Osaka, Day 2

Osaka, Day 2

Since we did not go to the fish market in Tokyo, we decided to check out the one in Osaka. The Osaka Municipal Central Market is supposed to rival the one in Tokyo but is less touristy. The tuna auctions start at 4:15 AM and then the market is typically open until 2 in the afternoon. There are some famous sushi restaurants there that get the freshest fish, so we decided to hit one up for breakfast. We took a quick coffee and pancake break along the way for Ryan (sushi is not enough calories for a growing man), took a train and walked for around 30-minutes before arriving.

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Along our walk, we noticed a lot of shops and restaurants were closed and, unfortunately when we got the the market, it was closed as well. Apparently it was Vernal Equinox Day, a national holiday where most businesses, including markets, are closed. What a bummer! I was pretty upset since we had already had a few snafoos along our trip so far, but Ryan perked me up. On the way, out he noticed some stacks of fish and was like “Look! We saw fish at the fish market!”. It made me laugh. I am so lucky to have him. It really knows how to pick up my spirits.

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We walked back to the train station and found a grocery store to grab a bite to eat since the market sushi didn’t work out. We all got sushi and shared some goyza. It was pretty fresh and good but I don’t think sushi for breakfast is “my thing”. After checking multiple times that it was open, we headed towards the Osaka Aquarium. Apparently, half of Osaka also had the same idea and it was super packed! The line for tickets went quickly though and we were walking into the Power Ranger looking building in no time.

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The aquarium starts at the very top of the building and descends in a downward spiral along the main tank. You seeing 3-4 layers (top, middle, and bottom) of each tank to get the full experience and see as much of each animal as possible. It was pretty crowded in the entrance but we found that, if we walked to the end of each tank, there were fewer people than at the start and we could see better. There was a large exhibit with dolphins that I totally loved. They were racing around and jumping out of the water. So cute!

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We found ourselves at the top of the main tank and it was pretty cool with huge stingrays, hammerhead sharks, and a school of fish circulating in the middle. I was about to walk away when something caught my eye. A huge whale shark swam right in front of me! It was glorious! I had never seen one up close and it was awe inspiring. There were two of them in the main tank and we speculated that they were younger sharks as they were not as large as ones in the ocean.

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We continued down the spiral and were very impressed but the aquarium overall. There was even an area where you could pet stingrays and small sharks. Their skin felt like sandpaper.

After about 2 hours, we completed the journey and were ready for the next item on the agenda – SUMO! But first, lunch. Ryan and I broke off to find some Japanese curry and landed on a place a block from our hotel right on the water. We waited about 20 minutes for a table that overlooked the water and enjoyed some Japanese curry udon with pork and soba dipping noodles with tempura. The tempura was so delicious!

We met back up with my family and walked through the crowded streets, a mall, and down some alleyways to get to the Sumo arena. We knew were getting close when we saw a few sumo wrestlers walking sweatily away in their robes from the arena. It was packed with people out front as they lined up to watch the best wrestlers enter right before the 3:45 PM match.

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We found our seats on the second floor. There are a few ways to watch the tournament. While we were in actual seats, the rows in front of us were actually 4 person boxes with floor pillows. We would have had to buy 2 boxes for all of us to fit and they were pretty pricey so I got the actual seats instead. We still had a great view.

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I have to say, buying the tickets was a process! I had the seats were available on Feb 3rd at 10 AM and I set calendar reminders / alarms for that day and time in October when I began planning. I checked the day before and then the day they were released right as they went on sale and they sold out before I could get them on the official site. I then had to go to the licensed reseller and had to pay about $150 a person for the tickets. The tickets were then sent to our hotel in Osaka as the tickets were not released in time for them to ship to Texas. Thankfully, we got them and I am so glad we did. The tournament was awesome to watch.

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The sumo wrestlers were massive, averaging 366 lbs per, and the further in the day we got, the bigger and better the wrestlers were. It was pretty hot in the stadium, so we got some ice cream to cool us down as we watched. By the last 4 bouts, the crowd was cheering and the atmosphere rivaled any sports game in the US. It was definitely a fun experience and one I would do again and recommend!

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Leaving the stadium was so crowded. We walked back through the districts and tried to find a Tempura place for my mom. She is super picky about restaurants so it took some time to find one she wanted. Along the way, we decided to try Takoyaki, a fired octopus ball that is specific to Osaka. It was lava hot and was not the best thing we have had but still good to try the local favorites.

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We got closer to the hotel and I recommended our lunch spot to my parents since the tempura I had was delish. We dropped my parents and sister off there, set our game plan for the morning, and Ryan and I set off to explore. We went down the crowded roads and tried out Melon Pan bread with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious and we sat on the bridge looking a all of the city lights while enjoying it. Finally, some time to relax.

We continued walking and exploring and stumbled upon a shopping area with a Forever 21, Starbucks, and 2 massive H&M buildings. Looking down the street, all you could see was people in every direction. It was SO packed! We opted to walk down a side alley instead for some breathing room and found a tiny 9 person chicken skewer place to grab a bite and have some sake. The chicken was cooked right in front of us and we left a little memento of our time there on their picture wall. After that, we went back to the hotel for much needed sleep.

Osaka, Day 1

Osaka, Day 1

Today was our trek from Tokyo to Osaka. We checked out of our hotel in Tokyo hotel and walked to the train station to hop a few lines over to Tokyo Station and grab a bite to eat at a market. I had this delicious sandwich with cheese and a coffee. Once we filled up, we headed to the train. We had spent a little too much time at the station and were in quite a rush to get to the correct platform. Thankfully, we reserved seats on the JR Line to Osaka in advance to ensure we were able to sit together, so that reduced some of the stress, but navigating the thousands of people in the station  with our luggage during rush hour to catch a train was crazy!

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Finally, we made it to the platform with a few minutes to spare. Ryan decided to grab “train beers” for the 9:03 AM train ride to to relax and my sister and I had one as well. It definitely did the relax-trick! We were able to see Mt. Fuji from the other side of the train’s windows for about 15 minutes as we sped by at 200+ MPH! I spent the rest of the 2 hour ride journaling. I have to say, the train rides in Japan seem to go by quickly!

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Once we hit Osaka, we hopped off the train and navigated the streets to the Candeo Hotel. It was centrally located in the Namba District which was filled with restaurants and bars. We could not check upon arrival, so we dropped of our luggage and took of to head towards to Castle Park. There were some restaurants at the park entrance and we stopped for lunch at R Baker Osaka-jo. It had a bunch of baked goods and Ryan and I shared 4 pastries: a potato pizza, Japanese curry fried pocket, sweet rolls, and a hot dog looking thing. They were delicious and it was so nice to sit in some green space while enjoying lunch after being in the busy cities for so long.

After lunch, we continued our walk through the park. It was a beautiful day and the first one warm enough to leave our jackets at home. Once we got through the giant stone walls to the center of the park, the main castle was visible and totally stunning. It was totally massive and we sat for a while taking in the view on some jade looking rocks. There was a Spanish performer playing loud music starting his act right in front of the palace and we were so curious how his life could have led him to performing street art in Osaka.

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We continued our walk through the gardens, passing some shrines and statues of Shogun and then it was back to the hotel to check in. The room was small and view was lousy, but the hotel was so central to the main areas it worked perfectly. The Dotonbori district with tons of shopping and restaurants was only a few blocks from us and we took of to explore and find something to eat.

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Being so close to Kobe, Yakiniku is very popular in Osaka so we found a restaurant with good reviews to try it out. We sat at a table with a grill pot in the middle of us and, for $29 per person, we had 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook and eat as much as we wanted.

The meat quality was excellent and we used a table next to the table to order plate upon plate of different meats, seafood, and veggies. It was delicious, though picking who was going to cook what was a little stressful as people like different cooks of meat. We opted to each cook our own food to our desired doneness which helped with the stress. The clock countdown also made out meal tricky. If you had too much food left over, you would get charged extra for wasting. Ryan was super hungry and took down at least a pound of steak and pork belly within the last 7 minutes to finish everything off.

My parents never really understood why Ryan thought sushi was not enough food until tonight when they saw how much he can eat! What can I say, he is a growing boy (man haha).

After dinner, we walked through the crowded streets of Namba, checking out all of the food vendors and shops along the way. The number of lights and signs were overwhelming but so cool; nothing like we have seen before. There were all of these fake food displays outside of the restaurants too that looks so realistic! It was pretty incredible but we were so stuffed we couldn’t even think about more food!  After about an hour walking off all of the meat we had eaten, we headed back to the hotel for much needed sleep.

Overall, Japan has been a bit stressful so far. I think it is a combination of the sheer number of people in the city, unlimited number of options for things to do, and how many opinions there are with the 5 of us. It makes it tough to make everyone happy for everything unfortunately. I think getting out of the hustle and bustle of the cities for a few days will do us some good. I am just very glad we have the technology we do because trying to navigate Japan without GPS and our phones would be next to impossible.

Continue on this adventure….