Osaka, Japan

November 19, 2019  •  5 Comments

We arrived in Osaka, Japan, mid-September. Just in time when the temperature and humidly was at a comfortable level and it was pleasant to be outside in short sleeve. We both had been in Japan before, but it was our first time in Osaka. We immediately liked the city and noticed how different it felt from Tokyo. People seemed more relaxed, the atmosphere more vibrant and easy-going. The City of Osaka has a population of about 2 million people and 20 million in the metropolitan area. It’s the second largest metropolitan after Tokyo and just like Tokyo, it’s a city with a lot of concrete buildings but also has its charm. OsakaView from Osaka castle park Osaka Stairways to home Arriving in Japan, the first impression is the cleanliness – in the restaurants, in the streets, in the residential areas, in the transportation, in short everywhere. Incredible and spotless. No one throws trash on the street. If they drop a piece of food, they pick it up so it’s clean for the next person. Osaka Zoo around Tennoji In the underworld of OsakaCleanliness and no trash cans Another thing, we noticed and appreciated was the noise level. In the metros and trains, they tell you to put your phone on silence and if you are sitting next to someone, you do not talk on your phone. We actually saw a controller asking someone to get off his phone. He was speaking very quietly that we had not even noticed he was on the phone. Phone OK but no talkingA common sight on the trains Osaka is in the Kansai region of Japan and the more we researched the area the longer we wanted to stay and explore it. Considering how expensive transportation is in Japan it also made a lot of sense since the treasury chest was running low. As we tried to figure out how long we could afford to stay in Japan, we got a very generous gift from Byron, our neighbor in Portland who has Japanese ancestry. He was excited to let us discover more of his heritage, culture and in particular the Japanese food. Byron is a good cook and he has shared many delicious dishes with us in Portland. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity he provided for us as it allowed us to stay to the end of October, eat lots of tasty food and celebrate our 10th anniversary and Vanessa’s birthday in style. One of the things that Osaka is really famous for is its food. They use the expression "kuidaore" which means "eat until you drop". Everything we ate was delicious and reasonably priced. We went out on several occasions, but we also loved our local grocery store and tried to cook for ourselves in addition to trying some local ready-made food.  Here are few typical Japanese dishes we tried: Deliciousness From Osaka, we did several day trips in addition to exploring the city. We took the local train, Kintetsu Line to Nara just 40 minutes away. Nara was the capital in the 8th century. The first attraction we experienced was the deer park. The deer are wild per se but over the years, they have gotten used to people and you can get really close to them. People would take photos with them and even pet them. Vendors sold “deer crackers” to feed to the deer which encouraged the deer to approach people and discouraged people to feed them human food. Nara is an important historical town and has many temples and shrines to visit. Give it to me babyFeeding the tame deer in Nara Temple in Nara Small street in Nara Todaiji Gate in Nara Evening Beer time In Nara, we visited a seismic exhibition. They demonstrated how an earthquake-proof building in Japan sustains an earthquake next to a building not made earthquake proof. It was interesting to see how some of the same techniques were used in the traditional Japanese temple construction. Rock my world In Nara, we also got to meet up with Jeni & Sylvain. We met them in Oaxaca, Mexico last November. We have stayed in touch during our travels. It’s been fun to connect every time we happen to be at the same place at the same time. We have met up 5 times in 3 countries! Traveling friends Thanks to our neighbor in Portland, Fran, we met Florence. And later Florence introduced us to a friend of hers, Kazuko, who took us under her wings and showed us traditional Japanese festivals and cultures. We will share more about that in a future blog post. Florence kindly invited us to her 13 year old grand-daughter's ceremony of receiving the wisdom from the temple Horinji in Arashiyama, south of Kyoto. It’s an old tradition when girls were considered adults at 13. It was a very nice and unique experience. Temples are always on top of the hills Receiving wisdom at Horinji Temple Arashiyama Jisai-in shrine Arashiyama ArashiyamaInside the grounds of Seiryoji Temple Arashiyama Bamboo groveToo crowded Ancient meet modern Within the city of Osaka, we visited the grounds around Osaka Castle, Tennoji Park, Umeda (Kita) area, Namba (Minami) area, Tsuruhashi neighborhood, Korea Town (very close to our apartment), Dotonbori area, Kuromon Ichiba market (fish market in Nippombashi), Shinsekai (Naniwa) area, and……. Just enjoyed walking around the streets and come across something new. Osaka Castle The Lord and his CastleIn Osaka Osaka by sunsetFrom Osaka Castle In Naniwa district Osaka Temple and Shrine in Osaka near NambaHozenji Temple was built in 1637 Namba by nightIn Osaka Isshin-ji temple Osaka Getting lost in Korea townNear Tsuruhashi station in Osaka Korea Town next to our apartment Walking home at nightAlways safe Tree transplant Old mason wall in Tennoji park Modern wallIn Osaka Due to the summer heat and rain the rest of the year, many streets in Japan are covered. These are called “shotengai”, you can find just about anything (clothing, food, post offices, barber shops, etc). They are mostly mom & pop stores.  From the train station to our apartment, we would walk through a long shotengai. Namba ShotengaiIn Osaka One day, when we were walking in the Namba district, we visited the tourist center and asked about recommendations. The tourist agent was super informative, and her English was perfect! We asked her where we could take a lesson to learn some basic Japanese. She offered to teach us some basics. What began as a simple question became a wonderful friendship. We are delighted to have met Midori who shared a great deal of knowledge with us, a fantastic meal and a fine sake tasting. With Midori at sake tastingThank goodness photo was taken at the beginning of the evening End of September also marked our 10th anniversary. We can’t believe how fast time flies! We wanted to celebrate at a special restaurant, but our first choice required reservation. We read that the restaurant staff only spoke Japanese and a Japanese person should make the reservation otherwise they would not take our reservation.  Too many foreigners did a no-show. Midori came to our rescue and made the reservation for us. We got the Chef’s choice Menu, “Omakase”, which means "I'll leave it up to you". We got all kinds of tasty treats.  Thank you, Byron for sponsoring our dinner at this Michelin Starred restaurant.

Anniversary Omakase The first of October arrived really fast and we took the Shinkansen train to Mihara then the local train to Tadanoumi in the Hiroshima Prefecture. More about that in the next blog.


In the mean time you can see more pictures from Osaka here


*mouse over image to see captions.


Allison Mudrick(non-registered)
Hi Vanessa and Soren,
I have been waiting for the entire series of pictures to appear before I started to admire them and wish that I was traveling along with you. I doubt that I could keep up with your pace. Japan just went up a bit higher on my places to visit. Sorry to be so tardy at my response, but...there is the awful word again, I had the cold of the decade in December and spent almost two weeks sleeping, sneezing and coughing. Not the perfect way to end a year or decade and begin a new one. Keep me on your email list. I love traveling with both of you. Happiest of New Year!
Michael Paul Kukuk(non-registered)
Fantastic photographs. Thank you for sharing!
Very interesting pictures, as always! I like the ¨tree transplant¨ image - like a giant bonsai!

You have several images in this post and in the next one of tame deer in public places - is this a common sight in Japan? What happens to these deer when they grow up and get too big? And congrats to the girl in the picture for not freaking out!

I was also curious about the temples, are they mostly considered historical or are there many religious Japanese people who go regularly for spiritual purposes? I don´t think of Japan as a religious country, yet there is a great respect for tradition, so I wonder what place religious activities have in Japanese culture.
Susan Carlyle(non-registered)
These are stunning pictures. Thanks for sharing.
Nice to visit Japan with you.
I have few trips planed, the long one should be in March to Zambia.
Take care
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