With all my travels to the southern parts of Japan, Osaka has always been a stop that needed to be cut for time. Last weekend a genuine opportunity presented itself to me. Since I was attending a conference in Himeji last week, I decided to visit my friends in Kyoto. It was a bit short notice on my part, but nevertheless we managed to get together. When my friends suggested to go to Osaka I was immediately on board.
After they finished working Saturday evening, we had some fabulous Yakitori accompanied by a couple of beers. It was a wonderful get together as we talked and drank.
Well rested on the next morning we took a couple of trains to go to Osaka. The city is about an hour away by local train from Kyoto, so if you have some time to spare while staying there I suggest you give it a go.
First on the agenda was the quite famous castle. Already from afar you can see it towering over the city. It is shiny white with a copper roof, which now has the characteristic green colour. There are a few golden applications, like flowers and fishes, too. It really is very impressive to look at.
The castle itself is surrounded by various moats and thick castle walls. In one of the moats you can board a little golden boat and be driven around.
Before entering the inner part of the castle grounds you can visit a small shrine.Toyokuni shrine is a place where you can pray for success and promotions.
If you feel thirsty or hungry or just need a break before climbing the castle, the spot right before the main entrance offers various stalls and little shops and benches to sit on.
Continuing further inwards you’ll get a must wonderful view of the castle. As far as I know it had to be rebuilt twice due to nature’s forceful destruction. They obviously made it more comfortable by installing a lift and other things to make it handicap accessible. Apart from the original shape the castle is quite new.
Right on front of the castle two time capsules are buried deep. The top one is scheduled to be opened at the beginning of every century – I guess I missed that – while the lower one shall only be opened in the year 6970, 5000 years after it’s burial. It contains various cultural properties, among them ancient Japanese pine tree seeds. After the first opening they regrow a couple of them into trees with success.
We decided that since we already made the trip, we should go inside the castle, too. Quite a few highschool students were there, too, so the line for the lift was very long. We therefore took the opportunity to climb the stairs. It’s worthwhile the trip and not too tiring. Inside a castle is a museum with samurai armour and ancient scrolls displayed. I’m sure that if you are proficient enough you can learn many things. The recommended course is to go up first and visit the museum on the way down. If you feel silly enough, you have the opportunity to take a picture with a samurai helmet.
From the top of the castle you have a most wonderful view over the city. Unlike other major cities Osaka does not have a landmark tower. Why bother if you have a castle like this.
From up here you can see the whole castle park and the surrounding moats. You also get a good view how close modern high-rises are to the cultural hot spots. Above you can see the concert hall of Osaka.
The former city museum is a red brick stone, European style building, which feels strangely or of place here. It also served as some kind of military headquarters one point. What its current use is I don’t know; it also was under renovations.
The castle looks fabulous from different angles, too. It’s probably a great spot in spring when cherry blossoms are blooming.
After the castle we went to a different part of the city to see the famous running man. Dōtonbori is the late night/ food/ shopping district.
There are many street food vendors here, some of them having ridiculous long queues. One of the famous foods here is Takoyaki; octopus in batter which is fried in the form of small balls. Apart from the street food is not too difficult to find a place to eat. There are so many restaurants here that there is hardly any wait. We decided for Okonomiyaki, but there are many different choices.
When you wander around the area, make sure to check out the before mentioned running man, which I was told had been there since the meagre beginnings of the city.
It lights up at night, like almost everything in Japan, and the area more crowded, also like everywhere in the cities in Japan.
With this the trip was essentially over. My friends had work the next day and I needed to move forward to my next destination; Himeji. It was interesting and fun and it was especially great seeing my friends again.