Getting There – JAL First Class
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Day in Tokyo
Taking the Shinkansen “Bullet” Train
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Day 1 in Kyoto
Day 2 in Kyoto
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Park Hyatt Tokyo: Revisited
Getting to Hiroshima
Hotel Review: Sheraton Hiroshima
Day trip to Miyajima
Day in Hiroshima
St. Regis Osaka
Food Shopping in Japan
One Day in Osaka
Day in Narita
Traditional Ryokan Stay
Entrance to the park surrounding the castle was free, and there were all sorts of paths to walk along. An urban oasis right in the middle of the city, it warranted at least a few hours.
Thankfully there was a huge map posted that helped me get my bearings.
The weather was cool and intermittently rainy, and except for a large school class of children on a field trip the park was pretty quiet. I’d arrived a little bit before 9am when the park opened, which would be the best time to come on busier days as well.
The scenery was just beautiful, including the old buildings from the Edo period, stone walls and the moats (there was an inner moat and an outer moat). All 13 structures including the turrets, gate, and gun powder storehouse are recognized as Important Cultural Properties by the national government.
The quiet, misty air and lack of tourists in some areas made it easy to pretend the year was several hundred years in the past.
Although Osaka Castle is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Japan, the huge park surrounding it is pretty spectacular too. There are hundreds of cherry trees, a plum orchard in Nishinomaru Garden, apricot flowers, and trees…trees, everywhere. Their leaves rustled gently as they swayed in the breeze, and the occasional raindrop brought leaves twirling to the ground.
An couple had hired a couple photographers to do what appeared to be their engagement photos and I watched the shoot for a bit. The photographers darted this way and that, reaching out to adjust a bit of fabric or diving down on the ground to change the angle.
The couple had serene smiles on their faces during the photos, and made minuscule adjustments to their poses as requested by the photographers.
In the park there were plenty of shops and stalls where warmer weather would have made them popular. The food areas were pretty quiet on the day I visited though.
Osaka Castle itself is full of history, and the museum cost just 600 yen (about 5 USD) to enter. Kids of all ages also had the option to put on a Samurai costume and get their picture taken for 500 yen.
The museum inside had a diorama of the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and several screens displaying programs about the history, but my favorite part of the museum was the observation deck. People were lined up to take the elevator but since it was just five floors up I took the stairs. The view was totally worth the climb.
After getting the bird’s eye view we climbed back down and left the park heading for nearby Tsuruhashi which has a mecca of Korean BBQ stalls, kimchi and market at reasonable prices. The bustling market was filled with good smells, and the only tough part was figuring out which place to eat at!
If you go, Kimchi lovers will even find celery or cucumber kimchi and soft-shelled crab kimchi. Many of the BBQ restaurants aren’t open at night, so consider visiting for lunch in the afternoon.
After a satisfying lunch, a leisurely stroll through nearby Nakanoshima Rose Garden was next, which some refer to as the heart of the city.
The garden has thousands and thousands of roses and admission is free. I wandered among the blooms, breathing in their rich scents and admiring their colors. There were brightly colored pinks, snowy whites, delicate peach, fiery reds, and buttery yellows from all over the world and each had an informational placard with details.
Caretakers kept the area carefully swept clean and neat, so that the focus could be on the star of the show – the roses.
It seemed a popular thing for families to enjoy a picnic on the nearby benches, and there were also some restaurants along the water.
Groups of ladies and couples waited their turn to sit on benches to take photos, and I overheard that a group of lifelong friends had been coming to the same spot and taking photos for years to commemorate their time together.
The atmosphere was very peaceful.
After the rose garden, we meandered through shops and alleyways. I didn’t have a set agenda, just wanted to get lost in the streets and soak up the everyday feeling of life in Osaka.
In the evening we went back towards the hotel, and looked for a restaurant to have dinner at. Although Kani Doraku Dotonbori Honten (the famous crab restaurant) had originally been where I wanted to eat, reservations are recommended especially if you want something on the nonsmoking floor and I hadn’t made any. Rather than try to squeeze in, I felt more like having a simple sit down meal on the spur of the moment.
Passing one restaurant I marveled at Japanese marketing. Called Freshness Burger it also served homemade cake, and coffee. Not really what came to mind when I thought of a burger joint, but when in Japan…
I finally decided on a quiet pizzeria called Bianca Rossa.
After we were seated and given menus, I couldn’t stop laughing as I looked at the paintings on the wall. They seemed to indicate that pizza was invented by the Egyptians, and one guy seemed to be sprinkling seeds from his purse in the drawings.
Of course, there are reports that the Egyptians did make a flat bread, but I don’t think it came with pepperoni on it.
The pizzas came out great, and the meal was just what I had wanted. The crab feast could wait for another time.
I had a fun day in Osaka, and did just about everything I had wanted to. The only thing I missed from my list was walking over the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, otherwise known as the Rainbow Bridge.
Have you been to Osaka? Did I miss any other must-do things?