It is hard to appreciate Osaka after visiting Kyoto, especially if you are not into partying. The fact that I am vegetarian did not help either in developing warm feelings towards the city – finding vegetarian food was close to impossible.
We planned to stay two days in the city, and frankly speaking it was hard to fill all the time up. For somebody who loves shopping, Osaka is a perfect place – the shopping malls (or shall I call them towns?) are gigantic and offer full range of products that will satisfy even the most demanding customers. The restaurants in the food courts are absolutely fantastic, so after hours of shopping one can easily find something that would tickle one’s fancy. Because we were on a student budget, we did some window shopping and enjoyed the amazing food courts.
In Japan there is a lot of possibilities to eat on a budget. The best way is to buy a lunch box in a supermarket.
In Osaka we stayed at another capsule hotel – B&C Hotel Sunplay Inn Nagahori. The biggest downside of this place was that smoking was allowed inside, so the whole building was literally soaked with the cigarette stink.
Another bizarre thing about this place was, that people with tattoos were not allowed to stay in, as the tattoos might be offensive to other guests…
On the positive side, each capsule has a TV inside, so we could get a glimpse at the hilarious Japanese programs (another funny thing – the weather forecast displayed predicted weather as well as cherry blossom progress in different parts of Japan!).
All in all, it was an interesting place to stay, because it was much more traditional than 9H in Kyoto, especially the male part, where sauna and traditional, common shower room was available for guests.
On Friday morning, as always we got up very early and headed to see the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. The interesting thing about it is, that it was founded three centuries before the introduction of Buddhism, therefore it is free of any mainland-Asian influence. There are only two other shrines that are considered purely Japanese, which makes this place truly unique. The most characteristic feature is the roof, which is straight, as opposed to the curved ones constructed later on. Sumiyoshi shrines enshrine the Kami (Shinto gods) who protects travellers, fishermen and sailors at sea, therefore the shrines are usually built close to harbours.
Next we went to see the Gokuraku-jodo Garden. The design was based on descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha. Despite the rain, the gardens were truly magnificent. The strong wind caused the cherry petals to fall down from the trees, which created an amazing, snow-falling-like atmosphere – absolutely breathtaking!
A funny thing happened to us while walking from the underground to the gardens – an older man spotted us and started asking the standard questions – where are we from and so on. After a short conversation, he proposed to walk us to the garden. As it turned out, he was some big fish in the community, so we did not have to pay the ¥300 entrance fee 😀 how cool!
The Osaka Castle is another top tourist attraction in the city. The building is truly beautiful. The construction started in 16th century and the castle became the biggest construction of its time. Id was designed to be the centre of unified Japan. The castle tower is surrounded by citadels, gates, turrets, stone walls and moats. Nearby, the Nishinomaru Garden may be found, where 600 cherry trees create an amazing view during Sakura season.
In the evening we walked through the Dotombori district – the hart of Osaka night-life, which was overflown with people, colourful neons, game saloons, sushi, Hello Kitty and young women with way too much make up soliciting men to do we can imagine what… A rather interesting cultural experience.
Saturday was our last day in Japan. Since we had almost nothing left to do, we got up a bit later and had a relaxed morning. We planned to visit the famous National Bunraku Theater, but the only shows they offered lasted for over 5 hours… I was very excited about the prospect of learning about Japanese puppet theatre (especially because Osaka is most famous for it) but 5 hours seemed way too much.
Instead, Dominik and me took an underground to the Tempozan Harbor Village.
I promised myself that I will not post any photos of toilets from Japan, but it seems to be too big of an issue to skip it all together. In Japan, most of the facilities are very advanced, with hundreds of buttons, self cleaning systems, mp3 players and seat warming options. There is also a possibility to turn on waterfall sound, in order to musk any noises you might be making. All in all, the process of using the toilet is highly advanced and complicated. However, there was one particular toilet that grabbed my heart and did not allow me to stick to my resolution – the environmental friendly one. After one is finished with the business and presses the flush button, the water first flows through the sink on the top on the toilet allowing to wash the hands before flushing the toilet – this way the same water is used twice, so smart!
Our plane was on early Sunday morning. Unfortunately, at night there is no public transportation that connects Osaka with the airport (taxi would cost us more than the whole holidays in total), so we decided to take the last train and sleep at the airport. There was quite many people who decided to do the same, but the space was enough for everybody to lie down. We had our sleeping bags, so surprisingly we slept very, very well. There was also a security man, who was watching our bags all night long. In general, it was not a bad experience at all.