Friday, September 12, 2014

[Travel] Itinerary to Osaka (大阪), Japan.

The third largest city in Japan, Osaka is famous for its food; both Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki were first made famous in Osaka. The cultural-rich city has many things not only to eat but to see as well.  We traveled with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong International Airport to Kansai International Airport. We did not have much time to spend over there (just two days) but we did manage to visit a few famous tourist attractions. 

Kansai International Airport/ 関西国際空港

Kansai International Airport has a very cool store- the Pokemon Store! Pokemon Fans can now purchase some limited edition collections; the Pikachu in Pilot uniform is exclusively available to Kansai International Airport (with only two sizes available), Key Chain-sized (860 Yen including GST) and a larger one at approximately 1,400 Yen. 

To reach Osaka city center, head to second floor with a sign showing JR Kix Station, walk across the pathway and spot the blue JR ticket office. We bought the tickets in a package, which we thought it saves us a lot of time and effort. For 4,060 Yen, we've got Two Tickets of Haruka Train (Return) which were good enough for us to reach Tennoji from Kansai Airport and vice versa. We received a ICOCA card with a credit of 2,000 Yen too. The card allows you to pay for your bus and train fare, or can be used for purchases in most convenient shops. Surrender the card to the authority and you will receive 500 Yen (for the deposit plus your unused balance), however, an administration fee of 220 Yen will be deducted. 

Osaka-Jo (Osaka Castle)/ 大阪城

Visitors can learn about the history of Osaka by visiting the famous Osaka-Jo. The castle was built by Hideyoshi, a well-known Japanese warlord in the 16th century. It is very easy and straight forward to reach Osaka-Jo, take train to Osaka-Jo Koen and follow the directions indicated by the displaying signs. The 15-minute walk was torturing. We visited the place on Summer and it was probably around 34 Degree Celsius. Be prepared to walk for quite a bit if you wish to pay a visit to the place. Admission Fee was 600 Yen on our visit. Traipse yourself up the stairs (you may take the lift of course, but be prepared for the long queue) and you will be greeted a scenic view overlooking Osaka city. An extra 300 Yen allows you to wear the costumes for photography purposes. 

Next to the Castle is a souvenir shop which sells a wide range of interesting souvenirs, Ninja Shurikens (Japanese Weapon) are available too. Is it worth visiting the Osaka Castle? Yes.

Takoyaki/ たこ焼き or Okonomiyaki/ お好み焼き

Okonomiyaki (700 Yen with Rice and Miso Soup)

Yakisoba (700 Yen with Rice and Miso Soup)

Do not miss Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake) or Takoyaki (Octopus Ball) in Osaka as these two delicacies were made famous and popularized here and yes, they are very famous in Osaka. You should be able to hunt some of these at Dotonbori Street/ 道頓堀, there are plenty of small kiosks there in the evening; almost like a night market.

To reach Dotonbori Street, take train to Namba Station and exit Gate 14 or 15B. Walk towards the canal for a minute and you should be able to see the entrance from there. 

Kuromon-Ichiba Market/ 黒門市場

Kuromon is a famous market in Osaka, it sells a wide range of fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. Many fruits in Japan are seasonal, on my visit, we had a lot of plump and sweet Peaches and Prunes. The Figs were equally toothsome either. If you wish to look for souvenirs, you can get a cheaper bargain here. If you are a fan of Soya Milk, try not to miss the fresh Soya Milk here in Kuromon. There are two stalls selling it at the same price (70 Yen for a cup). It was literally the thickest and most "soya" Soya Milk I have ever had.

Take Exit 10 from Nipponbashi Station and walk towards left once you are out of the station. Walk for few minutes and you should be able to locate the entrance of Kuromon Ichiba Market on your right.

We had our lunch here at this humble and quiet store. It sells Japanese Grilled Unagi, price ranges from 800 Yen to 3,500 Yen.

We decided to go with the recommendation from the lady owner (whom speaks good mandarin), we had the 1,600 Yen set. It comes with some Tsukemono (Japanese Pickles) and a bowl of Miso Soup. The thickly sliced and beautifully grilled Unagi was lip-smacking. The slightly burnt aroma enhanced instead of overshadowing the flavor while the fats of the Fish lingered in the mouth, leaving you to ask for more. It was even better to go with their sweet Tare Sauce. So good that my friend wanted to go back on the next day. 

Something exotic, we had Grilled Eel Livers for 400 Yen. The Japanese believe that Eel Livers are very nutritious. The Livers were quite good to be honest, nicely grilled together with the sweet Tare Sauce; leaving a mellow bitter-aftertaste. 

Namba Parks

A very famous shopping district in Osaka, Namba houses many shopping malls and Namba Parks is one of the well-known ones. A very big mall that you may want to spare some time here to browse the area. While you are there, try to look for Nana's Green Tea. The famous Green Tea specialist has everything for a Green Tea fan. We had a Green Tea Drink with Green Tea Soft Ice Cream and Sesame Drink with Sesame Soft Ice Cream for 1,170 Yen (both). Yes, they were great and the place provides us a very good environment to stretch our shopping legs.

It is very easy and straight-forward to reach Namba Parks, take train to Namba Station and follow the directions from the displaying signs. Walk for approximately 10 minutes and you should be able to see the mall. 

Have Fun in Osaka! 

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