We awoke to much nicer weather, so we ate a quick breakfast at the
hotel and headed off to
explore Osaka. Our first destination of the day was Osaka Castle. We
headed to the subway and easily found our way to the correct stop and
even the right exit, but it still wasn't clear which direction the
castle was when we got to street level. We looked around for a little
bit and decided on a direction, which happened to be the correct one.
It was a short walk from the subway stop to the park surrounding the
castle, but we got a chance to see some interesting looking buildings
along the way. Tyler's personal favorite was the one with a UFO
(helicopter pad) on top.
Unique Osaka Architecture
We arrived at the castle grounds and looked around for a little bit
since the castle wasn't quite open yet. There is quite a large park
surrounding the castle's moat. We explored around for a little bit and
came across one cherry tree that was starting to bloom. Osaka Castle Grounds
Inside the grounds, there is a garden that you have to pay to get in.
It was included with our Osaka Unlimited passes, so we entered it and
walked around. There are some nice views of the castle, but not much
else. I'm not sure if it was the time of year or we missed something,
but there just wasn't much planted in the garden. We did stop to take
some pictures of the castle.
By now it was late enough that the castle was open. We headed around to
the main entrance and used our Osaka Unlimited passes to get tickets.
The castle is a modern replica, so the outside looks like it did, but
the inside is actually new and contains a museum. You start at the top
and work your way down the floors until you come back to ground level.
The museum wasn't great for English speakers, but the view at the top
of the castle was nice, but too hazy for good pictures. We did explore
the museum a little bit before we headed back to the subway. Osaka Castle Entrance and Tower
Our next stop was one of Osaka's weirdest looking buildings, the Umeda
Sky building. The Umeda Sky building is basically, two tall towers
connected by an observation platform in the middle. It is a really
unique looking building.
Umeda Sky Building
We headed up to the top of the first tower and got our tickets using
our unlimited passes. In order to get to the Floating Garden
Observatory, you have to ride on the scariest escalator I've ever seen.
The escalator goes up between the two towers. There's nothing below you
for about 40 stories and nothing on either side. Tyler was definitely
nervous on them and I'll admit riding it up triggered my fear of
heights some as well.
Floating Garden Observatory Escalators
Once you get up the escalators there are some indoor viewing areas
complete with outward facing seats. We walked around and looked through
the windows before coming to a staircase which leads you to the true
top outside. The views were much better from outside.
Views from the top of the Umeda Sky Observatory
We walked around the outdoor observatory and headed back inside and
down to ground level. It was getting close to lunch time, so we started
looking for a place to eat while heading towards our next destination,
the HEP Five building. We found the HEP Five building and ended up
going to the basement which connected to a large underground area full
of restaurants. There we found a small Tendon shop which served me my
favorite meal of the entire trip. The tempura was being fried right in
front of us and was super hot and fresh when we got to eat it.
Everybody loved their lunch.
Next, we went back to the HEP Five building and made our way to the
Ferris Wheel. The HEP Five building is half mall, half entertainment
complex and it has a giant Ferris Wheel on it. Fortunately, the weather
was much better for this ride than the one we took the day before in
the rain. We used our unlimited pass to get tickets and boarded with
pretty much no line. The cars you road in had a speaker system designed
to hook up your IPod to, so I pulled out my tablet and started some
music playing for our ride around.
HEP Five Ferris Wheel
After the Ferris Wheel, we explored the rest of the HEP Five building.
Towards the top, there was a large Sega arcade. We walked through it
and found the weirdest horse racing game, and Tyler and I had to try
it. We were not very good at it, must have been the Japanese
instructions we couldn't understand.
Horse Racing Arcade Game
Next, we headed back to the Namba area and over to the Tombori
River walk area. This is a nice area near the river that is lined with
lots of restaurants and shops. We wanted to take a river cruise that
was part of the unlimited pass, so we walked along the river front
expecting to see some kind of pier, but didn't see much. It took a
while (and some research on the tablet), but we finally found the stand
selling tickets. It turns out there isn't much of a dock for the boat
and when it is not there, it is almost impossible to find. We got our
tickets and had a short wait before boarding the boat. The woman
leading the tour narrated lots and lots of stuff in Japanese about
Osaka, which judging by the laughter was quite funny. Every once in a
while she would stop and say about two words in English to us, it was
Tombori River Cruise
We did get to relax and see quite a few bridges and unique signs and
Osaka Tombori River Sights
After the cruise finished, we went back to the hotel to relax a little
before heading out for dinner. Tyler and I needed a snack, so we went
to a small Takoyaki stand right next to the hotel. Takoyaki is a fried
Octopus dish. It is a specialty of Osaka and we really wanted to try
it. It is basically, a small piece of Octopus tentacle covered in a
ball of dough and then fried. It is usually topped with a sauce, in our
case we got a barbecue type sauce. Erin was all ready with the camera
to see Tyler's reaction when he tried it, expecting that he wouldn't
like it, but he liked it a lot. I enjoyed it, but thought that the
dough ball should have been cooked longer. The Octopus didn't have too
strong of a flavor, but it was very chewy.
When it was time for dinner, we headed back towards the Tombori River
area to find someplace to eat. We ended up at a vending machine ramen place which I
loved and Erin and Tyler were just ok with. I really liked ramen, but
neither of them were big fans. After dinner, we explored the area to
see all of the cool neon signs. It is really cool to see them all in
person. Osaka Nightlife
I took some quick video to show how much of the neon was actually
animated. The Glico man is super famous in Osaka. We found out that
Glico is a candy company when we noticed it on some candy we were
buying in a store.
We continued exploring Osaka and came across a hotel with some really
weird statues out front. Tyler and I could barely stop laughing long
enough to get a picture of one.
It was getting late, so we started heading back towards our hotel.
There were some nice neon signs around the main shopping streets.
We ended up walking past a building which looked like it was some kind
of adventure sports complex. It had an outdoor climbing wall suspended
about 15 stories up above the street.
Another crazy Osaka building
We finally made it back to the hotel. We were all exhausted after the
long day, so we went to bed early.