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We’re back, in the land of the rising sun, again.
I’m sorry I don’t mean to brag, its just that I love this country so much I’m spending my savings to boost their economy. Its really bad for me financially, but I’m still willing to do it just so that I can be there and experience living (temporarily) in Japan. I kinda feel its worth it.
ARRIVAL AT KIX
From Kansai International Airport, we were in a bit of a rush to save as much time as possible. So we went and buy a few travel passes that we’ll use in the coming days.
For today, we bought the YOKOSO! Osaka Pass that covers for the Limited Express Rap:t train by Nankai Railway straight to Namba station. I really must say, Osaka’s public transport is seriously confusing, they have a few stations named similarly. And they are written in hiragana なんば on the signages in the stations, but officially its in kanji 難波. Its easier for me to read the kanji because its actually Chinese characters so it made sense to me, but when you give me katakana or hiragana, even though the suppressed otaku in me read enough of them to know a few characters, I’m really far from being fluent in them. So. I’m lost.
But luckily I already studied the maps enough to know where we should go, as with any other trips we went to, so I managed to get ourselves to our hotel. I believe Claire will talk about the hotel more. As for me, I’ll talk about the sights and maybe about the places we went and any issues we encountered along the way.
So after we drop our luggage for safekeeping, we head straight to Osaka Castle. There are a number a ways to go there that I found via the internet, that’s why I got a little confused here. The danger of the internet, too much information, so you either sieve out the useful one or get lost in the sea of words.
OSAKA CASTLE AND THE WALK TO THE CASTLE GROUNDS
I decided to head to Temmabashi 天満橋駅, if you’re a Japanophile like myself, you’ll probably notice that the romanji they use here in Osaka is a bit different than in Tokyo. In Tokyo, 天満橋 will probably be written as Tenmabashi instead. Not sure why, never found out either.
The underground networks that expand out from the various stations are maze-like. Both Claire and I keep having trouble reading the signage and getting ourselves to the right exit. So we finally got out to ground level and we see the mirrored sky. Its almost evening-like, but its only 2pm, what the heck.
2pm in Singapore is still freaking hot and the sun won’t show any sign of relenting till like 4-5pm.. But then this means its great lighting for photography. So because this is like the first location of the trip, we got excited and went trigger happy and took lots of pictures of the nearby ginko trees. wasted like half an hour on the overhead pedestrian bridge. laughs.
Then another 15mins circling the outer moat of the castle from its West side towards the South before we see a large stone bridge full of people, Google told me its the Otemon. Walking in we see a high wall made of GIGANTIC ROCKS. I think they are like minibus-sized solid rocks. Makes us wonder how the craftsmen cut and shifted them into place.
We then reach this large path, the entrance to the Nishinomaru Park. But there’s a fee to enter so we skipped it.
And then we see food stalls.
This giant pork skewer is the best thing we had for a while now. Actual hot food, but it cools really quickly in this weather… I wanted to have beer too but because this is a tourist attraction so the food here was really overpriced. So we had.. erm.. ice cream instead. LOL It was great, but its also very very cold.
We basically stand where the sun shines, because all the shades were too chilly. Pardon us coming from the equator living in hot and humid tropical climate. The castle came into view and we hurry towards it.
We need to buy tickets to enter, duh. It costs us 600 yen per person but I got a 10% discount after showing the receptionist our travel pass for today.
Inside the castle, the first few floors were blueprints of the castle and how its being built. Photography is proihibited on the first 2-3 floors, the security will stop you if you try. We have limited interest in all the exhibits and after queuing for so long, we just wanna go straight up to the viewing deck. We got up and went out, the chilly autumn wind greeted us before the awesome view all around the castle, watching the hordes of tourists like ants on the ground.
So after the castle we join the ants on the ground and took more photos like this.
Its only 4pm and the sun is already setting. Google tells me the sun sets around 1710hrs everyday. That’s a bummer. We walk around the area and took like 50 pictures but for me, only these inspires me. So we found a Lawson convenience store, we of course went in and waste our money on instant food and coffee. But hey, the 24hrs convenience stores in this country must be the best in the world IMO. They sell cooked food that actually taste good everywhere and as long as you have like 500 yen, you can have a feast. A simple one though, at that price. Can’t deny this place is expensive.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN
Night came and we went wandering around lost in the maze that is the public transport network. We walked to Morinomiya Station 森ノ宮駅 and took the Chuo Line to Kujo station 九条駅, which I thought we can change to another line that goes to Nishikujo station 西九条駅 where we can then change to the line that will bring us to USJ. Complicated, yeah? But it only gets worse…
It turns out that the line that links Kujo to Nishikujo was owned by a different railway company, that means we have to ‘tap out’ and ‘tap in’ to go to Nishikujo, and do the same again to go to USJ. That way, we would have to pay a fee each time we ‘tap out’ and ‘tap in’. No go.
In Osaka, there are like 7 private train companies plus JR. And to change lines you’ll have to exit the current line and pay to enter the other line. I find the most convenient line is actually the JR Osaka Loop Line, but all the passes available here does not cover JR lines… So.. It gets really confusing when we’re trying to save money by sticking to a few train companies that our rail pass covers…
So after some hiccups trying to find the right rail line to ride on… We finally arrived at USJ! But don’t get too excited here, we didn’t go in, we just took a picture at the door because we feel like it, deal with it.
This is also where we had our first MOS burger meal outside of Singapore. We eat a lot of MOS burger in recent years and I love its MOS Cheese. But over here in Japan, their menu is different of course. And they even sell beer! Asahi draft beer! The best tasting beer and the only beer Claire drinks! I love it! So we had one with our Burger meal.
SHINSAIBASHI STATION – MIDOSUJI
After that, we wanted to go back to the hotel and rest because we intend to wake up at 5am tomorrow morning. But as we were riding the train and I was reviewing our itinerary, I realized we won’t have time to look for Luke’s Lobster. So when the train pulls up at Shinsaibashi, the nearest station to the Luke’s Lobster outlet in.. erm.. Shinsaibashi.. I dragged a sleepy Claire out.
We were, of course, first greeted by the chilly winds of Autumn. Before our eyes gets to feast on the light show along Midosuji. The streets were lined with neat rolls of ginko trees with bright yellow leaves of autumn.
Check out Claire’s face, she looked like the lady in the billboard right? That blurcock look. LOL!
We then found Luke’s Lobster and we got ourselves a Lobster Roll to share. It looks tiny and it cost us about S$13 for it… But dang.. The taste of liquid butter on a generous serving of lobster meat is PRICELESS!! Go try it people, when you chance upon Luke’s Lobster anywhere, no matter the queue, just join in and waste your time! Its worth it!
Then we decided to just walk to Dotonburi, where all the colourful billboards are. Asahi Super Dry, the best beer in the world (IMO).
And the iconic ‘Glico Man’ is here too. Everyone is posing in front of it trying to get a nice shot. To be honest, the boards are so bright, its really tough exposing Claire’s face with all those backlighting. But a bit of post-processing did the job for me.
Dotonburi is too touristy in my opinion, and we didn’t really explore that much because we were really full and our legs were tired.. But worry not friends, we will be revisiting it properly in Day 2 also.
That’s it for Day 1, stay tuned for Day 2 ok?