Posts Tagged ‘Osaka’

It’s our last full day in Osaka. After having various adventures in Osaka, Himeji, and Kyoto, we decided to have a bit of a lazy day.

…. we still woke up insanely early, though.

We take our time getting ready for the day and decide that we are going to see Osaka Castle. The guide books for Japan say that it’s not as magnificent as Himeji (some say that it’s not necessarily worth the trip) but we figured to check it out anyway.

We hop on the subway and make our way over. It was a terribly hot and humid day, so we tried to walk in the shade as much as possible. We get to the grounds at bask in the beauty that is Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle before you cross the moat

Osaka Castle before you cross the moat

They started construction on Osaka Castle back in 1583 and was completed in 1597 with multiple restorations over the years. Osaka Castle is a very famous castle in Japan, as it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century.

Up close and personal at Osaka Castle

Up close and personal at Osaka Castle

Admission to Osaka Castle was 600 yen per person; which is higher than the admission to Himeji Castle. With admission still being fairly reasonable we enter the facility. They direct you to the 8th floor of the castle and ask you to start there and make your way down.

Personally, I was not a big fan of Osaka Castle and even Jason stated his disappointment. It was created more as a museum, and the interior was completely redone and did not portray any original parts of the castle. There was, however, a lot of information regarding the history of the emperors and various clans during the era when Osaka Castle was occupied.

If you plan on doing both Himeji and Osaka Castle, go to Osaka Castle first. After spending time in Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle seemed to lack lustre and wonder in comparison. If you’re a huge history buff, it is still very worthwhile to check out. My honest opinion is just to save your time and money and to check out something else instead.

Once we were done at Osaka Castle, we have a quick little snack in the park and decide to “get lost” in Osaka. We hop on the Osaka Loop subway, and decide that we were going to ride the entire loop to see the city. After a bit of chatting on the train, we talk about how close Kobe is and decide that today is the day we eat Kobe Beef. We hop off at Shin-Osaka train station to reserve our seats to take the Shinkansen to Kobe. The guy at the ticket booth said that since it’s such a short trip that we didn’t have to book tickets and just to hop on. I was slightly disappointed, as I’ve been collecting our train tickets from all of our trips. We grab a quick late lunch at a ramen place in the train station, and then we were on our way.

Miso ramen at the Shin-Osaka train station.

Miso ramen at the Shin-Osaka train station.

Selfie of me being excited for Kobe Beef on the Kobe Local Subway line.

Selfie of me being excited for Kobe Beef on the Kobe Local Subway line.

From Shin-Osaka Station, the trip to Kobe was a bit less than half an hour. Once we arrived we realized it was way too early for us to eat (considering we just ate ramen about 40 minutes prior), so we hop on the Kobe Subway and start wandering. We get off at the station that was fairly close to the restaurant that we wanted to stop at, and start walking. Jason wasn’t feeling to well, so we took it pretty easy walking around and contemplated whether we should head back to Osaka or stick it out in Kobe. The trip itself was short and it wouldn’t have been a loss cost wise seeing that the trip was already included in the cost of our JR Rail Pass, but Jason said that he probably would regret not taking the opportunity to eat Kobe Beef and stuck it out.

Now, you might be thinking “But you can eat Kobe Beef in Edmonton”. Yes.. you can eat “Kobe” sliders and “Kobe” beef in Edmonton, but it’s not real Kobe Beef. Only within the last year has North America started importing beef from Japan (due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease). With that being said, with approximately 3000 cattle of what is considered to be Kobe beef I doubt that so many restaurants would have so much of it readily available (and for as cheap as they are selling these entrees for).

“Canada – The Great Kobe Beef Myth”: http://www.meattradenewsdaily.co.uk/news/010512/canada___the_great_kobe_beef_myth_.aspx
“The Great Kobe Beef Lie”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2012/04/12/foods-biggest-scam-the-great-kobe-beef-lie/

… one of the many reasons why Jason stuck it out.

We wander Kobe for a bit and find ourselves at the Port of Kobe. The view from the port was very calming, and we sat at the end of the dock just watching the waves crash on the rocks. We both agreed that this was a great way to spend our last lazy day. The tide started to get higher and after being spritzed enough times in the face with fresh salt water, we decide to walk around and started to make our way to the restaurant.

Selfie of Jason and I at the Port of Kobe

Selfie of Jason and I at the Port of Kobe

One of the many views at the Port of Kobe

One of the many views at the Port of Kobe

After much wandering around, we finally find Steakland. It was setup in a teppanyaki style restaurant.

Steakland in Kobe

Steakland in Kobe

Our waitress takes our drink order and helps us with the menu (though she looked like the most unhappy person ever. I have never seen an unhappy person in Japan yet until her). When inquiring, she told us that there are only 2 items on the menu that are real Kobe beef, and the rest is just regular Waygu beef (also from Kobe). Jason ordered 200g of Kobe Beef while I ordered 200g of the Special Kobe Beef. Our chef comes out and displays the raw Kobe beef and asks how we would like them cooked. And then, he’s off to work.

Cooking Kobe Beef

Cooking Kobe Beef

The one thing that I did appreciate about this place is that the chefs weren’t doing anything fancy behind the grill like they do at Japanese Village. They were literally just there to cook and even explained part of the cooking process. Less cheesiness = win.

We are served both steaks at medium-rare. After our first bite, you could definitely tell the quality difference in the type of beef that was being served. Even the comparison between Jason’s Kobe Beef to my Special Kobe Beef was night and day. We slowly ate our dinner, savouring every bite. The entire time we were eating dinner, I thought to myself “If my dinner tastes this good, I wonder how good the super high quality Kobe Beef is?”.

Even though the restaurant did not provide the best quality of service due to our extremely miserable waitress who probably just wanted to throw herself in front of a moving train, the food definitely made up for her lack of customer service.

Though Jason toughed it out at dinner, he was still feeling quite sick so we hail a cab to the train station and then catch the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station. Once we arrive to Shin-Osaka, we discover that the subway we need to take is not in service (or we assume it’s not as they wouldn’t let anyone on) so we hail a cab to head back to our hotel.

Once we arrived to our hotel, we hit up the public bath, do some pre-packing for our departure the next day to Hiroshima and Miyajima, and call it a night.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. An interesting discovery (for me, anyway) is realizing how far away the Shin-Osaka Train Station was from our hotel. We usually pay about 230-270 yen each for the trips from Shinsaibashi Station to Shin-Osaka Station and takes about 10 minutes tops to get there. When we took the cab, it probably took us close to half an our with the cab fare totalling around 2500 yen (over $25).

2. Under Armour clothing is very much worth its money; wore Under Armour pants and shirt during our outing and I wasn’t ready to kill someone from being too hot and sweaty. Don’t get me wrong, I was still hot and sweaty but Under Armour clothing made it a LOT more bearable.

3. Kobe Beef is absolutely amazing. I’ve always had a lot of pride in our Alberta Beef but man… this may have ruined steak for me. The last time Jason and I had beef remotely this good was when we ate Beef Wellington at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak in Las Vegas earlier this year, and I was raving about that for months!

4. I have been loving the Shishedo products. Contemplating bringing some home depending on the price point.

Next Blog Post: Hiroshima and Miyajima.

Advertisements

I think this day Jason and I slept in til 08:00h after the long days we’ve been having in Osaka. After our morning ritual of breakfast at the Dormy Inn’s restaurant, showering/using the public baths, we slowly get ready for our trip to Himeji.

We walk over to Shinsaibashi, hop the subway to head to Shin-Osaka station and purchase our reserved seating to Himeji on the Shinkansen Tokaido line. The trip itself is less than 30 minutes with multiple stops along the way. Once we reach Himeji station, we walk over to see Himeji Castle which is about a 10 minute walk to the grounds straight down the street.

Grounds outside of Himeji Castle

Grounds outside of Himeji Castle

We walk around and enjoy the sites on the grounds (also, hiding in the shade for a bit while I find a place to smoke) and we cross the inner moat to head into Himeji Castle.

View of Himeji Castle

View of Himeji Castle, minus the Main Tower (which is in the building).

Main gate leading to Himeji Castle

“Diamond Gate” – main gate leading to Himeji Castle

The construction of Himeji Castle dates back to 1333 and is considered one of Japan’s National Treasures. It was also the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Japan registering in 1993. Himeji Castle was completed in 1609 and since then has had over 30 documented restorations.

We were both quite surprised to see a structure around the main tower of Himeji Castle. When Jason first did this trip in 2010, he said that they were starting restoration on the castle but we thought it would be over by the time that we arrived. Back during his visit in 2010, the main tower was still somewhat visible but surrounded with scaffolding. We discovered upon our arrival that they have been starting restorations since 2009 and anticipate completion in the year 2015. Even though it was slightly disappointing, the trip was still well worth it.

We walk through the main gate and enter in one of the towers where they were showing artifacts from Himeji ranging from stone/clay work detailing the castle to a variety of armour used.

Armour display

Armour display

After walking around, we discover that we can enter the structure that was built around the main tower. After paying another small admission, we enter the building and find out that we actually get to see the process of the restorations, and they’ve turned it into an exhibit with information regarding the Himeji Castle.

On the 8th floor of the structure built around the Main Tower at Himeji Castle. They are currently restoring the roof and parts of the exterior.

On the 8th floor of the structure built around the Main Tower at Himeji Castle. They are currently restoring the roof and parts of the exterior.

Viewing the restorations, with an informative video of them documenting the process.

Viewing the restorations, with an informative video of them documenting the process.

We were absolutely fascinated with the process, detail and the amount of effort that was placed into the restoration. We spent a good hour touring around the facility looking at the various methods they used and reading the ever so detailed and intriguing history of Himeji Castle. We make a small donation to the restoration of Himeji Castle and continue walking the grounds.

Outside of the Main Tower; the building that surrounds it.

Outside of the Main Tower; the building that surrounds it.

Even though Himeji Castle is under restorations, if you’re planning a trip to Japan prior to 2015 I would still recommend checking it out. There is still quite a bit to see when you walk around the grounds, and you can still visit the West Bailey (which is where the Princess’ quarters was located) and the scenery is quite captivating.

… goodbye Himeji Castle. We will hopefully see you again soon.

Once we finish walking around the castle, we meander over to Nishioyashiki-ato Garden which is about 10 minutes away.

One of the nine gardens at Nishioyashiki-ato

One of the nine gardens at Nishioyashiki-ato

Nishioyashiki-ato contains 9 different gardens with a tea garden. The gardens was constructed and opened to the public in 1992 to commemorate the centenary of Himeji Castle.

We enter the facility and notice there is a small restaurant. We look at the menu and decide to go in to eat (you guessed it) cold soba. From there, we continue our jaunt through the gardens. We reach the tea garden and see that they also do a tea ceremony. We pay 500 yen and go in to enjoy some matcha tea and a snack.

Matcha Green Tea and Sweet Dessert Mochi

Matcha Green Tea and Sweet Dessert Mochi

Once we are done touring the garden, we walk back to Himeji station to jump on the train back to Shin-Osaka.

That evening, we meet with an old colleague of Jason’s (who also happened to be in Japan) at Yakiniku Rokko for dinner. I was initially planning on partaking in their all-you-can-drink special; however, this option is only available if all guests in your party partake (and I was the only person who wanted to get shitfaced drunk that night). After 4 hours of eating, drinking and talking, we leave the restaurant at midnight and head back to our hotels to call it a night.

Things I Have Learned About Japan
1. They do bathrooms right here. Though the public bathrooms scare me at times (due to the lack of “Western toilets”), the majority of  bathrooms in restaurants/hotels have one or more of the following:

  • Bidet feature
  • Toilet sensor (either to flush or to drop the seat the moment you enter the stall/bathroom)
  • Toilet seat warmers

At first the idea of using a bidet was slightly distressing, but after using it a few times (the first time being Jason turning it on without my knowledge [apparently me shrieking because warm water was violently being shot at my butt is hilarious]) I have grown quite accustomed to them. But I still can’t wrap my head around the non-western toilets.

Seriously, how am I supposed to use this without taking my pants off completely and not falling in?

Seriously, how am I supposed to use this without taking my pants off completely and not falling in? Which way would I even face to use this thing?!

… when I see this, I turn around thinking to myself “Well, I don’t have to go THAT badly…”.

2. The wifi sucks in Japan. All of the places that we’ve stayed at so far offer free wifi but the problems are that the signal is weak, it constantly disconnects, or the moment you think you have a good signal it immediately drops down (even though you haven’t moved or loaded anything). No one seems to say anything but I assume that most people use their data off their phones and the speed is usually faster than wifi.

3. I really could have packed less. We thought that the weather would eventually get colder depending on where we were and that there was no laundry facilities available in our hotel so I literally brought enough clothes to adjust to various weather conditions and to last 16 days.

… 2/3 places have offered laundry facilities and it’s only been hotter than balls here.

All of the places we have stayed at also have a public bath and offer the following to all guest:

  • Disposable toothbrush
  • Single serving toothpaste
  • Disposable hair brush
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and facial soap
  • Hairdryer
  • Disposable razors

I usually bring my own shampoo/conditioner/body wash/face soap because I’m not always a big fan of the products that the hotels carry (and my own hairdryer because I don’t like the hotel ones), but all the blowdryers have been quite upscale and from what I’ve seen the default product for shampoo et al  is Shiseido.

… I can live with that.

4. Riding the Shinkansen and subways is a lot better and more enjoyable when you’re not dragging your luggage everywhere.

5. Alcoholic cocktails in Japan are fucking amazing but oh so dangerous. They’ll creep up on you, that’s for sure.

Currently in Miyajima right now but I will hopefully be caught up with my blog posts when we arrive to Beppu tomorrow.

Next blog post: Lazy last day in Osaka with a trip to Kobe

Jason and I have been waking up pretty early on our trip to Japan thus far; we were up again at 06:30h and got ready for our day trip to Kyoto.

When we were about to leave the hotel, it was pouring rain. I suggested that we should wait 30-60 minutes to see if the rain stops but Jason was quite insistent that we just hail a cab to the Shinsaibashi train station. I pop into the convenient store next door to our hotel and buy 2 umbrellas at 500 yen a piece. Jason was able to hail us a cab and we were on our way to Shinsaibashi station.

… but of course after we get into the cab, literally 30 seconds later it stops raining.

From Shinsaibashi station, we hop onto the train and head towards the Shin-Osaka station to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto. We booked our tickets on the Tokaido line for the next available train to Kyoto and we are on our way. The trip itself was pretty quick, as it only took us maybe 20 minutes to get from Shin-Osaka station to the Kyoto station. From there we start walking to our destination: Kiyomizu-dera.

Looking back at this now, it was a very poor idea. The walk itself is about 45 minutes from Kyoto station, and the weather was atrocious (and by atrocious, I mean sunny with a temperature of 30 degrees and insane humidity). We stop by a couple stores and Jason found a place where they make chef knives from Japanese steel. We make a mental note of it and continue on our way. By the time we reach the Kyoto National Museum (about 25 minutes away walking from Kyoto station), I start to develop starting stages of sun stroke and become very irritable. We hail a cab to take us the rest of the way.

Traffic was terrible but our cab driver dropped us off as close as she could without racking up our fare for the cab. We thanked her profusely for her consideration. We take a small break in Chawan-zaka (shopping area) so I can grab a drink of water and sit in the shade for a bit, and then we start walking over to Kiyomizu-dera.

Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane), Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple that contains a variety of shrines, and is considered to be one of Japan’s National Treasures.  It was founded in 778 and was built without using a single nail. Though many people may not have heard of it, I’m sure people have seen pictures of the Main Hall and Deva Gate.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall that I’ve seen.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Kiyomizu-dera is quite impressive. There is the Tainai-meguri; I’ve never heard of it before that day and even looking for information about it, there doesn’t appear to be much. When you arrive, you are asked to take off your shoes and provide a donation of 100 yen. From there, they lead you to a dark staircase and tell you to follow the wooden handrail throughout the course of your visit. It made me somewhat uneasy, as it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything in front or behind you. What this is supposed to symbolize is blindly entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu (mother of Buddha). You eventually get to an area where there is a thick round stone the size of a pizza pan with “womb” written in Sanskrit under a small light. They say that Daizuigui Bosatsu could grant wishes, so you are to turn the stone and make a wish. The experience was somewhat frightening (just because you’re literally walking around in pitch black, grasping at this handrail to lead you to your destination) but it was also quite humbling. If you’re not afraid of the dark or claustrophobic, I would recommend checking it out.

After seeing a variety of shrines and the “Love Stone”, I start to feel lightheaded again so we stop for lunch. Again, we eat cold soba. Why? Because we can and it’s fucking delicious!

DSC_0244

Beside the restaurant that we stopped at was the Otowa-no-taki; it’s a waterfall of “sacred water” that has 3 channels of water leading to it. They say that those who drink from the waterfall are blessed with longevity, health and success.

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

We walk around for another hour and leave to buy Jason’s chef’s knife. When we initially planned our trip to Japan, we talked about buying a new knife for our kitchen that was handcrafted, and made from Japanese steel. We head back to the knife shop where Jason peruses the knives (while I suffer from full on symptoms of sun stroke). The woman who owned the shop was very friendly and ensured that we were taken care of (not only did she help Jason out, but she provided me a chair to sit on while he was shopping and 2 origami cranes because I looked just terrible). Jason purchases a knife and a wet stone, and asks if he was able to get a picture of her for our trip. She bashfully agrees, fixes her hair and poses in a photo with Jason.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

She looked at me concerned before we left the store, and Jason tells her that I’m ill due to too much sun. She looks at me thoughtfully for a second and then provides me with another gift; a handmade fan to help me with the heat.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

We take refuge at a McDonald’s so I can have some fluids and get out of the evil sunlight, and we start ranting about how delicious soba is. One thing leads to another and the moment that I felt well enough to meander in Kyoto, we hail a cab and head towards Shijo Street, where Jason knows of a good soba house.

Well, we couldn’t find it but we ended up eating delicious katsu. Realizing we are well beyond walking distance from the Kyoto train station, we hail yet another cab and make our way back to Osaka from the train station.

I think we both had way too much sun that day, because we were both in bed and passed out before 8:00pm Osaka time.

Things I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The JR Rail Pass is a definite must for Japan. We purchased a 14 day pass for about $450 CAD each before we left (you have to purchase it before your trip and have it mailed to you, as it’s only available to foreigners), and I first initially thought that we wouldn’t really get our money’s worth from it.

… oh how wrong I was.

Considering all the day trips that we’ve been taking, and that we are going from Tokyo -> Osaka -> Hiroshima -> Beppu -> Tokyo, it was well worth it. The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka alone is over $150 CAD. We are still paying for local transit (aka train rides in the city where the JR Lines don’t go) but $2.50 CAD to take a transit in Osaka is nothing. Also, always book the Shinkansen over the JR lines; it might say “JR SuperExpress” but it will take longer to get to your destination over the Shinkansen lines (didn’t learn this by doing, look at the timetables and you’ll see the difference).

2. I have eaten cold soba more than I would like to admit on this trip.

3. I really really REALLY hate the heat and humidity on this trip. Every day I’m caked in sweat and my clothes feel heavier than they should be. I have never experienced “swass” before but I’m telling you, it has been quite the swassy trip. If I end up losing any weight, it’s not because I’ve been eating healthy and Japan bans GMO’s; it’s because I sweated away all my pounds.

4. Favorite drink is currently either the Cafe Latte by Boss or UCC, or the Royal Milk Tea. Every time I see a vending machine, I’m eyeing that bitch like a meth addict looking for their next fix.

5. Sun stroke is not a fun time in Japan; was hoping to hit up a couple more sites in Kyoto but we both thought it was for the best if we just took it very easy.

… thanks, sun stroke. You jerk.

Next blog post: Day trip to Himeji Castle.

Jason and I wake up at around 06:30h (Japan time) and we get ready to start our day. We head to the 4th floor to eat breakfast, but realize when we arrive that we have to buy breakfast tickets at the main lobby, rather than paying for the meal at the restaurant itself. Once we pay our 500 yen per person, we go into the restaurant to get our breakfast.

Now the hotel advertises that it’s a restaurant but it reminds me more of the eating/common area of a hostel than a restaurant; buffet style breakfast, everything is pretty much self serving, but the breakfast that they offer is pretty delicious. They have scrambled/fried eggs, breakfast sausage, breakfast sandwiches, toast and croissants for more of the American style breakfast. They also offer rice balls, dried seaweed (nori), kimchi, pickles, japanese style waffles, and 2 soups (miso and just a plain broth) for the Asian style breakfast. After breakfast, we head over to Shinsaibashi station to make our way to Osaka Aquarium.

Outside of Osaka Aquarium

Outside of Osaka Aquarium

We arrive and notice that there are a barrage of school kids making their way to the aquarium; I don’t know if EVERY school in Osaka decided “hey, let’s send our students to the aquarium today” but there were hundreds upon hundreds of kids there. Our visit to the aquarium was still very enjoyable, just kind of loud 😛

This little guy kept photo bombing us when Jason was taking a picture of the penguins (after 4 attempts, Jason just gave up and showed the kid the photos he so desperately wanted to be a part of).

This little guy kept photo bombing us when Jason was taking a picture of the penguins (after 4 attempts, Jason just gave up and showed the kid the photos he so desperately wanted to be a part of).

I have been to quite a few aquariums over the last 2 years but this by far is my favorite. The first exhibit you see is the Aqua Gate, which is 11 metres in length and holds 140 tons of water.The most impressive, however, is the Pacific Ocean exhibit. The tank is 9 metres deep and holds over 5400 tons of water. The main attraction to this particular exhibit is the 2 whale sharks. You can find more information about the facility and their exhibits here: http://www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/index.htm

Aqua Gate. Water volume: 140 tons, Water temperature: 21 degrees C, Tunnel length: 11 meters , Area: 63 square meters

Aqua Gate. Water volume: 140 tons, Water temperature: 21 degrees C, Tunnel length: 11 meters , Area: 63 square meters

After spending almost 3 hours at the Osaka Aquarium, we head over to the Tempozan Market Place and ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel at the mouth of Osaka Bay. I am absolutely petrified of heights and wasn’t doing too well for the first half of the ride, but the views you see are breathtaking! I highly recommend going on the ferris wheel if you want to see a great view of the city.

Realizing we ate over 5 hours prior, we are on a new mission: find delicious and ever so yummy food. We stumble upon a restaurant that serves cold soba noodles and head in for lunch. The one thing that I really enjoy about Japan is that they have pictures or models of all their food, so even if there is a language barrier you can still know what you’re getting and order it easily. Jason shows our server in the display what we wanted to order (though we realized soon afterwards that if we just said “soba”, he would have understood) and within a couple minutes lunch was served.

Cold soba noodles in Osaka

Cold soba noodles in Osaka

Once we were completely satisfied with our soba, we hop on the train and make our way to Universal Studios.

Universal Studios in Japan was… a very odd experience. Imagine just the “cuteness” of Japanese culture meets Universal Studios. It’s hard to explain but the attractions were hilarious, probably because of their gestures and the way they said things (also probably because we couldn’t understand a damn thing they were saying). Though it was an interesting experience (to say the least) if I ever come back to Osaka, this is probably a place I won’t be returning to. If I could actually understand Japanese then maybe but it just wasn’t the same not knowing what they were saying.

Universal Studios, Osaka

Universal Studios, Osaka

We killed a couple hours at Universal Studios and then decided it was time to head back to Shinsaibashi and eat dinner. Due to Jason’s constant complaining about yakiniku, I found a place not too far from our hotel and we decided to head there. You can read a review that I wrote here: http://wp.me/p3jWPD-29 

Cooking a piece of Waygu beef at Yakiniku Rokko

Cooking a piece of Waygu beef at Yakiniku Rokko

2 meat platters and about 3-4 drinks later we begin to feel full, a little tipsy and extremely exhausted from our day. We walk back to our hotel, hit up the public bath and call it a night after loosely planning a day trip to Kyoto for the following day.

Things I Have Learned Thus Far on My Trip
1. The heat and humidity is unbearable. I’m currently suffering in 30 degree weather with an insane amount of humidity. When we first arrived to the Dormy Inn, we couldn’t read the remote that controlled the air conditioning. We had to send a photo of the remote to his ex so she could translate and hopefully help us (this was after going to the front desk asking for help).

Seriously, how were we supposed to work this thing?!?

Seriously, how were we supposed to work this thing?!?

2. I fucking love cold soba.

3. People do not give a fuck about how you dress. I have seen people dressed as cats, dressed as punks, lolita/schoolgirl, hipsters, business people and they seriously do not bat an eye at the way that someone looks. I kinda wish we had this non-judgemental mentality in North America (though I will admit that I am severely guilty of judging people).

4. Japanese school children are absolutely adorable. A lot of kids would say hi to Jason and try to strike a conversation with him in English because he’s a white guy.

5. Monkeys scare the shit out of me.

Okay, so there are 2 (unedited) blog pots for your reading pleasure. My apologies, yet again, for my poorly written posts. It’s time for sleep, as we are leaving Osaka tonight to head to Hiroshima for 2 nights.

Next blog post: Kyoto (and maybe Himeji and Kobe).

Sorry for the lack of posts; I’ve been meaning to update more, but every night I get so tired from my day and tell myself “I’ll update it tomorrow”, then end up extremely tired the next day as well.

Thus far, I’ve been loving Osaka. We’ve been doing a few trips outside of Osaka (to Kyoto, Himeji, and Kobe) but this post will be mostly about our time in Osaka thus far and I will update about the other places in other posts.

… if I’m super ambitious, I will do more than one post tonight.

Monday October 7th: We wake up from our hotel in Tokyo and start the morning off with breakfast. We go to the dining area and are served a Japanese style breakfast which included rice, fish, meat balls, miso soup and a variety of pickled vegetables.

Image

Once we are done breakfast we head to a coffee shop for hot coffee and toast, then pack our bags and head over to Tokyo Station to get to our next destination: Osaka.

Again, I’m not too pleased with being at the train station with my bags and dragging them around everywhere. The only thing that seemed to get me through this time is knowing that we will be spending 5 nights in Osaka and won’t be dragging our crap from station to station during that time.

We take the Shinkansen Tokiado line to the Shin-Osaka station. This particular train travels at an average speed of 270km/hr. Our destination is over 515km away and we make it to Osaka in about 3 hours with multiple stops along the way.

From Shin-Osaka, we hop onto the local transit (subway) and head towards the Shinsaibashi district in Osaka. As I’m dragging all my luggage to our hotel from the train station, I noticed we are passing by stores such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, and all I can think  was “keep your head down, and keep moving… you don’t want to buy something and add ANOTHER bag to your load”. We go down a narrow street, make a couple turns and we arrive to our hotel; The Dormy Inn, Shinsaibashi location.

Image

The Dormy Inn is a cute modern hotel, with a public bath and restaurant available on the 4th floor. We get to our room and notice, again, that it is quite small. Small to the point where only one of us can have our suitcase available (but not opened), and we have to shuffle around each other to get around the room. After seeing our last accommodations, I figure this is pretty much the norm for an “average” hotel that isn’t too expensive and I’m completely content with it. After all, we don’t spend any time in our room except to get ready for the day and to sleep.

We decide to kick back for a bit then wander around the Shinsaibashi district. Shinsaibashi is known as a “shopping district” but luckily for Jason, most of the stores either didn’t peak my interest or were closed for the evening. We walk around Orange Street and try to find a yakiniku restaurant but were unable to find one. We decided to eat at a franchise called “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya” on Dotonbori Street, where they serve Japanese-style curry. We both order a katsu rice dish and start planning our days in Osaka.

Jason and I have very different traveling styles; while I’m a bit more anal and make plans for what I want to accomplish (loosely planning an itinerary for what I want to do on the trip, pre-routing how to get there, costs, etc.), Jason is more a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants traveller with the thought of “we will see how I feel to decide”, and trying to map our destination right before we buy our subway tickets. His method has brought me quite a bit of anxiety for the first couple days, but at the same time I know that I’m in good hands considering this is his 8th trip to Japan.

After dinner, we meander back to our hotel room and decide it’s time to check out the public bath. At the Dormy Inn, the women’s public bath is locked with a PIN code that is only provided to the female guests. When I enter, there are approximately 15 lockers available, 3 makeup vanities, and the bathing area has 4 shower vanities with a large bath (hot tub). Definitely a lot more chic than the public bath at our last hotel. We both agree to meet back in the lobby in an hour and then we retire for the evening, as we have a long day ahead of us the next day.

Things I have Learned on My Trip Thus Far
1. Everything here is cute. I mean, EVERYTHING! From the chimes of the trains/subways, advertisements and their news, to the coffee creamers at the local coffee shop. Like, how do you not find these adorable?
Image

2. Smoking here has been an interesting experience. Years ago, I read an article where Tokyo was planning on banning smoking on the majority of public streets in downtown Tokyo, and providing designated smoking areas. It appears that this trend has caught on to other cities. I find this to be very odd, as you can still smoke in a number of restaurants and they have designated smoking rooms in some of the train stations but I assume this is to decrease the amount of litter/cigarette butts on the street (which, I must say, the streets here are very clean). The fine for smoking in non-smoking area on public streets is 1000 yen (approximately $10).

3. Hot coffee here is quite terrible. Well, I guess I wouldn’t say terrible but it just doesn’t taste the same. Japan is also a nation that is obsessed with iced/cold coffees. Jason was told that the hot coffee is not the same because of the type of beans that they use, and that those beans are more suited for cold coffee than hot coffee.

4. It is harder to find a garbage can than it is to find a recycle bin. There are recycle bins everywhere due to all the vending machines, but nearly impossible to find a garbage can. What amazes me the most is that I haven’t seen a random piece of garbage on the streets with the lack of garbage cans, but in Edmonton where there is a garbage can on pretty much every block there is still garbage everywhere.

Next blog post: Osaka Aquarium, Universal Studios, and yakiniku.

I am honestly exhausted from my day but I am staying up to give a huge shout out to Yakiniku Rokko in the Shinsaibashi District of Osaka.

Yakiniku Rokko in Shinsaibashi

Yakiniku Rokko in Shinsaibashi

Yakiniku: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakiniku

Before leaving for our trip and during our trip, Jason has been talking about his craving for yakiniku non-stop. After searching for a yakiniku place our first night in Osaka, we were unable to find one in the area of Shinsaibashi that we walked around. That night while I was updating my blog, I quickly did a search for yakiniku restaurants in our area. Google directed me to a website called “Japanese Restaurant Search” (http://www.jnto.go.jp) where I was able to find a restaurant called Yakiniku Rokko.

There were a couple reasons why I was interested in trying this place..

a) They advertised that they have English speaking staff and an English menu.
b) All you can eat yakiniku.
c) The prices were within our budget ($20-$30 per person, depending on which meal plan you selected) but most importantly..
d) For an extra $12, it’s all you can drink for 2 hours during your meal.

http://www.yakiniku-rokko.jp/

Jason and I wake up around 06:30h and spend the day going around Osaka (details will be posted in a later blog post). Prior to our adventure in Osaka, I mention to him that I found a yakiniku place. Jason checks out the website and agrees to go, but is not completely sold on the place.

Exhausted and starving from our day, we show up around 19:00h and are greeted with a warm and friendly welcome. They asked if we wanted English menus and provided us service speaking fairly decent English throughout the night. We ordered “Plan C” but opted out on the all-you-can-drink (but still ordered a couple lemon Chu-Hi’s). Knowing that we were from Canada, she asked if we wanted to include the organs in our meat selection, and stated that if there was something we wanted more or less of to let them know and they would serve us a la carte.

The spread of food at Yakiniku Rokko. Please ignore Jason's faux pas of sticking his chopsticks in his rice.

The spread of food at Yakiniku Rokko. Please ignore Jason’s faux pas of sticking his chopsticks in his rice.

Service was quick, and the spread of food that we received was amazing. Our hostess took the time to explain all the pieces of our dish when it was served, and checked up on us regularly to ensure that we were satisfied with our selection. Noticing that we were taking a few pictures of our meal, she asked if we wanted to have our picture taken.

What impressed us the most is that they did not sacrifice the quality of the food served. We’ve noticed that at most all-you-can-eat establishments (worldwide) that they cut costs by providing average/less than average quality food. The Waygu beef was absolutely phenomenal, and they didn’t have any restrictions on how much you could order.

We order 2 platters of meat and then some, and we finished the night absolutely full and satisfied with our meal and the service that we received.

We have another couple nights left in Osaka before we head over to Hiroshima, but we plan to come back again on Thursday (and to indulge in the all-you-can-drink option).

If you ever find yourself in Osaka, head over to the Shinsaibashi district and make sure you check out Yakiniku Rokko. You will be glad that you did.