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Shinkansen to Osaka

As I mentioned in my post about Tokyo, it’s taken me a couple months to get around to writing about our journeys in Japan. But here we are! On October 22nd we landed back in Japan after our quick trip back to Philadelphia and took the NE’X train right to the high speed Shinkansen which took us all the way to Osaka (about 300 miles) in approximately 3 hours.

Before getting on the Shinkansen we took the advice of one of MJ’s local colleagues and picked up a boxed meal on the railway platform. We helpfully had a translation explaining that we don’t eat pork, and the woman selling the boxes was very helpful in finding us a few that didn’t contain any pork. We were grateful for her help, as I made my way through the box and had no idea what I was eating. It was all delicious though, and beautifully presented.

Our original plan had been to stay in Kyoto, but we booked later than anticipated and the reasonable hotels in Kyoto had already sold out. With the beautiful weather and changing leaves, autumn in Kyoto is only second to the spring (when the cherry blossoms bloom) as far as being a busy tourist time. Staying in Osaka worked out well though, especially since there was a lot to do there after things closed in Kyoto!

We stayed at the beautiful, if incredibly fancy old style European, Hotel Hankyu International. It was just a quick walk from Umeda Station, which made getting around pretty easy. We took trains everywhere we went.

Most of Friday was spent in Kyoto, but Saturday morning we began exploring Osaka a bit with a train ride over to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. I had read about this aquarium before our trip, and learned that it’s one of the best in Asia. As a fan of zoos and aquariums, I was glad we got to keep this visit on our agenda.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

The aquarium is laid out as several levels, and you begin by taking an elevator to the top floor. The top floor has a natural light forest along with river otters, crabs and various fish and birds. As you go down through the aquarium you see penguins, seals, all kinds of sharks and fish. For me, the major draw was getting to see some massive whale sharks, which I hadn’t seen in captivity before.

Whale shark

After the aquarium we needed some lunch. MJ is a big fan of okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake that’s filled with vegetables (mostly cabbage) and your choice of meat or seafood. We did some searching near the train station and found Fukutaro. It was crowded, but we got a seat pretty quickly. It’s also hot, since they prepare the food on a big grill at the front of the restaurant (which we sat near) and then there is a hot grill in front of you which they deliver the okonomiyaki to so that it stays warm as you eat. It was the best okonomiyaki I’ve ever had.

From there we made our way to Kyoto for the rest of the day and dinner. We came back to Osaka after dinner and went back to the area where the aquarium is to go up on the Tempozan Ferris wheel to see the bay at night! The Ferris wheel was all lit up in blue, and since it was later in the evening there was no line, we even had no trouble waiting for the transparent car.

Sunday morning we had to pack up and head back to the Shinkansen for our trip back to Tokyo. After some false starts in finding lunch (it was terribly tempting to get okonomiyaki again) we found ourselves at a mall that had a tempura restaurant. We did a several course meal where they brought out an assorted selection of tempura meats and vegetables. My life is now complete that I’ve had tempura pumpkin, it was amazing.

Our train ride in to Osaka was later in the day so it was mostly dark. I fully enjoyed the daytime train ride, we passed lots of little towns and lots of solar panels!

More photos from Osaka here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157659829244819

And more photos from our trip on the Shinkansen: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157660421552335