So the middle of our week last week was spent in Osaka. Osaka used to be the mecca of Japan, until in recent years Tokyo has taken that role. It is still a huge city, 2nd largest in Japan (1 – Tokyo, 2 – Osaka, 3 – Nagoya). Like Nagoya, Osaka spreads out for miles in every direction, while also being on the coast. We really enjoyed our time here, and I would like to go back sometime again… 2 days are just such a short time!
We had a large typhoon come through (#26) Tuesday night. It was the worst one we have had yet, and it was really scary. Mike’s been on nights, so he got home around 1:30am, and I had barely slept for the wind and the rain… Neither of us got much sleep that night, and there was definitely one point where I was going to drag everyone downstairs because I was sure that the second story of our house was going to blow off… But, no damage, not bad in Nagoya anyway. Tokyo got hit pretty hard. It was definitely a blessing though, as I was not about to walk 20 minutes to the station in a typhoon Wednesday morning, and we needed to leave home at 7:30am. I swear, not 5 minutes before we needed to leave, the wind and rain stopped, the sun came out, and it turned into a beautiful day! We arrived to the station on time, and met up with my friend Lori and her son Caden (this was a girls and kid trip!) to find that because of the typhoon, all the trains had been delayed… I got to thinking about it, and I realized its a great example of the difference in American and Japanese culture. This typhoon was a natural occurrence, just like a snow storm or a tornado, and there was nothing any human could do about it! There were thousands of stranded people in the station whose train was delayed and had no idea how or when they were getting home. In the US, if this had happened, people would be lined up to scream at the airline representative, people would be hostile and stressed to the max! But not here. Everyone took it in stride, waited patiently, and was content that they were safe. It was very awe-inspiring… Our Shinkansen was delayed over an hour, and even then, our car was empty! It was kind of nice. We traveled to Osaka in just under an hour, man those trains are fast…
We arrived, and went to drop our baggage off at the hotel. We actually had a really nice hotel on a very upscale street (across from Tiffany & Co, Prada, Fendi, etc). I have procured the Lonely Planet Japan Guidebook, and it really comes in handy!! We used it to find this place quite close that served calzones (I’m pregnant, I get to eat what I want :) ) called Slices, which ended up being owned by some Canadians who spoke great english and we had such a nice visit as we were their only patrons at the early hour of noon lol! We wandered around Ameri-Mura (short for American Village in Japanese) and saw the very american shops, all the crazy dressed kids, and the mini statue of liberty. After that, we spent the rest of the day at Tempozan Harbor Village. Here, on Osaka Bay, we had a wonderful time! First, we rode on a recreation of Columbus’ Santa Maria ship. It took us for an hour ride around Osaka bay, and Alex really enjoyed it as you can see in the pictures. The Santa Maria dock was right outside the aquarium, so of course we did that next! I read somewhere that the Osaka Aquarium is arguably the best in the world, and I might have to agree. I have loved Shedd’s in Chicago since I was a kid, and the Nagoya Port Aquarium was absolutely amazing with the Orcas, but this aquarium was so wonderful. It was big, but not huge, and had a good variety of animals. We started with a long escalator ride up to the top floor, and the aquarium path circles down and down, ending on the ground floor. In the center of the structure was one very very large tank, so no matter what floor you were on, the tank on the right was always the same tank just at different depths. It was filled with the most amazing creatures, from big to small, and you were always seeing something new. I really liked the huge Manta-Rays and the Hammer Head Sharks :) They were so scary up close!!! It was the best thing I’ve seen yet. The tanks on the outside varied, and we saw everything from otters to jellyfish to giant crabs. It was tons of fun, and it was really cool to see it with a baby (Caden just turned one!) and watch his excitement. At the end of the tour, there was a huge shallow tank where you could pet sharks and rays! Alex and I both spent a lot of time feeling them, I liked the way the rays felt slimy and soft and the sharks were rough and smooth, like a tongue! That was a blast. At the Harbor was also the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. It was dark when we exited the aquarium, so we took it for a night ride. In 1997, when construction finished, it was the world’s largest ferris wheel. Since then, others like the London Eye, have been made taller, and this one is now ranked 5th largest in the world. It was definitely very high, and provided some excellent views of Osaka lit up. Breathtaking, especially for Lori when Alex accidentally rocked the car :) We headed back to the city and once again had Okonomiyaki for dinner, cooked from scratch in front of us this time! So very delicious. After dinner, we wandered around the Dotonbori area looking at all the neon lights and gaudiness. It was very much like a Japanese Times Square! We definitely saw some “Street Ladies” and I had to cover Alex’s eyes more than once at an advertisement, but it was very cool! We all slept very good that night, especially the two boys! We finally woke up around 8:45am… That is the latest I have slept in in years! And on vacation, I couldn’t believe it :) We didn’t have a whole lot of time the second day, since our train was a little earlier to get us home for dinner plans and the boys slept so late. We wandered around central Osaka in the midst of the skyscrapers for a while, and went to the Umeda Sky Building (the Floating Garden), Umeda is another name for Osaka or something, I didn’t really catch it. That was really fun too, with some great views. We took a glass elevator up, then took a glass escalator up the last 5 stories to 173 meters high. We walked around the roof in the open air, and you could see for miles and miles, across the bay, and on a clear day, your supposed to see all the way to Kobe! We enjoyed that. We got a little lost looking for the station from there, but thank goodness for iPhones and Google maps!!! :) We really did have a wonderful trip, and I want to do something similar in the near future. Here is the slide show of the pictures from Osaka. Please enjoy!!
Big Hugs to everyone! Love to you all.