Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hawaii and Japan, 2014 - 11/3 - Day 18 - Osaka On-Day

Osaka Castle - Bigger on the Outside
We ate breakfast in the apartment, having purchased eggs, ham and bread at a convenience store nearby the night before. We discovered this morning that Sean's iPhone had been damaged in a freak...bathing...condensation...accident and was no longer functioning properly. This is never good news, but particularly frustrating on a long overseas trip. He took the catastrophe fairly well, and we'll get it replaced when we get back to the states. In the meantime, I have the only working source of maps and information.
We took the subway to Osaka castle, one of the other major sights we had in mind for the Osaka leg of our trip. Osaka castle is the most *castle* looking of the castles we've seen so far. When we arrived at the castle grounds,  we discovered that today is a national holiday! Happy Culture day, Japan! Culture day is a national day of celebrating culture, the arts and academic achievement. People have the day off and are encouraged to go to cultural sites. Needless to say, we were not alone at Osaka castle. The grounds were full of locals and there was even a performance depicting the struggle between the Tokogawa and Toyotomi families over the castle starring a famous female performer, who flubbed her lines several times, but was nonetheless entertaining.
After the performance we went up into Osaka castle itself, which, to be honest was a little disappointing. The interior has been turned into a museum, which was *kind of* interesting, but I would have been much more interested in seeing the actual interior of the building, which was more or less annihilated in World War II. There was a nice view of Osaka from the top floor, and if you're in Osaka, it's more or less a given you're going to go to Osaka castle. Just prepare for the lack of interior.
Lunch today was takoyaki at the autumn festival on Osaka castle grounds. Takoyaki apparently originated in Osaka, and these last takoyaki of the trip were probably the best we've had so far.
We spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon getting to and hanging out at Osaka castle. Afterward, returning to the subway station, we ran into a culture day parade, with people on carts carrying fans, shouting orders to other people pulling said carts, while others within the carts played drums and bells. There was a line of these carts, each with varying levels of energy being put into their performances.
We headed to Shinsaibashi, a large shopping district in Osaka, where we wandered, stupefied by the enormity of the shopping area. There were so...many...stores. We walked about 1/4 of the length of the entire main street of Shinsaibashi before deciding to take a break and head back to the apartment before dinner.
Yum yum Okonomiyaki at Fukutaro
Dinner tonight was at an awesome okonomiyaki restaurant called Fukutaro. There was a line out the door, which we've experienced at every restaurant we've been to in Osaka, so I guess we picked well, with the help of Trip Advisor and our hosts. Okonomiyaki, for the uninitiated, are a type of pancake made from burdock root flour, cabbage, and usually pork. Osaka is famous for Okonomiyaki, and this restaurant, called Fukutaro, makes it exceptionally well. We had two types - the traditional version, made with pork, and a beef and onion version. Both were awesome. We also had some plum wine made from distilling plums, instead of infusing sake with plums. It wasn't nearly as sickly sweet as the plum-chu we've been having, and I actually much preferred it.
After dinner we went to Dotonburi, a nightlife area right along the Dontonburi river in Osaka. We checked out a bar called Space Station, run by an American ex-pat, that has classic video games at the bar and a bunch of video game themed drinks. We tried a "Hadouken" shot (which was cloying sweet and lit on fire) and a "Triforce" which tasted like cinnamon and was also pretty brutally sweet. To be honest, the drinks at Space Station were a little too college bar feeling to me. I wish they were a little more sophisticated with their choice of mixes. It's a neat idea for a bar, but I feel like it could be a lot more than it is.
After a few rounds of Street Fighter 2 and some Mario Kart on the Super Famicom, we walked along the river, past all the Love Hotels, night clubs and late night takoyaki joints, and wound up back at the subway station bound for home.
Tomorrow we're headed to one more temple, one of the oldest in the area, before heading back to Tokyo for a few more days.

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