Day 3 – Osaka

May 20, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Japan, Osaka, Travel | Leave a comment
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Somehow I managed to wake up with enough time and make it to Tokyo station and get on my Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Osaka. It took about an hour and is nice and fast with a trolley lady coming by fairly frequently if you feel like snacks.

Besides sleeping and doing the normal commuting thing there isn’t a whole lot to say about the rail journey – it is after all just a train trip.

After arriving in Osaka I had some time on my hands before checking in and as I had only brought a small bag for the few days it was no big hassle. My first objective was food and luckily there are no shortage of restaurants and street vendors in Osaka. Osaka also features a large underground network of pedestrian malls which are almost as bewildering as the above ground covered street alleys. But more on that later.

Once I’d been fed by some very tasty cold soba noodles and I think tempura fish I returned to the station got on a local and headed towards the famed Osaka Castle. By this stage time was starting to run out so I set a bit of a pace to walk through the (scenic) gardens to the castle, bought my ticket by vending machine and headed inside.

The museum is distributed across all the floors of the castle and features topics about the era the castle was built, about the builders and the great battle that led to the destruction of the original castle and its rebuilding by the victors. Apparently only a few unearthed walls remain from the original. On the top floor you can walk along the balcony and see all of the city and out towards the mountains. Unfortunately for me it was a windy day and at the slightly increased altitude it became at times just a tad gusty. Luckily there is some netting so I didn’t feel like I would plummet to my death immediately.

After heading outside and taking some more photos I began walking out of the park towards the Osaka Museum of History. The museum is spread over several floors starting on the 10th and working downwards and this provides another excellent vantage point to look out over the city. The museum is structured to provide 2 types of interaction: overview and detailed. In overview you basically walk on one side and look at street scenes or mannequins in costume to get a sense of the period being discussed. In the more detailed approach you also get historic artifacts (not just pots and pans). This is understandably mainly in Japanese but there were sufficient primers (in Chinese and Korean as well) spread over each floor that I wasn’t bored or completely ignorant by the end of my mad dash to get through the museum.

Both the Castle and the History museum offer something that the prestigious Tokyo museum lacked. Context. Which for me is quite pivotal in my need to appreciate a country and its people. While I’m not an aficionado of Osaka history I do feel as though I can appreciate it better now.

Not to mention see the classic rivalry between two cities just a little clearer now!

If you do come to Osaka these are worth the visit.

Afterwards I thought I would go to a station on the Castle pamphlet. Granted it wasn’t one they said to use but it was shown right, how far away could it be? Well, I think you know the answer to that one and if you don’t here’s a hint. Plenty far. And it rained.

Although, that’s ok afterall I got to see a part of Osaka I never would have before (granted near a main road but that’s not the point). Frankly, getting lost and turned around becomes a bit of a theme for the rest of the trip but that’s really part of traipsing around.

Once back at Osaka Station I try and find my way to the hotel (above ground) and over shoot as the map on their website says to pass a fountain but all I see is roadways. Later I find out that the fountain is underground and is part of the under-city shopping complex.

The hotel is located near the station and apparently so is the Osaka sex district and a myriad of confusing covered shopping streets where one wrong turn will send you to other side of the district. Leading to frantic last minute phone calls to the hotel not to lock you out at curfew (apparently for security reasons). Given the area it’s somewhat understandable. Although it is Japan so I never felt concerned but then perhaps I should be…

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