Sunday 15 January 2023
On today’s agenda is a day trip to Osaka. It’s only 29 miles from Kyoto and can be reached by bullet train in 13 minutes. However, as this takes you to Shin-Osaka Station, which is on the outskirts, we are taking the slower (special rapid) train which goes to the more central Osaka Station. From here you can travel round the edge of the city on the JR Loop Line (free on our JR Rail Pass) or by underground (not free).
We take the Loop Line to Osakajokoen (Osaka Castle Park) Station. Osaka Castle is surprisingly far (almost a mile) from its namesake station and we have a long walk through a shopping mall and then the park before we actually reach the castle. As we walk through the park, we are passed by a runner dressed as a cat. Only in Japan…
The Japanese have a unique way of dating buildings. Once a building has been erected on a site, then the counting starts. So a castle can be built, knocked, down, burned or otherwise destroyed and another building erected in its place. The counting doesn’t stop. Hence, this historic 16th Century castle was actually built in 1931 and made of concrete.
The 8 storey building is topped with a tower providing views over the city. It is surrounded by two moats and (as we have already discovered) a large park.
Visiting the grounds is free with a Y600 fee to enter the castle. There is a long queue to get in. In fact there are three queues, as you must first enter the temperature check station, then buy a ticket, then prove you bought a ticket. Once inside, there is a option to catch an elevator to the 5th floor (which obviously I take). Then we climb to the 8th floor to enjoy the view.
We descend via the stairs; each floor has displays relating to the history of the castle(s) displays of samurai armour etc. My favourite of some strange hologram dioramas telling the stories of famous battles.
From the castle we have another very long walk through the park to the station to continue to Japan’s tallest building.
En route we spot a man dressed as a samurai on an e-bike. Only in Japan…
Castle Park toilet report; basic, with instructions to squat rather than sit on the toilet seat – what’s that all about?
From here we take the Loop Line once more to Tennoji to visit the adjoining Abeno Harukas. At 300 metres tall, Abeno Harukas is Japan’s tallest building (although a partially complete building in Tokyo is set to steal this title).
This enormous 60 storey building contains a department store, a hotel and an art gallery.
You can visit an observation deck on the 16th floor for free or pay Y1500 to go to the top. We decide that we’ve paid enough to go up things already, so take the elevator to the 16th floor for the free view from the roof garden.
We head for our next destination of Shinsekai, passing through the recreation area of Ten-shiba with its festive Osaka sign.
On into Tennoji Park. Here, although it’s only mid January, we catch our first glimpse of the famous Japanese cherry blossom.
This was the site of a 1903 expo. Once a state-of-the-art theme park, it has seen better day. However it’s synonymous with my mental image of Osaka, so we came here anyway.
Shinsekai is renowned for its kushi-katsu (think chicken nuggets on a stick -although you can choose other fillings such as pork fat or gizzards or even vegetables).
There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, all trying to outdo each other with signs each more garish than the next. We settle on a restaurant, sit down and are presented with two tiny bowls of pickled bean sprouts and a sign saying they are a compulsory purchase and cost ¥600. We select another restaurant, but they don’t even have a photo menu for us to point at. Our third choice is a chain which has a branch next to our hotel selling the same food only cheaper.
Right in the middle of Shinsekai is the 108 metre high Tsutenkatu Tower. This isn’t the original tower (that was made of steel and dismantled in 1943 to build ammunition to help the war effort). The current tower was built in 1956. You can pay to visit an observation deck on the 5th floor.
We decide we’ve had enough of Shinsekai and head for the station. While we wait for our train, the Hello Kitty Bullet Train goes past. Only in Japan…
Back in Kyoto, we buy some ready meals at the corner store. I have a pack of sesame dressing which indicates you should bend along the perforated line. Obviously, I bend the wrong way and end up wearing the dressing. Dinner is quite nice; teriyaki meatballs and dumplings. Although it would have benefitted from some sesame dressing…
Then it’s back to the hotel to do some laundry and take a bath. Today’s bath salts; a rather relaxing shade of lavender.
Today’s drink flavours; plum and grape. Today’s tower colour; yellow.