We traveled to Osaka from Toyota yesterday. It is a bit of a mission because it firstly required a 20 minute walk to train station – we tried to get a taxi but they said the taxi (sounded like the only one in Toyota!) would take 20 mins to arrive. Then a local train (private company run so required buying a ticket) to one station, change at that station and then onto another train (from same company). Due to me leaving the station accidentally (and the other two following) we lost our tickets for the connecting train. You can just walk through the barriers though (I am sure you’re not allowed to) but we did actually buy a ticket (we just accidentally used it in the wrong place) and no one stops you so we just did it. They probably thought these foreigners don’t know how to work the train system and just left us alone.
We then had another train (this time we could use our rail passes) to Nagoya where we changed to the shinkansen to Shinosaka. At Shinosaka we had to take a train to Osaka and then change again for our station which was Universal City. 6 trains later and we arrived at our station which is just 1 minute from the hotel we are staying at which is Hotel Keihan Universal Tower (https://tower.hotelkeihan.co.jp). I am not sure how we chose it but it is right on top of Universal Studios theme park (hence the name). It was probably cheaper than anything we could find elsewhere. The hotel is actually quite nice – the rooms being a reasonable size (being a key criteria) and 1 minute walk from train station being really helpful. Being right outside a theme park is a little weird though especially when all the stores and restaurants are places like GAP, TGI Fridays, Red Lobster etc i.e. all American stores and restaurants.
It does have a Takoyaki section which is a local Osaka specialty. It is ball-shaped, made of a wheat flour-based batter and filled with minced or diced octopus. We thought we had better give it a try seeing we are in Osaka and so we had a selection of them for lunch. You pay for them at a machine and then hand your slip to the store and they then provide them to you. We shared a selection of 26 between the three of us and that was enough for lunch.
After lunch we headed to the only sightseeing place that seems worthwhile in Osaka and that is the Osaka Castle. It was originally a site of Honganji Temple but then in 1583 Hideyoshi Toyotomi decided to build it into a castle and he used the castle to quell the wars and unite the nation. It was then subsequently laid siege for over a year, destroyed in the attacks, rebuilt but the next Shogun, struck by lightening and burnt down, rebuilt and then burnt down again in 1868 following a battle but in 1931 was rebuilt again. It stands on a hill and is surrounded by both an outer and inner moat. The outer moat is 90m wide in one section.
We walked up to the castle and as we were walking to the stop M said ‘I think their plan was to tire out any armies before they got to the top’. It is pretty steep and you could see how difficult it must have been to penetrate and why a siege might have been the best option to force a surrender. In true Japanese style they have a time capsule up there too (you can see it in the photo above). It was done in 1970 and there are multiple levels. The top levels can be opened at the start of each century but the very bottom level (containing the majority of the time capsule) is only to be opened in 5000 years from when they did it which is 6970. Talk about forward planning!
We headed back to the hotel and rested for the balance of the afternoon and then went for dinner nearby. There are a lot of restaurants but not a lot of authentic places. It was B’s last night and so we felt we should at least eat Japanese and so eventually settled on a Japanese buffet style restaurant (also a must do according to the guidebooks). The food was ok but not spectacular – the best part was probably the soft serve machine for desert.
We said our goodbyes to B as he was leaving at 6am the next morning and headed off to bed. B messaged me this morning to say he had successfully made it to the airport and should now be on route to Singapore. M and I have one more night in Osaka. Thanks S for letting him come along with us – we really enjoyed our time with him!
Until tomorrow …
P, B (for the last time) & M