Thursday, 2 October 2014

Chuseok | Osaka Day 3

The adorably-named 'scum tunnel' which wasn't scummy in the slightest and actually very safe
On day 3 we went to see Osaka Castle, which sounded like a renovated version of what we'd seen at Fukuoka Castle, so we were pretty excited to see what the drawings in the south could only try to convey.

Like Fukuoka, Osaka Castle is in a huge park. Being a much bigger city, this park was enormous. I don't think we even managed to see half of it, but it looked like a really lovely place to go for a walk and just chill out.

"please take the photo quickly, the fountain is blowing towards me"

Climbing up a lot of steep steps and an incline, we arrived at the moat, which was this strange mix of clear water which was green due to pond weed, and bright orange...moss? It was so odd, because they kept it separated using those chains of buoys like you get in swimming pools.

I forgot to edit this photo and it was in Cinestyle, so forgive me for the blandness.
It was hot and muggy, so we paused to get some cool drinks after our climb. As well as drinks, we grabbed a cup of shaved ice each, which was a little underwhelming. I think it's just I'm so used to ice cream that I was expecting something quite different (no, I'd never had a shaved ice before then)

Bright gems!
Walking through an enormous gate into a walled compound, we could finally see the castle. I have to admit, it would have been very well protected back in the day.

Apparently the man who ordered the construction of this castle LOVED gold. It was his favourite thing, and he had it put into and onto pretty much all of his possessions. The inside of the castle is a museum, and the lower floors are full of gilt hand mirrors, furniture, even weapons and armour. The building itself is no exception, coated in gold decorations.

On a bright white building, glittering in the sun, it was really something quite wonderful to see.

At the top, you can walk all the way around an observation terrace and see all of Osaka spreading out around you. It's interesting, like Seoul, to see all these modern buildings interspersed with very distinctly traditional buildings.

At the bottom of the building, before leaving, there was an old man with a rack of traditional-looking clothes and some extravagant-looking helmets that I think the captains and generals of the army would have worn. For a measly 300 yen you could get kitted up in an outfit and take some photos, so I went for it.

Can I just say, these people must have been STRONG. I mean, I'd assume so, what with them being soldiers, but the helmet alone weighed a ton, let alone the jacket, which I think would have gone over or under a fair bit of armour.

He also gave me a sword, which was probably a bad idea.

Of course I chose the deer antler helmet.
After that, we had a break and planned our next destination, which ended up being the NHK building not too far away.

NHK is basically Japan's BBC and a lot of their broadcasting buildings have sections that are open to the public to have a look around.

Inside we only really found a children's section. Anything else was in Japanese so we weren't totally sure what to do. Of course, we still went into the children's section, and because we were the only ones there the staff seemed quite happy to humour us and help us use the interactive attractions.

"...over to you, Nick." "Thanks, Chelle."
There are loads of different bluescreen interactions you can try out, including one with an autocue, where you read out a simple little news intro. Sadly, the Japanese doesn't translate well into English, so it ended up being a lot shorter, so you ended up with about 10-15 seconds of us pulling faces and dancing while we waited for the 'broadcast' to end.

Having exhausted that option, we got back onto the subway and went to Umeda, where we were hoping to get to the Sky Garden for sometime around the sunset, but we also realised that this is where the Osaka Pokemon Center is, as well as a huge anime/manga merch store Nick found online. Throw in the fact we hadn't eaten yet, and we just decided to have a night viewing.

It seems to be a trend in Japan that the train stations are also huge shopping malls, with a big food court on the uppermost floors. I had a hitlist of traditional Japanese foods I wanted to try in 'the Nation's Kitchen', and we happened across a nice-looking okonomiyaki restaurant.

Did you mean: om nom nomiyaki?

We had a set meal each, Nick had a standard okonomiyaki and I had a modanyaki, so we had half and half. It's kind of like a pancakey omelette with cabbage and a load of other nice fillings, such as fish or pork, and lots of onions, cooked on a teppan hot plate. I'm pretty sure they're only flipped once, then topped with a really great sauce, mayo, and those strange dry flakes that seem to be ubiquitous in Japanese food. I think it's onion of some kind. Modanyaki (from the english word "modern" also has some yakisoba noodles thrown into the mix)

Over to wiki for a better description: okonomi meaning "what you want/like" and yaki meaning "cooked/grilled". It also tells me that the burgundy-coloured sauce is comparable to Worcestershire Sauce (I agree), and that the paper-thin flakey things are bonito flakes, which are apparently dried tuna?! Huh. That would explain the fish taste.

We also had some fried onigiri, which were great. Enough said.

After that, we went down a couple of floors to where the Pokemon Center is.

I only took one photo, because to be honest it IS just a big merch store. But I got my now-customary Pokemon pressed-penny (maybe I should start to make a charm bracelet) and there was a Halloween event going on. I always feel a bit bad going into the Centers after a while, because I start to realise that I don't really know any of the Pokemon, because of course other than the few superstars from the first 150, they focus on the new ones.

Before I move away from Umeda I'd like to point out this mind-bending fountain I saw in the station's forecourt area:

The patterns and designs you see in this video are all jets and beads of water, on a constant scrolling reel of images. Occasionally it would show the time and name of the place. I still don't really understand how they're doing this.

The sun was dripping away by now, so we headed to our next destination: Mandarake. Nick had found it online as being one of the biggest comic book stores in Osaka. Sadly, I was scared to take many photos in case I got shooed out by a shop assistant for being improper. (I hate playing the "sorry, I'm an ignorant foreigner" card, haha)

It was about 3-4 huge floors of merch, one was just shelf after shelf of manga and doujins, like the photo above. There was a huge cosplay section, figurines, more comics, retro and vintage paraphernalia, and probably a ton of other things I've forgotten about. It was also weirdly themed like a cave...I'm not sure why.

Finally, it was dark out, and we resumed our search for the Umeda Sky Building. Considering it was on every tourist brochure and possibly also other things such as train tickets and souvenirs, we'd assumed it would be easy to find. A major attraction. The star of Osaka.

I don't know if we're just terrible at following directions but it took us a lifetime to find. After walking through the BIGGEST shopping complex I've ever experienced (Maybe I was just a bit worried and tired, but I would put it at being larger than Westfields in London or the Bullring by a long shot. Smaller footprint, but more floors.) we eventually managed to find a long string of tourists and a glimpse of a very tall, and worryingly far away building.

I think really it just looked further than we thought, but it still took us quite a while to get there. It was by no means a short walk from the station, haha. Maybe I'm just lazy. (yes)

The lower half of the building is mostly stores and...nothing. We had a mysterious trek up one leg of the construction, which was just long corridors, escalators and elevators. Finally, we came out somewhere in the region of the 20th floor, to find a queue. Turns out the queue was for another elevator, which in turn just led to another escalator, and finally we were in a doughnut-shaped room with windows all the way around.

So actually, I think it's free to come this far up the Sky Building, you just can't go to the Sky Garden without paying. Even then, it's not that expensive considering the view.

anime establishing shot or what
Every window was a) packed and b) wonderful. We managed to find a window tucked away somewhere that people kept missing and snapped away for a good while before moving on. We decided, sappy as we are, to get a lock engraved so we could attach it to the railings at the top.

The view from the top.
Firstly, it's a bit terrifying. Secondly, it's...quite scary. Being in the open air that high up is always a little unnerving, especially when there's a breeze coming in. But then you look at the view and relax a little because everywhere you look there's twinkling lights, faraway business and happy people. It's quite sweet. There's also a huge balcony under and around the balcony you're allowed on. No accidents here.

Many thanks to the lovely Korean family that took this photo for us.
We had a lot of fun confusing some of the many Korean tourists we saw while we were out and about. If we happened to bump into any or needed to talk to them, we'd wish them a Happy Chuseok (in Korean) and watch the cogs whirr as they processed the strange situation of having a Westerner talk to you in Japan. I know I'd be confused if it were me, haha. Usually it led to a short conversation and lots of happy smiles, so I'm quite glad we did it.

Another fun point, they had a blacklight around the walkway, instead of bright white ones to dampen the view, which was nice, but it had an added bonus of making my dress glow the most incredible colours.

And that's it for day 3. Busy busy busy. For people that said they wanted a relaxing holiday, we definitely went and did a LOT.

Oh, and we met a cat on the way home. Hi cutie~
No? Okay. ㅠ__ㅠ


  1. Never had shaved ice?!!!! Slush puppies, halo halo? It took me a while - but the fountain was incredibly well timed pulses of water droplets.

    1. I never got to have slush puppies when I was younger and the Tango ice blasts I had were pretty much just iced drinks rather than any ice. I can't stand UK halo-halo, it's gross. Whereas this was thick-shaved with just syrup. It was okay. I feel like asian countries are not high on the traditional frozen dessert front, hahaah.


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