Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Japanese Adventure, Chapter 4 - Day 3. Osaka Castle

We woke up having finally got a decent nights sleep and were keen to start exploring. The guesthouse provided a basic breakfast of coffee, toast and jam which we ate outside in the sunshine. Whilst eating our breakfast we noticed the bikes which were available to use for guests. We only had today to explore Osaka before moving on again so figured we would cover more ground on bikes.

Osaka Castle didn't look too far away so that's where we decided to head to on the bikes. These bikes are comfortable to ride and have a really handy built in wheel lock and sturdy bike stand.

There's plenty of cycle paths around Osaka so it's a great city to cycle around. If you see a green man at the crossing it's best not to hang around though as once it turns red you can be waiting a very long time. This might seem an odd thing to mention but we did spend a long time during the trip waiting to cross roads so it pays to look ahead and catch the green man whenever possible!

Osaka Castle is stunning and surrounding it is a huge moat and 15 acres of parks and gardens. The queues to go inside the castle were pretty long so we decided to explore the area around it instead.

The first of many stamps Ella collected on the trip. The salty and litchi drink is delicious and also great if you have a hangover.

There was no shortage of vending machines in the castle gardens. I'd be further exploring these over the next few weeks, looking out for drinks I hadn't yet tried as well as old favourites.

Inside the castle gift shop we found these Matcha tea squidgy cubes.

Ella loves Matcha tea but wasn't too keen on the consistency of these. I really liked them though and finished them all.

Shaved ice with strawberry and Hawaiian blue syrup. We'd seen shaved ice many times on our previous trips to Japan but this was the first time I'd tried it and I wish I'd tried it sooner. 

On the way to the castle I'd noticed these street food vendors setting up. As it was now lunchtime we went along to buy some lunch, it was just a case of deciding what to choose.

As soon as I saw Takoyaki my decision was made.

If you've eaten takoyaki before then you'll know how delicious these balls are. If you haven't then try them asap, you can buy them outside the Japan Centre in London if you want to try them closer to home. Diced octopus in batter with tempura scraps, ginger and green onion. They're often topped with a takoyaki sauce and fish flakes, be careful though as they can be very hot so give them time to cool down before popping one in your mouth.

As I devoured my takoyaki my wife munched on some sweet potato fries.

Whilst at Osaka Castle park we noticed a free festival taking place inside the outdoor concert hall. We gathered some supplies from a nearby Lawsons convenience store and went inside to take a look at Angie Festival.

Not many people were here yet and we caught a couple of the earlier acts including this guy and later a Queen cover band. I'm guessing it got busier later in the day but we only stayed for about an hour.

So we had sunshine, music, a beer in hand and a box of sushi to share.

I absolutely love Inari sushi, so simple but so tasty. Deep fried tofu wrapped around rice, really juicy and sweet tasting.

Sometimes not planning a route and just seeing what you find around each corner can be a great way to explore and on this occasion it paid off. Having cycled around the Castle Gardens we ended up in an area close to Osakajokoen station. In the background we could hear music so we went to see where it was coming from.

We'd found another music event called Castle Heaven and we were just in time to catch a set by Osaka punk band Second Lady. They played a fast paced punk set with a few covers thrown in too including a great version of Nirvana's Smells like teen spirit. You can watch them in action on my Instagram Japan Highlights.

Between bands we explored another row of street food vendors. I loved how bright the signage is on their stalls.

Okonimyaki on a stick with a choice of toppings, delicious!

Before the next band started we picked up some more drinks from Lawson. These Strong Zero drinks are a favourite of mine, high in alcohol and available in a selection of fruit flavours. My wife wasn't tempted though and stuck to the beer, probably a wise choice! 

Next to perform were Emo Rock band Laph Roi Glenn. An elderly guy was also watching them and having a great time, he'd occasionally give me the thumbs up to ensure I was enjoying them too. The band was great but to be honest I'll always be having a good time after a can of Strong Zero! After watching these guys we relaxed beside the river with another beer before cycling back towards the guesthouse.

The expressways that run through Osaka are an incredible sight, especially when they cross above each other like this. I'd even heard there was one that goes through a sixteen storey building in Osaka.

Ella had found a Vegan restaurant online that she wanted to eat at this evening. It was about a thirty minute walk away from the guesthouse so we went in search of it enjoying the views of the city by night.

We almost changed our mind when we saw this restaurant, the entire menu featured mushrooms!

The vegan restaurant was really busy but they had one spare table for us so we timed it just right. The dinner set menu seemed like the best deal so we both ordered the soy meat karaage and some beers.

The soy meat karaage was excellent with a similar texture to chicken, it came with miso soup, brown rice, potato salad and green salad.  

On the way back we passed this Totoro cafe but sadly it was closed. We decided to return again in the morning though as it looked so amazing inside.

Click here for Day 4
Next stop Okinawa

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