Okayama

Hi all!

From Kurashiki, I headed to Okayama for the second leg of this day trip from Osaka. Okayama is a pretty cute place. It’s also where I had the most wonderful udon to date (more on that later). Right outside the JR station is the Momotaro statue (peach boy) – a hero from one of Japan’s fairytales.

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From the station, a 30 minutes walk down a straight road would bring us right to Okayama castle (or crow castle). It’s a really cool castle with its black facade – makes it standout from amongst all the castles in Japan. Though the castle ground is really small.

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Just across the bridge (see below) from the castle, is one of the many entrances to Korakuen – one of the top three best landscape gardens in Japan. At 400 yen, it was definitely worth it.

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While the place is huge, if you visit during the sakura season (and I happened to be here on a full bloom day), the park has this area planted with sakura trees. It was beautiful and I had my mini-hanami experience with a tri-coloured dango under them. It was surreal! Admittedly, I bought the tango more for instagram purpose, because there were quite plain (think glutinous rice ball) and flavourless.

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A traditional looking tea house on display

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It was fortunate I was in the garden on the first Sunday in April. I ended up in the middle of the Goshinko festival where locals don traditional garments for a shrine procession. I just found the juxtaposition of people in period costumes in modern setting lazing around during lunch so interesting.

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Also, the gardens rear Japanese red-headed cranes, a creature used in many of Japan’s literature and poetry. It was my first time seeing these beautiful creatures and I can see why they are described as graceful.

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Here’s the udon I was talking about – bukkake udon. Bukakke is a shop franchise many locals visit because of its affordability and delicious udon. I visited the shop on the shinkansen platform and it was an unique experience to eat while watching people rushing for their trains. It’s a simple dish served with radish, spring onions, seaweed and egg in a light broth. I topped it with some chilli flakes for that slight kick and it was phenomenal. I was so keen on getting a second bowl to go but decided that it would probably be soggy by the time I arrived back in Osaka. Till this day, I’m still reminiscing about it, so you’ve definitely have got to give this a try when you’re in Okayama. Till the next post, bye!

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Kurashiki

Hi all!

I made a day trip from Osaka to visit Kurashiki and Okayama, but I’ll split up the 2 areas and will talk about Kurashiki today. Kurashiki is a small, quaint town. I visited the place early in the morning and literally had the whole place to myself. I felt like I was part of the local community as I went about exploring and saw local photographers trying to capture the beauty of this place before the tourists strike…shop owners prepping their store for the day.

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A group of band players and reporters celebrating the opening of a new store (?)

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Saw a couple of couples getting their wedding shots taken…Can I just say how beautiful the white wedding kimono is!

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If you come by a bit later, Kurashiki is also known for its fruit parfaits. But at almost 2000 yen per cup, I couldn’t bear to spend that much money. Till the next post, bye!

Osaka

Hi all,

From my previous post on Himeji, I headed on to Osaka. I’ll be honest here, Osaka was not a place I would have visited if not for Universal Studios Japan. There was simply nothing that attracted me to this city when I was doing my research. When I arrived from Hiroshima, I was immediately overwhelmed with the crowd, trying to take a local train line and just about everything. Despite being known as the food mecca city, I was not a huge fan of Kansai food. Mainly because most of the more popular local food were fried. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted good, but it’s not something I can eat continuously for more than a day. Other than that, I stayed in a downtown area closer to Shin-Osaka station (as in 30 mins away), haha, so there was not much crowd, which made it an all together better stay. Of course, my hotel was pretty fantastic as well. Literally the best on this trip.

After settling in, I popped by Ueno station where I got the ECO-pass (600 yen) before stepping out to the iconic HEP five ferris wheel. From there I intended to visit Abeno Haruka, but alas, there was on-going road works at an intersection and I got lost trying to navigate through it. So I left and headed down to Namba for lunch.

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Dotonbori was interesting, to say the least. You’ll be spoilt for choices as you walk down the street.

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Kushi-katsu (fried meat/vegetable skewers) is a popular local food and I had mine at Darumaya. If you’re eating at the main store in Namba, be prepared to queue. But I had mine at their branch within Shin-Osaka shinkansen station so I was queue-free (I ate it on a separate day). Since I already had dinner that day, I only tried some of the menu items. From top then L-R: mochi, pork, lotus root, potato, fish. I would highly recommend the mochi and the fish. It’s fantastic and goes really well with the ponzu (citrus soy sauce) that you dip the skewers in. The skewers also came with a plate of cabbage that acts as a palette cleanser. Just be careful not to double dip! My conversation partner during dinner was this joyful Japanese lady from Tokyo who was having dinner while waiting for her shinkansen. We bonded over her first time visit to Osaka and having kushi-katsu and carrying the same Kanken bag.

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I also had takoyaki from creo-ru. Queued a while for it but while it’s crispy on the outside and gooey and soft in the inside, it was not something I would strongly go back for. Of course, being allergic to seafood, I left out the tako (octopus) and just had the batter mixture.

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Thereafter, feeling slightly full, I dropped by Tokisushi for sushi. But sadly, I arrived to the shop owner putting the “post-lunch rest” sign on the door. I actually went back the next day but the shop was once again closed because the ingredients that day was below standard and they didn’t want to sell it to customers. Sigh, if you’re interesting in visiting the place, the address is below.

Tokisushi

Address: 4-21 Nanbasennichimae, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture

Instead, I headed to Oretachi no curry ya for pork katsu Japanese curry rice. Though one thing I must say, I’m not a huge fan of the system in Japan where I had to order a certain weight of rice. I think the one below was 200g. It’s because I eat rice to feel full but I don’t eat a lot of rice. So I actually left slightly less than half behind which is quite wasteful but there were no smaller portions. Other than that, it was a good comfort meal.

Oretachi no curry ya

Address: 14-13 Namba Sennichimae, Chuo-ku | Kawanishi Dai3 Bldg. 1F, Osaka 542-0075, Osaka Prefecture

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Popped by Yasaka shrine, one of the more interesting looking ones around. The shrine is also located in a residential neighbourhood so it was a good visit to get a feel of local living.

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Walked back to Dotonbori for the Glico man, an iconic presence in Osaka.

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Moved on from Dotonbori to Osaka castle, intending to enter but the queue for the tickets was just too long. So I sat outside the castle people-watching. Being a weekend, there was quite a number of people bring their pets or families hanging out around the castle just to enjoy the cool spring air. It started to get a little chilly as it got closer to the evening, so I left but ended at different exit that directed me passed throngs of crowd (mainly young women) who were there for some Japanese idol (?) concert/fan meeting (?) that day, before I finally ended at the train station.

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Ended the day with a visit to Shinsekai. While there are lots of warnings about this place, I felt it was still quite okay to head there as a solo female traveller if you stick to the main area (i.e. place below). And I’m pretty petite so I don’t pose much of a threat to anybody. Despite that, there’s still this air around Shinsekai as you walk from the train station to the Tsutenkaku Tower, that made me a lot more cautious and alert of my surroundings. So I would advise anyone who intend visit to be careful and stick to more crowded areas instead of veering into the neighbourhoods. But aside from that, Shinseikai is popular for its cheap and good kushi-katsu. Just by looking at the prices, it is slightly cheaper as compared to say darumaya. I actually wanted to stick around until the lights are up but I was just too tired and headed back for the day. Till the next post, bye!

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