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Entries about osaka

Day 97-98: Himeji Castle & Oooosaka Wrap Up

Before off to Kyoto.


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9th March
Up early and breakfast eaten (it is so nice having our own little flat where we can store milk and cook, it feels like a treat) we were using our JR passes and on board a train to Himeji to see it's famous castle. We had planned to go the day before but with neither of us sleeping well we delayed it. When off the train and faced with a dull dark grey sky and rain we were regretting our choice. But in true British fashion we didn't let the rain, or the fact we were unable to go into any of the buildings due to the virus (again), put us off.

With the rain getting heavier we bought our tickets and competed a self guided tour of the castle grounds. It was definitely one of the more impressive castles/ shrines we had seen so far and we were pleased we could at least enter unlike Osaka castle. It was a shame we couldn't enter the main keep or the long corridor but the half price entry price was fair compensation. Also unlike they other buildings we had visited there were a more in-depth and exciting stories about the previous occupants. However like every old building in Japan, it seems, it was destroyed by fire a number of times and therefore has largely been rebuilt. Despite the weather it was time well spent and a good day trip.

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Before heading back we tried our hand at the strange, yet oddly addictive and fun, photo booths. These photo booths aren't the ones you get your passport picture done at in Sainsbury's. They were ones whereby you are encouraged to do cute and crazy poses and they make your eyes huge and apply make up in true Japanese style. Yes these are predominantly for groups of teenage girls, but hey I look good with a bit of blusher so we gave it a go. Money paid and poses competed we assumed that was it. Oh how wrong we were! After you have taken your pictures you take a seat at a computer screen outside and can edit the hell out of it; from changing your make up colour to adding stickers and of course random animal features. It actually was quite fun... However we got so carried away we didn't realise there was a time limit! This resulted in me somehow adding a random sticker over Izzy's face in one of the pictures (Doh!). Due to this and feeling we now had the hang of it we decided to try a different machine and have another go with much more success!

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With our new pictures in hand it was time for the train back. At the flat we spent the afternoon completing some admin; packing, blog, contacting airlines to try and cancel our South Korea flights and get refunds for China and booking our bittersweet flight home. One Corona perk amongst all the difficulties it is causing us is that we are getting to fly Emirates back to London from Singapore for around £500 for the both of us... Bargain!

10th March
Breakfast this morning was more exotic than our recent chocolate cornflakes. A Happy Pancake was coming up in lots of searches about good places to eat in oooosaka. Who’s turning down pancakes? Not us! The restaurant was so ‘Instagram worthy’ but that’s lost on two people who couldn’t care less about social media. It was a super cute decor though! We shared three ginormous pancakes (how are they so fluffy that big?!?) with whipped butter, ice cream and syrup- yum!

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Another Pokémon stop in Daimaru Umeda, although provided the same memorabilia as the Pokémon cafe a few days ago so we didn’t waste too much time here.

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After a few hours in a book shop we made our way to Umeda Sky Building. On the top is the Floating Garden Observatory, where Osaka's cityscape can be viewed from a height of 170 meters. Of course, this attraction followed suit with the rest of our trip- closed. We were really trying not to let all the closures get us down too much but when it’s every attraction, seems pointless saving three years to come to the other side of the world to do nothing.

We could still get the lift to the 38th floor and travel up the escalator in the middle of the donut hole shape at the top of the building. Turns out the only thing really closed was the very top floor outside, we didn’t miss out too much on this. The architect said he wanted the building to look like an alien spaceship had just lifted off... I kinda get that from the big circle. Time to head back to our little apartment and pack up for our trip to Kyoto in the morning! What excitement could kyoto hold for us, we had no idea!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 19:40 Archived in Japan Tagged osaka himeji himeji_castle umeda japan skyline corona umeda_sky_building pokemon a_happy_pancake Comments (0)

Day 95- Squid Balls & Baby Octopus

Exploring Osaka and it's culinary treats!


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7 March
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We were determined to make our first day in Osaka better than yesterday and set out early to see the tallest skyscraper in Japan complete with sky garden (the Abeno Harukas). Once at ground level this huge building standing at 300 metres, only 10 metres smaller than the shard. However it feels more imposing than the Shard as the buildings surrounding it are much smaller than the London skyline. Our plan was to head up for the view and potentially to meander around the garden. However as is now a common undertone of our trip, and the world right now, this was ruined by the Corona virus and Japan's decision to lockdown major attractions. As we had made the journey we decided to browse around some of the shops on the other floors.

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A little disappointed we went to our next spot; Shinseki. This was another of Japan's colorful and slightly crazy areas with buildings covered in lights and a random selection of animals, food and other miscellaneous items protruding out! Everywhere seemed to also have a stool selling Takoyaki (squid balls) and other deep fried seafood. Both popular and famous in Osaka, not like you could forget it as these random little balls featured on everything from t shirts to socks... so that was everyone's Christmas presents sorted! Izzy was intrigued to try some but the smallest portion you could order was 8 and being unsure wether she would enjoy them she wasn't willing to take the risk.

We then ended up in Den Den town, an area similar to the Akihabara area in Tokyo with anime, manga and character shops galorie. Although we never had any intention of buying anything it was fun to browse around them looking at all the items from the random softcore porn style anime dolls to real life Space Invaders machines (which of course we had a play on). We also relived childhood memories as we spent time in a shop selling old consoles from the old editions of the Gameboy to the Sega Megadrive (only the best console to revert have existed!).

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Our walk took us into Kuromen market, a massive food market selling high quality fresh produce and seafood; a place many chefs are rumoured to get ingredients from. It was here we saw how far Osaka's squid and octopus obsession went as you could buy baby octopus on sticks. It looked disgusting and very intimidating. There were plenty of weird and wonderful seafood around but nothing topped that and it put Iz off trying anything so it was time to head back to cook our own meal; a more standard spaghetti bolognese. We were unsure of the route back as our trusty pocket WiFi had died. We asked a Japanese man with a young child and although he clearly didn't speak English often he was easy to communicate with and insisted on showing us onto the right train and then the right platform at the change point. This was despite his kid being asleep on him and it being clearly out his way. This has been our experience all over Japan. Everyone is so accommodating, friendly, helpful and respectful. It is probably the customer service we have experienced anywhere and yet on the whole they don't expect or accept tips. It really has been amazing and our love affair with Japan continues.

P.S. all restaurants here show their food offerings with realistic looking plastic food. We found a shop whereby you could buy such fake food and even have a go at making it... Look how realistic the below ice cream sundae is!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 05:31 Archived in Japan Tagged osaka takoyaki baby_octopus Comments (0)

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