We started the day by returning to the subway station near our hotel. To save money on subway tickets (as we planned to be jumping around the city by subway a lot that day) we purchased day passes from the ticket vending machine for 800 JPY each. Note that the day passes are not RFID cards but rather work the same way as single journey tickets; you insert them into the turnstile and retrieve it after passing through.
We exited at the Tanimachiyonchome station and had breakfast at Gout, a coffee and pastry shop.
These kinds of shops are common around Japan, but more so in busy subway and train stations. You use tongs to place whatever pastry items you’d like on a tray, and then go to the counter to pay and order any beverages.
From here it was only a few blocks to Osaka Castle.
Osaka Castle, though constructed to look like the historical castle that once stood at this location, is a modern reconstruction externally and houses a museum on the inside. Unless you’re really interested in the history and politics surrounding the construction of the original castle that once stood here, the museum is not terribly interesting. However, 600 JPY is a fair price to pay to at least go to the top floor and enjoy the view from the observation deck.
Tickets are purchased from a vending machine near the base of the castle. Note that ticket vending machines in Japan work a bit backwards from how western ticket machines generally work (though more like how our beverage and snack vending machines work): you insert money first and the machine then gives you options based on the balance you’ve inserted.
Approaching to castle, you’ll have the option of either taking the stairs or elevator to the top floor. Note that either way the recommended circuit starts at the top floor, so it is really a question of time spent waiting for the elevator versus physical exertion. Just inside the entrance of the main tower there is a desk offering free audio guides. Our advice is don’t bother. The audio doesn’t contribute anything to the exhibits and just tells you there are things to read on each floor.
The view from the top is really the highlight of the experience, so don’t feel too rushed to start the decent.
After you’ve finished at the top, take the stairs down through each floor. The upper floors contain a static exhibit of the history of the castle and its lord, the lower floors contain a rotating collection of historical artifacts.
Back outside the ticket gates we stopped at Miraiza, a more modern, commercial building located outside the ticket gate for Osaka Castle. Here we shared a matcha latte from Tully’s. This same building has many stores selling souvenirs. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, it is worthwhile to take a pass though.
Next to Osaka castle there is also a Shinto shrine. Inside and to the right of the entrance is a booth selling various blessed charms. One of the more common things to see people purchasing is their fortune. Next to the window is a large cylinder with a small hole on the top. You shake the cylinder and extract one rod from the cylinder. This rode will have a number written on it. You then exchange this for your fortune.
If you plan on visiting several shrines during your drip, you can also purchase a blank book. At each shrine or temple you visit, you can pay to have inscribed in the book a mark that is unique to that location. The cost at each shrine will be around 300 JPY, but may be more at more popular locations. The complexity of the mark also varies from a simple stamp with red ink to multiple lines of hand-written calligraphy (the later actually being more common in my experience).
We travelled by subway to Curry Yakumido for lunch. Curry Yakumido is a very small shop (only 4 seats) owned and operated by single individual. Three curry dishes are available: beef, vegetarian, and mixed. Additionally, coffee and whiskey are available upon request. The food is good and the company is even better. The chef/owner is very amicable and happy to chat while you enjoy your email.
He suggested we visit the Osaka aquarium, Kaiyukan, so we headed there next.
Kaiyukan (Osaka Aquarium)
Kaiyukan is a pleasant aquarium, if not that unique. The aquarium has a long path that snakes around various exhibits and tanks, about 1 km walking in total. Our favorite exhibits were the river otters and dolphins, the later which we caught during feeding time. Near the end of the aquarium there was also an enchanting jelly fish exhibit.
There are a couple of other attractions located in close proximity to the aquarium: boat tour, Ferris wheel, Lego discovery center, and ferry to the Universal Studios theme park.
Dinner in Dotonbori
Dotonbori is Osaka’s main nightlife area. It is quintessentially Japanese with crowded streets, bright neon signs, and elaborate storefronts. Based on previous research, we were headed to Mizuno Okonomiyaki, one of the many restaurants specializing in Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a think pancake make from egg, noodles, various meats and vegetable options, and topped with sauces such as mustard and mayonnaise. It is traditionally cooked on a griddle right at your table by the restaurant staff.
Mizuno is one of the more popular restaurants for this dish, but unfortunately its popularity has been detrimental to the quality of the experience there. The wait was about an hour to get in, and most unfortunately, for most customers they did not cook the Okonomiyaki at the table but rather prepared it in advance in the back and brought it out already cooked.
Given the great number of restaurants offering Okonomiyaki, we would recommend you choose a less popular restaurant, and perhaps even one outside of one of the main nightlife areas. Chances are the meal you have will be every bit as tasty, and you are more likely to have a more authentic experience.
After your dinner, Dotonbori offers many decadent street-eats for desert, many of them involving loaves of bread and ice cream.
We opted for a something a little simpler. This stand, near the subway, sells little fish shaped (not fish flavored) pastries stuffed with either a red bean or sweet potato filling>