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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Japan - Osaka 11.05

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  • Takoyaki 章魚燒
  • Osaka Castle 大阪城公園
  • Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan 海游館  & Tempozan Ferris Wheel
  • Someone-cho 宗左衛門町
  • Dotombori 道頓堀 
  • Hozenji-Yokocho 法善寺橫町

After a two week stay in Taipei with my family, H and I took an early flight leaving Taipei at 8:00 AM, and arrived in Kansai International Airport before 11:30 AM.  The airport bus took us directly to the Sheraton Meyako Hotel Osaka in 45 minutes.  The whole process was surprisingly easy.  Although the bus took a little longer than the train and was slightly more expensive, the convenience of door to door service was hard to beat. 

Like most hotels in Japan, the rooms at the Sheraton Meyako was pretty small.  It was a mid-range hotel with relatively convenient location.  There are 2 subway lines and Kintetsu private railway located in the same station (Tanimachi Kyuchome-subway station/ Osakauehonmachi - Kintetsu railway station) right beneath the hotel with a small shopping areas nearby with underground food courts and supermarket connected. 

Shortly after we had checked in, we headed out to the underground food court and had takoyaki for a snack.  H was excited setting foot in Japan, and I was excited sharing the experience with him.  Before taking the subway to Osaka castle, we made a quick stop to buy the JR Kansai Area One Day Pass for the next day. 

We were walking around the Osaka Castle by 4 PM.  It was the beginning of the fall foliage season, and a few trees began changing colors.  After some photos and a decadent Hokkaido milk ice cream cone, we  headed to the Osaka Aquarium.

Osaka Aquarium is one of the biggest aquariums in the world and was the one place that I wanted to visit in Osaka.  I  figured that coming to a country surrounded by an ocean and famous for their variety of seafood, the aquarium should be interesting.  It did not disappoint.  Osaka aquarium was a really fun and fascinating place to visit especially if you have kids.  The  central tank with a whale shark and a swarm of sardines was the center of the show.  H and I spent a long time just watching the fish swimming in a mesmerizing rhythm.

By the time we got out of the aquarium, the night has fallen and it was a good time to take the ferris wheel ride. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel was one of the tallest one in the world and the view from above was beautiful. 

After the trip to Iceland and Russia where we had the luxury of 18, 20 hours of daylight, it was a rude awakening when we did not have the luxury anymore.  After the Ferris wheel ride, we took the subway back to the famous Dotombori for dinner.

Before we found Dotombori, we went to the opposite side of the canal, Soemon-Cho (宗右衛門町) which turned out to be a red light district.   There were girls dressed in school-girl outfits approaching Japanese business men passing by.  Some much younger looking girls dressed like teenagers walked arm in arm with much older men in business suits.  The scene fit all the kinky  Japanese stereotypes.  It was pretty fascinating to watch, I must say.  After walking around for 10 minutes on Soemon-Cho, we finally realized that we were on the wrong side of the canal.   The burst of energy in Dotombori is the complete anti-dose of the old Japan: over-sized store signs, neon lights, restaurants after restaurants....We got lost in all the stimulation.   As tired and hungry as we were, it took us awhile to finally settled for one restaurant specialized in fugu (blow fish) for dinner.

We ordered the fugu sashimi, raw fish rice, and Okonomiyaki(大阪燒). The fugu fish' meat texture is quite distinct, almost squid like, but the flavor is pretty plain.   I was glad to have tried it, but I couldn't understand why Japanese people were making a big fuss about Fugu fish. 

After the dinner we took a stroll and came to a small street, Hozenji-Yokocho.  All the noise and chaos just disappeared. The stone paved narrow path led to a Hozenji (法善寺), a small charming temple.  Along the stone paved narrow path, there were small eateries and bars on both sides.  It was enchanting and dreamy.  It was only our first day in Osaka  but it had made me begin to appreciate Japan in a way that my previous trips to Tokyo didn't.


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