Spring Trip to Osaka and Kobe

I recently went to Osaka to get some official papers from the consulate there.  I made a little trip out of it.  Here are my redacted logs (names and personal information removed):

Osaka: Arrival Day

The bus ride to Osaka was early and long.  I met a coworker and two ex- students at the station on my way out.  My coworker was on his way to his third day of work at the Ken-cho.  I dozed on and off on the ride, and almost walked into the women’s restroom in a sleepy daze before someone alerted me to my near mistake.  I was more than a bit embarrassed about that.

Upon arriving I made my way to Osaka castle and snapped some pictures of the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Osaka Castle in Spring

Osaka Castle in Spring

Osaka Castle and Moat Bridge

Osaka Castle and Moat Bridge

Osaka Castle and Cherry Trees

Osaka Castle and Cherry Trees

Osaka Castle Framed by Cherry Blossoms

Osaka Castle Framed by Cherry Blossoms

I read a little bit about the history of the castle.  It mostly focused on the Tokugawa era and the years just before that.  I had some takoyaki at one of the street vendors outside the castle.

Osaka Castle Food Vendors

Osaka Castle Food Vendors

Food Vendor at Osaka Castle

Food Vendor at Osaka Castle

Vendor Food at Osaka Castle

Vendor Food at Osaka Castle

“Hanami” Flower Viewing Picnics at Osaka Castle

After that I took my time exploring Osaka proper and found the library and the city hall on a very nice little island called Nakanoshima.

Osaka Public Library

Osaka Public Library

I made a wide circle around the US consulate before finally finding it fairly close to Umeda.  There were a bunch of Japanese police standing around outside the building and they had one of those big police vans there too, but I have no idea what was going on.  On my way back to Umeda I stopped at an okonomiyaki restaurant called Fuugetsu.  It was pretty good, I had an ikatama with potato add a topping and three drinks.  I talked to the waitress a bit and found out that she had been sight seeing in Kochi, had katsuo tataki and not noticed any okonomiyaki stores.

Fugetsu Glass

Fugetsu Glass

“Okonomiyaki” A Japanese savory pancake

Okonomiyaki Flipped

Okonomiyaki Flipped

Okonomiyaki Topped with Sauce, Mayonaise, and Aonori

Okonomiyaki Topped with Sauce, Mayonaise, and Aonori

I’m now on my way to my friend’s apartment.

Osaka: Day 2, Business and Sightseeing

I bought the Osaka day transit pass for 2300 yen and I’m hoping it will pay itself off with all my traveling around today.  First matter of business is finding my way to the consulate again.  Then I’ll get breakfast somewhere in that area.

Well I found it.  There are still a bunch of cops outside, but I have official business so we’ll see what’s up.  I’m sure it’s nothing special.  I had a toast morning set at a nearby cafe called cafe Terroir.

Cafe Terroir

Cafe Terroir

The aftermath of breakfast

The aftermath of breakfast

I also snapped a few nicely lit morning city photos on the walk here from the station.  The consulate is actually much closer to Umeda station than I thought.

Umeda Station Area

Umeda Station Area

Yodobashi near Umeda

Yodobashi near Umeda

Big City Streets

Big City Streets

Tree-lined Avenue

Tree-lined Avenue

So far I really like Osaka.  Its very mature and very urban but it has a good vibe and a sense of cohesiveness that I don’t get from Tokyo.

I have an hour and a half before my appointment so I should probably do some writing.

Document received! All real business accomplished; time to play.

I went and had a nice long perusal around Tokyu Hands in Umeda.  I bought some silicon bentou accessories and some interesting dice.  Now I’m in Shinsaibashi waiting for my chicken basil sandwich to arrive at my table.  There’s a British pub upstairs so I may have an ale to wash it down afterwards.  (Later on:) Oh no, it turns out the pub wasn’t open.

Lunch at Cafe Solare

Lunch at Cafe Solare

Salad with Avocado and Tomatoes

Salad with Avocado and Tomatoes

Chicken and Basil Hot Sandwich

Chicken and Basil Hot Sandwich

I spent the rest of the day exploring.  I went to Shinsaibashi which reminds one of Ginza in that it is chock full of top brand name stores.  I checked out an Apple store for the first time there.  From there I went to Ebisucho where I went into tons of game stores, walked to the Hitachi tower, didn’t go up, passed a lot of kushikatsu restaurants, then made my way to the zoo.
Hitachi Tower in the Shinsekai Area

Hitachi Tower in the Shinsekai Area

Hitachi Tower near the Zoo

Hitachi Tower near the Zoo

Sakura Trees at the Zoo

Sakura Trees at the Zoo

M. Yak, My favorite Resident of the Zoo

M. Yak, My favorite Resident of the Zoo

A felid that looks like a canid, La Hyena

A felid that looks like a canid, La Hyena

Peek through and see... a Lion!

Peek through and see… a Lion!

Another Big Cat

Another Big Cat

Shortly thereafter I went to Dotonbori saw the crab, the glicoman at nampabashi, and the Donkihote with a built in kanransha by the river.  According to my friend, they can’t actually operate the kanransha because of zoning laws, so it was a huge waste of money.  I had Hokkaido cream cheese gelato and an iced tea by the river before going into Donkihote, and then takoyaki when I came out.  Around that time my other friend called and we decided to meet up the next day in Kobe instead of that evening.
Dotonbori Street Entrance

Dotonbori Street Entrance

Dotonbori is a happening place.

Dotonbori is a happening place.

The river near Dotonbori

The river near Dotonbori

Donkihote's Gaudy Facade

Donkihote’s Gaudy Facade

Gelatto from the cafe across from Donkihote

Gelatto from the cafe across from Donkihote

So I went to Umeda sky building, paid the 700 yen to go up to the observatory floor and had a beer on top of the city. The black lights on the roof were kind of cool and the cityscape is what one might imagine of such a living city at night.

A peek of Umeda Sky Building from the north

A peek of Umeda Sky Building from the north

Umeda Sky Building Model

Umeda Sky Building Model

Sky Building Base and Sculpture

Sky Building Base and Sculpture

Looking up to the

Looking up to the “Floating Garden”

The elevator to the top is on the 3rd floor.

The elevator to the top is on the 3rd floor.

Osaka Nightscape

Osaka Nightscape

Big City Lights

Big City Lights

Videos: Going Up, In the Tube, View One, View Two, View Three, View Four, View Five, View Six

I made my way back to the apartment I was staying at, we had a chu-hi each, chatted, and then I let my poor body rest while I slept.

Osaka Day 3: Sumiyoshi and Kobe

This morning I found a gem of a cafe.  I’ve never seen a coffee shop with a menu like this before.  I ordered an 800 yen blue mountain coffee!

Amazing Coffee Menu

Amazing Coffee Menu

Breakfast at the Coffeeshop

Breakfast at the Coffeeshop

Egg Toast Sandwich and Steaming Coffee

Egg Toast Sandwich and Steaming Coffee

Well, its noon now, and I’ve been having a great day so far.  Sumiyoshi Taisha was spectacular.  I took a few pictures and traveled to a “power spot”.  It was a little shrine with a stone you pick up and hold while making your wish.  It said if the stone feels light your wish will come true, but if it feels heavy then you won’t be so lucky.  In the main shrine proper there were two ancient trees.  I asked one of the shrine maidens how old they were and she said about 1000 and 800 years respectively.   There were also some very tame ducks.  They seemed to be pretty content with their lives in the shrine pool.

Sumiyoshi Station Area Guide

Sumiyoshi Station Area Guide

Entrance to the Shrine

Entrance to the Shrine

From the bridge

From the bridge

Main Shrine Entrance

Main Shrine Entrance

Sakura in bloom at the shrine

Sakura in bloom at the shrine

You can get a special fortune from a rabbit.

You can get a special fortune from a rabbit.

Very Traditional Japanese Scenery

Very Traditional Japanese Scenery

Waterfowl Shrine Residents

Waterfowl Shrine Residents

Ducks in the shrine pool

Ducks in the shrine pool

Handwashing Fountain

Handwashing Fountain

Building with a very cool organically shaped roof

Building with a very cool organically shaped roof

Shrine Path

Shrine Path

The oft-pictured Bridge

The oft-pictured Bridge

Another Angle on the Bridge

Another Angle on the Bridge

Side Entrance

Side Entrance

Map to the nearby

Map to the nearby “power spot”

Power Spot Shrine Entrance

Power Spot Shrine Entrance

The Power Spot Itself

The Power Spot Itself

After that I went to the other side of the station and had a rest in the park there for a while, admiring the flowers and sakura trees, stretching, and talking to my fiancée on the phone.

Flowers at Sumiyoshi Park

Flowers at Sumiyoshi Park

Another Variety of Flower

Another Variety of Flower

Hanging Planters

Hanging Planters

What flies in the air? A Pigeon, a plane, and cherry blossoms.

What flies in the air? A Pigeon, a plane, and cherry blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms blowing off the trees like snow.

Then I took the local train on to Namba.  The friend who I was staying with in Osaka gave me the first two volumes of a manga a he loves called uchuu kyoudai, or space brothers.  I’ve been reading it on the trains this morning and tearing up repeatedly, because I’m a big softie and it is really quite good.

I must be really attractive today, my omikuji was bad but it said if I smiled the worst could be averted, so I’ve been remembering to smile more than usual today.  I suppose that probably has a lot to do with it.  I’ve had three different strangers start talking to me today.  First was an old man who advised me that I could get cheaper tickets to Kobe if I bought something called “kinken” tickets.  I couldn’t find the place that sold them, but its worth looking into in the future.

The second person was a young woman named who struck up a conversation with me just after I stowed my backpack in a coin locker and grabbed some maps from the tourist information room at Sannomiya station.  She was a little uncomfortable to talk to as she maintained a much too close to me kind of posture…  She was nice enough, but I decided to run away and made it to Starbucks without further incident.

The third was a barrista at Starbucks and she just asked me where I was going when she saw that I was looking at maps of the city.

On the other hand, I have started talking to quite a few strangers today myself.  The older lady at the shrine, the waitress that served me, who seemed pretty interesting.  Apparently she spent some time in Chicago.  She spoke great English when she realized from my pronunciation of “coffee cake” that I was in fact from the states.  Then the man sitting next to me, who deferred my question to the older local lady at a nearby table about the orientation of my tourist map.

First destination in Kobe was Kitano, the district in the hilly area north of Sannomiya station.  Kitano is where the old western style houses are still standing.  The first one I went into was called the Moegi house, and it had an indoor veranda on the second floor.  With the windows open, a breeze blowing, and the magnolia trees swaying in the wind outside I kind of felt like I was back home in Virginia.  It reminded me a lot of a friend’s house with its old wood floors and high ceilings.

Arrival at Sannomiya Station in Kobe

Arrival at Sannomiya Station in Kobe

The buildings are a bit lower than in Osaka

The buildings are a bit lower than in Osaka

Kitano Terrace: The Weathercock House

Kitano Terrace: The Weathercock House

Kitano Terrace Flowers

Kitano Terrace Flowers

Moegi House

Moegi House

Moegi House Furnishings

Moegi House Furnishings

There’s a pretty little shrine up the hill and a couple was doing maedori under the cherry trees there.  I checked out the Weathercock house too, but it was less impressive to me.

Shrine in Kitano

Shrine in Kitano

Cherry Snow on the Roof Tiles

Cherry Snow on the Roof Tiles

Cherry Blossoms and Moss Covered Rocks: Japan^2

Cherry Blossoms and Moss Covered Rocks: Japan^2

View from Kitano Terrace

View from Kitano Terrace

My Favorite Feature of the Weathercock House

My Favorite Feature of the Weathercock House

Weathercock House Flora

Weathercock House Flora

After that I climbed up the hill a little farther and found a spectacular patio selling Austrian beer, which I happily paid 700 yen for.  The one I tried was called the Urbock and was a doppelbock at about 9.5% alcohol.  It was very tasty and was paired well with the two little cheese wedges they gave me for an additional 250 yen.

Beautiful Patio on the Hill

Beautiful Patio on the Hill

One of the best beers I've had in Japan

One of the best beers I’ve had in Japan

After getting fairly inebriated on that beer I walked back down the hill and stopped at a Starbucks built into a period house.  I enjoyed a wrap and frappucino in true foreign style.  I sat down upstairs next to an older man and a woman he was advising about how best to help her friend.  Judging by the man’s advice I can only presume he was some kind of monk or yogi, or perhaps just a nice man she confided in.

An Uncommon Starbucks

An Uncommon Starbucks

This made me smile :-)

This made me smile 🙂

After that I walked around the shopping district and China Town.  I’m writing this in a St Marc café while I rest and recuperate before I go check out the port area.

North of Sannomiya Station

North of Sannomiya Station

Flower Road

Flower Road

Flower Clock

Flower Clock

Flower Road: Roadside Park

Flower Road: Roadside Park

Earthquake Memorial Clock (Stopped at the time it fell)

Earthquake Memorial Clock (Stopped at the time it fell)

Planter Silhouette

Planter Silhouette

Kobe's many flower planters make the city truly beautiful.

Kobe’s many flower planters make the city truly beautiful.

Motomachi Shopping Arcade

Motomachi Shopping Arcade

China Town Square

China Town Square

Chinatown Central Gazebo

Chinatown Central Gazebo

The port area is quite cool but I didn’t get a chance to fully explore it.  The earthquake memorial is worth seeing at least.

Kobe Port Tower from a distance

Kobe Port Tower from a distance

Earthquake Memorial Park

Earthquake Memorial Park

The port area was very round... hotels, ferris wheels, and steps included.

The port area was very round… hotels, ferris wheels, and steps included.

Interesting Abstract Statuary

Interesting Abstract Statuary

Kobe Port was a center for immigration in Japan.

Kobe Port was a center for immigration in Japan.

Kobe Port Tower in the Evening

Kobe Port Tower in the Evening

I called R2 Hostel and reserved a spot in their common room, quickly made my way to the information booth to get directions to both the hostel and Nishinomiya-kitaguchi where I met up with the other friend for dinner.  We went to the mall connected to the station there and tried to go to a sushi place a mutual acquaintance recommended to us.  But, our first choice of sushi was not available unless we were willing to wait an hour, and I was not willing, so we opted for omurice.

Then I made my way to the hostel.  Its kind of like a capsule hotel.  Now I’m sleepy.

Osaka Day 4: Kobe and returning home

I slept amazingly well in the tiny capsule like cubby in the hostel dormitory even with so many other people around.  Today was the only day that I didn’t really have any clear plan for what to do.  I woke up and showered and packed up my bags and took my sheets to the first floor then  sat down in the common room, where the hostel owner? Who possibly was also the owner of a red Ferrari outside was also sitting and watching as another man was cleaning the chandelier above the table.

 Anyway I made myself an instant coffee which was available for free, and took advantage of the free wireless to try to plan my day.  The main discovery was that the forecast was for rain, and that’s what it did pretty much all day.
I did talk to some other folks that were staying at the hostel, I was listening to their discussion without understanding anything because they were all speaking French.  Then I noticed the guy sitting next top me was looking at the nutrition facts on some Japanese cakes.  His expression was slightly puzzled so I asked him if he could read Japanese, to which he replied, “a little.” I asked him what he was looking for and he said he wanted to know how much sugar it had in it.  It wasn’t actually listed outside of carbohydrates, so I explained 糖質、炭水化物 and whatnot.  We chatted about language and our experiences in Japan and somehow arrived at the topic of the meaning of Shibuya.  One of them was apparently Chinese and asked if I knew the kanji, so I showed her on my phone, and she understood immediately.  Then I learned that astringent is a cognate in French, so we were all making silly jokes about the astringent valley. I told them the only French I knew was je ne saiz pas, but I didn’t know what it meant.  Which is kind of ironic apparently because it means, “I don’t understand.”. They also then taught me about the negatives in French, “ne” and “pas” and that something along the lines of “je ne pal e pal francais” which means “I don’t speak French.”. I told them it sounds to me like “Jenny Paul and Paul France.” Which elicited some laughs.  I told them “bon voyage” and then chatted with the hostel owner for a while.
Major achievements of the day were drinking a Merikan beer in the café of Kobe port tower, where I somehow managed to lose the umbrella I has just purchased, visiting the maritime museum where I spent several hours dry and out of the train, buying a Scottish pale ale at the Daimaru and buying a bottle opener just so I could drink it before it got warm.  Beyond that I walked by the Ikuta shrine which was very typical of shrines everywhere, and my back hurting despite having stored most of my stuff in a coin locker again.  I caught the bus at 6:16 and finished reading the two manga volumes I just received,  they’re very good I think.
Elvis Statue in the Port Area

Elvis Statue in the Port Area

Port Tower View of the Ferris Wheel and Mosaic Shopping Plaza

Port Tower View of the Ferris Wheel and Mosaic Shopping Plaza

Port Tower View of Seagul Harbor and downtown Kobe

Port Tower View of Seagul Harbor and downtown Kobe

Port Tower View of Sannomiya and the Mountains

Port Tower View of Sannomiya and the Mountains

It was very rainy

It was very rainy

Rain does make beer and snacks better though.

Rain does make beer and snacks better though.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under beer, Japan, photography, travel

One response to “Spring Trip to Osaka and Kobe

  1. Pingback: Going it alone at 56 – Japan is a great destination for first-timers | travelwritersblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s