Another bullet train, another upgrade to first class, bullet trains are amazing!
Our hotel at Osaka (The Monterey) was right by the station so we only had a 5 minute walk from the platform. The most interesting thing about the hotel is that they built it in an Austrian style, complete with a church sticking out of back side of the building on the 8th floor – how bizarre. We think this was to offer western style weddings to Japanese couples who wanted them, but why Austrian-themed in particular, we have no idea…
The next day we took a local train to Mino Park, about 30 minutes outside the city. Near to the station was a 45 minute walk along a scenic path to a waterfall. It was a grey autumn day, but the surroundings are really beautiful. We tried tempura fried maple leaves along the way (not sure if they had really fallen off the trees before they were fried, or had just been picked), and the walk is well worth the journey if you have the time.
In the afternoon we went to see the robot chefs at the Hankyu Department Store in nearby Umeda. The food section was amazing, with a vast array of both sweet and savoury food, all beautifully prepared. We picked up some bits for dinner from there (plus the cheapest bottle of wine we could find, about ten pounds ). As for the robot chefs, well they weren’t quite what we were expecting!
On our last day in Osaka, we walked round the city near our hotel. The area around the station is ultra modern, full of high rise offices and expensive shops. We spent some pleasant time in the Sky Garden Observatory on top of the Umeda building. Strangely, at the ground level they were setting up a German Christmas market, so you really can’t escape Xmas anywhere it would seem! The views from the top of the building were stunning and we had a very pleasant Japanese hot dog and coffee for lunch looking out over the city.
In the evening we did a walk around Dotombori (thanks Marc and Dagmar again for the suggested route). We went through the fashion shops and into the neon madness of Dotombori itself as the sun went down. We had a ramen noodle meal for our dinner, as Osaka is the original home of ramen and supernoodles, and then made our way back to our hotel.
And that was it, a quite remarkable 2 weeks in Japan. It far exceeded our expectations, we only wish we had more time there. It’s definitely one of my favourite places in the world and I hope to go back (thinking motorbike tour from North to South if anyone wants to join me and if I can ever afford it).
Now it’s off to Hanoi via a stopover in Gungzou in China on the way….!