Updated: Sep 29, 2019
We were looking forward to experiencing the city of Osaka with its 10,5 million people it is the 2ndlargest city in Japan and the 13thlargest in the world.
We decided to take the super-fast train, the Shinkansen from Tokyo, though it was quite expensive. It was 14,500 Yen per adult and kids were 50% off.
We have talked about this train for months, and something which all four of us really had looked forward to. And it was fast! You could feel the speed in your body, and walking about in the train was a challenge due to the high speed.
The experience lived up to our expectations and we enjoyed the ride.
In Osaka, we were fortunate to have friends, who took us to the Osaka Castle. We have been watching the Shogun series from 1980 with Richard Chamberlain, to learn a bit about Japanese history in an entertaining way for the whole family. It might be a bit macabre at times, but it’s good way to learn some basic Japanese and be introduced to the history and some culture.
As Osaka Castle plays an important role in that tv show, it was even more fun to visit. Like with Tokyo it very easy to get around with the train and metro.
It was a hot day when we visited, but we managed as the castle is airconditioned. On that, air conditioning, we learned something very interesting that many other countries could learn from.
To save energy during the summer months, companies and households are asked to keep the A/C temperature at 28 degrees C and instead wear clothes appropriate for the weather, which has meant wearing less formal clothes to work.
This campaign known as the Cool Biz was first initiated in 2011 after the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster and now again in 2019 with great success.
Dotonburi area and it’s buzzling life from food stands, restaurants, shops, people and this market style place, in which the roads that are mostly covered, is a great place for any kind of food – Japanese food that is and for just a stroll.
We first just went there for a walk, but as it was near Namba station and to where we were staying in a small Airbnb apartment, small as they are in Japan, we ended up going there several times. But it’s not only the food we went for.
There is a small river passing through attracting loads of tourists making it a cozy place, but adding the Japanese touch with huge neon signs and commercials all over, lanterns, crowds and the smell of Takoyaki, a ball shaped snack with a flour batter a small piece of octopus in side and then cooked in a molded pan, or other street food, you need to go and have a look for yourself.
It’s super crowded at night and slightly less so during the day. You also find lots of Kobe beef everywhere here – even served grilled on a stick. All of our Japanese friends, however, told us that the Japanese rarely buys Kobe beef, as many other versions of beef just as good or even better is available.
It just happened that Kobe beef became popular in the US, and then it’s taken on as the best beef in the world. Great for export, tourism and Japan.
Get Up in the Air with Don Quixote in Osaka
Something else along the river in Dotonburi was this big ovular ferris wheel style experience that the boys convinced us to do. We were somewhat reluctant, as it seemed a bit taggy, very bright and probably overpriced right in the heart of the busiest place in Osaka.
The Don Quixote Ferris Wheel was a really great experience, as you get a great view of the Dotonburi area, you see how the city is build up by very narrow houses and skyscrapers side by side, the contrast of new vs. old, the construction of new houses, and as you get up higher you get a great view of the city of Osaka.
The sun was setting as we went up and down this 77 meters or 252 feet ovular ferris wheel, but it was a super great family experience and what a beautiful sunset we got to enjoy.
Foodies - This Is For You
There are all types of food available in Osaka, and in Dotonburi in particular. We enjoyed the restaurants there and street food equally. One place that should be highlighted was the restaurant Ichiran with the classic Ramen (noodles in a broth with meat and vegetables). They are open 24/7, located right on the river, and you eat sitting by a desk on a long row, each person in your own little booth. It might sound strange and not very social, but it is.
We were 8 people going together and we all loved the Ramen and the place. The idea behind the little booths is that you give full attention to the food you eat, focus on the dining experience and that we all need a moment of peace and quiet – and we couldn’t agree more, in particular in this buzzling city.
Although, we did not follow the rule of “no speaking policy”, which we only read about on our way out. https://en.ichiran.com/shop/kinki/dotonbori-main/
Bow to the Lion
There are lots of temples and shrines to be visited in Osaka, but we chose just a few and also stumbled upon some that we ended up visiting. The peace you find at these places feels wonderful and actually quite needed, when on the road as a family of full-time travelers, and probably because we have been traveling in some of the biggest cities for the last 10 days. One that we enjoyed in particular was the Namba Yasaka Shrine, with its lion head-shaped building measuring 12 by 11 meters, it is very eye-catching. Once again, we performed the ritual of praying like the locals and that everyone can partake in, that we explained in detail in this blogpost, Week 1, Tokyo, of 2 x bowing, 2 x clapping, praying and finally one last bow.
More for the Foodies
Back to food – yes, we are travelling foodies, and we spend quite a bit of our time walking around, stopping to have a look at various menus and trying lots of street food. The boys are fine with this and they are also finding their favorites and some no-goes here and there.
One of the boys is all about deserts and sweets and the other one is all about proper food or at least savory snacks. Just like their parents.
Dad being into proper food and mom, also loving proper food, but usually starts reading a menu at the deserts. We try a lot of different food, but a common favorite here in the heat is the Kakigori ice. It’s shredded ice from a block of ice, something that used to be a rare thing back in the days and a luxury treat for royalty only. It’s served in a bowl with flavoured syrup on top or with the green matcha tea powder, red bean paste and some mochis.
The kids are all about the flavored syrup kakigoris, mom is really into the bean paste and mochis and dad is less about deserts.
When travelling like we are doing at the moment, and usually not having a kitchen inviting us to greater culinary experiences, we have learned about the amazing basement of the department stores. It’s not as creepy as it sounds, it’s simply where you can buy all the food that you can imagine. There is all kinds of food, fresh food to bring home and cook yourself, and lots of delicious meals and snacks prepared for you to bring home. Here we can spend hours looking around, each one of us deciding what we feel like at that particular moment and then waiting for the discount signs to come out.
About an hour before closing time, most fresh and prepared food is sold with a great discount, and who is not in for a great deal on some delicious Japanese food? This is what we do, when we are not up for yet another restaurant visit, we eat in our hotel room or take it for a picnic some nice place. Here it’s worth mentioning that the Japanese do not walk around eating or drinking. You only eat and drink in designated areas.
We keep forgetting about this, but always realize after a couple of seconds, when we start walking with some street food or a Tapioca milk tea - another of mom’s favorite. It’s a milk tea with “pearls”, a slightly tough yelly ball ingredient, that you drink through a big wide straw. The locals like it very sweet, but you can ask “only a little sweet”, and you get it with what I would assume is similar to half a spoon of sugar. It comes in all kinds of drinks, milk tea, fruit flavored milk, green tea etc. and is delicious.
I guess it’s appropriate to finish this Osaka blogpost in the name of food, as Osaka is the capital of Japanese foods – we love it here!