28 Jul Half day trip: Exploring two different sides of Osaka
Osaka is Japan’s second largest metropolitan area. Located in the Kansai region, the city has many attractions and different areas to explore. On a previous trip we stayed in Osaka but only used it as a base for getting to other areas. We decided to do a half day trip to Osaka while we were staying in Kyoto. It was a half day trip as we visited Himeji Castle in the morning. Although, we only spent a short amount of time in Osaka, we were able to get a great feel for the city. We visited two very different places…
Shitennoji temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan, founded by Prince Shotoku in 593. The buildings have been reconstructed several times over the years due to fires and typhoon damage. Each time they were done to replicate the original building style. Shitennoji underwent a complete reconstruction in 1963.
After walking straight from Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka station, we were met with a large stone gate leading to the temple grounds. Unfortunately I was unaware that Shitennoji was undergoing maintenance. A lot of the buildings were under cover, including the pagoda. Usually, the inner grounds can be entered for a fee. Due to the construction work we chose to just wander around the outside grounds, which are free. Note: in the above photo, the pagoda is visible. At closer look, the top half was uncovered while the rest was surrounded by scaffolding.
After passing the Northern bell tower, we came to Rokujiraisando, a hall that was showing its age. No longer a deep red or even a faded orange like the other buildings, the paint here was barely visible. In front of the hall was a stone bridge with a pond on each side. Sitting in the middle of one pond, basking in the sun were turtles. After spotting them, we noticed several more swimming around. Fletcher was very happy and we watched them swimming about while listening to the temple bells.
Once we had finished our turtle viewing, we strolled through the rest of the temple grounds. Along the way to the exit we saw some more temple buildings, gorgeous hydrangeas, a cemetery and omikuji tied in a tree. Omikuji are strips of fortune-telling paper. The fortunes are randomly selected and will be either good or bad. The former tied up so that the wind will carry away the bad fortune. This was my first time seeing omikuji in a tree, there are usually designated areas for tying them up.
We left Shitennoji via a different gate and walked to Tennoji Station, from there we took the Midosuji line to Namba Station.
After finding an elevator exit at Namba Station, we made our way past the Dotonbori Hotel. This hotel has a rather interesting street frontage, giant heads on legs. According to the hotel website the four statues were built to represent Asian, African, Arab, and Western cultures to show they provide hospitality to people from all around the world. No mention of why they have no bodies.
Dotonbori is a popular entertainment area and is famous for its food. On the top of many restaurants are large signs of the food they sell. Our first glimpse of this was a big red crab, sitting high above the street. We strolled along, looking at all the different restaurants and amazing signs, trying to take it all in. Dotonbori is a sensory overload, so much to look at, bustling with people and street vendors vying for your attention.
The street runs parallel to the Dotonbori Canal, which features the famous Glico billboard called running man. We walked up for a view of the canal and were entertained by all the people doing “the running man” pose in front of the billboard.
It was late afternoon when we arrived in Dotonbori and now the crowds were starting to fill the area. We decided to order something before the lines got too long.We chose to try Takoyaki – round batter balls filled with chopped octopus. I made a stop into a convenience store first to buy our nine month old a tub of yoghurt. My Dad ordered a tray of Takoyaki for us all to share, while the rest of us sat at a table out front. Although I still enjoyed them, the takoyaki didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I was expecting them to be crispy but they were more soft and doughy like. I’m not sure if my expectations were wrong.
We would have loved to try heaps more food, the crab legs looked delicious, but it was getting busier and we didn’t want to be too late back with the kids. We walked back to Namba Station and made the journey back to Kyoto.
There is still so much more of Osaka we are yet to see but we did enjoy our half day trip, exploring two very different but, equally interesting areas of this exciting city.