JAPAN 2015: Day 10 - Osaka Castle, Den Den Town, Dotonbori.
Today we're going to visit the must-see places in Osaka. If you only have a couple of days in Osaka, these are the places to check off the list.
Getting to Osaka Castle is a walk in the park, both figuratively and literally. You'll need to walk through a park surrounding the castle before actually reaching the castle grounds.
The castle moat. That building there is one of the many turrets in the area.
The stone walls are more than 20 metres tall and consist of 500,000 to 1,000,000 stones.
The castle and its surrounding structures have gone through several wars since the initial construction in 1583 but look what fine condition they are in today — thanks to their original sturdiness and restoration works here and there.
Entrance to the grounds is free and you can just sit around to enjoy the view. While you're at it, you'll most likely see some locals walking their dogs, kids on school trips and tourist groups.
The main castle tower is a sight to behold.
You can choose to go inside at a fee of ¥600 (MYR 24). Be warned though, the interior has been renovated into a modern castle museum — even comes complete with elevators and stuff. The top floor is an observation deck where you can get a panoramic view of the castle park with city landscape in the background.
I chose to stay outside because museums just aren't really my thing.
Another area where you'll need to pay to access is the Nishinomaru Garden (¥200–¥350). It's a popular hanami spot thanks to its many cherry trees. I didn't go there too because... I guess I was just feeling lazy and cheap that morning. （★￣∀￣★）
There's also a plum grove (Ume Grove) in the castle grounds which you can access for free. Plum trees blossom in February and marks the coming of spring. Spring and sakura season feels overcrowded for you? Try the plum season, it's cheaper too!
Also located in the castle grounds is the Hokoku Shrine (豊國神社, Hōkoku-jinja). It is dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi — the one that had the Osaka Castle built.
Lunch time came and I continued my search for the best soba in Japan. Nothing beats the one that I had in Kyoto so far.
"Akiba in the East, 'Ponbashi in the West"
Nipponbashi — or more specifically Den Den Town — is often referred to as the "Akihabara of West Japan". It is home to the biggest Super Potato store, Gundam's, Mandarake, Animate, Joshin, Sofmap, maid cafes, cosplay cafes, hobby shops etc. Well, what do you know, just like Akihabara.
Some say it's better and more practical than the popular Akihabara. It has fewer shops compared to Akihabara but whatever you can find in Akihabara, you can find it here too. The shops are laid out in a straightforward manner, making navigation a breeze.
It is also less crowded and has a surprisingly small amount of tourists.
Doesn't matter which kind of geek you are, you're bound to find your own stairway to heaven here.
A favourite find of mine, Super Potato retro game shop. You know you're in the right place when you see a gigantic Super Mario figurine outside and hear 8-bit music coming from inside.
These older generation consoles are treasures to some. What's your favourite game or console from the past?
8-bit in all its glory.
So after hours of fangirl-ing and shopping, it's time to visit another place — the famous Dotonbori of Osaka.
The best way to get from Nipponbashi to Dotonbori is by walking through Sennichimae. Most of the streets are covered and you'll pass by lots of shops and restaurants along the way.
Also, pachinko parlours. I've never tried playing it myself but it doesn't interest me much — super loud and everyone inside is glued to their own pinball-like slot machine.
Don't be afraid to walk through the back alleys and stuff.
At the end of the Sennichimae walk, you'll emerge from the covered streets and find yourself greeted by this view:
Yes, you're finally here at Dotonbori Street.
Just to make sure, turn around. Whoa, see that giant dragon? Yup, you're definitely at Dotonbori.
Osaka is known as the "kitchen of Japan" or the "nation's kitchen" (天下の台所 Tenka no Daidokoro) and it must be because of all the good food here at Dotonburi. I kid, it's because Osaka used to be a merchant city and was the centre for rice trade in the past. But it's also true that there are good food at Dotonburi — lots of them!
Besides food, Dotonbori is also famous for the outrageous sign boards or signages found here. This place really takes it to the next level. Majority of the shops on this street have over-the-top signages and mascots. Some are gigantic, some creative use of 3D, some light up brighter than the rest, some are even mechanised! It's like every single shop here is fighting for attention and trying to outdo each other.
Many would say that night time is the best time to be here. In my opinion though, it's best to come here in the evening, right before the sun sets. That way, you can see the shops crystal clear in the day and all lit up at night.
Blow fish or puffer fish lantern! There are a couple on the street but the original one came from Zuboraya. And like good lanterns, they light up at night.
This is Kuidaore Taro or the Kuidaore Ningyo, the mechanical drum-playing clown. Besides the hands, the head moves too!
This Kani Doraku crab — not to be confused with the one you saw earlier though they're both the same restaurant — is six and a half metre long! The arms and eyestalks move.
I like this Takoyaki one. Look at those monstrous eyes!
Dotonbori-gawa Canal and the buildings that line it. Here's where the magic happens at night.
Do you spot the iconic sign board of Dontonbori?
It's the Glico Man sign! It has been there since 1935 and has obviously undergone several cosmetic and tech improvements since. In this photo, the sign hasn't light up yet.
So, let's have a soft serve while we wait!
And imitate the Glico Man while we're at it — it's a tourist must-do after all. Ψ(`∀`)Ψ
The place is slowly starting to come alive.
Instead of just waiting, we can have dinner while waiting! Oooooh just thinking about having dinner at Dotonbori is already exciting. So many restaurants, so little space in the stomach!
Puffer fishes (Takifugu rubripes) ready to be made into fugu dishes. If you try to cook this fish yourself, you'll most likely die because the fish is more poisonous than cyanide. Fugu chefs have to undergo many years of training and pass a test (70% usually fail) in order to prepare the dish for consumption.
Don't worry too much though, farm-raised puffer fishes are on the rise thanks to the increasing demand for fugu dishes. The farm-raised ones are usually toxin-free and safe for consumption. Still going to cost you a lot though.
I went on and on about fugu but that wasn't what I had for dinner. I walked around having a tough time deciding where to dine at but I finally ended up here:
Sex Machine (Sekkusumashin). It's a yakiniku joint + bar, not whatever you think it was. Expect lots of beef, parts (horumon), DIY BBQ and beer.
These are ox tongue slices. I tried to confirm this dish by Googling "sex machine tongue". Worst mistake of my life.
Onto the grill they go!
The "Deluxe Machine Set" — a platter of their recommended cuts.
Japanese Black Wagyu.
An average meal here costs about ¥5000 (MYR 200) which is a steal because these are beautiful beef slices we're talking about.
It's time to pay Glico Man another visit.
Neon (actually LED) lights galore. Same place but looks so different now doesn't it?
Glico Man finally completes the picture.
Everything looks livelier.
Now you see why this is the place to be in Osaka?
And... This concludes the last night of my Japan 2015 trip.
Good job guys, we did it! I know it has been painfully slow, so thanks for sticking around. The next post will bid Japan 2015 goodbye and yes there will be an itinerary round up. Till then!
ALL JAPAN 2015 POSTS:
Day 0.5 - Getting There. And Tsukiji.
Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.
Day 1 - Sensoji. And an Adventure at Night.
Day 2 - All Things Ghibli (Museum).
What to do when you lose your JR Pass.
[SHORTS]: My First Airbnb Experience.
Day 4 - Hello Kyoto! (Intro).
Day 4 - Eastern and Downtown Kyoto.
Day 5 - Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
Day 5 - Arashiyama and HORSE SASHIMI?
Day 6 - Fushimi Inari-taisha and Nishiki Market.
Day 7 - Gotta Catch 'Em All in Osaka (Pokemon Center) and Mint Bureau's Nighttime Sakuras.
Day 8 - Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
Day 9 - Universal Studios Japan.
Day 10 - Osaka Castle, Den Den Town, Dotonbori.
Day 11 - 10 Days Japan Itinerary (Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka).