I had been looking forward to visiting Osaka, but right now I just don’t remember why. Maybe it was because of the local baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers. Maybe because of the food as the city is known as “Japan’s kitchen”. Maybe it was because everybody told me that the inhabitants of Osaka act a lot like the people in Cologne. I have no clue. So I set off this morning trying to find out what it was.
I could have used the shinkansen to go to Osaka quickly, but I decided to take the normal JR trains. The system is quite simple, you just go to the platform which shows the city you want to go to. What’s difficult is finding out which train is fast and which one is a local one, as there are always two platforms for one direction at bigger cities. A lot of lines end at Kyoto station, so I had to sort out which was a fast train and which a slow one. When I boarded the train standing to my left I askd a woman sitting there if the train was going to Osaka, which she kindly confirmed. So I took a seat and waited for the departure. But after a few minutes she told me the train on the other platform was a faster one, so I jumped out and boarded that one. After only a few minutes I was in Shin-Osaka, the new part of the city. At the tourist office I got the maps I needed and headed for the subway.
A friendly person from the underground company was so kind to help me getting a one day pass at a machine, reminding me how lucky I was, because it was “No my car day”, a day that is held each month so the people of Osaka leave their cars at home and use the subway. Because of that day the pass was 250 yen cheaper that the usual 850 yen. I entered a subway and took of for Tennoji, one of the famous temples of the city.
It has to be said that today was one of the hottest of my trip so far. Up until now I always had cloudy weather and although it’s always very humid it wasn’t so hot. But today the sun was burning which made me drink a lot (which means a lot of stops at vending machines to grab something cold to drink. Tennoji was bustling with activity as it was celebrating the autumn equinox with a small fair in the yard of the temple. A lot of people were there, although I didn’t se many tourists. The smell of food was in the air and every no and then you could hear a temple bell. Although it was rather crowded it wasn’t hectic at all.
I walked around the area for some time and then set off for Osaka castle. The fortress was usually built in the 16th century but was destroyed quite a few times. The building we can see today is a reconstruction dating back only a few decades, but it is very impressive nonetheless. The castle is surrounded by a huge park with water all around the main castle. Because the area is so huge the visitors were spread out all over the place which didn’t give it the crowded impression I had at Tennoji. There is a small tram going around the park which I passed one time and it was filled with school children who greeted everybody with a loud “hallo” as they passed them. When I waved back some boys shouted “Boston! Boston!” because of the cap I was wearing. Although I replied with a “sou desu” I guess they mistook me for an american tourist. I wandered around a little bit more but didn’t tke the time to enter the castle itself, because everybody I talked to said that it wasn’t as impressive and that I should rather go to Himeji, the prototype of japanese fortress architecture. But a) I didn’t have the time for that and b) Himeji is under construction until 2015.
From Osaka castle I went to Sumiyoshi-ji using a very old but beautiful street car which went through some “un-tourist” parts. Arriving there the streets were completely without tourists which came as a surprise to me as the shrine was mentioned as one of the big must sees in Osaka. It’s pretty and beautiful, but the main attraction, a huge bridge leading up to the main entrance, was unfortunately under construction. I wandered around for a few minutes and then set of to find a place to get something to eat. I searched around the train station and found a small soba shop in some side street of a shopping district. The food was very good, but was even better was that the woman tending the store was so kind to explain to me where to buy some Hanshin Tigers merchandise. When I told her that I was a fan she begged me to cheer for the team. They really like their Tigers in Osaka.
Before I went to the goods store I took a small detour to Dotonbori, the lively shopping district in the suth of Osaka. The area reminded me a lot of the trendy parts of Tokyo, although everything looked a bit older compared to the capital. My feet were really hurting at the time so I headed for the Hanshin department store to buy the Tigers stuff. The goods store on the 8th floor wasn’t as big as I expected, but I was able to get a cap, a happi coat (light summer coat) and a jersey. While looking for the right size one attendant there was kind enough to help me and when I paid three people send me off with a nice “arigatou gozaimashita”. I guess it’s very seldom they have customers coming from Germany.
At the train station I took a local train back to Kyoto and on the way back to the hotel I grabbed a bentou at a convinience store. The man behind the counter was even kind enough to heat it up for me, something I wasn’t used to.
Speaking of bentou, the culture of fast food is a lot different here from what it’s like in Germany. In Germany you have the usual burger franchises (which you get here as well) and greek and turkish stands. But here you have a huge variety of food and even the convinience stores which might sell frozen pizza in Germany, have a huge selection of bentou. Bentou usually includes rice as a sidedish and some meat or fish as the main thing. They come in all sort and forms and colours and hadn’t it been for the lettering I might have bought something else. So I just went for looks, but it was tasty as expected.
Tomorrow I will go around Kyoto and see wat I find here. I guess I won’t make it to all the important places, but I will try to se as much as I can.