Sunday, October 20, 2013

Osaka, Japan

Sun 16 Sept - Tue 18 Sept

Ride to Osaka

Typhoon Man Yi was still lashing out. So we dragged our luggage under the pouring rain to the bus stop. We made our way to Kyoto station and bought the JR Tokaido / Sanyo main line to Osaka station for JPY 540 (RM 18.90) which would take about 30 minutes. The train was quite full so I didn't get to sit until a few stops later.

After arriving at Osaka station, we proceeded to buy the Osaka 2 day tourist pass (JPY 2700 or RM94.50) which also requires one to show their passport. The 1 day pass does not, and can be purchased from any subway stations - but may not have the accompanying map in English. We were contemplating to take either the 1 or 2 day pass, as it was already 5.30pm, hence we only had a few more hours remaining on our Day 1. We finally decided to take the 2 day pass anyway, since the difference is only JPY700 or RM24.50 (1 day pass costs JPY 2000 or RM70). Plus we would have to take the subway to our hotel anyway. We planned to venture out a bit tonite after checking in.

The 2 day pass is valid for subways, trams and city bus only, but the 1 day pass has a wider access, i.e. includes the other railway lines e.g. Hankyu, Keihan, Nankai, Hanshin and Kinki.  Why the difference? 2 day pass is valid for overseas tourists with passport only, but 1 Day pass is valid for both locals and international tourists. Both types of pass also contains coupons which gives access to 28 facilities for free! Yes, you no longer have to pay for the entrance fee to 28 attraction sites. Definitely a must for visitors to Osaka to use this pass! Of course one cannot finish visiting 28 places within 1 day, so taking a 2 Day pass may be possible.

Osaka 2 days Unlimited Pass card, comes with coupons and guidebook. Excellent way to discover Osaka!

We would be staying at Hotel Chuo Selene, as recommended by my friend Nurul. It's conveniently located, very near to the subway (Dobutsunmae station), JR Osaka Loop line (Shinimamiya station) and Nankai main line (Shinimamiya station).

Hotel Chuo Selene

Our hotel in Osaka cost us JPY 6500 or RM 227.50/room/night. The room is OK with TV and attached bathroom, but hot water for drinking is only available at the lobby. So we had to go down to make our drinks / noodle cup meals. There is also a kitchen and DIY coin operated laundry at the kitchen.

beds, TV, fridge

No more Shiseido - it's Silkwell now. Similar container though

Bathroom with bathtub, but no mini TV

TV, sofa, heater, fridge

Self coin operated laundry at hotel lobby

kitchen at lobby

hot drinks making facilities at lobby

dining table at lobby

After shower and a noodle cup meal, we wasted no time and made our way to the Osaka bay area, taking the subway to Osakako station (changing subway lines required). Compared to Kyoto, travel around Osaka was much more convenient as the attraction sites were accessible by subway, or within walking distance from a subway station. But then again, this is only because the attraction sites in Osaka are modern facilities, which were built with the subway routes incorporated. Kyoto on the other hand, is filled with historical sites, mostly temples and shrines which are located at the slopes of hills or mountains which would make a subway route inaccessible. Well, that's just my theory. It could be for a different reason.

Stormy night

At Osakako, it was still raining hard. We brought our umbrellas from Kyoto, but that could not deter us from getting our feet soaked. The Tempozan Harbor Village looked deserted and the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel was already closed. We took picures of the ferris wheel at night with lashing rain. At least it made for a different scene.

Tempozan ferris wheel against the rain

deserted Tempozan harbour village

deserted bay area at night

We then turned back and made our way to Namba, hoping to get a glimpse of the Glico Man, a neon lit signboard, which is a trademark of Osaka. Posing with the Glico Man is a must! Unfortunately, when we arrived it was still raining heavily, so we couldn't go out to venture by the river. With nowhere else to go because of pouring rain and closing time, we retired back to our hotel. We realized then that we should have just taken the 1 Day pass instead as our ventures were limited due to weather conditions. Ah well, at least we got to take shots of the Tempozan Giant Ferris wheel at night.
Tsutenkaku Tower

It was still drizzling when we woke up in the morning.We'd continue with our sightseeing today, come rain or shine.  Armed with our umbrellas, we headed to Tsukenkaku Tower to catch the opening time at 9am. It was only 1 stop away to Ebisucho station. We arrived at  8.40am and we were second in line at the queue. Entrance fee is JPY 600 ( RM 21 ), but because we have the coupon from the Osaka Unlimited Pass, we entered for free.

We got a bird's eye view of the high density buildings of Osaka city from the tower. It is located at the Shinsekai area. According to Japan Guide, it was constructed in 1912 after Paris' Eiffel Tower. Although it was scrapped during WWII, the tower was reconstructed soon afterwards in 1956. The current tower is 103 meters high, with the main observatory at a height of 91 meters.

There are 5 floors opened for tourists- 2 observation platforms at levels 4 and 5, a diorama display at level 3 and a museum at level 2. After taking pictures, we quickly moved to our next destination as we still had many places to cover today before going back tomorrow.

Tsenkaku tower at the back. Shops not opened yet

highly densed buildings of osaka

dark clouds looming

vintage Osaka

vintage Glico Man

old train station

Tsenkaku tower in the days of yore

Osaka castle

We then took the subway to Tanimachi 4 chome station. We walked about 10 minutes from the station to reach the compound of the Osaka castle which is surrounded by a beautiful park and protected by huge stone walls and 2 layers of moat - the inner and outer moat. The castle has 4 gates  - Tamatsukuri, Aoya, Kyobashi and Ote gate. We entered through the Ote gate, walking from Tanimachi 4 chome, passing through the NHK and Osaka Museum of History buildings.

From Japan Guide:

The construction of Osaka Castle (大阪城, Ōsakajō) started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time.
However, a few years after Hideyoshi's death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.

Osaka museum of history (left), NHK (right)

Outer moat of Osaka-jo

entrance through Ote gate
Ote gate

huge stone walls

When we arrived at the entrance to the castle museum, we found that it was closed due to the typhoon approaching. It was very windy at the time and we heard sirens wailing from nearby. We became a bit nervous as we wondered whether the siren was an alarm for people to take refuge from the approaching typhoon, but the other tourists didn't seem to budge and was oblivious to their surroundings, happily taking pictures. So I went to ask the museum personnel what was the alarm sound - she told us it was just the ambulance. That put us into a relief. Not long after that, at around 11.30am, the museum opened its doors to visitors. Since we already had our coupons, we didn't have to buy the tickets (entrance fee JPY 600 or RM 21). We were about 3rd in line in the queue of visitors with coupons.

sign says: Due to a typhoon approaching, we're closed today

The Osaka castle now houses a museum which has 8 floors, with an observation deck at the top most floor. Each floor is dedicated to the history of the castle at different eras, e.g. during the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and scenes from the Summer War in Osaka. There is also a movie theater which shows programs on the history of the castle . Various artifacts and replicas of the warriors' armours are also on display. No photography is allowed in the museum though.

Osaka castle

Osaka castle with new addition: lift
view from observation deck. outer moat visible

another view from observation deck

Nijo castle

Nishinomaru Garden

From the castle, we walked to the Nishinomaru Garden which is in the compound of Osaka castle. Entrance fee is JPY 200 (RM 7), but of course we entered for free using the coupon from our Osaka Unlimited Pass. Nothing much here. However, during cherry blossom season, it is a popular hanami spot. There's also the former Osaka Guest House here, which was now deserted, but still kept in good condition. Since no one was using it, we converted it into our 'mini surau' for a while. It was clean, and near to the toilet so it was convenient.

Nishinomaru garden
the former Osaka guest house

inside the guest house

Osaka Bay Area

It was almost 1pm when we headed to our next destination which we visited last night- Osaka Bay Area. The area is situated on reclaimed land. The weather had improved already by now, the sky clear blue and sun was shining brightly. It was back to normal. Although we felt odd that autumn was already approaching, but it felt really hot.

We took the subway to Osakako station and made our way to the Santa Maria Cruise Ship berth. The cruise takes about 45 minutes and costs JPY 1600 (RM 56). Using the pass, it was free. We cruised through the bay area, passing by the Osaka port, and Osaka aquarium and beneath the Tempozan - Ohashi bridge. Oh yes we saw a huge Ikea building too!

Santa Maria cruise ship

Tempozan-Obashi bridge and Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Osaka aquarium

Osaka port

Minato-Obashi bridge


Without wasting time, we proceeded to the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel where we had taken some pictures the night before. From the wheel we could see the top view of the Bay area, port, bridge and aquarium. Let the pictures do the talking. Entrance fee is JPY 700 or RM 24.50, which is free with the coupon.

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

view from ferris wheel

view of aquarium from ferris wheel

Famished by now, we headed next to the Everest Indian restaurant near to the Osakaku subway station. It claimed to serve halal food. I had a plate of lamb briyani, using the sticky Japanese rice. Briyanis are meant to go with Basmathi rice - but this would suffice. We saw a Japanese family eating naan there.

sticky lamb briyani

Everest Indian restaurant

After eating, we did some souvenir shopping at an aunty's shop. She could converse in Bahasa very well. Told us she has a friend from Singapore and had made numerous trips there. We pity her though as she looked frail and hunched and was working alone at the shop which was bursting with the souvenir items, some jutting out from the windows above.


It was dark by now at 6pm. We made our way to Namba via subway to the Namba station. We wanted to catch the Tonbori river cruise before closing time at 9pm. It was quite a bit of a walk to get to the river cruise station. We asked a few people around until we finally found it. The boat cruises through the Minami / Namba area with Osaka's trademark Glico Man signboard prominently visible with its bright neon lights. While searching for the river cruise station, we had actually walked by the promenade, parallel to almost the whole route of the river cruise. Basically we had completed the river cruise - by walking.

Glico man

the Dotombori Gawa river promenade. Excuse the posing person

another neon light signage by the river

The Shinsaibashi shopping arcade is also nearby, so we headed there for a bit of shopping too. K Liza bought some G Shock and Baby G watches for her kids. They were about RM100 cheaper than in Malaysia, so it was a good deal. We also passed through Dotonbori food street, but unfortunately couldn't read / speak Japanese so we couldn't tell which was OK to be eaten.

Shinsaibashi shopping arcade

Dotonbori food street

We also tried to find souvenirs around the Namba area, but couldn't find any. So we headed back to the aunty's shop at Osakako and bought the rest of our souvenirs there. I also got some Kirin banana -peach canned drinks for Nurul from one of the vending machines at the subway station on the way back. Apparently, I could not find this drink from the shops, only from vending machines.

Actually, there was one more spot I wanted to go which was still open until 2am- Natural Open Air Hot Spring Spa Suminoe. But since it was already 9.30pm, we were afraid we might not be able to catch the last train. So we made our way back to the hotel and pack for tomorrow. Our adventure in Japan were drawing to a close sob sob, but perhaps there will be a next time :)

The next morning, we took the Nankai line train to Kansai airport from the Shinimamiya station, a 450m walk from our hotel. Train fare cost JPY 890 or RM 31.15 It was rush hour, so we couldn't get a seat. We left our hotel at 7am and arrived at the airport at around 8am. Since we arrived quite early, we continued with a bit more shopping at the airport before departing at 11am

Train to Kansai airport ticket

Goodbye Japan, see you again :)



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