Day two: May 10, 2014
My first morning in Japan! I would’ve been clueless and nervous to move around in a strange land this day but the universe sent me Diana, who learned Osaka navigation by experience through a series of being lost. Osaka is not as gaijin-friendly as Tokyo. Diana and I walked few meters from our hostel to meet Nolan and his family at Hotel Monterey. We suddenly became a group of 8 people. What were those worries about travelling alone to Japan for? Hugs Travbuddy! Kisses internet!
The outside temperature this time is better than the night before but it’s still cold. I was wearing a tshirt (because I only brought clothes for packing light purposes and I’m an idiot) but I was surprisingly fine despite being weak to low temperature. I guess as long as my feet are warm, I’m good. Although I feel bad that I made some of them worried because they’re all wrapped up and well-informed about the weather and I’m there like a lost kid in Japan wearing summer shirt. Nolan’s son was so kind to lend me his jacket.
Away from the flashy lights at night, daytime in Japan is actually peaceful and refreshing. Well, not until you go to underground networks were there’s crazy amount of people and shops everywhere. We walked around the Namba underground to look for a place to eat. This is gonna be my first meal in Japan so I’m excited 😉
We decided to dine at a bread shop where I ordered a salad, coffee, and a bread with cheese and corn (because everything tastes better with corn!). The bread was alright during the first bite, then it got better after few more bites, and then it turned out so yummy when I got to the cheesy part!
Masayo later arrived. I had them taste the local cake (yema cake) I brought from the Philippines (I didn’t know what to bring!) and I’m happy that they seemed to like it, specially Nolan’s daughter, the birthday girl 🙂 The group then decided to split and the younger ones, as Nolan puts it, went for a walk around Denden town thenlater searched for the ryokan where we would meet Mej.
In Denden town, we saw variety of shops, local products, some pretty cosplayers who are promoting a cafe, Daiso, Takoyaki stalls, and lots of stores with a sign ‘No Photographs’ in their visible areas. We managed to sneak couple of photos for the birthday girl though 😉 We didn’t see the sign at first and we’re gaijins so— ;b
Nolan’s family and Masayo were scheduled to go to Himeji in the afternoon so we didn’t spend much time in Denden. With Masayo’s help, we started our hunt for the ryokan that I booked in Airbnb for that night. When I said hunt, I mean, we had a hard time finding it. It’s a bit tricky to find a place ‘where the streets have no name’.
It’s still an interesting walk though. We passed by Shinsekai, which is a colorful area with pubs and restaurants (we planned to go there at night but we didn’t get the chance), and a massive public bath, a huge building which gave us an idea that Japanese people take their baths seriously.
We finally made it to the ryokan, thanks to Masayo. Unfortunately though, we have to part ways at this point because they’re going to Himeji and we’re scheduled for Osaka half day trip.
Diana and I finally met Mej who had been waiting for us for couple of hours in Yoccola Islands. Our host Cho also welcomed us and provided some guides, instructions, and helpful maps to use around Osaka. We then headed to Castle.
Japanese parks are interesting, at least the one near the Castle was. It was filled with people doing variety of activities, not just your usual picnics, jogging and stuff. There were party for dogs and dog owners, yoyo club, teenage girls in full make up and high heels playing volleyball, soccer boys, singing duo and all other proof of Japanese’s active lifestyle.
For 600Y each, we entered the Osaka Castle and went straight to the observation area at the top floor. The view from top is like nature meets civilisation as you can see the contrast of the trees from the park surrounding the castle and the modern buildings of Osaka beyond the park.I think it’s nice that they maintained the surroundings of the castle, like a nature paradise at the heart of the city, with the castle at the center.From the outside, the castle is a portrait of history of war and power. The main tower was surrounded by a manmade lake and it was on top of elevated pile of huge rocks. The inside however, is a modern museum of history. There was even an elevator. Each floor exhibits bits and pieces of Osaka history, from action figures to real katanas. I specially love the hologram/reflection trick in one floor which they used for storytelling. I don’t know how they did it but it’s pretty cool. Too bad we couldn’t understand a thing.
We didn’t stay much longer because they it was closing time. The three of us took our exit, sat in a bench while facing the castle, and the sunset behind us, peaceful surroundings and the atmosphere at mild temperature, it was a bliss. Too bad we have to go, and we’re running out of time.
Also, on that day, I just don’t remember if it happened before or after the Osaka Castle, there was a man on a train who was acting weird.
He was switching between the train’s ac vents, standing under one and then transferring to another like Sheldon Cooper trying to find his ‘spot’. What’s weirder was that no one seems to pay attention, except for the girl who, according to Diana, left her seat because she was obviously bothered by his actions. Even weirder, he started unzipping his pants and I didn’t know what else he did because I have a theory that it could one of those Japanese gag shows with hidden cameras and they’re just trying to capture civilians’ reactions to the awkward situation so I looked away. The guy got off the train shortly (I assume he did) but it was an interesting train ride.
Kaiyukan (Osaka Aquarium)
The aquarium looks like a giant transformer. I really like it! We have to go to the 8th floor first and take the spiral floor all the way down to see the caged aquatic creatures. They’re playing relaxing music in the background it made me wanna swim with the sharks and stingrays in the biggest container at the center. It was a tranquil environment you almost forget that some of the species can kill people. They seemed to be well behaved and peaceful when they’re well fed.
There’s one thing I missed though – the octopus! There’s one there, Nolan had a photo of it. When we were about to get to the bottom, I was pretty satisfied but I still want to see the octopus and jelly fishes. There was a whole floor dedicated to jellyfishes but we got out without even taking a glance at an octopus. I love their graceful movements in videos I’ve watched. Too bad. Though I think I made a pretty strong attachment to the pufferfish. It’s like my soul sea creature animal. It looked so peaceful but I was trying to imagine what it would look like if I can hold it in my hand and touch it a little so it will try to form into an organic balloon. I’ve done it to some of the little ones before which I caught by hand in the riverside back in hometown. It’s local name is buteteng laot, which I enjoy saying coz it sounds funny. I had formulated some life hypothesis when I caught one when I was young but that’s for another blog. Hehe.
So we went back to Casa Lapichu to ask if the they know any okonomiyaki shops around. Okonomiyaki is one of Osaka’s signature foods along with takoyaki. The staff searched the net and then later headed outside. We thought it was too sweet for him to bring us there, then as soon as he stepped out of the door, he pointed a shop with red signs just about 15 meters away. The okonomiyaki shop was right there staring at you clueless gaijins!
The shop was almost empty when we arrived. It was in traditional Japanese dining set up where everyone is sitting infront of the area where the foods are being done. The main cook who speaks in deep solid Japanese voice handed us the menu. The three of us ordered okonomiyaki, Diana chose kimchi and pork, i picked pork and fish, Mej ordered pork. There was a Japanese girl whose order looks like vegetarian okonomiyaki or something and the serving was huge. We wondered if it would be the same size as the ones we’re having and we guessed it right. We wondered further if the girl would finish that much food and she did.
When it was our turn, the cook brought three bowls of premixed flour and veggies infront of us, pour them in the platform, mized the ingredients of our choice and then we waited. He later on mixed an egg for each and when it’s nearly done, he asked us if it’s ok for him to put different sauces and spices on top of it. I asked him to put a bit of everything – wasabi, mayonaise, mustard, seeweed, that moving stuff that seem alive when heated – everything.
It was great, but the size was too much for us. If I’ll ever eat okonomiyaki again for dinner, I’ll keep in mind not to eat my lunch. And since the two locals finished theirs, we were hesitant to leave the leftovers in the store. Turns out, take out was alright. We left the store when more customers started to arrive.
Finally for the last leg of Osaka marathon, Dotonbori. I’ve caught the running man! It’s not getting anywhere! We didn’t do much in this place. We didn’t do much but it was entertaining. We stood in one corner of the crowded bridge and observed variety of people – from salarymen in suits, teenage girls in bunny costumes, to gaijins and boys with their chaotic cool hairstyles.
It was a fantastic whole day in Japan. The three of us were tired so we decided to call it a day. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go to Shinsekai to try the shirakatsu in Yaekatsu which Yusuke recommended with enthusiasm. Diana went back to Casa Lapichu, while Mej and I took the subway to the ryokan. The evening was so peaceful and very quiet, the futon was extremely comfortable, I was so tired I can feel the tension from the whole days’ walk in my feet, and I had a good night sleep.