Osaka, Japan

by - February 27, 2014

Osaka Castle
Osaka, along with Kyoto and Kobe makes up the area of Keihanshin, an urban area of nearly 19 million people with an economic output as high as London or Paris.  The journey between Kyoto and Osaka the previous night had only taken thirty minutes, making the two cities natural partners within out itinerary.  As it was to be a bit of a squeeze however, we only really had one full day in Osaka so had to really make the most of it.  A big group of us had been out for dinner the previous evening and decided that we all wanted to split up to do our own thing the next day before meeting up again in the evening.  Myself, Heloise and Sergei got up early and walked for about an hour to the north towards the Osaka castle.  Despite being an economic powerhouse and having a population twice the size, Osaka doesn’t have as much to see as Kyoto in terms of traditional Japanese sites.  The castle is one area that Osaka outperforms Kyoto however and the dramatic structure (a reconstruction of an earlier version that was destroyed in a fire) is every bit the Japan that I hoped to come across.  We spent a lot of the early afternoon wandering around the grounds of the castle and visited the inside (which wasn’t actually that good - the reconstruction hadn’t kept the traditional interior and it was now a modern museum).
Autumn Leaves in Osaka (one of the last pictures with my good camera…)
Down by the Yodo River, Osaka
 Our next stop after the castle was the central business area of the city, based around Osaka station and one of the major financial hubs of Asia.  The journey from the castle to the financial district took us along the banks of the river and while we were walking I committed one of the ultimate backpacker sins and dropped my camera.  At first it seemed fine, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t happy and I had to switch to taking pictures on my phone, which I am pretty gutted about considering just how photogenic the country has been thus far and how much there was still to see.  Not willing to sit around mourning the maiming of my camera however, we carried on with our walking tour past a range of modern skyscrapers and beautiful older style brick buildings, eventually reaching our destination - the Osaka Sky Garden, on top of the tallest building in the city.  The view from the top was stunning (and could only be adequately captured by Heloise’s camera, now that mine had stopped working):

View over downtown Osaka

View towards Osaka Bay along the river
Osaka German Christmas Market
Below the Sky Garden we came across a very pleasant (and out of place seeming) German Christmas market, complete with mulled wine and sausage.  We had spent the whole day walking so made our way half way back to the hostel on the Osaka metro, which was pretty easy to use.  We got out at Shinsaibashi, the city’s main shopping street and stopped for dinner at a traditional looking, local-filled, diner.  The city is sometimes called the Venice of the East due to its extensive network of canals (along with a whole lot of other Asian cities including Hanoi, Bangkok and Dhaka), and we spent the rest of the evening walking through the shopping district by the canals. Along with shops, the area was also full of arcades - seemingly one of the favourite pastimes of locals where people come to play games ranging from pinball to those ‘grab-a-toy’ games.  Eventually we made our way back to the hostel ready for an early night - as we were visiting Hiroshima in the morning.  I had been very impressed with Osaka and could have happily spent a few days in the city.  At first there didn’t appear to be much going on, but it had the vibrancy and pulse of an economic centre with a bit of culture on the side.

Advertising Boards in Central Osaka

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