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Welcome to Japan's third city



Devil Themed TakeoutMaking Takoyaki
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 sooner.

Giant Crab

 
Finished Okonomiyaki
Osaka 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.


Flipping OkonomiyakiPainting Sauce On OkonomiyakiClose Up On Okonomiyaki Ingredients

Another opportunity for food excellence in 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 definitely memorable.

Bamboo SushiTwo Pieces Anago

Two Pieces Of TamagoFish With Skin OnEbi Maguro
 
  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

Helen And I In GardenPlum Blossoms

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.


Mark With Blossoms And Castle
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 Canada.

Photogroup Taking LessonPhotographers In Garden
 
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.

White Plum BlossomsWhite Blossoms And Castle With WallRed Plum Blossoms

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.

Japanese White Eye With BlossomsJapanese White Eyes With Early Blossoms

Kids At Candy Stand
I don't know if it was special for the day or they are 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.

Ingredients For TakoyakiCracking Eggs Into Okonomiyaki

Osaka Aquarium "Kaiyukan"

Kids In Front Of Australia Tank
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 in town.  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 basically huge cube.  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 tank 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. 

Feeding RayRay Eating FishEagle Ray

Manta Ray With Massive BloomWhale Shark Swimming By

Cyclone Of SardinesSunfish
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 animals (penguins, sea lions, dolphins) are in pretty baron tanks - probably because they damage their tank mates. 

Gentoo Penguin Swimming ByLoggerhead Sea Turtle
 
Octopus Suckers
I was particularly impressed with the octopus in one 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.

Octopus ArmOctopus Swimming By
 
Long Trails On Jellyfish
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.

Orange Bell Jellyfish

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.
 


Eagle Ray
Ray Eating Fish
Japanese White Eye With Blossoms
Species: Zosterops japonicus (Japanese White-eye)
Altitude: 16m (52 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: bird, Japan, plum blossoms
Plum Blossoms
Altitude: 28m (91 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: castle, plum blossoms
Painting Sauce On Okonomiyaki
Tags: food porn, Japan
Mark With Blossoms And Castle
Person: Mark
Altitude: 13m (42 feet)
Location: Go To...
Manta Ray With Massive Bloom
Tags: aquarium, bloom, Japan
Making Takoyaki
Tags: Japan, street food
Gentoo Penguin Swimming By
Octopus Swimming By
Ebi Maguro
Tags: food porn, Japan, sushi
Cracking Eggs Into Okonomiyaki
Tags: eggs, Japan, street food
Two Pieces Anago
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Ingredients For Takoyaki
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Giant Crab
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Finished Okonomiyaki
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Devil Themed Takeout
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Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Photographers In Garden
Tags: camera gear, garden, Japan, photographer, plum blossoms
Sunfish
White Blossoms And Castle With Wall
Tags: castle, Japan, plum blossoms
Close Up On Okonomiyaki Ingredients
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Red Plum Blossoms
Altitude: 16m (52 feet)
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Tags: garden, Japan, plum blossoms
Long Trails On Jellyfish
Tags: aquarium, jellyfish
Two Pieces Of Tamago
Tags: food porn, Japan, sushi
Bamboo Sushi
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Helen And I In Garden
Person: Helen, John
Altitude: 21m (68 feet)
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Kids At Candy Stand
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Octopus Arm
Orange Bell Jellyfish
Tags: aquarium, jellyfish
Octopus Suckers
Kids In Front Of Australia Tank
Feeding Ray
Whale Shark Swimming By
Cyclone Of Sardines
Fish With Skin On
Tags: food porn, Japan, sushi
Flipping Okonomiyaki
Tags: food porn, Japan
Photogroup Taking Lesson
Altitude: 5m (16 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, photographer, plum blossoms
White Plum Blossoms
Altitude: 15m (49 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, plum blossoms
Japanese White Eyes With Early Blossoms
Species: Zosterops japonicus (Japanese White-eye)
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: bird, Japan, plum blossoms
Tags: Japan(23), food porn(9), plum blossoms(8), street food(5), sushi(5), aquarium(3)
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?
ryan meany
Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 13:39:36

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