May 25, 2013
J-Hoppers Osaka Guesthouse
It was a beautiful morning as we took our last bullet train ride from Hiroshima to Osaka, the final stop on our trip through Japan. Though we are tired and our legs hurt, I know I’m not ready to go home. Everything about this trip has been great, the sites we’ve seen, the food we’ve eaten and the people we’ve met, everything has exceeded our expectations. In a few years we’d like to come back and see the northern part of Japan and the southern islands, I think it would be interesting to compare the more rural areas to the big cities we’ve experienced. Speaking of big cities, Osaka is huge! For some reason I find it more confusing than Tokyo, it seems like there’s more hustle and bustle here, especially in the train stations.
I completely forgot that today was a Saturday when I suggested going to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, but the crowd out front clued me in. So far we’ve been pretty lucky with manageable crowds at each place we’ve visited, but this was another story. I debated turning around and getting back on the subway (I really hate crowds), but we only have 2 days before we leave so I sucked it up and let the crowd swallow me.
Once inside the aquarium you walk through a short tunnel, surrounded on three sides by a massive tank and lazily floating fish.
The tunnel then spits you out into the Japanese forrest where the air feels cleaner and the light has the same quality as sunshine. The first aquatic animals you meet are 4 otters, sleeping together in a clump, and they could not be cuter. Unfortunately, everyone else thought they were adorable as well and it was next to impossible to get close to the habitat. People were piled in four deep and for the first time in Japan there were people pushing each other. Not my cup of tea so I snapped this blurry pic and moved on.
The aquarium brings you through several habitats (Pacific Ocean, Antarctic, Deep Sea, Cook Straight) and introduces you to wide variety of aquatic organisms. My favourites were the otters and sea lions, dolphins, porcupinefish, jellyfish and whatever this guy is.
I also loved the giant turtles and could have watched them all day.
Jeff’s favourite is this guy who he insists looks surprised from being trapped under a rock.
The museum also has some interactive exhibits, which are my favourite, and I took advantage of the opportunity to pet a few manta rays, who are slimy in case anyone was wondering.
Later that night we took a trip to the Umeda Sky Building, two 40-story buildings connected at the top by bridges and escalators. I had read it was a great place to get a view of the city and because I missed Jeff’s trip to Roppongi, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
The views were pretty great, even when you looked straight down. There’s a giant hole in the centre of the obseratory area and you can see between the escalators that help you reach the top floor.
There’s also an area with a bunch of heart lockets with people’s names engraved. I couldn’t find any signs in English explaining the significance, but I heard the Sky Building was a popular date spot so maybe that had something to do with it.
We managed to make it just before sunset so for a while the sky was streaked with pink and orange.
As it got darker, the city began to light up and the skyline really took shape. I wish we could have stayed to see the complete shift from day to night but it was pretty windy and cold up there and we were both pretty hungry.
We took the subway down to the Dotonbori neighbourhood, a super popular tourist spot that runs along the canal and used to be a pleasure district. Today, Dotonbori is a schizophrenic mix of neon billboards, mechanized signs and tons of restaurants.
Starving by the point we popped into the first sushi joint we saw and were immediately greeted with cries of “irashaimase!” from every chef and server in the place. The energy level was high with the sushi chefs cracking jokes to one another and the servers zipping around, refilling green tea and resetting place settings. We watched the chefs work for a bit while we decided what to eat. We even saw one chef grab a hunk of tuna and expertly slice off a piece for sashima.
Jeff went with an assorted mix of nigiri (tuna, shrimp, egg, white fish, red snapper, squid and a couple rolls), where I opted to try the California rolls. I was interested to see the difference from the ones I usually get back home seeing as the California roll was invented in the US in the 1970s.
In Japan (or at least in this restaurant), California rolls have salmon instead of crab and lettuce instead of cucumber. Not having the cucumber makes me miss that crunch on your first bite, but they were still so good and I think I prefer the salmon over the imitation crab.
Feeling full we wandered through Dotonbori a bit, mostly people watching. We walked to the end of the strip where it was much darker, looking one way it’s a residential area…
And looking the other way it becomes an electric circus…