Japan Photolog – Osaka

June 19, 2007 at 8:34 pm | Posted in Japan, Osaka, Travel | Leave a comment

Selection of photos from Osaka, more on Flickr.

Iconic Osaka.
Osaka 10

Palace and skyline to the mountains from the City Museum (hence the reflection).
Osaka 29

After the castle I wandered (too far) and it started to rain but I saw this and it’s completely random but taking a photo helped in my journey.

Osaka 32

Inner city Osaka.
Osaka 37

On the weekend (and often in the week) bands (within metres of each other) play all over the place especially near the overpass.
Osaka 34

Buy something with your live music?
Osaka 39

Homeless person near one of the live bands.
Osaka 36

Another tourist shot!
Osaka 24

Day 4 – Sakai – or why I would lose at the Amazing Race

May 22, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Japan, Osaka, Sakai, Travel | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

I wanted to visit the Sakai areaafter reading about the kofun (or tumuli) located in the city. Emperor Nintoku’s kofun is apparently the largest in Japan with a base larger than the Great Pyramid at Giza. According to the city’s excellent tourist website (seemingly the only real information about the area) they also have a few other museums of interest to me – including a general city museum and another for Henomatsu Human Rights. For the sporty they also have a bicycle museum. Of course getting there was my first and only obstacle.

After arriving at Osaka station I rather dumbly said I wanted to go to Sakai rather than Mozu station. Mistake number 1. While on the train I looked at the route map to see if we were just skipping Mozu because it was an express but no and upon arrival at Sakai instead of asking a guard I decided to explore. Which is fine. To a point.

Later I’ll determine that I should have been able to take a local train to get towards Mozu.

So I decide to walk and quickly see a map (in Japanese) of the area – including the outline of a kofun – figuring I’ll check it out I begin to walk. For a bit. At an intersection by complete chance I spy hidden in the bushes a handy English tourist guide advising me to follow a particular path and see the sights. I do wonder how a tourist would find this sign and path without earlier ones to lead them here but I was in no mood to backtrack. Ahead was the plan. The path is allegedly marked by signs.

Unfortunately I’m not 100% on what these signs are and this leads me to wander aimlessly for quite some time and even the novelty of being the only foreigner for a change and walking around a town to just see wears off. Luckily at almost that very moment I spot a mound, thinking it might just be a kofun I head over to take a photo. Walking along its side though I come to the awful realisation that this is indeed some sort of historic land mark but not to Emperors but to sewerage and water control.

Fortunately I have spotted some of these tourist signs and begin something of a “Where’s Wally” hunt to continue my journey. At one point I do spot a big hill behind a fence and figuring that this may indeed be my kofun take a few snaps through the bars and forlornly follow the signs – now quite plentiful.

After some more walking I have made my way to, what I shall call the Sakai City CBD but for all I know was Osaka, and by pure chance came across their tourist/job office. While it looked like it was still under construction I was still able to go in and try my luck with the staff.

Presumably because the top floor was the job hunt section (while the touristy stuff was still being finished) they didn’t have any pamphlet maps to give me. Rather they went and photocopied a few pages from their local UBD and kindly highlighted where I was and where the city museum was situated. Now the hard part was the Henomatsu museum (this museum covers the out-castes from the medieval caste system period and the ongoing discrimination they face in Japan, it was a subject I was unaware of before looking up the Sakai city web-page while investigating the kofun). Apparently, it was also a topic the staff were unaware of as they sought to look it up in Japanese and eventually I convince them to let me show them the Sakai City English web-page (they seemed quite excited… like they’d never seen it before). Even so they only had a very vague idea of the museum and said it was not on the photocopied UBD maps they’ve given me.

Unfortunately, while the sun was still shining brightly it was getting on in time before the museum closed so taking their advice I went to the train station. I promptly arrived at the station and got on the train – only to find it was taking me in the wrong direction. So obviously it took some more time to get on the right train and arrive. Although now that I had actually arrived things went smoothly.

I found the kofun – with English information boards – and was impressed by it’s general size (although really it does look like a mound). With the exception of natural events the tomb has never been opened because it houses the Emperor’s remains – presumably an advantage of an unbroken monarchy. If I didn’t feel so weary I would have done the 3km walk around its base but I’ll leave this in this instance to go to the city museum located quite close by. For 200Y the entry fee is quite reasonable and they provide a very brief English guide. The content in the museum is all in Japanese and I was only able to discern a bit but generally it seemed interesting. I was able to rush through very quickly. 

Without knowing specifically where the henomatsu museum was and running out of time I gave up any hope of finding it and consoled myself that it would have probably been all in Japanese and by the looks of that map quite small as well.  I took this opportunity to walk around the park lands near the city museum and at 4:40 found myself at the, of all places, Japanese gardens. The ticket and guard person seemed concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see it all before 5 when it closed but I assured them with hand signals and simple Japanese it was doable. And doable it was, as I power-walked through the gardens I took numerous (possibly shaky) photos and left (to their surprise) before closing. If I had more time I would have enjoyed the garden and found it (more) relaxing.

Now back to the station and Osaka.

Despite my own ineptness I thought Sakai has a lot of potential for future tourist growth – particularly if they can capitalise on the kofun, my only real complaint is that the city website does not have a street level map or ideally a PDF with all of the sights listed and much easier to find/ ask for directions.

I was quite bored during my early wanderings and as a result my Flickr page is quite slanted towards Sakai photos. I know I promise this a lot (it is really dependent on Internet cafes/ pricing) but I will put photos up on Wordpress at some point and those that are already on Flickr will get descriptions and rotated correctly soon. 

Day 3 – Osaka

May 20, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Japan, Osaka, Travel | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

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…

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.