A week in Osaka.Trip report #2.
Sorry, this trip report got delayed. Whenever I tried to post it in Japan, I was redirected to a Japanese Yahoo! website. No idea what was happening. And when I got back – on Sunday – went back to work on Monday to be told I had to go up north. Luckily a short flight :-). Still, it's pretty fresh in my mind.
Osaka is quite a good introduction to Japan. Everything is there that you need to cope with, like trains, but not so big and daunting, We were staying in Namba which is pretty much as good as it gets for access to sights and shopping. Osaka has plenty to see, but I must say, it's a great place for foodies. Unfortunately our sightseeing was curtailed a bit by illness, but then we weren’t particularly interested in theme parks or even the aquarium. I was in the minority there. However we did go to the Museum, the Castle, and the Panasonic Centre.
The museum was nice but very local in content. I guess what you'd expect for a medium-sized city. Don't go expecting lots of armour and Samurai swords. Luckily for me, I am interested in ancient court dress and sewage systems. Other family members less so. It was a really nice building though.
I thought the castle was very good considering it's a reproduction. The earthworks were really impressive. I'm sure the park surrounding it would be fabulous in spring or summer, or even autumn. Sadly it was winter. The shops at the museum and in the castle were a bit of a disappointment. I began to think that this was simply something that didn't matter to Japanese museums until I got to Tokyo, where the National Museum shop is superb. I think this is a missed opportunity, as I always shop in museums, the standard of workmanship in them is often much better than normal souvenir places.
The Panasonic Centre was not great, particularly to my son as he was expecting something with all the bells and whistles. Actually, it was nothing we couldn't see in a large electronic shop at home. These may have been the latest and greatest, but you simply couldn't tell.
This was the last day before people got sick, and we walked to these attractions from Namba. It’s about 5 km, and flat pretty much all the way. I rather enjoyed the walk through parts of the city you wouldn't normally see. Wife and son decided to take the train back I walked. Still nice.
After that day I was pretty much the only one left standing. So all we did was a bit of light shopping, and a bit of wandering round the local area looking for different things to eat. This wasn't my idea, as I'm not a foodie, but the wife and son decided that we should try a lot of different sorts of Japanese food. I must say some of the stuff was brilliant. And not at all expensive, in complete contrast to what we'd been expecting.
Not that you can't spend a lot of money if you want to. My wife particularly enjoyed the various shopping streets, and my son bought a few bits and pieces in Den Den town, and we all enjoyed looking round Bic camera.
I must say Osaka wasn't quite what I expected – it's obviously a working town, not particularly glamorous, but the people were great very understanding of normal foreign mistakes. (My compliments to the lady in the noodle restaurant who was entranced by my chopstick work. My index finger is too short as I tried to explain, but she got me a fork anyway.) They were full of helpful suggestions too, and funnily enough, the standard of English seemed better than Tokyo. This was reasonably important considering none of us spoke more than a word or two of Japanese.
My wife and I did spend a day in Kyoto, when she was feeling a bit better. It wasn't enough time really, but I think we got a reasonable sense of the place. It is much calmer than Osaka, and a lot less traffic, not so frenetic or as gritty. We spend most of the day looking at traditional arts and crafts etc. And visited the Manga Museum so we can at least tell the son what it was like, as he was feeling quite bad. I could have easily spent some serious money on the arts and crafts stuff. I did spend some semiserious money :-).
The Manga Museum is best visited if you read Japanese I suspect. That's the sort of place you spend about half an hour in, or a week! Their shop was great if you like Manga. Unfortunately we're a bit old.
Once you get used to the fact that Osaka is not really a foreign tourist place as such, it is very much a place for Japanese people, and it's very much an eating drinking and party town, it's really enjoyable. I think I barely scratched the surface, I know my wife and son didn't, and I think I'd like to go back and enjoy it some more.