The day started pleasantly, leaving Kyoto around 10:30 am after grabbing a light breakfast on our way to the train station. It only took an hour or so to get to Osaka from Kyoto, and on the Hankyu line of trains it costs a mere 380 Yen! So we were in Osaka before noon, bought a Friday all day pass that included entrance to the famous Osaka aquarium, and headed to Shinimamiya for lunch. The area has some great side streets that are fun just to walk and eat. Although there are many famous foods from Osaka, by far the most popular would be Takoyaki, which are kind of little bite size Octopus dumplings but they’re breadier and you add sauce, mayonnaise (the Japanese version, not that crappy American stuff!), and seaweed on top. Andrew and I grabbed two boxes to go and made our way to the pier.
Apparently the largest Ferris wheel in the world from 1997-1999 is located on the Osaka pier and we were able to hop on it right before a huge group of elementary students invaded!
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Haha, it was a fun twenty-minute loop that brought you high above the city where you could look out onto the ocean. While riding up in the car we ate a quick bite of Takoyaki (shh, don’t tell the Ferris wheelers…if that’s the correct term for someone who works at a Ferris wheel…), and walked down to the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium. Inside the aquarium’s largest tank there are two mammoth whale sharks, the first time Andrew had ever seen them, and only my second. We came in time to see a very funny penguin feeding in which this baby penguin was practically force fed a fish that had to be at least a quarter of its body weight! After the penguins we headed to the giant tank where the whale sharks were fed. The way that they just suck in gallons and gallons of water and shoot it out their gills is truly incredible. And to know that something that large truly survives off of krill so tiny, that still blows my mind!
Anyway, after the aquarium we went to the large Osaka-Jo Castle. It truly is an incredible building, despite being a recreation of its previous glory. We didn’t have time to tour the inside, but the grounds are still quite nice. After a good walk through the park, we began our way to Dotonburi, perhaps the most infamous gourmet street in Japan. Truly renown for its selection, quality, and history, the area at the center of Shinbashi and Dotonburi are awesome streets to meander. Plus after dark the entire place becomes one blaze of neon, noise, and smells. It was quite unique to any other food street I’ve been to in Japan, and I think I could have wasted months, if not years, simply choosing a different restaurant each night!
And to top it all off, I finally got to be reunited with my incredible Japanese tutor, Taeko Ueno, who was the first person to begin teaching me Japanese back at St. Olaf college. She came to Northfield last year on the Fulbright exchange and this year she got a job as an English teacher back in her home city of Osaka. This night has been something we’ve wanted to do ever since last summer, so I’m so glad we were able to have a delicious Okonomiyaki dinner, walk the streets, eat a scrumptious crepe dessert, and catch up (sometimes in English and sometimes in Japanese!) about each other’s past year. Andrew really liked Taeko as well and I could tell he had fun seeing the city from a local’s point of view. It’s always fun to have someone who knows the area well show you around. But like all good reunions, we soon had to say good-bye and Andrew and I were back on the late train to Kyoto.
Back to the present, last night I actually went up to visit my ALT English teacher friends in Otawara (the bigger city located about 30 minutes north of here) where we had a fun night of catching up, eating greasy (yet very much missed) Western food, and singin karaoke. Grace Lee and Kris Burridge are the two ALTs who come to the Bato schools so I’ve gotten to know them both quite well, and it was super fun getting to know some of their friends better as well. Fun night! Thanks you guys =)