28th July 2019: Wakayama {Japan, summer 2019}

Going to Wakayama [和歌山] was a spur-of-the-moment decision, so I did not prepare for it in advance – I should have. On the one hand, it was super hot, on the other hand, most of the stuff was not covered by my JR Pass and I had not budgeted 3,000 ¥ extra on trains for it. But when I came out of the train on the 27th saw that my platform was the Wakayama platform and thought “why not?” After all, they made HYDE their Tourist Ambassador this year…

First I found my way to the castle, Wakayama-jo [和歌山城] and the adjacent park.

On one of the corners of the park I found Wakayama-ken Gogoku Jinja [和歌山県護国神社].

And then I visited the Wakayama Rekishi-kan [わかやま歴史館], Wakayma History Museum, since the ticket was included in the Castle visit.

Then I missed the train to Kimiidera [紀三井寺], so I had to wait an extra half-hour… that I would later be thankful for because… stairs. Lots of them.

There were a couple of other shrines that I wanted to visit, but it felt like 45ºC and it was just too hot to walk to them – besides the stairs left me exhausted. So I headed back to the station. I did not manage to make a seat reservation, so I had to stand the 90 minutes back to Osaka [大阪]. That was not fun. Once I was in Osaka I took a stroll in Tennoji shopping centre because I wanted a long summer-jacket, preferably in black lace. I was not lucky.

I had dinner and a shower at the hotel, and then I walked past Shinsekai [新世界] and Tsūtenkaku [通天閣] to see Shitennoji [四天王寺] at night. I was closely observed by some cats which roamed the altars and were very offended I was not bringing them any food.

Walked distance: 22995 steps, 16.4 km

27th July 2019: Osaka by drizzle and twilight {Japan, summer 2019}

After the KAMIJO concert, I set off again, this time over to Osaka (where I was a train-challenged idiot and this time I can’t even blame it on the chaotic Osaka transport) and my first stop was Namba Yasaka Jinja [難波八阪神社], one of whose buildings is shaped as a lion-dog head. It was a very nice and fun shrine.

On the way to the station I walked through Namba Koen [浪速公園].

Then I rode to the hotel to drop off my things – and of course gotout the wrong station at Shin-Imamiya station (I also held a little prayer so I did not end up at a love hotel again – I had chosen wisely!). I had a bit of a rest and then I headed back towards Dōtonbori [道頓堀] and after once again checking the map before getting my butt there, I was able to find all the spots I wanted too – count me out of the Donki ferris wheel though.

The plan was waiting until sunset to see all the lights, but I miscalculated again and I did see the lights, but only against the twilight. Oh. But I made some time eating takoyaki [たこ焼き].

I got some rest on the way, so I was rested enough to have a stroll down Shinsekai [新世界] at night – including Tsūtenkaku [通天閣] and Billy Ken.

Afterwards, before going to sleep, I watched the NHK LunaSea special and… Kinda live-tweet-ed and live-Line’d it (≧▽≦)

Walked distance: 19319 steps / 13.8 km.

25th July 2017: Osaka → Shinagawa → Osaka → VAMPS {Japan, summer 2017}

Yeah, well. That day, I had to go to Tokyo and and pick up my VAMPS at Zepp Osaka Bayside because there had been a slight mess up. But in the end everything resulted fine and I was able to attend the concert. Let’s try to break it down.

Through the mostly-sleepless night I had booked another hotel, so I just picked up my things, returned the keys and did not even try to cancel the other nights. I was just happy to get out of there. I took a shinkansen to Tokyo, where I retrieved my ticket, had lunch with B****, and jumped on a train back. I checked in my new hotel – I’ve never felt this happy about a boring hotel – and had a shower. Then I headed off to the venue, Zepp Osaka Bayside.

After the hotel stress and not having slept much that night – the atmosphere was super creepy – and having to do the Osaka-Tokyo round trip, the concert felt super-cathartic, and one of the most tension-releasing ones I’ve ever attended, even with an album I’m not the biggest fan of. Furthermore, there was a very lovely The Jolly Roger, one of my favourite songs.

Zepp Osaka Bayside building, and VAMPS tour truck.

On my way back I saw Tsūtenkaku [通天閣] lit up (but I seriously had no energy to climb it) and bought yummy, yummy salmon at a random conbini before I bunked down in my nice, safe hotel in Shinsekai [新世界].

Tsutentaku Tower lit up in blue neon, and a tray of raw salmon for dinner

18th August 2014: In Osaka, we stand on the right {Japan, summer 2014}

Armed with my JR pass I headed off to Kansai via Shinkansen. I would be staying in a Kyoto hotel for a couple of days, but my first stop was Osaka [大阪]. Hereby, by the way, I need to remind myself that next time I have to do Kobe. And get a hotel close to Fushimi Inari so I can bloody make it to the top for a change.

Arriving in Osaka, once again, I felt an overwhelming sensation of being home, and that was once again the feeling I got upon remembering that I was to stay on the right on the escalator (in Tokyo, you keep to the left). My visit was carefully planned, even considering transportation times and queues. Yes, it was not the most… travel efficient one if you look at a map, but had to be done like that in order to work, time wise.

My first stop was at the Sumiyoshi Taisha [住吉大社] compound. Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the oldest Shinto Shrines in existence, so of course I had to go there this time over.

After the shrine I headed off to downtown Osaka to visit the Ōsaka Rekishi Hakubutsukan [大阪歴史博物館], the Osaka Museum of History which features exhibitions depicting the evolution of the city from ancient times to the occupation period and the start of Western influence.

Although this was close to Osaka-jo [大阪城] (Osaka Castle), after I was done I headed back to the train station and backtracked half the way I had previously advanced in order to go to Shinsekai [新世界], the New World. there was something else I had pending here, and that was going up the Tsutenkaku [通天閣] Tower to get a view of the city and, of course, to visit Billy Ken, the God of Things as They Ought to Be, and his sidekicks.

After that I headed back to Osaka Castle area to be up when the sun set, and thus be able to see it lit up, which I had not managed the previous time I had been there either.

Finally I took the Shinkansen to Kyoto and checked in my hotel for the night.

10th July 2012: Osaka, day 2 {Japan, summer 2012}

Tuesday 10th was supposed to be Kyoto day, but train trouble made me change my mind. Since I was in Tennōji anyway, I headed off to visit Shitennō-ji [四天王寺], a massive and colourful Buddhist temple dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings.

A grand stone torii stands in the foreground. In the background, a temple and a pagoda, in dark red and white colours

A five-story pagoda and a temple building. They are both dark red and white, with some green and golden decoration

A purification fountain. The tap is sculpted to look like a dragon

There are a couple of graveyards, too. I always find fascinating how different cultures react to graveyards. In Japan, apparently, you can picnic there.

A number of polished rock blocks with kanji on them - they are tombstones, and they're arranged in haphazzardly almost one on top of the other

After Shitennō-ji I crossed above the Tennōji Zoo towards the Tsūtenkaku [通天閣] Tower, in Shin Sekai (New World) [新世界], the old-time entertaining district of Osaka. Sort of like two-centuries-ago Namba, you can say. I could follow the Tower in order not to get too lost XD

The Osaka TV tower. It is silver-ish, with a construction like a scaffolder. The upper area resembles a diamond. The body reads HITACHI

This picture is the pure essence of Shin Sekai: the giant blowfish, the Billy Ken (the god of things as they ought to be) statue, and the Tsūtenkaku Tower.

A shopping street, with the TV tower in the background. In the foreground on the right, a golden sitting idol that looks like a fairy, with big feet and pointy ears. On the left there is a restaurant with a giant blowfish paper lantern.

I had some kushikatsu lunch, but it was too hot to really appreciate the goodness of breaded, deep-fried goods:

Some breaded and deep fried vegetables, with sticks to pick them up and eat them

Once done with this, I crossed aaaall the city towards Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan [海遊館], in hopes of seeing their whale shark… but the whale shark tank was closed due to it being refurnished… they were adding 20,000 sardines.

The aquarium building. It is decorated with mosaics of different ocean animals: coral, dolphins, a sunfish...

I went in nonetheless, and took a few pictures for your viewing pleasure, starting by the hammerhead shark.

A hammerhead shark swimming in the tank.

There was also a Sun fish:

A sunfish sniffing the aquarium ground.

My first time seeing Japanese spider crabs:

Three Japanese spidercrabs

Jellyfish I knew, but they’re fun anyway:

White jellyfish with small tentacles folating around in a dark tank

I would have loved to go and see the Castle illuminated by night, but I was too exhausted and feared crashing down, especially considering that I had one challenge left… Kyoto in ten hours. So instead, I went to the hotel and had a full-blown conbini dinner consisting on “Korean hamburger”, onigiri and dorayaki.

A sandwich, a bar of chocolate, a pastry and two onigiri, which look like dark triangles

A close up of the onigiri. The triangle is made out of dry algae (nori), you can see the rice filling on one corner

A close up of the pastry. The wrapping reads どら焼き