Sunday, March 27, 2011
Osaka - the big finish
Sunday 13/02/2011 10:00, Kozenji, Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture
We woke up after a late-night manly beer / YouTube session and found out that Bartek, a morning bird, had already left for Kyoto to see some other temples we hadn't had time to visit two days before. Being already a bit tired from all the sightseeing we decided to take our time, said goodbye to our hosts and slowly headed for our last stop - Osaka.
Sunday 13/02/2011 11:00, Kyobashi Station, Osaka
We met up with Bartek and continued our excursion to the famous XVI century Osaka Castle. The streets looked kind of familiar and we all agreed that it was like a smaller, more compressed version of Tokyo. Unlike the neighbouring Kyoto or Nara, Osaka has always been a mainly commercial city. Thanks to its large seaport and continuous development since ancient times (with dynamic industrialization in the XIX century) Osaka ended up being Japan's second largest metropolitan area (just after the combined forces of Tokyo and Yokohama). Although there are still some historic places to visit (unfortunately and similarly to Tokyo, many of them were destroyed during World War II) they are overshadowed by a modern landscape of glass, steel and concrete. Compared to the nearby skyscrapers of Osaka Business Park, the castle seemed like a small and fragile handicraft, although itself being quite tall and beautiful. The castle grounds composed a pleasant, open to public park with street performers and additional buildings like gates, turrets and temples.
After having lunch and walking around the financial Chuo district we took a train to the harbor with a mandatory Ferris wheel (this one's called Tempozan) and decided to visit The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the largest in the world. The whole aquarium tour is built around an interesting concept: the visitors first go to the top floor and then descent around the main tank observing how the sea life changes with depth. Of course there are some other displays unconnected to this idea, showcasing around 500 different species of Pacific animals, from penguins to manta rays and whale sharks. As the sun was starting to set behind the Osaka Bay, we took a quick look at the Port and went back to the city, this time to the entertainment district of Namba.
Bartek and Tomek left to catch the evening Shinkansen back to Tokyo, whereas me and Javier headed for the touristic and lively Dotonbori street running alongside a channel of the same name. With its many theaters, shops and restaurants it proved to be a real pleasure district for both our eyes (the marvelous mechanized and neon signs) and stomachs (okonomiyaki, even better than in Kyoto). We saw the landmarkish Glico Man and the Giant Crab, met with Nadia and Jarek and had a great dinner. A perfect day, not ruined even by a stressful search for my bus stop in a rather confusing maze of passages and tunnels of the main Osaka Station in the business district of Umeda. Thanks to Javi's undying support I had managed to eventually board the bus a few minutes before its departure for Tokyo. We ran like crazy and I almost spat out my lungs. Waving goodbye to the astonishing Umeda Sky Building, I was content with how great the weekend turned out to be and happy to be going back home.
At that time I didn't know that a month later I would return to Osaka as a refugee from a quake hit and panicked Tokyo...