Tuesday, March 6, 2012

osaka in a day - part 2

What made today really difficult was that I had left all my printouts and information about Osaka back at Riley's place so besides my Osaka Unlimited Pass info I didn't have a clue about what else Osaka had to offer. I really wanted to go to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum located in the city of Ikeda within Osaka. So since I had the pass which included unlimited travel on the subway and on the Hankyu train that is needed to get to Ikeda, I thought it would be the perfect time to go check it out. Just beware that the pass only covers to a certain distance within Osaka so if you want to exit at Ikeda Station you need to pay the toll man an extra 190 yen. However when purchasing a ticket to return back just buy the cheapest one offered because when you exit at the Umeda Station in Osaka you can scan your pass. I wish I had thought of that instead of paying the 260 yen to go back. Unfortunately when I arrived, the museum had already closed at 4 pm! Ugh so frustrating! If I had my papers I would have never attempted to take the 30 minute journey out of my way to see this place if I had known it closed so early. Wasted so much money taking the train out here and back. The museum is free but the cost of transportation from Osaka and back is more than 500 yen, which is what museums and temples usually charge. I was really sad that I wasn't able to check this place out because Momofuku Ando the inventor of instant ramen actually lived in Ikeda and in the museum you could try unique flavors of ramen and even make your own for an additional fee.
momofoku ando
I attempted to explore Ikeda but there wasn't anything near the train station except for a mall so I just headed straight back to Osaka and try to hit up as many places as I could before everything closed. This really did put a damper into my day since now I had wasted more than a hour of time I could have used to check stuff out. Upon arriving at the Umeda Station back in Osaka I decided to check off two more things on the list which was the Floating Garden Observatory and the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel. The Floating Garden Observatory is an open deck that offers a 360 panoramic view of Osaka. 

At the observatory there is a love theme going on with heart shaped things everywhere, from heart locks to heart decorations to a deck for lovers to sit and enjoy the view. There was also a little shrine set up with fortune sticks to pray for love. I shook the sticks for fun and once again I got an unlucky fortune. I've been getting a lot of unlucky fortunes; this just can't be a coincidence. Afterwards I headed back to the station to ride the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel, HEP FIVE is the name of the mall that the ferris wheel is located on top of. The seats were heated and offered an awesome night view of Osaka. I felt like such a loner riding the ferris wheel by myself.

Is it just me or is a lot of the attractions on the Osaka Unlimited Pass are observatories or things that offer views of the city or are meant for couples? After that I headed to the Namba Station to access the Dōtonbori (Dotombori) area to meet Riley up for dinner. I had an hour to kill before our meeting time so I thought I would catch the Tomburi River Cruise which sails on the Dōtonbori Canal but couldn't find where the boat was docked. The famous Glico Man billboard is situated above the Ebisubashi Bridge, which connects two large shopping arcades. Glico is the company that makes Pocky for anyone who doesn't know.

Ebisubashi Bridge is also known as the "pick-up bridge" because it is a popular place for hosts to pick up girls. I didn't see that many hosts and none of them approached me because I looked like a bum wearing a sweatshirt. They tend to go for girls who are dressed nicely and look like they have money because going to a host club is expensive! I had recently watched a documentary called The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief that explores the host culture through interviews with hosts and their costumers. Super interesting and made me want to spot some hosts in action. Lol. Couldn't really take pictures of them since they seemed so observant and there was a lot of people around and I couldn't be super obvious.

crap he caught me!
The kind of hairstyle he has is dubbed the pineapple hair because its so bleached and feathery. Haha. Besides the hosts there were also a lot of restaurant workers on the bridge passing out flyers. There were also a lot of girls who were really dressed up and who just stood on the bridge not doing anything...

When Riley finally arrived we went and got some yakiniku. Yakiniku is basically the cooking of bite-sized meat on griddles and has Korean roots. There were so many food options it was mind boggling but I wanted to try something that I hadn't eaten before hence the yakiniku. 

You choose the type of meat you want and then you cook it on the griddle at the table. Their menu was in English. The menu was scary in that I didn't see regular ol' chicken breast or pork but rather they went into detail about which section you would be eating like cheek or penis, etc etc. I choose the cheek meat for 490 yen because it seemed the safest bet for a decent price.
mine are the ones that aren't so red
Yakiniku is really expensive for such small plates of meat and I wasn't filled by it at all. We also got some takoyaki because Osaka is well known for it. The place we had initially wanted to go eat at was all sold out of the different flavors which was a bummer since it was well known and very popular so we had to settle for some random street vendor instead.

We got the half and half which means we got to try both the salt and sauce flavored takoyaki. Let me just say I am not a fan of these at all! I thought the balls would be more solid since they are cooked in those trays but the batter inside the ball is still runny and the octopus chunks were so chewy which gave off such a nasty texture in my mouth. I would probably appreciate it more if the whole thing wasn't so mushy in my mouth. After dinner Riley and I split up again because I was going to try my first ever hot spring or onsen!

I got super lost trying to find the Natural hot spring Naniwa no Yu. I kept stopping to ask people for directions which really consisted of me saying sumi-masen or excuse me in Japanese and then showing them my paper with the name of the onsen on it. The second time I asked for directions I was only a couple feet away from it and the man I asked brought me to the entrance of a pachinko hall and asked daijoubu? In essence he was asking me "Are you ok with finding your way now that I have brought you to the building?" and I replied daijoubu as in "Yes...wtf am I at a pachinko hall?" He obviously wasn't convinced with my answer so he brought me into the pachinko hall and up the elevator to the actual hot spring place. Again super friendly Japanese people! Yay! Though when we were going up the elevator I was having doubts wondering where exactly he was taking me...

In my mind I thought hot springs were more like spas where everyone walked around in a towel and only took the towel off to enter the pools of water. Darn you deceiving hot spring pictures! The hot springs have an atmosphere more akin to a public swimming pool than anything. Right when I entered people were walking around naked and there was nothing spa-like about it at all. I had no clue what I was suppose to be doing or what the protocol was. I just knew that I had to bathe before entering the hot springs. Towels weren't provided so I had to pay 150 yen for an itty bitty sized towel. WTF am I suppose to do with a towel that barely covers anything?!? Anyways, I went back into the locker room and was like eh what the hell no one even cares and just went all commando. Then I sat down at a stool where there was a shower head to wash with. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash was provided but since I couldn't read any of it I just threw them all on my head and then washed my body with one of them. There was this lady who sat behind me and her cold water from her shower head kept hitting me in the back which was so annoying and rude. There were hot spring pools inside and outside with varying degrees of hot water. There was one that had green water and one that was like a giant hot tub, that one was my favorite. Outside there were individual bathtubs that people laid in and some very shallow pools. The seats surrounding the perimeter of the pools raised your body above the level of the water so I usually chose to sit on the floor, not like it mattered since the water was so clear you could see right through it. I didn't spend a long time in the hot springs because it was rather boring just sitting there and not doing anything. I guess this is why people go in groups so you could chat and get chummy in your mutual nakedness. I don't think I would have been able to go with my friends, its one thing to go naked in front of strangers but a whole different ballgame to get naked in front of my friends. The only situation I can see where I would enjoy the hot springs and not feel awkward would probably to go with my sisters or to go to one that requires swimsuits.

All the sites I went to today were included for free in the Osaka Unlimited Pass. Unfortunately due to time constraints and having to meet up with Riley I wasn't able to check out all the pass had to offer. I highly recommend getting the two day pass instead which costs 2700 yen and allows you more time to check out the 20+ sites offered. Sites I wanted to check out but didn't have the time included the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel, the Santa Maria boat ride, Shitennoji Temple, Tombori River Cruise and the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. Be aware that a lot of these places have random closing days and you'll really need to plan in order to visit all the attractions. 

This is part 2 of my Osaka Day Trip to check out part 1 click here.

The Details & Useful Links
subway map of osaka
Kintetsu Osaka highlights
Osaka Travel Wiki

Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
8-25, Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka 563-0041
tel: 072-752-3484
hours: 9:30 am - 4:00 pm (last admission 3:30 pm)
admission: free but a round trip ticket from Osaka-Umeda Station to Ikeda will cost 520 yen  
website: http://www.instantramen-museum.jp/english.htm
directions: Take the Hankyu Takarazuka train from Umeda to Ikeda. Turn right when exiting the turnstiles inside the station. You'll be walking through an overpass, just take the steps on the right hand side to reach the street. Once on the street you will see an Ikeda Guide Map, take the street directly at a diagonal on the right to reach the museum. You should see a big museum sign at the entrance of the street if you picked the right one. Then just walked straight.The museum will be on your right hand side.

Floating Garden Observatory
1-1-88, Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Osaka
tel:  06-6440-3855
hours: 10:00-22:30 (last admission 22:00)
admission fee: 700 yen
website: http://www.kuchu-teien.com/english/observatory.html
directions: At the Umeda Station head towards the JR section of the station and take the North Central Exit. Stick to the left and walk across the street and then keep heading to the left, you should see the large tower in the distance. There will be all this construction and highways nearby, you'll need to take the underground tunnel to reach the observatory.

HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel - 7th Floor
5-15, Kakuta-cho, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-0017
tel: 06-6313-0501
hours: 11am - 10:45pm (final boarding time)
cost: 500 yen
directions: at the JR North Central Exit of the Umeda Station walk left alongside the building towards the malls and the ferris wheel in the distance; there is English signs pointing to HEP FIVE inside the train stations

Ebisubashi Bridge
Exit 14 at Namba Station then turn left and you should reach a large shopping arcade. Once inside the shopping arcade turn left and walk straight and you arrive at the bridge. The Glico Man billboard will be on the left hand side of the exit you just emerged from so turn around to get a look!

Natural Hot Spring Naniwa no Yu - 8th floor of a big building with the words Pachinko & Slots on it
tel: 06-6882-4126
hours: weekdays 10:00-1:00 the following day (last admission at midnight)  weekend 8:00-1:00
admission fee: 750 yen
website: http://naniwanoyu.com/ (japanese only)
directions: exit 4 at Tenjimbashisuji 6-chrome Station of the Subway Tanimachi Line and walk straight then turn right onto Tenjimbashisuji No. 6 street which is a street filled with frosted street lamps and lined with stores. The street lamps are different from the ordinary street lamps and there is a great many number of them going down the street. Keep walking straight till you reach a big intersection at Tenjimbashisuji No. 8 and then turn right. You'll continue walking straight till you go beneath an overpass. In the distance you should see a tall building with gigantic letters that spell out Pachinko & Slots on it - head towards it. The entrance to the elevator to reach the hot spring is after the entrance that goes into the pachinko hall. Take the elevator up to the 8th floor and remember to take your shoes off before climbing up the step.

note: 2 lockers for your shoes and clothes will require a 100 yen deposit each which will be returned to you, also bring your own towel and hairbrush, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hair dryers are provided

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