Sunday, September 15, 2013

Osaka: Hectic, Hot and Fun!

The time to leave beautiful Kyoto came and we rode the Shinkansen straight to Osaka, which is actually quite close (30 minutes). We arrived there and were going to do BAU and take the subway to our hotel, however...our backpacks were a tad (and when I say a "tad", I mean, "incredibly") heavy so we decided to give up and just take a taxi; we were kind of hesitant coz we'd heard that they're really expensive but well, we thought it would be worth it...and it was! I guess you've heard things about taxis in Japan and how polite drivers are, how the doors open automatically for you to get in and out and whatnot, turns out, it's all true. Our driver was really nice and polite, once we gave him the address to our hostel he put it on his GPS and we were there in a matter of minutes for about 3,000¥ (which is like US $30), it is kind of expensive but it was totally worth it as we were sitting in a comfortable car with AC and didn't have our backpacks on lol. 

Taxi driver
We arrived at the hostel, checked-in and left our bags for storage as we couldn't use the room yet; then headed out to meet Maï (our Japanese friend from the WorkCamp), who was such a sweetheart and prepared a schedule (workcamp style haha) for us with the activities we sorta knew we wanted to do throughout the day.

Sightseeing Schedule WorkCamp Style =)
The first thing we did was go to Amerikamura, which is like the American neighborhood in Osaka...not too interesting really, but it was on our way to the next activity anyway: Dōtonbori, it is one of the main attractions in town although very touristy -of course-, it is just one street that runs along the  Dōtonbori Canal and has a lot of stores and restaurants. There, we took a City Cruise along the Canal wasn't that amazing, to be honest and we actually felt kinda bad for the guide, the woman was trying really hard to be funny but you know how that is, the harder you try, the worst you do. Plus, it was all in Japanese so we just pretended we laughed at her jokes everytime she'd crack one -you know, to make her feel a bit better.

By the time we got off, we were about to pass out as it was WAY too hot (37 Celsius degrees) and like 9763987% humidity (as usual) so we wanted drinks and we wanted them soon! We walked around a bit more and then found a place where we had lunch, always trying to be on schedule of course! haha

The next thing on the itinerary was Osaka Castle, but Maï had mentioned earlier it'd be better in the evening as it wouldn't be that hot anymore, however, we just decided to skip it and go with the rest of the activities. I did want to see it but I am always too weak before heat + humidity so, I gave up.

Instead, we went to the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. We had gotten a package which included a gazillion activities and all-day transport for 2000¥ and they gave you a card and a bunch of coupons, however, somehow my card got lost and I had to pay for all my transport the rest of the day and the Ferris Wheel as well as they said the card was required along the coupon in order to make it valid -bleh! Anyway, the wheel was fun and once we got all the way up we had an amazing view of the port. 

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Then, we went on a ride on a little cruise ship called "La Santa María", which is one of Columbus ships, if you ask me, I think it'd pretty odd they have such an attraction in Japan, but oh well, it was actually a nice ride. And when you see the port from the ship, it actually looks a lot like Miami and it's also so hot and humid that you could totally feel like you're in Miami -minus the bunch of Cubans all over.
Port of Osaka

Port of Osaka
Next on our schedule was...well, after we skipped the Osaka Castle nothing else was on the schedule actually (but the Umeda Sky Building) so we headed out to an Izakaya for dinner. Maï took us to Ki-Chi-Ri, a sort of fancy-pantsy place that combines a traditional Izakaya with a modern restaurant, a bit nicer than you're used to when you are on vacation (of course she would! lol) but the food was good (I clarify because expensive doesn't always mean good!), we even ordered Guacamole (our National dish hahaha) and they took the avocados for us to choose one and make it right there in front of us, from scratch! The girl's technique to scoop the avocado outta its peel wasn't the best and they used Jalapeños instead of real chilli peppers to go with it but well, for a place so far away from home as it's Japan, it was good enough!

Japanese Guacamole @ Ki-Chi-Ri

When dinner was over, we went for our second Ferris Wheel ride of the day at the Hep 5, which is a huge and red ferris wheel, this time it was already dark so it was cooler coz we got to see the city lights from above.

Osaka Night View from Hep 5

To finalize our hectic, super hot and fun day, we walked to the Umeda Sky Building, which is one of the tallest (173m) buildings in Osaka (the 12th) as well as one of its most famous landmarks, and went up to the Observatory Deck on the 34th floor, it may not sound too high but you do get an amazing view of the city, especially at night time when all the city lights are on and create a pretty cool skyline of Osaka.

Umeda Sky Building Observatory Deck

Umeda Sky Building Night View

As time to say goodbye came, we headed off to the subway and parted ways. It was kind of sad as I know we won't be seeing each other in a while but I sure hope to be able to return Maï the favor one day, either in Korea or...wherever.

So, to sum it all up, I didn't love Osaka very much at the beginning but I ended up having a great time and enjoying the city a lot.

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