopping District would be at least 5 times bigger than Chadstone Shopping Centre.

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Rooftop Garden at the Namba Parks Shopping Centre complex

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Christmas lights at the Namba Parks Shopping complex

A Delicious Dinner ….
Whilst in the Namba area we decided to have dinner, so up to the restaurant floors we went and chose a nice restaurant.   We were given the menu with not a word of English in sight.  Unfortunately milk and skim milk weren’t on the menu so we had to rely on glossy pictures and sign language from the waitress. Our meal was delicious but we had ordered far too much as the actual plates were far bigger than the pictures on the menu.

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A specials menu at the restaurant were we had dinner. Not a word of English in sight.

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Our dinner. The plates were much bigger than the photos

Our Final Day ….
We awoke to a perfect autumn day and decided to visit the Osaka Castle.   Construction of this castle began in 1583 but has been rebuilt several times due to lightening strikes and wars.  The latest of these rebuilds occurred in 1931 and as well as a viewing platform on the 8th floor contains a museum documenting the history of the castle and the many wars that took place in its vicinity.  The castle is set in a beautiful park containing two massive moats, the outer moat filled with water.

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The impressive Osaka Castle

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View from the 8th floor Observation Deck balcony of the castle

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The outer moat of the castle complex

We Leave Japan ….
After three great weeks we leave Japan with fond memories of the friendly people, the vibrant cities and the beautiful country side.

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My favourite sign of the trip. You see a lot of Jinglish signs in Japan

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