Another adventure awaited in Osaka City, characterized by it’s infinite places to eat! For this very reason, it’s widely known as the nation’s kitchen! Osakans pride themselves in their food. So this was a place we were ready to eat ’til we dropped as the stimulating sights and smells of unrecognizable treats surrounded us everywhere we went.
The Museum of Housing and Living
Experiencing Osaka 200 years ago…
An old traditional Japanese home
This was one of my favorite places in Osaka because it felt like we walked into history. The museum houses a real-life scale of an Edo period street scene, complete with 1850’s shops and people. The best part was that you could walk into different doors with an activity taking place, be it a puppet show, traditional game, doll shop or workshop of some kind.
After trying my chances at the “Spin the Roulette” and winning, I was offered a box of cute toys to choose from 🙂
Weaving through the small corridors of this replica town and entering amazing make-believe homes to sample experiences of the past was light-heartening.
Moving further along the museum, there are glass-enclosed detailed models depicting the urban development of Osaka and its housing districts. Some models also displayed old barber shops and scenes of Osaka’s past, which stirs up feelings of nostalgia.
A moving display of a district in Osaka that transitions from day to night
A model of an old Japanese barber shop
Japanese masks used for theatre, festivals and rituals. Some are legendary creatures of Japanese folklore
A display of Japanese dolls and old traditional toys
When the mouth is lonely…(a saying in Osaka)
Osaka is filled with hidden eateries, bustling high-end dining scenes and street vendors. There was overwhelmingly so much to sample! One place that is well-known for this is the neon-lit Dotonbori district where we tasted the two famous Osaka dishes; Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki balls.
The making of Takoyaki Balls
These delicate melt-in-your-mouth battered orbs of minced octopus with pickled ginger and onion are simply delicious. Fresh off the griddle, they are meant to be eaten hot and gulped down at lightning speed because of how soft, crispy and savory they are!
Another signature dish is the Okonomiyaki, which is actually a Japanese version of the pancake that is pan-fried in batter with cabbage as the base and then topped with vegetables, meat or seafood. Usually the restaurants that serve these have a “grill it yourself” concept. They are equipped with an iron griddle on each table with a bowl of batter and some preferred ingredients which are then mixed together and dipped into the hot griddle and finally coated in toppings of choice.
Osaka lady selling signature Mochi sweets
The famous Glico-Man. The icon of Osaka
Known for nightlife and entertainment, Dotonbori is a famous strip of restaurants and shops along the banks of its canal.
The highlight was Ebisu-Bashi bridge that overlooks the Glico Man, depicting a running sportsman in white gym clothes reminiscent of Japanese retro pop art. Lines of people stood on one side of the canal with their cameras for that perfect angle, holding their hands up, mimicking the sign. For years, this famous character popped up in my searches of Japan but I never took the time to understand the meaning and history of this symbolic billboard. Then I found out that Glico is the same company that makes one of my favorite snacks – Pocky! The packaging actually has the brand’s name on the corner of the box. What a connection! Glico started off in the 1919’s selling it’s first caramel sweets. The campaign for their caramels gave rise to the running man logo. Apparently, a selling point for their sweets was that they were only 15 kilo calories, which was the energy required to run 300m!
Further ahead the foodie strip, there’s a giant mechanical crab which obviously specializes in crab. This specialty is particularly savored during the winter times and is an extremely popular restaurant and go-to place to taste the flavors of sweet, soft crab meat.
The Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium
I love visiting aquariums. So visiting the largest one in Japan was so exciting!
The marine creatures featured here are exclusively inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire”; the area surrounding the ocean in which most of the our earth’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. We got a beautiful glimpse into life deep within the Pacific Ocean, which was an eye-opening experience and pretty otherworldly I must say.
This form of "galactic" jelly fish is out of this world!
There was an impressive array of animals and I could spend an entire day just marveling at all those aquatic creatures, every time catching sight of a new and unusual one.
When we reached the central largest tank, it was teeming with marine life. From gigantic manta rays, sharks, fish sized bigger than me, and the star attraction of them all is the humongous whale shark.
One of my favorite was also the Spider King Crab display. I was awe-struck at the sheer size of them!
Hi there little one!
The Tempozan Ferris wheel
Located directly nearby the aquarium is the Tempozan Ferris wheel, around which many street performances take place.
Back to the hotel
Some sights around our area
A quick dinner in a classic Japanese restaurant
Osaka National Museum of Art
Right near by our hotel, we also discovered Osaka’s National Museum of Art. The next morning we walked there on foot. The eye-catching museum, whose architecture resembles an exoskeleton, focuses on contemporary art and hosts a variety of strange exhibits showcasing odd and minimalistic installations, performances, video art, paintings that explore various concepts and interpretations that challenge your thinking. Although pleasing and gripping to look at, I couldn’t make much sense of most of what was being displayed. However, it got me thinking, that it wasn’t so much about understanding what I was looking as much as what the object on display made me feel and that was the beauty of art.
The museum didn’t allow any photos to be taken, as I was quickly spotted whipping out my camera only to be warned by a supervisor. As we observed the various works of art, we passed a lady working at the museum. She was standing up against a wall when suddenly turns around to face it and starts to chant, in an opera-like rhythm, a verse of some kind in Japanese. This would go on for about 3 minutes and then she’d pause and turn back around and continue the same cycle every 30 minutes or so. I am not sure what this performance meant but it did look very creepy.
An interesting excerpt at the entrance of the museum
The legendary Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle looking cinematic
Surrounded by the beautiful Osaka Castle Park, Osaka Castle is one of those famous landmarks that come to mind when one thinks of Japan. Although it had undergone many reconstructions since 1615, it is still an impressive historic sight that looks like an ancient splendor. Places and stories of historical heritage always give me chills! It was first built in the 1500’s by Samurai and warrior, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was also known to have financed the constructions and restorations of many of the temples that stand today in Kyoto.
We thoroughly enjoyed strolling the grounds of the area with beautiful landscaped gardens of blooming Sakura trees. It was an extremely pleasant and breathtaking place.
Crossing over a bridge, we entered the castle’s walls. The castle, which now houses a museum of historic artifacts, had a huge queue. Once we gained access, we found that it was extremely crowded, almost to the point that we couldn’t take the time to enjoy the experience but rather skimmed through each floor and left. However, the peaceful walk through the park that followed was wonderful.
Our last destination in Osaka was Universal Studios. I had already visited the one in Singapore, so I was eager to explore the Japanese version. We didn’t hop on that many thriller rides, in fact we mostly went to 4-D cinemas such as Sailor Moon and other anime-inspired attractions.
There was also a hyper-realistic Wizard’s World of Harry Potter™ which is vastly popular with the Japanese.
Universal Studios had an unusually strong obsession for the minions too!
So my Japanese series concludes here, and I truly had an amazing time in Japan. Writing this blog was a trip itself. It took me back to all the cherished memories, encounters and experiences that I will look back on with a big smile.
Farewell Osaka. Until next time!