A Great Night’s Sleep
I can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but Korea is not known for its mattresses. My mattress and my coworker’s mattresses, I’m told, are not comfortable. The hostel we stay at in Seoul does not have comfortable mattresses either. However, the mattress in our room in Osaka was very comfortable and I ended up getting a great night’s sleep.
Takoyaki at Osaka Castle
Nicole and my first stop of the day was at Osaka Castle. It’s a giant 400-year-old castle with several exterior walls and moats and, much like Central Park, its right in the middle of central Osaka. Nicole and I got off at the subway stop for the castle and walked through the park surrounding the castle. We bought some coffees and Takoyaki for breakfast and ate beside a fountain before exploring the castle.
Takoyaki are pieces of fried minced octopus covered in a sauce similar to Worcestershire and mayonnaise. For about $4 you can get a dozen balls of Takoyaki. They were a delicious way to start the day.
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After breakfast, we made our way over the numerous moats and through the external walls into the central castle. Out front of the actual castle, we met a Chinese couple with a neat polaroid camera. They took a cool picture of the two of us in front of the castle.
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The castle itself was really impressive. From the top of the castle, 8 stories above Osaka Castle Park, we had a great view of the city. Nicole and I took some photos and slowly made our way back down through the inside of the castle. Each floor had a different section of the castle’s history in it. The castle changed hands numerous times in its history, repeatedly being sacked and burned then rebuilt. The scale on which the battles for the castle were fought were really impressive. Some battles had as many as 150,000 soldiers on one side.
Osaka Station and the Umeda Sky Building
From the castle, Nicole and I took the subway to Osaka Station, Osaka’s answer to Grand Central. The station is massive and filled with numerous shops and restaurants.
The reason we went to Osaka Station was to visit the Umeda Sky building. It’s actually two separate buildings connected on the top floor by a walkway. The view from the top is incredible. On the top floor, there are little booths for couple’s to sit at and look out over the city. Nicole and I got a few great photos from up there then went to get some food.
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We walked back towards Osaka Station and found a little underground food court along the way. Inside we found a cheesy little German restaurant. Nicole and I got some nice IPAs, which are few and far between in Korea and enjoyed a nice order of fish and chips. I dared Nicole to drink a shot of malt vinegar in exchange for a giant Totoro doll. She downed the vinegar like a champ and I owed her a Totoro doll.
Sega Joypolis and Photo Booth Fun
After lunch, Nicole and I headed over to the Sega Joypolis, a giant arcade near the train station and sky building. The arcade itself was like a smaller version of Disney Quest in Orlando, Florida. There were tons of arcade games with everything from fighting games to the claw games where you can win prizes. Nicole and I since arriving in Japan had become obsessed with this drum game that’s like Dance Dance Revolution. It’s a blast to play and we stopped at every arcade we say to play at least one game of it.
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Upstairs there were two floors of photo booths. It was bananas. The floors were filled with teenage girls. Japanese girls love photo booths. Each booth not only took your photo but photoshopped your face into something almost unrecognizable. All the booths made your eyes much larger and smoothed out any blemishes or wrinkles on your face.
In the pictures we took, the machine automatically removed my beard and made Nicole’s already large eyes gigantic. After you took your photos and the machine photoshopped your face into smooth featureless dolphin’s skin, it was time to add stickers and stamps to your pictures on the touch screen behind it. The ad suggested uploading your photos to your blog afterward, so of course, I had to.
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The Japanese girls we saw there took the whole process very seriously. There was a shop on the top floor that would rent out clothes to girls for their photo booth pictures. We even saw two girls with rolling suitcases heading for one of the photo booths.
Umeda Sky Building at Sunset
After an hour or so of arcade fun, Nicole and I headed back over to the Umeda Sky Building to watch the sunset and grab a drink. The view from the top of the building at sunset is amazing. The whole city is bathed in the amber glow of the setting sun which gives way to the dark blue of night. I really enjoyed the contrast in color and I think it shows in a few of the photos I was able to take.
After the sun went down, Nicole and I got some drinks at the bar on the top floor. For being on the top floor of a tourist attraction, the drinks were reasonably priced and the Gin & Tonic I got was delicious.
Conveyor Belt Sushi
At this point, the two of us were starting to get hungry so we made our way back to the Dontonbori area and got some conveyor belt sushi. This was quite an experience in and of itself. The sushi wasn’t as good as the night before, but it was delicious, plentiful, and cheap. You walk in and the general layout is a conveyor belt in an oval patter circling the center of the room. Inside the oval are a handful of sushi chefs making sushi nonstop. Around the outside of the oval conveyor belt are seats and a little bar.
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When you see an open seat, or two in our case, you walk over and sit down. At each seat, there’s a wooden box with ginger, two boxes of tea powder, and a tap with boiling water. The tea is free as is the ginger. All you pay for are the plates of sushi you eat and each plate is only about $1. Nicole and I got about 15 plates total, 2 pieces per plate, so about 30 pieces of sushi and two teas for only $11. It was a glorious experience and the first of many on our trip.
We walked back to our AirBnB and soaked in the hot tub which was now up and running. One of the deciding factors of where we stayed was the hot tub on the roof. Since it wasn’t working last night, Nicole and I made sure to make use of it this night. We planned out our adventures for the next day in Nara as well and aimed to get an early start.