Well, if you had read my previous 2 posts on how N and I gorged ourselves silly with takoyaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba and fluffy pancakes, you would have roughly covered the cannot-miss goodies in Osaka.
Even then, they can’t fill every hour of our time in Osaka!
In between restaurants that received thousands of recommendations on TripAdvisor or Timeout Japan (which to me was one of the more reliable guides to Japan’s sightseeing), we do and eat things to pass our time.
For example, we went to Kyoto to have Inari sushi at Inari Fuhimi Taisha and get xiong xiong to kiss under the bamboo canopy.
In Osaka itself, we went to Osaka Castle.
The trip to Osaka Castle was one with hits and misses. For example, when we first reached the place, we were amazed how barren the place was (somehow our experience at Kyoto Imperial Palace was did not forewarn us enough) – and it meant we were bearing the crazy heat directly from the scorching summer sun – so please, if you are one who hates the sun like me, avoid visiting Osaka Castle in summer!!
On the other hand, I actually ignored directions from popular sites and decided to find a way to Osaka Castle on my own.
We alighted at Osaka Business Park Station, which was on the green line, and crossed the moat to enter the grounds from its lesser known entrance – I think most online recommendations avoided this place as it is less intuitive to direct someone from “Osaka Business Park” which seemed like a different district across a “river”.
That being said, it provided a good introduction to the castle grounds, with an expansive park (which was also the only place sheltered from the sun, thanks to the rich canopy) and a gradual slope through the Aoyamon Gate (literally meant Green House Gate).
Entering the castle grounds from Aoyamon Gate also meant that we got to catch a view of the castle from a less crowded vantage point! I mean, this is what all tourists want, right? To be able to take photos without ALL the photobombs!
The queue up to the observation deck of the castle was also long – imagine being stuck in a queue under the hot sun! Since my philosophy of travel advises me (and everyone reading my blog) not to go up to the observation deck (in case you’re wondering, be aware that when you are inside the landmark, you can’t see the landmark), so just walked 1 round at the base of the castle and planned our escape route.
We headed south, where the bulk of the tourists were coming from, which was also a long slope that we were glad we didn’t take!
We ended our Osaka Castle visit with a loooong flight of steps that would have killed all excitement of seeing the castle were we to start our visit from there!
Tennoji Food Court at Abeno Q’s Mall
Since we were out of Dotonburi (and the jingle “ta-ta-takoyaki~”), we also dropped by Abeno Q’s Mall, at the junction of Tennoji train station (translated as Heavenly King) on red line and Abeno train station on the purple line.
Although it was your run-of-the-mill Japanese shopping mall, it offered respite from the damning summer heat (Dotonburi was an open air shopping district) as well as the touristy food.
It was interesting to be mixing with the locals going about their daily lives, “grabbing seats” at the food court with students who just got off school and were doing their homework/assignments.
In case you were wondering, I ordered Chicken Katsu Don, found everywhere in Singapore, but somehow not in Dotonburi!
Kushikatsu Daruma Dotombori
And speaking of fried food, at the junction in Dotonburi where we had Kinryu ramen and Bonkuraya okonomiyaki, was a store with a giant chef (supposed to be that of the founder) fronting its building facade.
Kushikatsu Daruma specialises in deep fried food in light breaded skin, which reduces the extent deep frying “spoils” the original taste of the food.
The menu offers a set of items, where one can also top up with a la carte. N and I only ordered enough for 1 pax, since we were there for the experience.
Another unique thing about Kushikatsu Daruma was its dark soy sauce, where you just dip your agemono into before eating. The sauce was never changed, so it collects all the essence of fried food dipped from the past. And because of this, there was a no-second-dipping rule, written in multiple languages.
But as someone who has seen enough of human behaviour, I was super-skeptical how much bodily fluids that pot of sauce collected.
However, I think the most irrational part of the sauce’s existence was the store’s philosophy of maintaining the “original taste” of the food – they minimised the batter to retain the original taste, but asks you to dip it into a strong-salty sauce for flavouring?
The place was also cramped and the floor was slippery from oil. Climbing up the narrow wooden stairs to the dining area was also challenging. But I guess my ultimate no-no was the stench in the place – smelled like wet towels left to dry in an unventilated place (which the place was) for many days.
Only visit if you are really bored out.
Umeda Sky Building
And then I digressed. Another interesting outing that we took outside of Dotonburi was Umeda Sky Building.
Like I mentioned in my travelogue to Kyoto, we were back from our day trip to Kyoto by late afternoon. Since we had to change trains at Osaka/Umeda Station on the JR line north of Osaka, we thought we might as well spend some time in the area.
Umeda Sky Building was a unique building in itself. It was like a rectangular block, but I would describe it as 2 flat washboard buildings connected with skybridges. The first skybridge connects at about midway up the building, which I didn’t think was accessible to visitors, and the other one was at the top of the building, which also acted as the observation deck.
At the top, the observation deck spans across the 2 towers with a gaping hole in the middle, which gave the building its unique look.
We followed the signs to the observation deck, which started from a link bridge from one tower to another at level 2, followed by an elevator ride to the entrance of the observation deck, where we took the escalator ride that was suspended over the void beneath the gaping hole, into the main observation deck.
To be frank, there was nothing to be afraid of, as the escalators were well covered up; it was impossible to “drop” off the escalator into the plaza 170m below. The trusses supporting the escalators were a mood-dasher, but in between them, one can see the view that the observation deck could offer.
At the top, there was a gift shop and a restaurant (the latter was only open to diners, but I bet the view would be superb!). We spent some time over at the gift shop as the view was already good enough!
OK, it was because going up to the open air observation deck cost money, and I thought the view was superb enough at the gift shop level.
And it was air-conditioned.
On a hot summer afternoon >.<
The walk to and from Umeda Sky Building was a killer, though. We had walked 8 hours in Kyoto and I was feeling the fatigue. The summer heat and sun was also at its most grilling state. However, I believe if I were to return on a cool Spring or Autumn day or early in the morning, I would be in a more chirpy mood lol
Beat the Heat
And speaking of the summer heat, it was so warm that I was forced to eat tonnes of cold desserts in order to cool myself! Here are some of the interesting sweets we had
Ice Cream Cone at Bite Burger just off Namba station exit. There were 12 flavours to choose from and each soft serve ice cream was rich and soothing from tongue to toe!
They also serve Western snacks like fries, which is good for a quick bite while shopping!
Crepe from Dekitate Kubou at basement of Namba Marui (where the Uniqlo store was, just beside Namba station). There is (limited) seating for one to rest their legs from the shopping while pamper their tummies with soft, creamy crepes!
Shaved Ice a la Hawaiian style, while watching the busy junction between Takashimaya and Dotonburi, a la Shibuya Crossing style! The shop front is a small, unassuming hole-in-the-wall, but around the counter is a flight of steps that lead to the upper floors owned by the same store. The 3rd level (also the highest) had counter seats by the window overlooking the junction and offered one a sheltered, beautiful view of the busy Japanese streets. (There is currently no Google Maps pin for the store, but it’s directly facing the Starbucks on the same side of the road opposite Takashimaya).
Be Calbee-ed at the far end of Shinsaibashi (yes, you would have to traverse the length of the busy shopping street). We chanced upon it on our way back from Daimaru and dropped in to buy piping hot Calbee potato chips fresh off the stove! To be frank, the ones we had in Tokyo felt more umami, but nothing really beats eating freshly cooked, world famous potato chips! Find Calbee+ 大阪心斎橋店 at 1 Chome-5-18 Shinsaibashisuji, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0085, Japan.
Another comfort food we tried was their gigantic meat bao from 551 Horai (don’t ask me why they have such a morbid name). Their stall was by a busy junction and even though I am not a bao person, after catching a whiff of their baos for the Nth time passing by the junction, I just could not resist the urge to bite into their juicy tender meat bao. Totally worth the calories!
Last, but not least, remember to drop by the famous cheescake stall (Rikuro-Ojisan no Cafe) in Namba; you can’t miss it from the long queues. Watch the baker carry a huge tray of jiggly cakes, stamp them with their hot iron stamp, and then serve the cake right in front of you, piping hot! The cake’s big, so be aware of not over-buying. It doesn’t taste good after putting into the fridge, so it’s really better to finish it as soon as you buy it!
Do find some time away from those touristy spots, like Osaka Castle, which one should visit at least once for the cultural been-there-done that, to enjoy some city living at one of the many ubiquitous food courts and shopping malls in Osaka. Yes, they’re a dime a dozen in Japan, but it’s up to one to spot the subtle cultural differences in Osaka from, say, Tokyo!
Isn’t this what travelling is all about?
With this, I end my travelogue to Osaka last summer. I hope I was able to give some inspiration on what to try and what to avoid from my trip reports.
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I had previously blogged about our day trip to Kyoto and our hunt for pancakes around Osaka, Takoyaki and Taiyaki, Okonomiyaki / Yakisoba / Tsukemen, staying at Holiday Inn Osaka Namba and of course, my Business Class experience on Cathay Pacific from Singapore to Osaka via Hong Kong. Follow Live.Life.Love to get updates on my travelogue to Osaka, Japan and get inspired for your summer vacation!
Till then, stay wanderlust and eat happy!
All photos and videos in this blog post were taken with Google Pixel XL and edited (where necessary) with Google Snapseed app.
Where to Find Them
(Although I think they are famous enough…)
1-1 Ōsakajō, Chūō-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 540-0002, Japan
Abeno Q’s Mall あべのキューズモール
1 Chome-6-１ Abenosuji, Abeno-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 545-0052, Japan
Kushikatsu Daruma Dotombori
1 Chome-6-4 Dōtonbori, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0071, Japan
Umeda Sky Building 梅田スカイビル]
1 Chome-1-８７ Ōyodonaka, Kita-ku,
Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 531-6023, Japan