So far I have given you two detailed trip reports on my time at both the Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan. Now I would like to share with you some details on some of the other things I experienced during my trip to Japan. Iím going to start with Osaka.
Many people advised me to give Osaka a miss and stay in Kyoto, but in the end I opted for Osaka and rather happy that I did, the city has a fantastic vibe to it, people very friendly and it has a good central location for exploring the Kansai region of Japan. I ended up staying at the Swissotel Osaka which is above the Namba Station and very much in the heart of Osaka with Dotonbori and Shinbashi in easy walking distance. Namba Parks which is an entertainment, shopping and dining experience was right next to the hotel. If you end up visiting Osaka this is the place to stay for its fantastic location. The hotel was comfortable and staff were all excellent. The view from the room was also very nice giving you a view of the city.
The original castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and what stands now is a reconstruction of the Main Tower. Inside the Castle you will find a very nice museum giving you a full account of the history of the Castle and its founder Hideyoshi Toyotomi. At the very top of the Castle you will find a observation deck giving you a panoramic view of Osaka and the park. Plenty of English descriptions every where but bare in mind the Castle is quite a distance from the Subway Station Osaka-jo Koen on the loop line. But the park grounds offer a very relaxing stroll and a escape from the city. If your after a visit to a real Japanese castle, this is not really the one for you, but if you have time to kill and donít mind reading up on some of Osakaís history, you may like to give this Castle a visit.
Osaka Museum of History
A short walk from Osaka Castle is the Museum of History, which I decided to check out. The actual Museum is connected to the NHK building and is built on the ancient remains of the Naniwa-Nagara-Toyozaki Palace from the Asuka Period. In the basement of the museum you will find the remains of the warehouse and separate walls and water supply facilities for the palace. To access the museum you take the lift to the top floor and make your way down by escalator. The museum often holds special exhibits and on the day of my visit I was offered a chance to see a special treasures of Tibet exhibit. This is a great museum for its visual displays and models with life-size replicas on display. Only disappointment for me was not enough English explanations, thatís not to say the museum didnít have English descriptions, but I would of liked to see more, the temporary Tibet exhibit on the other hand did feature much more English. Anyway great museum that gives you a good history of Osaka, and worth checking out if your in the Osaka Castle area.
The Suntory Museum is located in the Bay area of Osaka and is next to the Osaka Aquarium. The Museum is frequently changing its exhibits and during my trip it was presenting a special Manga exhibit by Inoue Takehiko. The Art Museum also has a Imax Theatre currently presenting Under the Sea in 3D. While the audio is in Japanese, audio headsets are available in English and other languages. As the weather was a bit wet this was a good location to spend a couple of hours checking out some beautiful artwork. The Imax show was well produced and narrated by Jim Carey.
Much of Osakaís criticism comes from the fact it has so few tourist attractions for a city of its size. But in my view there are many big cities that donít have an Aquarium on the size or scale that Osaka has here. The building is very impressive and houses Sea life from the Ring of Fire which is the active earthquake and volcanic areas of the Pacific Ocean. Animals on display include two Whale Sharks, Sea Lionís, Penguinís, Dolphins and Giant Spider Crabs. Your route begins from the top of the building making your way down passing by different regions of the Ring of Fire, areas include Monterey Bay, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef. This Aquarium houses a lot of fish that I have never seen kept in captivity before, the Giant Spider Crabs from the Japan Deep area are very interesting. This is the premiere attraction in Osaka as far as Iím concerned.
Tempozan Harbour Village
After the Suntory Museum and the Osaka Aquarium other attractions you can check in the area include the Giant Ferris Wheel giving you a panoramic view of Osaka Bay, and the near by mountains and Kansai International Airport. I never did the wheel as Iím the sort of person who canít even handle Mickeyís Fun Wheel at Disneyís California Adventure, so I knew going on one of the Worlds biggest Ferris Wheels would not be for me. But I did take the Sightseeing Sailing Ship the Santa Maria for a hour long cruise of the bay area. The Village also has a Marketplace where youíll find Sega World, Subway and be able to pick up all those Hello Kitty souvenirs.
A short trip from the Tempozan Harbour Village on the Subway is the Maritime Museum, I was attracted to visit this place from its Dome like structure. To access the Museum you need to pass though a underwater tunnel. The Museum gave you a good history on Osakaís early port days during the Edo. Plenty of displays in English, and the museum features a replica Naniwa Maru, a 17th century trade ship. Another good museum to see if you have time to kill or want to escape the reality of city life for a while.
That should do it for now Iíll continue the Osaka Trip Report soon.