Osaka

Osaka Food Marathon

I went to Osaka for the long weekend and had a great time like I always do. I’ve been to this city so many times and always enjoy myself. It’s big but laid back, with plenty of touristy things to do that never feel overcrowded or unworthy of the hype. I love being able to walk around, eat, chat, and take in the sights. This weekend in particular was full of wonderful company and food. Lots and lots of food.

Day 1: Okonomiyaki in Dotonbori (Fugetsu | 風月)

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Okonomiyaki is one of the most satisfying Japanese foods and an Osaka specialty. It’s chewy and savory in all the right ways. In Dotonbori there are plenty of Okonomiyaki restaurants to choose from. At Fugetsu we ordered four types (I almost remember accurately) from bottom left clockwise – 1) pork, egg, green onion 2) seafood 3) kimchi 4) potato and mochi. All excellent, but there’s something about the spiciness and texture of kimchi in okonomiyaki that I really love. Potato and mochi is also good, it makes it a little sweeter and more chewy.

Day 2: Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream and Takoyaki (Osaka Castle)

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 I went to do hanami at Osaka castle. By “hanami” I mean I went to see if there were actually any flowers. There weren’t but I spent a sunny afternoon sitting outside and trying some of the food vendors nearby. I had some Hokkaido milk ice cream which was very thick and creamy. They served much smaller portions of this than for other ice cream which is good – any more would be too much of a good thing. I also had takoyaki, another Osaka specialty. Usually takoyaki is covered in sauce and mayonnaise but restaurants have a lot of creative toppings to try from. The flavour above is just salt, and skipping the sauces makes it taste entirely different. I really enjoyed it!

 

Kushikatsu (Shinsekai Kushiya | 新世界串や

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It was my first time having kushikatsu and I am hooked. It was also my first time really hanging out in the Shinsekai area which I now know I have to go back to. Kushikatsu is basically just skewers of battered meat and vegetables that you dip into sauce. Generally you can order as you go and try lots of different varieties. We got an all you can drink all you can eat menu (I’m going to miss this) for around 3000 yen. You have an hour and a half to order as much food and drinks as you want! But if you don’t finish the food you have to pay a fee. They also bring continuous raw cabbage that you can munch on while waiting for your next round of food to come. At the place we went we could order up to five different items at a time and they would bring one skewer of each for each person in our group. We tried octopus, lotus root, eggplant, quail egg, chicken, beef, mushrooms, and a few more I can’t remember! The mushrooms and quail egg were my favourite, but they were all good. I left feeling very, very full.

 

Day 3: Pancakes! (Eggs ‘n Things

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… more like whipped cream and things. I was pretty pumped to order pancakes with blueberries and coconut. Little did I know the portions are massive including a tower of whipped cream (aka white cream in Japanese).  I couldn’t finish all of it and got help from other people. At home I  make an effort not to eat any added sugar and this breakfast had me had me on an intense sugar high all day. I have no regrets!! Though if I ever do it again I’ll plan on sharing.

 

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Love at Umeda Sky Building

_DSC0003Umeda _DSC0010Umeda _DSC0009Umeda _DSC0007UmedaI don’t know who came up with the idea to turn this into a romantic hot spot or if it evolved naturally, but whatever the origins the Sky Building is doing a good job of it. The top floor of the building is lined with large windows and raised two-person seats looking outward towards a city view. I imagine it’s really romantic at night but we happened to be there on a Friday afternoon so there were mostly families and groups of tourists. There was also this big heart for taking pictures with your date (or by yourself…) with a special little stand positioned perfectly for a smartphone timer photo.
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On the roof of the building there’s a little separate section where couples can go take photos (again, probably more romantic at night). There are thousands of little locks with names and messages hanging here inspired by the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. There was something that really touched me imagining all the people who had come here together and left a lock.
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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’m part of a generation that loves Harry Potter, because we quite literally grew up with him. Going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was like a dream come true. It was a magical, for lack of a better word, to have the place I’ve pictured in my mind and seen on screen all around me. I was blown away by the amount of time and detail that went into making the “World”, like Moaning Myrtle screaming in the bathroom or the slightly crooked chimneys.
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After a short wait we entered Olivander’s wand shop which was a room lined with shelves full of wands. The guide spoke a little bit before pausing as if surprised and then opening up a secret door to reveal a second room, the “real” Olivander’s shop. We filed in and stood around the dark room as Olivander picked one person to come forward to receive their wand. The girl he chose tested two wands, waving them in the air to produce angry responses from the room. Then Olivander brought out the final wand, blowing dust off the top of the box and speaking in a hushed voice of excitement. It was all exceptionally well down and for all the kids in the room I could tell it felt real too.
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After we finished with the wand ceremony we excited into the shop where there are shelves filled with wands for purchase. It was really cool that you could buy wands of specific characters, like Voldemort, Dumbledore, and of course, Harry Potter. They even had some less major characters like Narcissa Malfoy and Luna Lovegood. I was very, very tempted to buy either Hermione or Professor McGonagall’s wand but decided against it in the end. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the biggest attraction in Harry Potter World, and though it lasts only 5 minutes or so it lived up to the hype. The ride is in the Hogwarts castle, and the line winds around the building, through the Hogwarts green houses and through the castle itself. It was nice that the line itself was part of the experience. We passed the type eating some of our Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans. I thought everyone was exaggerating when they said how disgusting some of the flavours are. Some of them like Toothpaste or Earwax were unpleasant but not so bad but the Vomit flavoured bean almost made me actually throw up. Kudos to you, bean-creators and taste-testers.

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The amount of detail in the castle was amazing, from the statues to a room full of talking portraits. Once we got to the ride itself we had to put our belongings in lockers and jump on to a moving conveyer belt before sitting in our seats. The ride itself was a combination of movement and 3D. We soared through the sky in a Quidditch match, chased dragons, were chased by giant spiders and dementors, with everything culminating by a view of Hogwarts students and staff cheering for us in the entrance to the Great Hall. It was exhilarating and the perfect combination of fun and scary.
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We bought our tickets ahead of time at a Lawson’s so we wouldn’t have to wait in line. There’s a special train line that goes to USJ, and as we were waiting some girls came up to us to talk and advised us “DASH!” when the doors opened. A little confused, we did as we were told and thankfully so because everyone on the train ran through the station and up to the gates. We arrived an hour before the opening of the park (which was meant to be for nine) but discovered that they had opened it up early! As soon as we made it to the front of the line and passed the gates we started running again through the park to where we had to pick up our timed entrance tickets for Harry Potter. I’m glad we ran, because we got an early slot at 9:00 and spent a bit of time relaxing before we went in. We were in the park until about three, and I enjoyed every minute of it! Just wandering through the shops and sitting down drinking butter beer made me really happy. By the time we left Harry Potter we were so tired that we didn’t do much else in USJ. I’d like to go back and try some more of the rides, or go back to Harry Potter World in costume!。^‿^。

Japan in Twelve Photos: A year in review

Twelve months have gone by faster than I thought could be possible (time flies, and all that). Looking back at all the pictures I’ve accumulated brings me back to so many great memories and experiences I know could only be possible in Japan.  I’ve pulled some of my favourites in a sort of visual memory of the past year.


August: Obon, Kamiichi

I left from Toronto arrived in Tokyo // sweat alot // drank 2L bottles of water sitting on my tatami floor. Obon happened and the office was empty. I went to a  festival in Kamiichi Town, went to a beach party and (sortof) climbed Tateyama.

 

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September: Osu Kannon, Nagoya

I started to figure everything out a bit more. I started teaching and meeting students. I took my first trip, going to Nagoya. I have this very distinct memory of being half awake and watching the Japanese Alps from the bus window as we drove through. I spent a lot time after school helping students prepare for a speech competition.

 

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October: Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

While my family was eating Thanksgiving dinner I was in Kyoto for the first time, eating burnt Ramen and visiting a cat cafe. I went to a Halloween party and to the speech competition. I learned that Kit-Kats are given for good luck.


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November: Kurobe Gorge 

The seasons changed later than I expected. I went up to the Kurobe Gorge in a rainy, cold, and fantastic train ride up the mountain. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Japan.

 

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December: Maki-Chan in Japan

In December my sister visited Japan. We went to as many places as we could from an English camp in Toyama to Nagoya, Tokyo, all over Kansai (Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), and finally Maibara. It was strange to suddenly have a piece of home in Japan. I went about 4 weeks without classes and missed it a lot.

 

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January: Hakuba, Nagano

I shivered at work and shivered in my apartment.  I went to Nagano to go snowboarding and loved every minute of the breathtaking mountains.

 

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February: Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

It was cold. The third years finished classes. I went to Kanazawa21 and and saw an amazingly cool exhibition and ate lots of ramen to keep warm.

 

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March: Dohtonbori Osaka

The school year ended, and it was really sad. My first fully-fledged trip to Osaka was incredibly fun, I ate a lot, walked a lot, and saw a lot. Omiyage was weirdly difficult to find. I saw sumo. I lost a contact lens. It was great.

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April: Sakura at Matsukawa River

Cherry Blossoms lived up to their hype and more. Outside my school, around the river, in Osaka, and in backyards, these trees were so soft and pretty I felt like I was in a dreamland.

 

May: YG Concert in Tokyo 

Golden week was four days of pure awesomeness, the most “Tokyo” experience I’ve had, by going to a concert, the robot restaurant, and getting swept up in the energy of the city.

 

June: Uozu Port 

It became summer, like fully summer with high humidity and blue skies. I spent a lot of time getting sunburned and riding my bike around. I don’t mind the cold winter, but summer is the best for exploring  the city and feeling re-energized.
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July: Tatemon Festival 

TECHNICALLY this photo is from August but I’m using for July for the sake of relevance. I participated in the Tatemon festival, which was an absolute blast. High energy, lots of people, and a really wonderful culmination to the long season of festivals and fireworks of the summer and to the year in Japan.