A May 2003 trip
to Osaka by Composthp
Quote: Osaka is a cosmopolitan city with its own identity and culture. This is the city of the working class, down-to-earth, but nevertheless, colorful. The city really comes alive at night.
Osaka was our gateway to Honshu, Japan. We arrived at Kansai International airport on an overnight flight and was immediately struck by the similiarities between Kansai and Hong Kong's airport. We followed the signs and was soon on our way to the city center of Namba via the subway. It took about 50 minutes and costs 890 yen or US$7.50.
The center of attraction is Osaka-jo (Osaka castle) but perhaps the most memorable experience was people-watching at America-mura, popular among teenagers dressed in multi-colored layers (1 tank-top, jacket, stylish hat, frilly, translucent skirt with denim jeans) chasing that elusive American dream.
Undaunted, we caught a glimpse of purple irises through the wooden gates and decided to explore the rest of the park.
The first sound that greeted us after alighting the bus just outside the park is the sing-song voice of an elderly gentleman. Under a bridge, a group of elderly citizens were having a karaoke session.
The first sight that greeted us were families, bird watchers, bicyclists, joggers etc. It was obviously a park where locals frequent.
Climbing past a small hill next to the iris garden, we were greeted by another sight. A canal/river? flanked with bridges, teenagers hanging out, couples courting, and amateur anglers patiently waiting for their big catch.
It looked like one of those scenes commonly seen in Japanese soap operas. Deja-vu again.
Getting to the park was an adventure by itself. We approached a travel agency at the Namba subway station (information center closes on Sundays) and after much consultation and searching through websites, the kind lady printed us a beautiful set of directions. Wow, we were impressed by their service.
To get there:
Take the subway to JR Osaka station and hop on bus No. 100. Alight at Shirokita Koen-mae Stop (look out for the sign board above the bus-driver announcing the approaching stops). The journey takes about 30 minutes. In Japan, passengers board the bus from the back door and alight at the front, after paying the appropriate fare. Be sure to remember to take a ticket when boarding and take note of the number. The fare is shown on an electronic board at the front of the bus according to the number of the ticket.
Go here for more information.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 6, 2003
3, Ikue, Asahi-ku
Attraction | "Osaka Castle"
The interior building traces the history of the castle through the Toyotomi period to the present day. It also houses Osaka's most significant historical and cultural artifacts. The observatory deck at the 8th floor gives a panoramic view of the city.
This castle has lifts installed interiorly, however, healthy public members are encouraged to use the stairs. Lifts are operated manually and will bring visitors to the 4th floor where the latter will then continue on foot. Only the handicapped or the elderly will be able to reach all the way to the observatory deck via the elevator.
Admission to the castle is 600 yen and can be purchased via a vending machine just to the right of the main entrance. It is open from 9am-5pm. A 100 yen discount is given if you have purchased the Welcome Osaka one-day subway card. Be sure to produce it at the ticketing booth before purchasing the tickets.
Visit this website for more details.
It is a 15-minute walk from the Tanimachi 4 chome station on Subway Tanimachi or Chuo line. Look out for the castle tower once you are on the main road.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 4, 2003
Osaka Castle Park
+81 (0)6 6941 3044
While boisterous tourists arrive by the coach-load to the castle itself, this tranquil garden seemed to be favored by the locals. When we arrived, there was a group of avid bird-watchers who had "parked" themselves at choice spots with their heavy-duty binoculars and comfortable stools, a couple busy photographing each other, and a young family of four having a picnic: scenes of ordinary people leading ordinary lives.
The garden is also the site of a former Osaka guest house and an ensyo gura or ammunition storehouse. We spent some time exploring the beautiful garden and followed what the locals did: bird-watched and took photos of each other.
There is a separate entry fee of 200 yen. Access is via the Ote Gate. Opening hours is from 9am - 5pm.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 5, 2003
Past West Outer Moat of Osaka Castle
The JR train stations are the best places for food. Practically every major JR train station we went has at least one supermarket and lots of little counters selling everything from bentos (takeaway lunch boxes and sushi) to mochi (rice-cakes filled usually with red bean paste) and other local delights.
At Namba station (Osaka), it was Takashimaya, a well-established retailer in Japan and S.E. Asia. The basement, located just near exits 5 - 10 is a boon for budget travellers like us. We bought our breakfasts from the bakaries and pick our dinners from the many counters selling freshly deep-fried assorted tempura,grilled yakitori (skewered meat) salads, sushi (Tokyo style and Kansai style), sashimi, bento sets (rice-box sets with assorted dishes), etc. The variety is just mouth-watering and eye-boggling. We managed to sample quite a variety of food without burning a hole in our wallets. If you come after 6 pm, food will be sold at a discounted rate as many prepare to close for the day!
The strangest thing was that my friend was constantly being asked to sample the food (it pays to blend in after all) without purchasing so we were snacking away while trying to decide on our dinner for the day.
The cheapest meal we had was the 220 yen (US$2) udon at a little cubby hole in one of the shopping lanes next to Namba bus station. Patrons are required to pay by selecting the desired dish from the vending machines placed near the entrances/exits. The receipt is then given to the cooks who will then serve the dish. The "restaurant" is basic, water is free but self-service and after observing local patrons, I think patrons are also expected to wipe down the counter after finishing the food with a dish-cloth conveniently placed at the counter every two to three seats.
Namba has endless streets of pachinko parlours (little silver balls that spins and spins...an addictive favorite Japanese pastime), restaurants and retail shops. The Den Den town (located just behind the Namba station) is a must visit for those interested in the latest electronic gadgets. Somehow, these streets are linked, we soon found ourselves passing Dotombori (look out for famed Giant crab sign-board seen commonly in postcards) and in Shinsaibashi, another shopping haven one subway station away.
Another interesting place to shop and people-watch is America-Mura (American village). Shops here sell mainly imported American goods (including used or otherwise). There is one shop that sells only Christmas decor, needless to say, the name of the shop is Santa claus shop (or is it Christmas shop), another sells stuff like playmobile toys, that will remind you of your childhood days (it certainly reminded me).
If you are tired of shopping, people-watching is just as interesting. Teenagers and young adults flock this area dressed in the most interesting gab. Besides the usual multi-colored hair, there are those who dressed in multi-layers. Imagine 2-3 layers of tops in contrasting/clashing colors with frilly see-through skirts and jeans. Imagine Victorian-styled dresses (in layers and usually black) with lacy caps that the ladies of yore wore only to bed. Most interesting ne? Best time to visit? Afternoons and particularly on weekends but beware of your wallets.
To get to Namba, um...(we stayed there actually but..) hop onto the subway and head for Namba station.
To get to America-mura, hop onto the subway and get off at Shinsaibashi station. Look out for signs for further directions. It's about a three minute walk.
For more information on Osaka, go here.