Welcome to Japan's third city
In one of those magazines the hotel gives out
for free, there was a
long piece on how Osaka is trying to rebrand itself to be a tourist
destination. On my previous 3 trips to Japan, we effectivly
skipped it (I once took the train in to Osaka to see a football
match). Knowning what I know now, perhaps I should have come
really is a foody town - more so than I think
Tokyo. Okonomiyaki is an example of a local dish (not very
common in Tokyo) where there is a dedicated community of restaurants
serving only this dish. There are a number of variations -
"modern" (like we had) has noodles cooked into it, while more
traditional is generally thinner and without the noodles. Our
place went over the top with a thick layer of toppings, but we saw
other places with signature sauces. This is great food to eat -
served hot, lots of fat and carbohydrates - just what you want on a
cold winter day.
Another opportunity for food excellence
Japan is Sushi. There is no shortage of sushi places in Japan
(but if you are looking for sushi places per block, I bet Vancouver has
any city in Japan beat), but like Canada, there are winners and
losers. Helen found a place a place that Anthony Bourdain visited
- a tiny 9 seat placed with just enough space for two people behind the
counter. It wasn't cheap, but the quality and service was
It's worth noting, the hosts
couldn't speak any English. Because we eat sushi enough, we
seemed to be able to get by and with a bit of help from other patrons
who happened to be bilingual, everyone had a good time. It was a
highlight for the trip.
Plum Blossom Garden at Osaka Castle
Osaka castle (a concrete reconstruction with an elevator up the middle)
wasn't on our itinerary. The Plum Blossom Garden was.
Blossom season moves up Japan with latitude, but also with
species. Before cherry blossoms arrive, plum blossoms are well
under way. While this was a winter trip, it turns out plum
blossoms at the castle were in full swing so we decided to make the
garden a destination.
The first that impressed me was all of the
photographers. What I didn't know until later in the day was that
today was a national holiday so I'm sure some people were out just
because it was a holiday day. We stumbled across a camera club
taking instruction in the garden, but there we many more "serious
amateurs" around - more tripods than many camera stores. Unlike
some other countries, I find in Japan, that photographers often have
very good tripods (and use them) - tripods are a relative rarity in
The gardens themselves were rather good. The flowers go from
bright white to quite a vivid pink and trees went from early blossoms
to almost done. Trying to combine a shot of the trees and the
castle (but not too focused) was a common composition. Some
particularly scenic trees had queues of photographers lining up for the
best branch and window to the castle shot.
A flurry of activity happened when a few birds arrived. These
Japanese White Eyes moved quickly from branch to branch, either looking
for bugs or nectar and the photographers tried to grab a shot
incorporating both elements. As quickly as they arrived, they
flew off to the next tree.
I don't know if it was special for the day or
always setup, but just outside the garden were a number of vendors
selling treats. We split a rather large Okonomiyaki and in the
cool winter weather it was fantastic.
Osaka Aquarium "Kaiyukan"
I'm somewhat torn on
aquariums. On one hand
caging an animal (especially something as clever as a dolphin) is not a
good thing. Unlike zoo's (which I'm also not generally a fan of
), most things in aquariums have significantly short lives in the
aquarium than they do in the wild. On the other hand, many thing
you see in an aquarium are at real risk of being damaged by humans in
the wild (see
dolphin friendly tuna) so the public relations benefit it huge,
especially for a nation that still loves it's whale meat. Osaka's
Aquarium is one of the best in the world, we were in town, we went.
What we didn't take into account is that the day we went was a national
holiday (Foundation Day) the the aquarium is probably the hotest ticket
While we arrived early, the place was already filled. The place
was completely overrun with children
but it is setup to handle these kinds of numbers. By the time
we left he aquarium, there was an admission lineup out of the building
and down into the plaza.
The aquarium setup is amazing. Unlike most spawling western
Aquariums where the tanks are built into this ground, Kaiyukan is
There is a 3+ story central tank that you walk around and then a number
of multi-story tanks arranged around the inner tank. The central
has the star attraction - two whale sharks that slowly swim around in
circles. It also has a Manta Ray and a number of smaller rays and
sharks. The acrylic walls are about a foot thick (they have a
sample near the exit) and apparently the construction of the aquarium
took more than a year's global supply of acrylic.
The outer tanks are themed for area's.
There is an antarctic
exhibit with two types of penguins, an amazing anchovy exhibit, and an
pacific exhibit with sun fish. In each exhibit they try to have
multiple species showing an eco system, but the more intelligent
(penguins, sea lions, dolphins) are in pretty baron tanks - probably
because they damage their tank mates.
I was particularly impressed with the octopus
of the tanks. The Vancouver Aquarium has octopus from time to
time, but I've never seen them active like this animal. Seeing an
octopus move, both with it's arm against the glass and with it's water
jets was quite impressive.
On the way out they had an exhibit of
jellyfish. These kinds of exhibits have become quite
popular - again the local aquarium did something similar. I
figure this isn't much of a step up from a large home aquarium, but
with the lights it's quite powerful. Again, impressed.
The Aquarium isn't for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed myself. The
next day we took a day to to Himeji
to see the castle
Tags: Japan(37), aquarium(15), food porn(9), plum blossoms(8), street food(5), sushi(5)
People: Mark(1), John(1), Helen(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Osaka
From: John Harvey Photo > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Osaka
i enjoyed reading your post, and your photos are beautiful. i am going to Osaka later this month and would love to visit that sushi place you went to. would you happen to still have the name and address?
Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 13:39:36
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:40:52 Edit
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