Friday, January 1, 2016

Japan Trip 2015 - Osaka

Osaka, Japan
Amazing that I haven't blogged about our family trip to Japan yet. I promised early in 2015 and now it is 2016 and I'm just beginning. As such, there are a lot of details that I probably  forget. This will be a photo journal of sorts of some of the places we went, things we saw, food we ate, etc.
One thing that stuck out to me about some of the touristy strips was that the restaurants had great signs, usually three dimensional, above them. Most of them were Japanese language only, not much English really.
As you may remember, BunBun had just left us only days before we were to travel to Japan with Mom and Dad. It put a damper on our mood but we tried to have a good time with the parents.
Takoyaki is a popular Osaka snack. It's little fried balls of octopus and batter. This was a small shop at the end of a bridge that we came across.
 We've taken Mom and Dad to Hong Kong and Korea before and both times had a good experience. The brothers actually went to Korea with us too. This time we just wanted to take them somewhere they hadn't been and since Pae and I were both employed, we had saved up enough for four of us to go.
First night wandering around the Dotonbori area. Loved all of the Fugu (Pufferfish) "signs" hanging all over the place for restaurants that serve that dish.
During the trip we planned to go to Osaka and Kyoto in the beginning and end with Tokyo and Fuji.
In all, it was about seven days. Let me tell you something, Japan is EXPENSIVE and the rooms that you get are TINY!!
Robots aren't taking the jobs of the Japanese people, Vending machines are. Actually, there are vending machines like this outside many eating establishments. Rather than employ a greeter and waiters to seat you and take your orders, you put your money in the machine and push the exact buttons of what you want to eat. Once you give your ticket to the chef, you find a seat and wait for someone to deliver your food. Hard the first couple times if you don't understand Japanese, but it grows on you ;)
We planned to go see castles, shrines, temples, flower gardens, Mt. Fuji and famous tourist attractions during our visit. We left pretty satisfied with what we were able to do and see. There were a few disappointments but only because of the blooming or lack thereof of some flowers along the way.
Takoyaki joint in Dotonbori
One of the best things we did, before flying to Japan, was ordering a pocket wi-fi unit to be delivered to our hotel so that we would always be connected wherever we went. I carried the small pocket wi-fi in my backpack and never had any connectivity problems other than running out of power once at the end of the day.
Springtime in Osaka, Japan
The second thing that we did was (eventually) purchase a public transportation pass that made travel quicker and less confusing...and by saying "less confusing" I'm saying that the public trans in Japan is amazingly complex and can be confusing for first timers. We figured it out and only had a few small "Where the heck are we and how do we get to where we're going" moments.
Osaka Castle was beautiful. We opted to see it from the outside rather than going inside, fighting the lines, etc.
As you can see from this first post, our first day in Japan was spent in our arrival city, Osaka. I have a Marine Corps buddy who is in Osaka and I actually had a chance to spend a few hours over a BBQ grill with him one night after the rest of the family went to the hotel late. His name is Mike and he works as a teacher at a university there. He has been there a little longer than I have been in Thailand.
Outside of a kushikatsu joint at Shinseigai
He is married to a Japanese woman, so we have similar life experiences as far as being expats in another country. He is much more of a thinker and philosopher than me. He has a great memory of things that happened in the Marines (things that I probably choose to forget, haha).
Guy and Mike late night in Dotonbori
After he got me to munch on some Cow tongue (chewy) we just shot back a couple brews and chatted about the past 20+ years since we had last seen each other.

Kushikatsu at Shinseigai. Kushikatsu is basically anything you can stick with a skewer, deep fried in batter and bread crumbs
Nice duds!! Some students finishing school and going home on the tram
view @ Shinseigai
Entrance to Sumiyoshi Taisha or Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, a Shinto shrine

Hand and mouth washing point at the entrance of Sumiyoshi taisha

This really tall bridge crossing the pond to the shrine is called Taiko Bashi. It may not look too steep, but climbing it was a chore! Haha.

Buildings on the compound

Mom, dinging the dong for blessings
Posing on the grounds of the shrine

Nice, pleasant, helpful Shinto monk at the gift shop at Sumiyoshi taisha

If you squint, you can see Pae, Mom and Dad at the top of the Taiko Bashi (Drum Bridge) at Sumiyoshi taisha

Ah, you don't have to squint as much for this one ;) Some days, the water is still and the reflection is much clearer. I liked it just as it was, I really liked the Taiko Bashi
 Now that I've kinda gone through our Osaka part of our trip, I find myself wishing that I had blogged right after getting home. A lot of things get lost in the past, memories, funny things we saw or things that happened.
The famous Glico  "Running Man" sign at Dotonbori
If anything comes to mind, or I find other photos from Osaka that you just must see ;) I'll make a separate post. A shout out to Shinsaibashi (shopping arcade) and Yoshinoya (food).
Nobody can resist the Running Man pose ;)

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