Day 52: Osaka

On my last day in Japan, I beat myself at getting lost. I started the day with a luxurious breakfast which cost 500 Yen ($5) but was worth so much more at the Osaka Youth Hostel, after which I spent half an hour planning the rest of my day. Since I only had one day in Osaka, I wanted to be very picky and particular about what I did today, instead of the usual wandering around. So I sat down with a map and my computer and looked up some interesting areas to explore. I pulled out a subway map and figured out how to get from place to place. I even looked up the must eat foods and the best places to eat them. I left my hostel at 10 p.m. and headed towards Osaka Castle. I loved the train system of Osaka. Since Osaka is smaller it takes less time to get from one place to another compared to Tokyo. 

A luxurious Japanese breakfast
Osaka Castle was quite beautiful. More than the castle itself, the area around it was very nice and reminded me of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. There were gardens and bridges and lots groves. If it hadn’t been such a hot day, I would have loved to spend more time there. I bought an ice melon that was being sold at one of the many food stall clusters around Osaka Castle and walked around. Things were so far according to the plan. I bought ice melon and walked around. 

The Osaka Castle 

The desperately needed iced melon on a hot day of sight seeing

Around noon, I left Osaka castle for the Dotonbori area (one of the downtowns of Osaka). Dotonbori was a touristy area with lots of activity and little shops, restaurants, etc. in the typical Japanese setting of a thin shaded lane that ran across several streets. One could easily end up at Namba, one of the other downtown areas of Southern Osaka (which is locally called minami). Here is where I got confused and my plan went down the drain. I tried finding a specific okonomiyaki place (the okonomiyaki in Osaka is different from the one in Hiroshima) called Mizuno and ended up looking for an hour. When I finally found it the line was too long and prices were too high. So I took the train to another stop, hoping to find cheaper places to eat. But somehow, I ended back at the same place and found myself walking around in circles. All the streets of the shopping district look quite similar. I was exhausted by this point and ended up eating at a seemingly average place. It was one of those little roadside stands selling Takoyaki (fried octopus fritters) with a small restaurant inside serving okonomiyaki among other Osaka specialties. I don’t know if the place I ate at was bad or I just don’t like Osaka’s okonomiyaki that much, but the meal was less than satisfactory. By this time, I was extremely exhausted and dehydrated. So I changed my plan and decided to skip Shinsaibashi (another downtown area of Osaka) and go straight to Umeda (a business district with lots of department stores in the northern part of Osaka called Kita) to pick up some last souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. Umeda was impressive with magnificent buildings and architecture, and overhead bridges connecting all the department stores to each other. The department stores were unimaginably expensive and very fancy. Although they’re a nice place to window shop, I couldn’t bring myself to actually shop here. So I gave up and headed back to shin-osaka, where my hostel is.

Osaka’s Okonomiyaki
Although it was only 4 p.m., I was ready to go to bed. Luckily, when I reached shin-osaka station, I found a range of souvenir shops where I was able to buy what I wanted (generally, the stations from where the shinkansen leaves have quite a few stores and restaurants). After returning the IC card that I had been using for commute during the last two months and figuring out where the airport limousine (a bus service that goes directly from Shin Osaka Station to the domestic Itami airport) leaves from, I went back to my hostel. I was feeling better now and spent some time chatting with people at my hostel over a konbini dinner. I unfortunately wasn’t able to try Takoyaki, which is another of Osaka’s specialty. 
Osaka felt like a mini-Tokyo or a less intense version of it. People seem to be a bit nicer and less rushed. Not too many tourists were spotted. Although there were quite a few attractions such as temples, downtown areas, etc, I didn’t feel the need to go to all of them, because I felt like it wouldn’t be too different from what I’d already seen in Tokyo or other parts of Japan. 

Since I did some planning and research before going out today, I felt like an informed tourist instead of just wandering around and taking pictures of things. I could connect things with what I’d read about them online. I unfortunately couldn’t follow through my whole plan though, which is something I can work on during future travels.