Of all the places I have been in Japan, I would have to say that Osaka is the only one I wouldn’t race back to. Lacking the excitement of Tokyo and the history, culture and beauty of Hiroshima and Kyoto, it really did just seem like a big city and not much else. In fact, were it not for Universal Studios I may not have even lasted 24 hours in the city. There is however a chance that I am selling the city short, Osaka is the place I did the least research on – so maybe had I been more diligent I would have got a lot more out of my trip.
Arriving at lunch I checked into my hostel (where everything was so low I had to duck to enter and exit every room) and ventured out to Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi. Dotonbori used to be the theatre district of Osaka, while it continues to hold theatres it is also a street alive with food vendors and tourist shops. Walking through here was very fun as there were numerous jingles for the food vendors and people yelling at you trying to entice you into either their restaurant or shop (almost like being back in India).
While here I tucked into some unnecessary but delicious takoyaki (octopus balls) as this is considered to be one of Osaka’s local dishes.
From Dotonbori I walked through Shinsaibashi. This is the main shopping area of Osaka and has an area called Amerika-mura which is similar to Shimakitazawa in Tokyo – full of young people and second hand shops. Not particularly interested in shopping I used the area more as a time filler and from there walked to Umeda where the HEP 5 Ferris Wheel is. I have realised that I really enjoy seeing cities from a height – so given the short amount of time I had in Osaka the Ferris wheel was the perfect solution.
It was at this point that I realised I didn’t really have a lot of interest in Osaka, as I looked out across the city it struck me that it really was just a big city where people go about their daily lives.
Waking up early the next morning I ditched my bags in a locker at the train station and headed to Universal Studios Japan. This was a great time!
Universal Studios, much like Disneyland is a place where you would have to actively try to be angry or sad to not have fun there – in part because the rides are awesome, but also because everyone around you is shrieking with joy that it is somewhat contagious! I straight away headed for the roller coasters and to my delight discovered there was a “singles” line for those of us who either didn’t have friends or didn’t care if they went on the ride with their friends. Before 11:30am I was able to get through the three most popular rides with very limited wait times (in comparison to everyone else) – being single was an excellent outcome it turned out!
From there I went to Harry Potter World – this was what I was really excited about!! You enter Hogwarts through Hogsmeade and can go into all the shops and restaurants that the books talk about. Initially I was slightly disappointed… However I then realised that was because I was expecting the magic to be real haha… I really did think that all the amazing creations J.K. Rowling dreamt up would actually exist! Once I lowered my expectations to not expecting real magic I had a much better time!
There were only two rides in Harry Potter world – one which was a 4D experience where you flew through Hogwarts with Harry and played quidditch… Which was AWESOME! And the other where you went on what was really a roller coaster for children called Flight of the Hippogriff (this was average).
My last day in Tokyo (and Japan) was spent with me trying to make myself really tired so that I would sleep on the flight home. This started with a run round the Imperial Palace and then stuffing myself full of vegemite toast (lucky I am leaving Japan as I finished my vegemite on the last day). I then went to the National Museum of Nature and Science – this was actually really cool (although much bigger than I anticipated!). They had a 360 degree movie experience that took us through the plate formation of the earth and also the evolution of sea creatures.. While everything was in Japanese it was still awesome to watch. The rest of the museum was very interactive and had some very impressive displays of birds, insects, animal skeletons and technological advances. While I wish I had got an audio guide for the museum (as I would have understood a lot more) even just seeing everything was cool. I spent my last afternoon in Japan in Shibuya, stuffing my face with sushi… I would have to say I don’t think sushi will ever be the same after Japan, something which I may need to seek counselling about.
I was very sad to leave Japan, while India was an experience (and one I immensely enjoyed), Japan was a place where I could actually see myself living. At least leaving I know that I am coming back in August/September to climb Mt Fuji with Ben and have the final two weeks of my trip in an amazing country!!!