My first night in Osaka was spent quite awake. Jet lag is an awkward thing; trying to convince my body that it is 2am and not 5pm as it so stubbornly believed was (and still is) not an easy task. Nevertheless, I did manage to get some sleep, and then successfully pried myself out of bed at 9am (midnight) to meet a chap called Sam at the train station round the corner within an hour.
Sam is a friend of a friend, and is the owner of Cycle Osaka, which provides (surprise surprise) tours of Osaka via bicycle. I had booked myself on a full day tour after our mutual friend's recommendation (Thanks Josy!)
The group I was with opted to include the extra food tour addition so we could sample some of the local delights. Our first sample was a dish that was invented in Osaka.
I'd heard of Takoyaki before I came to Japan, I think I first heard the term in an anime I watched, and was keen to try the stuff despite not knowing what it was. For the curious, Takoyaki are wheat flour based dumplings filled with octopus, and they are very very tasty.
These Takoyaki were purchased at the entrance to Osaka Castle, not the first stop on our tour, but the first one of which I got a decent photo.
I know, picturesque right?! It also has a huge history relating to the unification of Japan, there's too much info to share here so why not Google it?!
Japan is famed for its cherry blossoms that start to bloom in early April. Those who subscribe to the Gregorian calendar will be aware that it is not currently early April, it is in fact early March. In early March though, a different tree blooms; the plum tree. Osaka Castle happens to have a grove of plum trees that were in bloom. We stopped here for a few minutes to enjoy the pretty colours, or in my case investigate the macro capabilities of my camera.
Plum blossoms are similar to cherry blossoms, but offer a few more colour variations. Aren't they pretty?
At this point in the tour it started to snow, but as hardy tourists we rode on, bought some gloves, ate some ramen, smiled when the snow stopped, rode some more, and arrived at Shitennoji Temple with a relatively blue sky above our heads.
Shitennoji Temple is the oldest temple in Japan and played a huge role in bringing Buddhism to the country. We didn't stay long due to being somewhat behind schedule at this point so carried on through Korea Town (pausing for spicy pancakes) before stopping in Osaka's "new world" Shinsekai. A strangely nostalgic place that has not been developed since its creation just before the war.
It was in Shinsekai that we stopped for sushi.
Those who know me will likely be aware that I'm not too up on sushi. On a trip to Japan however, I'm of the opinion that it must be tried in earnest. I'm ok with the cold rice bit now, that works well with the soy sauce. And the raw fish must be edible because people eat it. But despite looking much more appetising than the little plastic trays from Waitrose, I am still not a fan of Sushi. The problem for me, lies with the wasabi, it's just bloody horrible stuff.
So that was most of my day in Osaka yesterday. Today I woke up late after another night spent desperately convincing my body of the true time between the hours of 2 and 4am, but still managed to catch a train to Nara; a delightful little city where I tried to take selfies with deer, wandered round another temple, and saw an absolutely enormous Buddha. I haven't finished going through the photos for that though so you'll have to wait until the next time.