We had a far more leisurely morning to travel to Osaka from Kyoto, as it was only 45 minutes away by the Shinkensen and our train was at 12.
We packed up and went off. Osaka is really nice - second largest city and it proclaims itself as "the City that never sleeps". It was not as loud or vibrant as areas of Tokyo but it was certainly more of a short-stay party town. There were bars everywhere, a more open clubbing scene and an entire district devoted to street food and gastro-dining. (Always a win for us - it's amazing that I've actually lost some weight here)
We found our hostel which was a really friendly, relaxed place. Downstairs served as a bar/cafe with a hipster vibe to it and upstairs had two sets of male and female only dorms with a couple of co-ed twin rooms, one of which we'd been lucky enough to book when our airbnb place fell through (laws restricted the minimum number of days one can let out to a patron).
It was very basic but I liked it much better than the flat in Kyoto - after all, it didn't smell of sewage!
We went to the aquarium, which is on the edge of the sea and is built around an enormous tank - they take the tunnel idea and really expand it so that you are going deeper into sea life. They also have mini exhibits of habitats of various places in the world, so there is the odd capybara and macaw there, too.
We paid about the same as one would for the London Aquarium and got SO MUCH MORE.
Darn it, there was a whale shark, white-sided pacific dolphins, three kinds of penguin, two types of otter and a hella lot of deep sea jellyfish. Also a giant salamander. And it was huge. So. Yeah. Way better value in my opinion.
Here is what we saw at the aquarium. If you click here, you can see the video I got of one of the cool jellyfish swimming and here for the sea otter's adorable post-feed scratch and wash (SO CUTE)!
We had bought combined tickets, so we went onto the giant ferris wheel - which is pretty much the same as the London eye but less as though it was trying to look cool and modern. That was quite nice - we saw the sun set over the river and the lights come on downtown.
Then we made our way over to Dotonbori, which is the district where people go to eat all the streetfood they can. Unfortunately, we'd given in to our late-lunch hunger at the aquarium, so we didn't actually end up eating anything there - there were too many people and places to choose from anyway.
We ended up down some side streets and found a bar run by an American dude and an English girl that allowed patrons to play video games on a variety of consoles. While we drank our drinks, we played Dr Mario on a famcom.
Then we moved on and found a little bar which was more like a modern pub in Britain, run by foreign people. There I ordered a mojito, which the barman was unsure about - he even asked me whether I knew what was going to happen next! Turned out, it was only his second night working there. By the end of the evening, we'd ordered enough drinks for him to have a vague idea of what went into them (other staff made them while he watched) and he was an expert mojito maker. His name was Marvin and though his accent was oddly French at first listen, he was actually from West Germany. Very chatty and very cool. Hi Marvin!
Highly unlikely he'll ever read this. Ah well.
Osaka at night is very pretty and we walked along the river a little while and ended up down many side streets before eventually finding our way back to the underground and our beds!
Day 17: Osaka castle and Okinmiyaki
We accidentally slept in a little and decided to go to Osaka castle - which had been reconstructed after burning down. It's 8 floors high and magnificent to look at from the outside. It was originally built in the 16th century, then was partially damaged during the Summer War in the 17th century and then of course other things have happened since that damaged a lot of things... yeah...
Inside isn't any of the original things, unless you count the museum exhibits, which I found fairly interesting. There were original clothes and bits of armour, boxes, screens and paintings... mostly around the last holder of the castle before the war.
We made it to the viewing platform on the 8th floor, which was quite nice to see Osaka from, though we saw more from the ferris wheel (spied in the distance in one picture).
After that we went in search of lunch - I suggested we go back to Dotonbori, despite it being a nighttime place, because there was a local dish that was highly recommended and the restaurant just might have been open... it was!
So we had Osaka okinmiyaki - a sort of pancake made from noodles, with sea food and a special sauce on top. I asked Him Indoors to order me something without seafood in, as I'm not a shellfish fan. His had noodles and mine was basically a giant omelet. When they come, they're placed on our table top cooking surface to finish off and the waitress added the sauce to decorate and season it.
It was really nice - except I had to pick out squid (the entire middle was a squid in the end) and prawns. I couldn't finish it all anyway - there was SO much egg! I reckon at least 6 went into making it!
Here are the pictures from Osaka castle, which include some of the random historical fact signs around the gardens outside - apparently parts of it were haunted!