Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
192Trip End Ongoing
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So after an epic 48 hour boat journey across the East China Sea, through the Korea Straight, then through the Genkai-Nada Sea, the Sue-Nada Sea, the Bungo Channel, the Seta Inland sea, the Hiuchi Nada Sea and finally across Osaka Bay. I didn't even know that most of those seas existed let alone that we would spend the night sailing through them! Upon our arrival in Osaka we experienced something new and exciting, not the mad technology that we were expecting or elements of the crazy culture that we could not wait to get a slice of….no, we got land sickness. Seemingly after 48 hours on the high seas we developed sea legs that no longer worked correctly on land, brilliant.
So we arrived at our hotel and dropped our bags (annoyingly Japanese hotels have a check in time of 4pm, rude) and swayed our way to Osaka castleTako-ishi or "Octopus Stone," the largest single block of stone in the castle, with a surface area of about 60 square meters and a weight of 130 ton, it is literally unbelievable to think how on earth this got put here as you can see by the photos we look minute next to it!
On our way back to the hotel we discovered that not only are Japanese sewers more developed and civilised than China they even go as far as to decorate their drain covers, I think we are going to like this country!
So after a goodnight sleep our legs were no longer feeling like jelly and we set off for a day of exploring. We knew Japan was going to be more expensive than China, but WOW, not that expensive. It is literally London prices for everything. £7 to just get in a taxi, £2+ for a metro ticket, £1 for a bottle of water and £5-10 for food, yikes! The most annoying thing about food being so expensive is that it makes us less enthusiastic about trying the random looking things on menu
Our first day trip was to Tsutenkaku Tower, this is an observation tower giving great views over the city, when it was originally built in 1912, it was the second highest structure in Asia standing at 64 meters tall, but when it was damaged in a fire in the 40’s it was dismantled to supple iron for the war. The local citizens lobbied for the beloved tower to be rebuilt in 1956. On the 5th floor of the tower sits a statue of Billiken, the god of good luck. Apparently if you rub his feet your wish will be fulfilled. Annoyingly there was such a huge queue of people trying to get a bit of Billiken we could not get close, no good luck wishes for us :o( The views from the tower were really quite cool and I especially liked the fact that it is right next to the local zoo and you could see Zebra’s wondering around their enclosure. The streets under the tower “Shin-Sekai” were filled with pachinko palours (the gambling machines that take ball bearings) and restaurants many of which sported the giant blow fish lanterns to show that they sell 'fugu’ the blow fish delicacy which if not prepared properly will send you to the morgue. Fortunately as with most other food stuff in Japan this was well outside our budget, phew
No trip in japan in complete without seeing the bright lights of the city and Osaka definitely did not let us down here and provided us with more than a few photo opportunities as the city lit up and came to life. Neon signs a plenty, drink vending machines on every corner and restaurants with plastic mock ups of all their dishes set out in their windows. No sign of used knickers in the vending machines but we will keep looking!
Desperate for a glimpse of the crazy Japanese culture we set off to the area called America Mura, this is where the first shops were that imported American clothes so all the cool kids used to hang out here. It is still the same today and is filled with cool boutiques and even has a few shops selling the ‘Harajuku’ dresses (the puff ball dresses which the girls wear to look like dolls). We saw a few girls in the full Harajuku dress up but none that we could get a photo of, also a few people in the full Kimono’s which were cool. This area was definitely the most diverse, with one man doing karaoke from his shiny truck parked at the side of the road, lines of men reading manga comics in the street and even a cat café.
As always we decided to head off to explore the more extreme ‘tourist’ attractions. So off we went to the red light district which is apparently run by the Yakuza. I expected this to be bright lights and ‘adult’ shops with a red light district disguised behind bars and dvd shops. The walk to this area was through a covered shopping street and I was beginning to feel a little awkward when I had not seen another female for a good 15/20 minutes
We had every intention of going to Kobe for a day trip but unfortunately despite the important looking people having taken my temperature only days earlier, I came down with the most awful flu. This is really annoying in Japan as it is terribly rude to blow your nose in public, I contemplated wearing a sars mask stuffed with loo roll but instead opted for a day of sleeping it off and staying out of the pouring rain which has descended on Osaka.
Feeling better and having found a pharmacy that sold me cold medicine (for £10!!!) we opted for a relaxed day trip to the Aquarium. With 580 different species, 30,000 specimens and even a whale shark this claimed to be one of the biggest aquariums in the world
Osaka had Ferris wheels everywhere, but we opted to go on the Hep 5 Ferris Wheel which is on the top of a shopping arcade. We hopped into our red pod and having read up in advance knew that it had an ipod station so we put the pod on and had Kasabian blaring as we did a circuit taking in the city view watching night descend and the neon light up. What a great way to finish our stay in Osaka. Next stop Kyoto!