Friday, September 9, 2011

[OSAKA] Introducing... Osaka Castle

“Bakit labas masok ka?” the immigration officer asked. “Because I can!” I retorted. JOKE. I wish. Instead, I told him that I was on Leave of Absence. If I told him I was unemployed it would have been a longer question and answer portion. His gaze was glued to page five of my passport, viewing it in different angles in search of something I am not truly aware of. What are you looking for, a hidden Mickey? The Japanese immigration officer was more straightforward, “Have you been to Japan?” I told him that it was my first time. Immigration sticker down. Done. That was easy. When I found out that I would be paying 1,030 yen for the train ride from Kansai International to Momodani Station of the JR Osaka Loop where my guest house is located, I thought for a second if I should just go back to the boarding area and check if the plane was still there. Maybe I could still go back and avert the bankruptcy waiting for me here. Everything is so effing expensive! Like, seriously?!

My Quarter Pounder meal at McDonalds cost 680 yen. A two-stop ride at the metro costs 120. Even the cheapest mineral water from the convenience store won't cost less than a hundred. Welcome to Japan! If this is how expensive Osaka is, I couldn’t begin to imagine how things are in Tokyo. Anyway, I was able to locate the guest house easily. After my midnight dinner at McDonalds I immediately fell asleep. Tomorrow will be a cheat day, just half of the day after lunch spent walking around Osaka, and I chose the castle as my primary destination.

The sun is mad here in Osaka. I just felt like bread in an oven. It is summer indeed but autumn is fast approaching. Perhaps in a few weeks it will start to feel a bit chilly. I was looking for a place where I could eat but it was the same case everywhere. A Tonkatsu meal with rice and side dish would cost upward 750 yen, without drinks. Drinks are priced from 200 yen. It’s insane, right? So I found myself at Lawson, their version of 7 Eleven, buying a microwavable Tonkatsu meal that cost me 498 yen. Use of their microwave is free of charge and they give you free chopsticks with a spoon or a fork. Fair enough. The mineral water was around a hundred yen. That will do, but still crosses the 500 yen per meal budget that I have devised for myself. Maybe it’s time to rekindle the old flames between me and cup noodles.

I was already within the vicinity of the Osaka Castle so I decided to take a stroll after lunch. Don’t be absent-minded while walking around. Bikers are all over the place and they use the same space designated for pedestrians. I walked along the southern wall of the Osaka Castle and got a good view of the moat. Along the way you'll also see Peace Osaka (a museum) and a tower serving as some sort of monument. At the corner of the street you'll see the Osaka National History Museum building. Its design is unique and some sort of bubble thingy connects it to the NHK Osaka building next door. It’s a pretty decent alternative for a photo op if you don’t want to pose in front of the Osaka Castle because everyone else is already doing so.

You'll find many attractions within the castle grounds, although the entrance seems to be the perfect spot for a souvenir photo because of the striking combination of fortress walls and the line of trees with the light blue background of the sky meeting them at the horizon. Once you go inside, there'll be various options on how to kill time. There's a garden called Nishinomaru occupying a wide area before you reach the main castle. There is an entrance fee to see the garden. A Martial Arts Hall is located a few steps away. That very same spot also gives you a good view of the museum and NHK Osaka from afar. Walk farther ahead to reach Sakuramon.

Sakuramon is not a Pokemon, but rather one of the gates leading to the main castle. Opposite that  gate is a path leading to a temple with a brown tori and a statue of a rather old warrior in front of them. This is where I found out that just like us, the Japanese are also natural-born camwhores. Getting your photo taken is not a problem. They'll usually volunteer to take your picture when they see you desperately trying to get a self-portrait. Afterwards they'll ask you to take their picture for them. This happened to me a lot while I was here in Osaka, regardless whether I was in a castle, a garden or Universal Studios. When a Japanese person approaches you and says something that includes “shashin” and “torimasho” that means they are willing to take your photo for you, or asking you to take their photos for them.

Back to Sakuramon, it is the south gate of the castle, I think. I am pretty bad when it comes to directions. If you want to check another garden with plum trees, one of which is where a certain monk hung his clothes (or himself?) as well as the spot where some aristocrat and his mom committed Seppuku, you might want to skip Sakuramon and go straight ahead. As for me, I chose the gate. Immediately to the left when you enter the gate is a well called Gimmeisui. I don’t know what the name means but people were going there and washing their hands so I thought it might be a good idea to do the same since I felt so sticky because of sweat due to the humidity of the place.

There is a souvenir shop once you pass by the old building that used to house the museum currently found outside the castle grounds. Yes, that museum we talked about earlier. Its old home is also a looker but seems too un-Japanese. It looks like a building from England that got picked up and dropped off by an alien spacecraft on this exact spot. It’s nice to look at but it sticks out like a sore thumb.

The castle will now be in front of you and there are spots perfect for the souvenir photo you've been anticipating to take. Entrance to the castle is until 4:30 in the afternoon only. They close at 5 PM. Entrance is 600 yen. Or was it? Please just check the video. I think I mentioned it there. This memory gap thing is getting quite annoying... I did not go inside because it was already 4:20 when I got there. I think I no longer have to reiterate how I always wake up at 12 in the afternoon, which consequently leads to non-admission in certain tourist spots.

The Osaka Business Park is just across the river and you can take an Aquabus to get there. But why would you want to go there? If a picture of the Osaka skyline is what you want, then you should be going away from the area, not approaching it, unless you have a gigantic mirror. Anyway, what I did was go malling after my late afternoon tour of the castle grounds. I went to HEP5 and saw their giant red wheel. Miramar Taipei, is that you? And then I checked out an underground shopping arcade called Whity with a lot of restaurants and stores for clothes and a lovely artificial pond complete with some greenery. After this I braved the rush hour crowd at Osaka station to get back to my guest house. Not bad for my first day!

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

melvin said...

nakakatawa ka.i enjoy your blog.parang naoobserve mo lahat habang nagtataravel ka.ako kasi when i get overwhelmed dahil sa mga nakikita ko parang nagpifreeze utak ko.hahaha

ihcahieh said...

@melvin - Haha, thanks. It could be a disadvantage though, sometimes I just feel detached. :)

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