(19.12.2016 – 25.12.2016)
Even though Japanese people do not celebrate Christmas somehow classes ended just in time for us internationals to grab our bags and fly across the country to meet our beloved ones here and there. While the others mainly decided to leave Japan for the holidays I hopped on a plain to Osaka, met my boyfriend who flew over from Germany there, and started a 19-days-trip all across Japan together with him. First stops on our list was our meeting point, Osaka.
Osaka, which is Japan’s third biggest city, is located in the heart of the Kansai region on Honshu. I am pretty sure that Osaka is one of the city names everybody has heard of before, due to its economic importance and maybe also because of „how it is the opposite of Tokyo“. And it’s true, whatever happens in Tokyo, it seems that Osaka does it a little bit different on principle. Example? Well, you know that Japanese drive on the left side of the road. So naturally, they would also stand on the left side of an escalator, letting people who want to climb it pass on the right side. Not in Osaka. There they stand on the right side of the escalator. Why? Just because. And everybody does it!
Anyway, as it was both my boyfriend’s first time in Japan (and my first time in Osaka as well), of course we did aaaaaaaaaaall the touristy things at least once. So, if you are planning a trip to Osaka, you’ll might find our experiences helpful.
The Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most famous castles. It was originally built in the 16th century on behalf of the Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi but had been destroyed 1656. It burnt down after a strike of lightning – because it was built entirely of wood. When it was rebuilt in 1843 they came to the conclusion that using solid would be better for stability but it was however destroyed again during the Meiji wars 20 years later. The castle as you can visit it today has been rebuilt just in 1997. The castle is located in the centre of a cute little park with a lake around it. You can have a nice walk there and try some Takoyaki (fried squid balls with different sauces) at one of the many food stands around before you enter the castle (though we only watched it from the outside).
I loooooooooooove street food markets of any kinds. Wherever I go, as soon as I find out that there is a foo market around, I make sure to visit at least once. There is just no better way of indulging in local cuisine and try authentic specialities! In Osaka, this can be done at the Kuromon market. It is rather small compared to other food markets, for example in Europe, but you can easily spend an hour or two there and try delicious pieces of Japanese food. I recommend Karage (Grilled chicken) and also freshly grilled scallops with soy sauce and butter!
Dotonbori – Minami/Namba – Shinsaibashi
After having satisfied your hunger on the market, make sure to head southwards to the three city parts of Dotonbori (along the so-called river), Namba, and Shinsaibashi. Here you will find everything that makes a shopper’s heart beat faster.
Shinsaibashi is Osaka’s main shopping area. You can find any kind of stores here, from small thrift shops to big designer stores, from kitchen equipments markets to delicatessen boutiques. This area is predestined for Omijage (gifts) shopping for the ones at home.
Dotonbori consist mainly of a few big streets. You can take the Namba line and get off directly in the heart of it. It is loud, it is colourful, it is crazy! Be ready to overeat at least twice a day and check out the world’s most famous advertising wall.
Many say Namba is even more interesting than Dotonbori, though I found it a little hard to tell since both areas are kind of blurring into each other. It’s the heart of the south area of Osaka and you can also mainly find shopping streets and restaurants there.Some say „Dotonbori during the day, Namba at night“.
Kuchu Teien Observatory
I love myself a nice view over a city, I have to admit. So whenever there is an observatory or a mountaintop viewpoint or even a rooftop, I am all in to see a city from above. In Osaka, this purpose is served by the Kuchu Teien Observatory. The queue is long and the price is not particularly cheap but anyway, Osaka from above is really stunning. Plus, when you visit around Christmas time, you can have a Bratwurst and a Glühwein at the huge Western-style Christmas market right in front.
I am usually not a big fan of aquariums, zoos or every place where wild animals are kept in captivity for people to watch them. Whenever I (have to) go to one of those places, however, I try to learn as much about the different animals and their natural habitats by studying all the information signs religiously to ease my consciousness about supporting this. Osaka’s aquarium really offers a deep insight into different the sea and many of its inhabitants plus its the only aquarium in the world where you can see whale sharks. Though, it really is a personal thing if you want to go or not. I found it interesting, but I alway leave with a sad feeling when I think about how small the tanks the animals have to live in are compared to the sea.