If you happen to be traveling in Osaka in some month that isn’t March, you might be feeling bummed out after reading about our action packed day spent at the Grand Sumo Tournament. Fear not though! There are plenty of things to do in Osaka that are available year round. We spent a week total at our little studio apartment in Osaka, during which time we spent three days exploring Osaka, three days visiting Kyoto, and one day in Nara. In this post we’ll focus on all of our experiences from Osaka itself.
Price: $6 for museum access, free to wander around outside
Osaka Castle was just a quick train ride from our apartment. We spent a very pleasant afternoon strolling around the castle grounds and the surrounding gardens. There is a museum inside the castle that costs about $6 per person. It was only open until 5 and we arrived later in the afternoon (I had to work that morning), so we decided to forgo the museum and just wander around the grounds. The castle itself is very impressive. It has been destroyed and reconstructed several times since building first began in 1583. This gives it a very polished and well maintained appearance. There were also a number of gardens surrounding the castle. The cherry blossoms hadn’t quite reached full bloom yet, but there were a few gardens featuring other varieties of flowers that already had.
Price: free to wander around
After spending the afternoon at the castle, we headed down to Shinsekai which gave me the impression of a slightly smaller, slightly sketchier Dotonbori. We ended up getting dinner here (more on this in the next segment) before spending some time going shopping… Alana managed to drag me into a Don Quijote. I have to admit, my socks were getting threadbare and I was in the market for some replacements. Thus I consented to enter this labyrinthine department store. By the time I had found a pack of socks (about five minutes after arriving) it was too late. Alana had already reached her final form. Eyes glowing with radioactive focus, she scanned shelf after shelf, rack after rack, piles upon piles of whatever they had stocked in Don Quijote (literally everything). I made several attempts at diverting her, but there was nothing I could do. I simply had to shut down more and more systems in order to preserve my vital functions. The next morning, whether through a stroke of luck or an act of divine intervention in answer to my fervent prayers I’ll never know, Alana ran out of steam. Still radiating raw power from her unmitigated retail feast, she dragged my lifeless husk of a body back to our apartment.
Price: free to wander, but you’ll probably want some money for food or shopping
The next day I also had to work in the morning which gave Alana some time to go out and explore on her own (do more shopping). Her first stop was the Kuromon Market. This is a local food market that is especially well known for fresh sea food. Instead of snacking on octopus or clams or some other local fare, Alana found a stall that was selling donuts and ice cream. She described the market to me later as “not too crowded, but still crowded enough that you would have hated it.” She then found her way in the midst of a large cosplay gathering happening in the Nippombashi Market area. It was very crowded, but Alana was impressed with how polite and well mannered everyone was, even in the thick of things. She was just as amazed by the people dressed up in elaborate costumes as she was with the size of the crowds gathering around them. Eventually she found a Daredevil (her favorite superhero) and got a picture together.
Price: free wandering and pictures
We passed through Dotonbori a few times, usually heading to or from our apartment. Besides stopping for a picture with the Glico running man, my favorite part of the area was Hozenji temple. This is a tiny little temple located right in the middle of one of the busiest parts of Osaka. It is so small that you could very easily walk right past it. Despite its small size, the temple had a calm and serene atmosphere even amidst the surrounding bustle. The main attraction is a Buddha statue that is completely covered in moss. We each took a turn ladling some water onto the statue. That’s about all there is to do there, but it’s definitely worth a stop. You often hear about the side by side juxtaposition of modernity and traditional culture in Japan and this little temple is a prime example.
Price: $12 for weekday all day spa access, extra for food
I’m not sure how we ended up deciding to go here. It was our last day in Osaka and we had been doing a lot of walking. I suppose we felt like we deserved a little R&R before heading off on the next portion of our trip, which would be very travel intensive. Spa World was an eight story spa/hotel/water park/restaurant. We paid $12 at a vending machine in the lobby for an all day pass. Afterwards we put our valuables in a locker and entered our respective changing rooms to put on the comfy spa pajamas that were provided for us. The spas themselves were on the 4th and 6th floors. The 4th floor spas were all European themed and the 6th floor were all Asian themed. When I say themed I mean in a kind of gaudy Las Vegas style, not in a super authentic manner. The two floors were sex segregated. The day we were there it was women on the 4th floor and men on the 6th (the floor-sex-designations alternate each month). Why were they segregated? Well this was a clothing-not-optional spa.
After we changed we met on the third floor where there was seating and several dining options. Following our brief reconnoiter we set off to our respective floors. Stripped of my pajamas, I wandered naked through room after room trying to find a spa that wasn’t already packed full of people. Evidently it was a holiday so there were lots of families enjoying a spa day even though it was in the middle of the week, and I just had to suck it up and get over my lack of personal space phobia. The spas were divided into rooms based on their specific style. The location themes included Japan, Bali, Persia, and a few others. Before hopping in to the spas there were a series of Japanese showers. These are basically little plastic stools that you sat on while washing yourself. Some had detachable shower heads you could wash with, but others just had buckets of water you had to fill from a faucet and then dump over yourself.
There were pools of varying temperatures, some with special features like massaging waterfalls. All in all though they were pretty crowded. Being a true masochist, my personal favorite was the combination of dry sauna and cold pool in the Japanese area. Neither of these options seemed to be particularly popular either, so that was nice. Another interesting feature was the salt sauna. Basically there was a giant dish of salt in the middle of the room which I think you were just supposed to rub all over your body (that’s what everyone else was doing). I tried it out but didn’t feel anything. The room wasn’t particularly hot, so after a little I hopped out and hosed off all the residual salt. We met up in the common area for a snack before heading back to our respective floors for another round of spaing. All in all it was a pretty great value for the price. We left feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to start on the next leg of our adventure.
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