[RD] Exploring Japan

warpus

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Umeda Sky Building

This building is one of the more recognizable landmarks in the city. It is the 19th tallest building in the Osaka urban area. Built in 1993, it was originally supposed to be four connected towers, but the Japanese economy wasn't doing so well in the late 80s and the plans were downgraded to two.





The rooftop Floating Garden Observatory is a popular observation deck. To get there you of course first have to get in an elevator.. and then take an escalator which connects the buildings near the top.


 

warpus

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The Floating Garden Observatory

I arrived at the perfect time.. Early enough to see the city while it's still light out.. but not so early that I had to wait a while for the sunset







Many companies have their headquarters in this ward (Kita-Ku, one of 24 in the city)

 

warpus

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Dōtonbori

Dōtonbori is a part of Osaka known for the eccentric atmosphere and bright illuminated signboards. It runs alongside the Dōtonbori canal, with restaurants, shops, and other economic activity. The best time to come here is after dark.







The running Glico Man (seen on the right) is this one of Dōtonbori's most prominent displays. It was built in 1935 and represents the interests of a candy company.
 
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JohannaK

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Glico is the company that makes Pocky!
 

warpus

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My Pocket WiFi



This photo came up next so I figured I might as well throw it in. This is my pocket WiFi, the device that allowed me to stay connected to the internet during most of my trip. I ordered it online ahead of time and picked it up at the airport when I arrived in the country. On my last day I would have to put it in a provided envelope and drop it in a mailbox.
 

FriendlyFire

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...... Warpus you only ate one meal at Osaka ? Which is famous for its street foods and eateries
 

amadeus

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@warpus, I didn’t know that about the Umeda Sky Building! I always thought it to be an eyesore to be perfectly honest.

One thing that I’m sure you noticed while there is how there is a very busy area around JR Osaka station but then next to it a huge fenced-in area with nothing in it; that land was once a freight station for JNR/JR that has been in redevelopment for some years now.

In Dotonbori, the Glicoman sign has undergone many renovations over the years and it looks like you were there when they most recently changed it from neon lights as it had been for years over to LEDs or LCDs? Something like that.

You’re also not far there from an incident that happened in 1985 when the Hanshin Tigers baseball team won the Japan Series. Local fans who looked like the players jumped into the Dotonbori river (which now is very dangerous!) but no one was there who looked like the team’s American player Randy Bass. The improvising Japanese then picked up a statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken and threw it into the river.

That statue is now a part of legend: the Hanshin Tigers have not won a Japan Series since 1985 and it’s now known as the “Curse of the Colonel,” hoping to be broken when the statue would be found and put back in its place.

The statue was later found and stands outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken near Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya. However, the “curse” has yet to be broken!
 

warpus

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...... Warpus you only ate one meal at Osaka ? Which is famous for its street foods and eateries

I mean clearly I ate more than just meal during my stay there! I just don't make a habit to photograph everything I eat. On this trip I've been photographing the meals that look unique or interesting, or if it was just an example of a new type of dish I ate.

I did not eat octopus balls, which I should have. That's my only regret as far as Osaka cuisine goes. I walked past various stands selling the stuff in Dotonbori, and the lines were always long, so I kept walking..

@warpus, I didn’t know that about the Umeda Sky Building! I always thought it to be an eyesore to be perfectly honest.

It isn't a very elegant looking building and basically close enough to Dotonbori for me to have walked over and checked it out. I thought the escalator that connects the two buildings at the top was fun to be in (and of course the views are nice too)

That's funny about the curse.. I suspect they will never find it, but one day that baseball team will win and they will have to make up a new chapter in the story of the curse
 

warpus

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Day 19 - Return to Tokyo

At this point I was 11 days into my rail pass, with 3 days left to go. I considered staying longer in the Osaka area or heading elsewhere, but in the end jumped on a train back to Tokyo.



I ended up booking a capsule hotel room in the now somewhat familiar to me Ueno Park part of Tokyo. I was there on day 3 of my trip to visit the Tokyo National Museum.



Except this time it wasn't raining, which allowed me to explore a bit more of Ueno Park
 

warpus

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Return to Ueno Park

Right outside the National Museum of Nature and Science is this whale. It's somewhat imposing in person







I ran into the Kan'ei-ji five-story Pagoda.. although the above is the best picture of it I got, so it's probably not worth sharing any of the others

 

warpus

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Return to Ueno Park (continued)

This park was established in 1873 on the former grounds of Temple Kan'ei-ji, and includes a small lake and some marshland. I was a bit tired out from all the travel at this point and didn't mind taking it easy just walking around and exploring the place





 
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warpus

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Gyoza Dumplings



I found a restaurant nearby which specializes in Gyoza dumplings and got great reviews. I got there and the place looked really run down.. It was right under a rail line, didn't really seem to have a front door, and didn't look like it was being maintained in any way.. I peeked inside and saw an old guy sitting by the bar eating dumplings..

I thought about it and sat down by the bar, a healthy distance away from the other gentleman..

I got pork dumplings from what I remember, but when I first got my order I sat there for a while looking at all the different sauces in front of me.. The older gentleman ended up helping me out and showed me what I should be pouring into what. I thanked him and dived into my meal, which was delicious

As I was sitting there facing the bar, focused on my food, I felt a tap on my shoulder from the left.. It was the older gentleman from earlier. He said some things to me I did not understand, bowed, and extended his hand. I assumed he was saying bye, so I shook his hand, thanked him again, and went back to my meal..

Which is when I realized that he had paid for my meal! I turned around again and he was gone.. Turns out this guy was a regular who just wanted me to have a good experience.. and I did! Even if he hadn't done that, the food was delicious.. I'm glad I stuck to this place and put in my order

After that I walked around Ameya-Yokochō night market, sometimes referred to as Ueno Night Market. I did not seem to take any pictures, but I remember walking into some random places and eating more food. Some sort of a plate of assorted items.. The gyoza dumplings are definitely the highlight of this day, everything else is just a blur
 

warpus

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My Capsule Hotel Room

This "room" cost me $15 USD for the night or so





The ladder was flimsy; I was sure I was going to fall off on more than one occasion.. The bed wasn't very comfortable..

There were dozens of such pods scattered throughout this building.. with not much between them other than hallways to the elevators and exits.. The sound travelled far, these walls were so thin.. and you didn't even have walls in all directions.. I did not get much sleep.. I did not enjoy the capsule hotel at all.

I got out of there really early in the morning.. fortunately it was a short walk from a major transportation hub and in under an hour I was leaving my bags at my new hotel and getting ready for my next day trip
 

JohannaK

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That suuuucks.
 

FriendlyFire

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I did not eat octopus balls, which I should have. That's my only regret as far as Osaka cuisine goes. I walked past various stands selling the stuff in Dotonbori, and the lines were always long, so I kept walking..

....... you probably missed a lot of important cuisine then you realise. Osaka is famous for more then just Takoyaki
Theres also famous cheesecake, the cake flavoured soft drink, Yakitori, and kinds of kushikatsu
 

warpus

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That suuuucks.

My expectations weren't very high given the cost per night.. I did expect a bit more privacy to be honest, but in the end couldn't complain much given how much I paid.. It did not lead to a great morning the next day but that's life :)
 

JohannaK

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I remember staying one night at a 1-star hotel. It was just like in the movies, with ugly green fluorescent lighting, a cracked sink and rusty dripping faucet.
 

warpus

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I remember staying one night at a 1-star hotel. It was just like in the movies, with ugly green fluorescent lighting, a cracked sink and rusty dripping faucet.

When I needed a place to stay in Osaka I first found a hostel for only $5 a night. The hostel was a bit out of the way, but not that much.. I ended up booking it. I figured.. what's $5? If I can't find anything else later, I will have this place at least..

Later on in the day.. the more I looked at that booking, the more I questioned my decision making process.. The ad for it was missing a lot of information, the pictures weren't great, it wasn't in a central location.. There were some typos.. It seemed like it could have been inexperienced new owners... or who knows what.. And turns out it was pretty easy to find a central hotel in Osaka for only $50 a night.. I ended up booking that on the train and completely forgetting about the hostel. I had meant to cancel my booking, but just didn't end up getting to it.. The views out the window quickly got my attention and after the hotel booking confirmation email came in I forgot about the whole thing..

Later that evening, after I had already checked in to my room at the hotel.. I got a phone call from the hostel. They wanted to know where I am. I apologized and told them my plans had changed, I was staying somewhere else, and they can keep the $5. For some reason that wasn't enough to end the conversation and we went back and forth a couple times.. I had to insist that my plans had changed and that I was fine and in a different part of town.. Maybe it was a bit of a case of "Lost in translation", I'm not sure.. in the end the hotel was in a great location and I was willing to pay $50 for that alone, and I will never forget to cancel a booking again
 
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warpus

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Day 20 - Nikkō

Situated about 150km north of Tokyo, this small town of 85,000 has enough to see and do to make it worthwhile as a day trip from the capital. There is a direct rail route that will take you there, but it is operated by a private rail company. In order to use my rail pass I had to jump on the bullet train and transfer to another train along the way.

During the transfer I located a nearby Gyoza dumpling restaurant and went for it



5 pork and 5 mushroom dumplings. These were not as good as the ones I ate the previous day, but they were good, and I was clearly still hooked.

I made the connecting train just fine, got back to the train station with 5 minutes to spare



Nikkō is a small town, but it sees a decent amount of tourists every year.. The above shot was taken just outside of the train station



You are looking at Shinkyo Bridge, which stands at the entrance to all the shrines and temples. It dates back to the 1600s, although it is believed it could be even older
 
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