Wednesday 31 July 2019

Japanese Adventure, Chapter 4 - Days 23 & 24. Amerikamura and time to head home

With our time in Japan almost over we discussed over breakfast how to spend our last full day here. We decided to have a fairly relaxing day exploring Amerikamura and the area around Osaka station.

I had a few favourites on my mind that I'd tried on other trips that I needed to eat before this trip ended. The first of those things was the 100 yen noodle roll from 7- Eleven. Simple but so effective, I love these!

We were going to miss the well organised lifestyle of Japan where everything was so organised and efficient.

This illuminated sign displaying messages and patterns using water had us mesmerised outside Osaka station for quite sometime!

The next thing I ticked off my list was the 100 yen 7-Eleven corn dog served with ketchup and mustard. I can't believe I waited over 3 weeks to buy one of these.

We arrived in the Amerikamura district where we caught a glimpse of a Mario Kart race in action on the streets.

Yeah I know, tourist candy floss!

I just had to have one though so handed over my 800 yen. Each of the different colours was a different flavour.

Finally the sun was shining so we got to explore Dontonburi properly at last. To be honest though beyond the bright signage it is just an over priced tourist hotspot, still worth a look though.

We made our way towards Namba station stopping off at Namba Yasaka Shrine on the way. 

Before catching the train to our final hotel on the trip we sat down and raised a can of Kirin to the trip which was so nearly over now.

Our final bed for the night was at ABC Guesthouse just two stops away from Kensai Airport in Izumisano. A triple room (they didn't have a double) cost us £35 for the night.

The large Japanese style room was ideal for our final night here. There was also a shared kitchen, we weren't about to start cooking though.

Not when there was a supermarket selling bento boxes close by!

Day 24

The last thing I ate in Japan was this onigiri, the trip was finally over...

This had been my favourite trip to Japan so far, I just loved staying on those islands and living the island life! It seemed strange not having a JR Pass and rushing around on Shinkansen, I think that slowed down the pace slightly though. On this trip I realised it's not all about where you visit in Japan, it's just about being in Japan and embracing it's culture.

I didn't really touch on airline food on this trip as it was pretty standard. I will mention this burger and chips I received on the way home though, not quite what I was expecting when I chose the beef option!

Coming in 2021
Japanese Adventure - Chapter 5

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Japanese Adventure, Chapter 4 - Day 22. Osaka Expo Park and the legendary Izakaya Toyo

Drop Inn Osaka had a really spacious breakfast room where you could help yourself to coffee and toast.

Quite a basic breakfast but it set us up for the morning and was included in the cost of the room.

Our plan for the morning was to visit Osaka Expo Park located North of the city. First we caught a train to Senri Chuo and then we transferred to a monorail to Bampakukinenkoen Station.

As we got off the monorail I caught a glimpse of a giant ferris wheel.

A bridge from the station took us across the highway and into the park. Osaka Expo Park is a massive park and recreational facility that was created on the site of the 1970 Japan World Exposition.

The 65 metre high Tower of the Sun greeted us as we entered the park. On the front of the tower you can see red lightning flashes and two faces. The face at the top is a golden mask which represents the future, the face of the sun between the two outstretched arms represents the present. 

On the back the black sun represents the past.

There's also a boating lake inside the park with these elegant swan boats available to hire.

The pavilion is an original building from the 1970 Exposition and is now used as a museum to commemorate that event. There are around 3,000 photos, videos and other artifacts telling the story of the Expo and recording its various theatrical, artistic, and musical performances.

There's a Japanese garden to explore with a huge koi carp pond, it's also home to some turtles.

Other areas inside the Japanese gardens include a lily pond.

A flower meadow.

And a bamboo grove.

On the other side of the park there's a huge shopping mall which is home to Gundam Square.

It's also where you gain access to the Redhorse Osaka ferris wheel. Standing at 123 metres it's Japan's tallest and the fifth highest ferris wheel in the world. Ella decided to keep her feet firmly on the ground but I couldn't resist riding this beast!

The glass gondolas have a glass floor so you need to be good with heights!

As I took in the views of the park from above I could see Ella below sitting on a bench sketching the Tower of the Sun.

The view the other side was the Osaka City Skyline.

With my feet firmly on the ground again we jumped on a train to Kyobashi (not far from Osaka Castle) as there was somewhere I really wanted to visit for lunch. If you watched the Netflix series Street Food you'll be familiar with this place. Due to it's popularity it did require joining an orderly queue to eat here.

The place I'm Talking about is Izakaya Toyo!

The owner and chef Toyo San specialises in blowtorched tuna cheeks. He started cooking the tuna this way many years ago as it meant he could serve his customers quicker. In one hand he blowtorches the tuna cheeks and the other hand he dips into ice cold water and then turns the tuna over. He chooses this method as using tongs would tear the tuna cheeks.

Seeing him in action is something not to be missed, here's a short video.

I ordered the blowtorched tuna cheeks and raw tuna sushi. The Izakaya is standing room only and once somebody takes your order you help yourself to a drink from the ice box.

The raw tuna was a beautiful deep ruby colour and so incredibly fresh. From where I stood to eat it I was able to watch the legendary Chef Toyo in action.

Tuna cheeks are transformed into a sort of tataki stir fry, toasted, glazed with ponzu and tossed with a thicket of spring onions.

This was the most delicious thing I'd eaten on the entire trip! If you're visiting Osaka you simply must visit Izakaya Toyo to see him in action and experience some of the best street food on the planet! If you haven't seen the Street Food episode yet then look it up right away on Netflix. The story of Toyo San and how he managed to open his Izakaya is a sad tale but shows just how determination and passion for food can pay off.

After leaving the Izakaya I stopped for a sake at Family Mart before meeting up with Ella who had gone in search of fabrics near Osaka station.

Trying to find Ella was proving to be quite a challenge but I was getting closer.

Eventually I located her in a shopping mall fabric shop where she was waiting for her fabric order to arrive.

When we first arrived in Osaka 3 weeks ago Dontonburi was a bit hellish to explore due to lack of sleep. Today we decided to properly explore it but another spanner was thrown in the works to stop this from happening.

The heavens had opened! We sheltered with a beer under a doorway but the rain wasn't about to stop anytime soon.

We decided to dash into one of the restaurants for another beer and a bite to eat. I started with edamame beans and takoyaki.

Next some duck and a selection of kushikatsu.

The rain kept pouring down so we made our way back to the Hostel on the train. It's quite common in Osaka to see a women only carriage on the trains.

Click here for Days 23 & 24
Amerikamura and time to head home