Osaka 2012

Japan in winter February 2012. I have always liked Japan. Every corner you turn, you see something different, something colourful, something that will just amaze you. It’s clean and the people there are generally very helpful. This time, I went to Osaka for a week with my parents.

This Osaka trip wasn’t really a planned holiday trip. I found cheap airfare to Osaka and decided to go since the last time when I was in Tokyo, I loved it. I did all the research on hotel, transport, food, places to visit before we took off. I really enjoyed the freedom of not following tours. I get to choose what time I want to get out of bed. Ha Ha!
I found a hotel that had a room for 3 people, so it was perfect. It is called Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka. The location is great too. There is a supermarket on the ground floor of the hotel .Oh! this hotel is really very unique. The lobby  is on the 22nd floor, rooms were on higher floors and they have a small little chapel inside the hotel where they have many wedding receptions there during weekends.

Day 1

Reached Kansai Airport at around 3pm, Got a few free maps and tourist info guides. Bought our bus ticket from the counter. It was a direct bus ride to Namba (OCAT).

The bus conductor who doesn’t speak English, gestured for us to leave our luggages at the side of the pathway  and gave us numbered tags for our luggages to be loaded into the bus. The bus arrived at 4.45pm, the bus driver took out a little stepping stool for passengers to board the bus with ease. So we hopped on. Once everyone was on the bus, the driver kept staring at the clock, the bus was set to depart at 4.55pm and that was exactly what time the bus driver started driving. The bus conductor bowed as our bus left. The ride to the Namba bus station took about an hour.

When our bus was approaching the stop, I saw a man in uniform running on the inside of the building along our bus. I wondered why he was running, then I saw that when our bus stopped at the station, the man and 2 others started unloading the luggages. They were so efficient! We didn’t have to wait at all for our luggages. Gave the men our number and got our bags! Simple as that! All in less than 10 seconds.

I asked the Information Counter for direction to our hotel. She said exit the building and turn right. That was all the direction that I got and it was all that I needed because once I walked out of the bus station, I saw the hotel on the right. So easy!

Monterey Hotel is very comfortable. The room was spacious, there was a bathtub and they even have PJs ready  and a lot of toiletries too. Oh! and I love the toilet bowl. Ha Ha …. heated seat, music, and other amusing things on it. I like how the seat cover doesn’t slam down when you close it.

View from our hotel room window in the evening. I like this photo because you can see the inside and the outside. Seem like an interesting shot.

We didn’t do much on the day of arrival, just relaxed in the hotel.

Day 2

I read on Tripadvisor that there is a flea market on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at the Tennoji temple. So I arranged that we went there on the second day to see the temple as well as the flea market.

We took the subway. I bought the one day ticket thinking that we will make full use of it touring around but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The subway, the train and JR loop line were all very confusing. Luckily people there were helpful, I just kept asking for help. We finally found our way to Tennoji Temple.

The flea market outside the temple.

Shitennoji (四天王寺, Shitennōji) is one of Japan’s oldest temples. It was founded in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who supported the introduction of Buddhism into Japan. Although the temple’s buildings burned down several times throughout the centuries, they were always carefully reconstructed to reflect the original 6th century design.

I saw a lot of stalls selling these leaves,I don’t know what it is. I am still curious as to what it is used for.

Outside of the temple there was a stall selling okonomiyaki. I queued for about 10minutes for it. It was only 130¥ for one. It was more like a snack than a meal. There is a slice of bacon on it though. It was quite nice because the weather was cold and having something hot to eat was nice. It was worth the wait.

This stall sells hot ginger drink. I think it is suppose to keep the body warm.

Day 3

We decided to go to Osaka castle on the third day. Asked the front desk at the hotel for the easiest way to the castle and she recommended that we take the JR Namba loop train. We bought tickets from the counter because the machines had too many confusing buttons. It was 170¥ per person one way.
We had to change station at Shin-imamiya and continued to Osakajokoen Station. We walked quite abit of a distance and got to the castle garden. I have only been to Japan twice and both times I was so lucky, I saw cherry blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo, and this time plum blossoms in Osaka!  It just started blooming.They were absolutely beautiful. Mom was so happy to see the flowers and kept wanting more photos. Then we walked slowly to the castle which was uphill. Took more photos of the castle. The weather was quite good, it was cold but it was very relaxing and peaceful to walk.

Ah, busy taking photos of the beautiful plum blossoms.

Me and ‘my’ grand castle.

On our way back , we kept asking people whether it was the right train. All said yes so we went on it but it wasn’t exactly right because it stopped before our station. It was the right direction but the train wasn’t going all the way. So got off the train and waited for the next one. Hopped on but wasn’t sure if it was gonna stop at our station or going express. Anyway we gambled. It did stop at our station. Then change train and got back to the hotel ok. It was already 2.30pm. Our tummies were making noise, we need to find food. Quickly we found food at Namba Walk. Just pointed at pictures to order and went in. Had rice with tempura ! Simple and delicious.

Day 4

Shopping day at the Premium Outlet! We took a 40minutes train ride to Rinku Town. Mom was so excited that she gets to spend as much time as she wanted for shopping and not be rushed by any tour guide. Her tour guide (me) allocated a whole day for her to shop. If only we could spend as much money as we wanted then it would have been splendid. Ha Ha! We didn’t buy much, I bought a jacket and mom got a few blouses.

As we were busy shopping, dad was getting bored and so he waited for us at the bench which was just outside one of the shops. We met up with him after we were done at that shop. Then we all continued walking to see other shops. After about 20minutes, dad suddenly realized that he felt something was missing. Oh No! He left his camera at the bench where he waited for us. We all panicked. I ran back to the area and found the bench empty. Our hearts sank. Dad was sad that he lost his camera and mom was sad that she lost the photos of the plum blossoms. We asked the nearest shop whether they saw the camera but they didn’t speak English. She gave me a map and pointed to the Information Counter . Hmm…. chances were slim but no harm trying. I ran there and asked the lady at the counter if anyone found a camera. She then asked me where I lost it and I pointed to the map. She told me to go to the Lost & Found Counter and I was starting to be a little hopeful by now. I walked so quickly to the counter and before I said anything to the man over the counter, I saw dad’s camera! I quickly told him that that was our camera. Mom was rushing along behind me and once she saw the camera, she shouted to dad who was behind. We were so relieved and kept thanking the man. What an experience! Took us a while to calm down.

We had lunch at Rinku Outlet food court. Cold Udon with tempura.

Unagi and rice.

After shopping, we headed back to Dotombori for dinner. We had to try the famous Takoyaki and also Okonomiyaki. Picked a restaurant and went in. It was yummy!

Everyone must take a photo of the Glico man when they visit Osaka. Not sure why though.

Dotombori Street was filled with colourful and artistic looking shops.

Sushi anyone?

The famous takoyaki dish in Osaka

forgot what this one is called.

Chicken okonomiyaki.

Day 5

Today we went to Kyoto. Well this trip was all about transportation! First take JR Namba to the JR loop line then change and go to Osaka station then change to JR Kyoto Line to Kyoto. Wah! So confusing.
Then buy subway ticket to travel inside Kyoto. Wanted to go to the golden pavilion but got to take subway and change to bus to get there, mom and dad were not very interested. So change of plans, go Nijo Castle. More subway traveling.Got there around noon, feeling abit hungry. Admission was 600¥ and it takes at least an hour to finish touring in the castle and the garden.We were too hungry to spend an hour in the castle. So change again, find food. I didn’t have a good local map of Kyoto, I wasn’t sure where the main tourist street was. So I just picked a subway stop at what I thought seem like a busy area because on the map that I had, there were alot of hotels. We walked into a hotel and asked where we can find food. He didn’t speak much English. Showing hand signals. Ah…. He understood me. Gave me a better map. We found a restaurant with vending machine selling noodle. So happy. We went in. Used the machine to order food and sat down to eat. Quite cheap! 500¥ for one big bowl of udon soup. Ate happily.
Luckily they had pictures on the machine.
Our food ticket.
This was so yummy!
Then walked more.I wanted to see geishas at Gion street but because we were too early, there were none. We went to a shopping street. I thought by the end of the street will b our subway station shijo. So we could walk there and then take subway back. Got there but it’s called gion – shijo! It’s a train station! Not shijo subway. Mistake! So we took the train to the subway station because we were too tired to walk anymore. Then at subway take train to Kyoto station then change to Osaka. Then change to Namba where our hotel is. Wow!! Too many train rides for a day.
Basically we didn’t see anything in Kyoto. Oh! We went to Imperial Palace but can’t enter. So we saw the outside only. So yea we didn’t see much in Kyoto.
 We were there.
A couple in traditional outfit…. at least we saw someone wearing a kimono.
Day 6

We thought we will try our luck to see whether there will be any sakura in Sakuranomiya Park. Took the train there, it was raining and there were no sakura at all. All we saw were naked tree, which was actually quite pretty too. Then we went to Den Den Town, hoping to see some young people in their anime costumes and again we didn’t see any. We also visited the market, saw lots of fresh fish and fruits. They all looked delicious.

yummy….

yummy yummy…..

Day 7

Today is the day we leave but we had some time before the flight. We went for a walk nearby and had lunch before we took the bus to the airport.

There was a wedding at the chapel. So romantic.

I had a great time in Osaka. Saw beautiful flowers, scenery , buildings, lots of vending machines but I think I enjoyed looking at the people the most. They really take the time and effort to look good. The girls had full makeup on,with thick fake lashes. Everyone looked like they styled their hair for an hour before leaving the house and they probably did. Almost all the girls were on heels. Guys were not too bad too….

Cool right? Look at the hair..

Cant get enough of sushi and sashimi.

Does anyone know how to make this? It was so yummy!

Since we missed so many things this trip, I guess we will just have to come back again! Sayonara for now.

 



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