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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.


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!


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!


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.


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!


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 96- The ups and downs of Osaka

Well this just describes the odd Ferris wheel ride!

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Sunday 8th March

Weary legs from all the walking the day before we needed a little lie in. Our first stop for the day- Pokémon Cafe. In New Zealand we geeked out on Lord of the Rings stuff, Japan we’re geeking out on Pocket Monsters (as they’re called here, way cutier!). Once finding the entire floor of Pokémon, we spent about an hour looking round the shop, they had arcade games, tv showing the cartoon, even tables with set ups for the card game. I wouldn’t say I’m a Pokémon fan in anyway, I downloaded the Pokémon Go for about two weeks, but I basically just spot anything Evie related and comment on how cute it is. Stew still plays Pokémon Go, possibly the only person in the world still playing it. We didn’t realise you had to have reservations for the cafe and decided it wasn’t worth it anyway. The menu was fairly average with things shaped like Pokémon characters, we’d imagined banana milkshakes with cherry’s to look like Pichachu or a chocolate milkshake with chocolate on the top to look like Evie. There was so much potential lost!


Bubble tea is a big thing here, a drink originally from Taiwan. Consisting of a flavor of tea with jelly like pearls added. We ordered a peach flavor cold tea and a warm chocolate flavor tea. It was an interesting concept. While we sat there loads of Japanese were ordering them so it’s definitely not just for tourists. While I wouldn’t rush back for another it was good to try. The bubbles just take over a bit and you end up eating jellies more than drinking.


Wandering through the Dotonbori, we’d been promised in guide books this was a great place for souvenir shopping! There was a river running straight through the Main Street, we meandered in and out of side streets.


All of the lampposts in this area looked like the below with a different pattern:

There was a big Ferris wheel over a building, with no intention of going on we went in the shop to have a look around and were accosted by a man shouting at us in Japanese. We politely smiled and carried on, clearly awkward that we couldn’t understand. Repeating himself in English he was saying the Ferris Wheel was free at the moment because there weren’t many tourists around (we get some mini wins from the virus), we queued up without time to really consider what we were doing. Within minutes of the barrier going down I changed my mind. This was a one of a kind Ferris wheel, mainly since it wasn’t a wheel; it was an oval and the carriages aren't fixed like a usual Ferris wheel, instead the outer carriage is welded all the way around and an inner ball swivels inside to fix in a position looking outwards. After a quick search the ride is only 77meters however it felt much much taller, especially as you couldn't see how much further you had to rise before going over the top.While the view was nice over the whole city, one of us enjoyed it, one of us hated the entire experience.


A bit more wandering around the area and we came across an arcade. We haven’t played on many grabby machines, we’ve watched locals play a lot and they always seem to win a lot so we thought we’d have a go. It was my first time ever on one of these machines so I didn’t expect to do very well. Attempting a stuffed Evie, I failed. Stew had a go and almost got it! On the third go she dropped in to the basket and she was coming home with us! She’s so darn cute!

They love this creepy clown but we still have no idea who or what he is!

After a day of ups and down, quite literally, we arrived at the Namba Yasaka Shrine, a huge lion head shaped building. Apparently, the huge open mouth will swallow any evil spirits plaguing you, leaving you only good luck for succeeding in business or school-related ventures, during Japanese exam period this shrine is full of students hoping for good luck in their exams.


Stew had found a sushi restaurant that all the dishes were only 100yen (70p), I was very excited about this. The restaurant was very futuristic with a check in machine and table assignment all electronic. The table had an interactive tv to order any items from their extensive menu. Since Stew doesn’t like fish this was an experience mainly for me, although he seemed to be excited by the whole process. After scoffing 7 plates of various types of sushi (including eel!) it was time to find something for Andy to have for dinner.


Look how excited she is! Such a cool experience:

We found a curry place for him, another weird machine order system. One thing we’ve been surprised with is the lack of language barrier. Our Japanese extends to two words (good afternoon and thank you) but their ability to speak English (even in really rural non tourist areas) is amazing. After a HUGE bowl of rice, curry sauce, chicken... and cheese (vom!) arrived, Stew tucked in. I think I definitely got the better end of the deal for dinner this day!


Posted by Bears on Tour 18:05 Archived in Japan Tagged japan ferris_wheel sushi curry katsu pokemon Comments (0)

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