Expect the unexpected in Osaka. Why is that you ask? Because sometimes on your adventures around the world you make plans, but mother nature has other ideas in mind, as it did on one routine Monday morning in Osaka that threw the whole city out of whack, with an earthquake that rocked the northern part of the town while I was on a train to visit Nara.
I will give you more on the earthquake down the track. Right now, it’s a recap of my Osaka Kyoto Tour.
It’s the farewell edition of the Osaka-Kyoto Diaries and how sad it is to be saying goodbye to a beautiful country that surpassed my expectations. My first visit to Japan only lasted around nine-days, not enough to be an expert but enough to know that the two cities I visited were full of beautiful attractions, breathtaking scenery and beautiful people.
Osaka is where I finished my journey, and it was an important city that had beautiful features. For instance, the lively city locations in Umeda and Dotonbori, the impressive Osaka Castle where you receive a real history lesson of the Osaka, and the pleasure to enjoy excellent river walks and drink coffee at riverside café’s.
In a mad rush to get in as much as I could during the final days of my Osaka Kyoto tour, which included a few hours of interruption, I created many highlights that I’ll remember for a long time to come in the final edition of Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Expect the unexpected in Osaka.
Osaka – Kyoto Diaries: Days 7-8- Expect the unexpected in Osaka
Earthquake in Osaka
I don’t want to dwell on the shock too much in this segment, because I have written an article about my experience, which can be found here.
However, the earthquake that rocked Osaka on the 18th of June 2018, tragically killed three people and injured hundreds of others. While I was out of harm’s way throughout the whole situation, it was an eye-opener to be involved in would be my first earthquake experience.
My memories of the experience remain clear; I was surprised at how calm everyone was during the earthquake and how quickly the emergency response team came to the scene to assure everyone’s safety. The unexpected can happen, and when the situation arises, it’s essential to watch the locals and follow their moves, especially when you can’t understand the language.
A walk-through Koreatown in Osaka
My plans to go to Nara got curtailed by the earthquake, and I decided to end up back in the city where I was fortunate to end up in Koreatown. Having a Korean wife, I don’t need to add anything else to say why I value this kind of location.
Korean town in Osaka is massive; there are heaps of market places where they are selling clothes, souvenirs and street food with Kimchi and Korean style pancake (Pajeon) being the popular choices.
There is an area in Koreatown where you hit a few fancy restaurants with most serving the famous Korean BBQ. Even as a solo traveller I couldn’t resist it, because Korean BBQ is one of the meals you must experience at least once. I purchased a single serving of meats plus vegetables and grilled my lunch over the flame; it was delicious.
Wandering through Tennoji
Checking out Google Maps for the next place to visit, I found Tennoji was nearby on foot and thought I would check it out. Any excuse to see another temple is excellent I suppose. The Tennoji area is a pleasant 30-minute walk from Koreatown, going through the backstreets of Osaka and is filled with a few good tourist attractions that produce good sightseeing for a few hours.
I’ll go through the main highlights of my time in Tennoji.
- Shitennoji Temple: Shitennoji Temple was the first attraction I visited. It may not be the prettiest temple in the region, there was a fair amount of construction happening at the time, but it’s still nice to look at for the complimentary price.
The temple is regarded as the first and oldest temple administered in Japan, which was first constructed in the year 593, with the term Shitenno meaning, four heavenly kings. The temple has seen a few rebuilds in time as you could imagine with any historical landmarks around the world. It is incredible to be walking on the grounds of a building that goes back 1500-years.
- Isshinji Temple: Issshinji is a boutique temple situated next to the Tenshiba Park where many locals go to for prayer. I took a few pictures at the location but there is a fair amount of construction going on at Isshinji also, but I would recommend to too have a look when you are in the Tennoji area.
- Tenshiba Park: Tenshiba Park is quite beautiful parklands with a large lake and surrounding gardens that also has views of Osaka city. Inside the parklands, there are other attractions to visit like a Fine Arts Museum, Tennoji Zoo (a miniature version, which was closed when I was there) and the Horikoshi Shrine.
- Tsutenkaku: Another busy shopping strip that has a real Japanese vibe. Inside the Tsutenkaku there are plenty of shopping and food outlets and it’s accessible for gamers, with arcades, pokies and board games taking place in the precinct.
That’s a mini wrap of the Tennoji area. You may have a few other places of interest when visiting Osaka, but if you’re looking to fill in some time, take the train to the area and check it out for a couple of hours.
An evening river walk
River walks are a common past-time in Osaka because there are many rivers in the city and it makes it convenient to enjoy a peaceful river walk along the banks at any time of the day. Especially with suitable footpaths that make it easier for pedestrians.
The O River was the closest to the Mitsui Garden Hotel I had been staying during my time in Osaka and often I would take advantage of a river walk that was never crowded and provided right spots to enjoy an excellent coffee at a few of the local riverside café’s.
Any traveller to the city will love Osaka Castle; it’s beautiful, very picturesque and lots of history is waiting to be discovered.
On my final morning in Japan, I walked to Osaka Castle going along the walking track of the O River, before entering the grounds of the castle, which could not be missed. Osaka Castle sits high on a hilltop and creates a significant presence in the area, which looks incredible from afar.
Around the castle is a large moat with quiet cruise boats taking paid tourists in the waters for a little tour and history lesson. I took a 20-minute ride of the boat to learn a few facts about the castle through the audio and had the chance to capture some incredible views.
From the cruise, if you choose to partake, you enter the castle over the bridge of the moat and ascend a hill for a short walk to the entrance of the castle. I recommend at this point that you do pay the 600-yen to enter inside and have an in-depth history lesson of the Osaka Castle and its construction timeline, completed in 1583 by Imperial Regent of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Osaka Castle was demolished in 1868 when it surrendered to Imperial Loyalists. It was rebuilt at the same location in 1995, inside there are eight levels of history facts about the castle that has to do with Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his family, the construction of the castle, important factual details on the castle and brilliant views of the city from the eighth floor, remembering the Castle already sits on high ground.
Inside on the third and fourth levels where photos are not allowed to be taken, there are real-life clothing, shields and weaponry that was used back in the day. There is much history poured into the eight levels inside the walls of Osaka castle.
Umeda is a vibrant part of the city, showcasing many buildings, shopping malls, restaurants and fun attractions to enjoy while on holidays in Osaka. It also has a trendy nightlife for those who want to get out and party and have a drink or two.
Let’s go over a few of the highlights in Umeda.
- Osaka Station: One of the main train stations in Osaka that has many platforms and trains that travel near and far, including the bullet train that travels fast to many destinations in Japan including Tokyo. It’s not only a single train station, with many shopping facilities, café’s and food outlets available inside with the Grand Front Osaka Shopping Mall that is blended in with station.
- HEP Five: A modern shopping mall that is more suited to younger adults and youth with plenty of choices inside, especially for women who are looking for the latest fashion design. I only had a simple wander inside HEP Five, but the layout is quite fresh with the modern touch, and the giant red Ferris Wheel Outside the mall adds to the decoration.
- Umeda Sky Building: My favourite part about Umeda was visiting the unique designed high rise, Umeda Sky Building. This particular building is not even the tallest in Osaka; in fact, it sits at 19th tallest in the city. However, it’s incredibly unique design is what separates it from other buildings around the world and needs to be seen to be believed, you could almost pass it off as a Lego structure.
Even though the Rooftop Observatory is only on the 40th floor, it’s one of the better Skydeck’s I have seen; it also has no crowds and costs only 1000-yen to enter. Inside the Observatory, you have beautiful 360-views of the city, a restaurant/bar, a café and souvenir store. Visitors are going to love, or hate, the long, almost vertical escalator that goes up or down for a very long way, it even has a few people who are afraid of heights forced to sit down on the escalator because of the fear. It’s quite fascinating I will admit.
Japan defeating Columbia in the World Cup
After eating dinner at popular Japanese franchise in Umeda, Torikizoku, a restaurant popular for its chicken skewers, I was keeping close tabs on the World Cup game between Japan and Colombia. The Japanese side were big underdogs to win.
With about 15-minutes left in the match, I knew Japan was in front and on the way back to the hotel I stopped into a crowded Irish Bar to watch the closing minutes of the match. The noise in the bar was through the roof, as anxious Japanese supporters held their collective breath in the hope their side would hold on for an upset win.
When the referee blew for the final whistle, Japan had pulled off an enormous victory and the locals in the pub erupted for wild scenes that were caught on my phone. Chants of Nippon, Nippon were echoing through the bar. As everyone was leaving at the conclusion of the match, I was standing at the doorway where everyone who walked past me gave me a high-five on the way out, I couldn’t help but get involved in the celebrations.
The high-fives continued at different times on the walk back to the hotel, with proud Japanese locals out in the city, proudly wearing their blue samurai tops and celebrating a big win. It was a great time to be in Japan and I found it an appropriate that the final night in Japan was amongst happy locals.
Farewell Japan, it was Osaka Kyoto Tour to Remember
Farewell Japan and what an incredible journey it had been. Osaka is a fascinating city with plenty to do and see, but my heart will fondly remember the time spent in Kyoto most, a city with beautiful scenery and breathtaking temples.
It was my first trip to Japan, but it won’t be my last, because there is still so much of this country I must see, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. For now, it signs off my Osaka-Kyoto Diaries and I hope you enjoyed this journey with me in this fascinating country. Until next time, happy travels.