We were intrigued by Osaka because its nickname is the “Kitchen of Japan.” Well that, and the fact that there was an amazing craft beer bar in Osaka that E was dying to try. The food in Osaka is extremely unique. You won’t find it anywhere else. Or at the very least, it wouldn’t be nearly as good! We arranged to take the Shinkansen to Osaka from Kyoto as part of our JR Pass. It was about a 30 minute ride. We could have taken the Kyoto subway but it would have taken longer and the Shinkansen was included in the JR Pass.
Upon arrival, our volunteer guide met us on the train platform. She helped us purchase our Osaka Amazing Pass that included our subway fare and entrance fees to all of the attractions. Then off we went! Well at least we tried… We were stalled a bit by the pouring rain. Thank god we had borrowed umbrellas from our hotel.
Once the rain calmed down a bit, we were off to the Osaka Castle. It was quite a walk from the subway, and we may or may not have gotten soaked by a surprise downpour. We arrived outside the compound and admired the huge moat that surrounds the Castle. It was pretty wide and looked very deep from above.
The outer areas of the Castle were under construction when we visited. There was lots of scaffolding everywhere along with instructions to wear hard hats. Japanese instructions always are composed of adorable cartoon characters. I took every opportunity to be photographed with them!
Once inside the compound, we were greeted by the Yellow Osaka City Mascot. We got a kick out of him and of course had to take a photo alongside him.
Then we were off to see the main event, the Osaka Castle. From the outside it is a pretty imposing structure. The Castle sits on several layers of stone and is painted white, with a green roof and gold accents. They have turned the inside of the Castle into a museum. There are special artifacts and videos that explain the history of Osaka. It was all quite interesting to read and watch. At the top of the Castle there is a viewing deck. We got to the top right around when the sun started to come out. It drizzled for a bit longer but a rainbow appeared and was a gorgeous sight to see.
Next, we were off to enjoy some of Osaka’s finest and authentic cuisine. For this we headed for Dotonbori. I would liken Dotonbori to the Third Street Promenade in Los Angeles. There are rows of shops, restaurants and entertainment options. It runs right alongside the canal. When we arrived we didn’t even know where to start. When had been told to try some Okonomiyaki and Obanyaki, both Osaka specialties. We made sure to get one of each. First we stopped at a restaurant that served Okonomiyaki. It is essentially an egg pancake with vegetables, topped with a special sauce and bonito flakes. For an extra bit of flavor, some have slices of bacon cooked into it. I decided on the standard Okonomiyaki sans bonito flakes. It was HUGE. We sat at the bar and watched as the chefs made hundreds of Okonomiyaki. They couldn’t keep up with the demand!
The Glico Man
Everyone who visits Osaka takes a picture with the Glico Man. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions and is of course a MUST SEE.
Kuromon Market is located a short hop, skip and a jump away from Dotonbori. It is very much like Nishiki Market in Kyoto. It is a covered market street that is lined with shops, vegetable and fruit stands, seafood vendors, local food stands and cafes. It was here that we finally found Obanyaki.
Obanyaki is essentially a filled pancake. I tried a custard filled Obanyaki and it was AMAZING. I wanted a second one but E reminded me that we had so many other vendors to check out!
After Kuromon Market, our tour guide insisted that we venture out to the Sumiyoshi region to visit Sumiyoshi Taisha, a Shinto shrine. The Shrine was gorgeous. It stood out amongst the dark grey clouds surrounding us. Everything was orange, purple and white. They were preparing for a special offering the next day to the rice and fertility gods. There were so many different kinds of offerings. People donated sake, fruit, beer and other food items. There were beautiful pink and red lanterns hanging from the ceilings of the Shrine. It was overwhelmed by all of the color. What a beautiful place to come and pray. It was an oasis of calm on the outskirts of an otherwise bustling city. We were so happy to have experienced it.
Hep 5 Ferris Wheel
Our second to last stop of the day with our guide was the Hep 5 Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel is right in the center of Osaka and at the top has a pretty amazing view of the entire city. Our Osaka Amazing Pass included a ride for each of us on the Ferris Wheel and while I am not a huge fan of heights, I figured why the hell not. We hopped into the HUGE red Ferris Wheel and off we went, all the way around.
If I had told E that we were going on a ferris wheel in advance I don’t think he would have agreed to go. I didn’t say anything and once we got there it was too late for him to chicken out! E is deathly afraid of heights.
Umeda Sky Building – Lumi Deck
Our final stop of the day was the observation deck at the Umeda Sky Building. It is the 18th tallest building in Osaka. They have an observation deck on the 39th floor that has a spectacular view of Osaka. We were there at night, which was already really romantic. Then we discovered the Lumi Deck!
While in Paris they have the Pont des Art and Pont de l’Archevêché, in Osaka they have the Lumi Deck. The Lumi Deck is for lovers. You can buy a lock and have it inscribed with your names and a special date or bring your own and attach it to their gate. There is also a heart chair where you can have your picture taken.
The craft beer movement in Japan is growing little by little. While in Tokyo we had the pleasure of visiting two craft beer bars. While both were quite good, Beer Belly takes the cake. Beer Belly is one of Minoh Brewing’s brewpubs. We had never tasted Minoh beer so we were excited by the opportunity. We ordered one of everything they had on draft. That included their Pilsner, Stout, Pale Ale, Weizen, Yuzu White, Session Honey Wheat, Osaru IPA and Imperial Stout. Every beer was different then anything we had ever tasted. Kirimi even joined into the fun!
My personal favorite was the Yuzu White. They also have a great food menu, all pub fare. We ordered fish n’ chips and sautéed mushrooms. Everything was finger lickin’ delicious. If you are a craft beer geek or a foodie I would highly recommend a stop here!
After finishing our beers it was time to hop back on the Shinkansen headed for Kyoto. We were heading back to Tokyo in the morning for our final days in country! #TAKEMEBACKTOTOKYO