Wednesday 23 April 2014


We arrived into Japan to the metropolis of Osaka. The train ride in from the airport is a good introduction to the reality of Japan with small agricultural land lots, lots of infrastructure, and houses with well-manicured Japanese gardens, mixed with apartments. Everything is squeezed in together and despite the squashed nature everything is well ordered.

We stayed at a hotel near to the Osaka castle and gardens beside one of the many concreted rivers. Our introduction to Japanese toilets was great fun trying to figure out what the buttons all did without translations. The running water noise to help you pee is most amusing.

We had one full day exploring the city of Osaka in which we managed to cram in quite a bit. We started off early morning with a walk through the castle gardens. We were a bit sad that we had clearly missed the main part of the blossoms but there were remnants around. The gardens are very different to those we have seen elsewhere with every aspect of a plants growth carefully manipulated with designer trees and manicured bushes. The control on nature was evident from the start and only got worse as we explored this country.

Osaka Castle viewed from bridge over the moat

The Osaka castle is very impressive. It has been rebuilt and restored many times, most recently completed again in 1997, it stands proudly on top of a natural hill surrounded by a moat. The key to the museum inside is to take the stairs. Even though we were early the line to get the lift up the 7 stories was massive yet the stairwell was smooth running. Definitely gives you more exercise than you probably need with a day of walking ahead but it does mean you can start your tour of the museum with ease. Each floor had a different aspect to explore focusing on the different parts of the castle and area’s history. Much of it is through written documents which are beautifully displayed and translated. Hours could have been spent here reading everything but we focused mainly on the artwork and miniatures.

From the castle we headed into the downtown area in order explore the largest and longest shopping street in Japan. Not knowing what to expect we were very happy to find long covered shopping area, very busy, with chairs for the pregnant to rest, and tasty treats of unknown origin to taste.
Walking around Osaka is a great way to experience the business nature of the city. We were actually staying right in the business district and it was actually funny in the morning to listen and hear the masses (thousands) of commuters arriving into work, trudging along like an orc army. But the business centre doesn’t contain it all, the whole city is focused on business.

Main shopping street
Another highlight of Osaka is the giant Ferris wheel Hep 5, which sits on the top of a 7 storey mall. The Ferris wheel is empty and not a tourist destination for unknown reasons, and only costs 500 yen, making it a very affordable way to get some of the best photos and view over the city we had seen. It is however, not for the faint of heart as, as it goes over one side there is literally nothing beneath you for at least 12 storeys. 
A must do at sun set.

View from Hep 5 over part of Osaka

We finished off our day back at the shopping street to try more food, and picked a perfect restaurant to taste everything. The local couchsurfer suggestion that this was where to eat, proved invaluable. 

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