Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Osaka - I Still Don't Understand Why I Must Be Naked

After settling into our new hotel room on Sunday afternoon we headed out to explore our new surroundings and try some of the local cuisine. At first it didn't look too promising, this seems to be one of the lower socio-economic areas that we have stayed in and most of the places were either closed or looked pretty dodgy. However, we got incredibly lucky and managed to stumble into the local markets, which were packed with bars, food stalls and restaurants.

I had already bought my lunch, from one of the bakeries back in Kyoto. As a side note, the bakeries here are awesome! There is at least one at every major train station and shopping centre. Most of the pastries are only a couple of dollars (which is a big improvement on the rip-off prices from Croissant Express) and they have the most mouth-watering creations, like half a block of Camembert cheese baked into a bun, or apple slices and mascarpone cheese sandwiched between 2 slices of raisin toast, or orange croissants glazed with marmalade mmmmmm... you get the picture. Anyway, so I already had my delicious lunch (mixed sandwiches and a cherry blossom danish), and Michael just wanted to pick up a Bento box. He couldn't really see anything that he wanted (that was available for take-away), so we just picked up a Bento from the nearest convenience store and took it back to the room (apparently it was really good), deciding to go back to the market area for dinner.

When we headed back we chose one of the busier restaurants, figuring that it was bound to be good since it was so packed. Not always the best method but it has worked for us so far. In this case it definitely worked out. It was one of those bbq restaurants where you have your own hot plate and get to cook your own food. One of the most popular things was the pancake. I have no idea what they are called (EDIT from Michael: It is called okonomiyaki) or exactly what's in them, but it's this delicious concoction of egg, meat and vegetables which you fry like a pancake and then top with mayo, these flaky things and another sauce which I think was BBQ. Anyway, it was very good!

The next day we wandered past the markets, towards the main attractions of the area. We first arrived at the zoo, and decided to go in, mainly because it took so long to walk to the main entrance gate that we figured that we shouldn't waste the effort. Plus the admission fee was only about $6.

I was pretty impressed, especially with the safari enclosure, which had giraffes, zebras, gazelles and ostriches all in the same enclosure. There were also heaps of big cats, like jaguars, leopards, lions, tigers and lots of other types which I didn't even know existed. The wolves were really lively, howling, playing and then having a bit of a scuffle. This might have had something to do with the size of the enclosure, which I have noticed are a fair bit smaller than in the Perth Zoo. This makes for some great photos, and means that you get to see more of the animals rather than just glimpsing them hiding behind the bushes, but I can't help feeling sorry for them when they don't have anywhere to hide from the constant stream of people. We also felt sorry for some of the turtles which had been put in the same enclosure as the alligators, poor turtles!

After seeing everything (even the kangaroos and koalas!), we left for a particular spot on the map which was dotted with shrines, temples and other historical buildings. As you can see from the pictures, it was very pretty, however it seemed like more a place of worship than a tourist attraction so we didn't stay for very long.

We went back to the market area for dinner, trying the place next door to the one that we went to the previous night. It was not as good, and afterwards we were still hungry. We decided to try one of the local delicacies, obviously very popular since there are 3 stalls in the market area and all had queues! We had to wait a little while, but it was well worth it, absolutely delicious! We are not sure what we had, possibly some kind of cheesy, tofu, seafood balls which were topped with the same BBQ sauce, mayo and flaky things as the pancake. Delicious!

The other night we decided that we really wanted to stay another few days in Japan, so today we went into the centre of Osaka to arrange for flights to China on the 5th April. We are only arriving in China one day later than scheduled, however we gain 3 extra days in Japan, since we have now eliminated the 2 day ferry trip (which Michael is especially happy about). I am ecstatic since it means that we get to go to Hiroshima (which I really want to see), plus we also get to start our China trip in Beijing, rather than arriving further down the coast in Tianjing and then having to backtrack to go up to Beijing. We managed to get a direct flight for a good price, so we are very happy with that.

After that we wandered around Osaka for a little while. Actually I should say that we wandered underneath Osaka, since we mainly stuck to the amazing underground shopping complex that seems to stretch on forever!

Then we returned to the hotel, and decided to pay a visit to Spa World. Spa World was extremely interesting, since it was my first foray into public bath houses (i.e. you are not allowed to wear your bathers - eek!). The way they work it is that there is one floor for women and one for men. Then there is a shared top floor where they have waterslides and jacuzzis (and you can wear your bathers for once). The floors are themed, one is Europe and the other one is Asia, and every month they swap it around so that both genders get a taste for the different themes. For March the women got the Europe-themed floor and the men got the Asian-themed floor.

It was really cool inside, each of the baths were given a theme within the Europe theme (like Ancient Rome, Atlantis, Grotta Azzurra etc). It was very relaxing and I tried all of the baths (even the freezing Finland one!), I would definitely go to a public onsen again and would recommend it to anyone else coming to Japan. Although I still don't get why I can't keep my bathers on. I mean, isn't it really just a jacuzzi without the bubbles? Do they expect you to be naked for a jacuzzi? Of course not! Anyway, when in Rome...

Unfortunately, when Michael and I went to the top floor, the waterslides were closed :-( However the jacuzzis were still open so we went in those for a while.

Tonight has been laundry night (note: apparently it is bad manners in Japan to take someone's laundry out of the washing machine... even though their laundry has been sitting in there for an hour and there are only 2 washing machines in the whole hotel to serve about 100 guests...). Tomorrow we are going to try and get up early (a struggle!), so that we can do a day-trip to Nara. 


  1. Not sure how to sign off, as I am sure that Michael's Mum also signs off as Mum, so hope you don't mind Jennifer that I have added an (E) to my signature..........

    Who needs Seinfeld episodes anymore for humour..............Hmmmm you probably don't remember too much of Seinfeld; Jennifer? But the influence is there in your writing I am sure of it!!!! ............All we need is " Newman?"! Love Mum (E)

  2. Lol i think the funniest thing is that the majority of the blogs is spent on what you ate! You sure are making me jealous of my latina pasta meals

    As for not being allowed to wear bathers i think the girls definately get the better side of the deal. EWWWWWWWWWW naked old japanese men! Good for you Michael!

    xox Claire

  3. @Claire: The most disturbing thing is that I have been to the public baths about 5 times now.... I just can't seem to get enough of those wrinkly old men!