Day 5: November 30
We headed out late morning, taking the subway from Karasumaoike station to Nijojo-mae station, which is right opposite Nijo castle. Nijo castle has large castle grounds surrounded entirely by a moat. It was really lovely to walk around the gardens as well as inside the palace buildings. My experience on that Friday was that it was not as crowded a tourist destination as all the temples and shrines in Kyoto we visited, so it was quite peaceful.
The Ninomaru palace, the residence and office for the shogun, didn’t look like most Japanese castles from the outside, but it was really stunning inside. We were especially amused by the “squeaky floorboards”, which was a defence measure so intruders couldn’t sneak around at night because their squeaks would be heard as they moved!
We then took two subway trains back to Kyoto station. From Kyoto we were heading to Osaka for the rest of the day. We took the train to Osaka station, then a train and subway to Osakako station, which is in the Tempozan Harbour Village of the Osaka Bay Area. It is probably more famously known for the iconic ferris wheel and aquarium. I wanted to go walk around the bayside area as well as check out the Naniwa Food Theme Park. It was actually a fair walk towards those attractions from the station, but they were easy to find.
It was mid afternoon already and we hadn’t properly eaten lunch (again!), but luckily we always carried some snacks on us and nibbles were never far away anyway. The food theme park was really quiet (probably because it was mid/late afternoon on a weekday) and we just had a few things from different stalls including cabbage-yaki and dango.
The food was typical for Japanese and particularly Osaka food stalls, except everything was indoors (inside a shopping mall, to be exact) and next to each other.
We them took two subway trains to Nanba station. Namba station is still, to me, one of the crazier stations to navigate. It was the first station I had to navigate the previous visit and it was probably one of the most stressful experiences during all my travels. There are three train station and three subway stations (all separate lines) that call themself Namba station. Sheesh! Namba station(s) is in the very busy shopping and dining area in the southern side of Osaka – kind of the nightlife area. The northern, Umeda/Osaka side, is more of a business district, and also has lots of shopping and dining but mostly in large malls and complexes.
We aimlessly wandered around the streets of Namba, particularly Dotonbori. We had the iconic crab legs in Dotonbori! When we first arrived it was relatively quiet everywhere but quickly the streets were filled with SO MANY PEOPLE! It was nothing like Kyoto city at night. It was probably especially busy since it was a Friday night.
Originally I had planned for us to also head to Umeda Sky Building, but we decided to just stay in the area and skip it. The busy streets and seas of people were overwhelming and heading up to Umeda Sky Building would probably have taken too long.
We weren’t sure what to eat but eventually decided on a nabe restaurant. We had chanko-nabe, “sumo nabe”, with the addition of some delicious slices of beef. It was all so yummy!
After dinner we headed back to Namba station(s), took a subway to Osaka station and the same route (train then subway) back to Kyoto and our hotel.
I also bought a Haagen-Dazs ice cream sandwich from the hotel vending machine (instead of the usual single serve tubs from the conbini)! This is why I love Japan! I have a love affair with Haagen-Dazs and eat a ridiculous amount when I’m in Japan and Asia. In fact, it is something I specifically associate with travelling in Japan, even though it’s not Japanese at all, haha!