Day 2: Fail, Fish and Nabe
This would be our first full day in Osaka and I was personally very excited as I’ve heard good things about the place and was intrigued to hear the infamous brand of Kansai-ben prevelant in this area. No one would be saying “たこ焼きーめっちゃ好きやねん！” to me today but hey, there’s more to Osaka-ben than that! First thing in the (late) morning, we purchased Osaka rail passes as we would be taking advantage of a number of the discounted and free tickets included. Then we started off in search of Endo Sushi which is situated in Osaka’s version of Tsukiji market. Stellar reviews and the promise of cheap prices made it a must-go destination and so we alighted at Tamagawa train station to make the walk to Osaka Central Market.
However, it was not to be as Endo Sushi and the fish market were both closed due to a special occasion that is still unknown to me. Slightly discouraged, we made our way back towards Tamagawa train station, but not without having lunch first! Leaving it up to chance, we entered an eatery at random off the street hoping for something good.
Filled up on sushi and udon, it was time to make our way to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. This is reputed to be one of Japan’s most impressive aquariums and is counted amongst the few to have a whale shark in their collection of marine (and some not so marine) wildlife. However, we were not the only ones excited to visit the aquarium as a few hundred couples and families had the same idea. There would be happy couples cuddling up to each other in the darkened seating areas while energetic children ran around and exclaimed from exhibit to exhibit.
Despite the massive crowds throughout the entire aquarium complex, I was able to view and appreciate every single exhibit thanks to the polite Japanese society. People would patiently queue up while the ones in front go through a short sequence of saying “すごいー”, take a photo, then promptly step away from the exhibit.
It was starting to get dark by the time we were able to exit the aquarium, just in time for the switching on of the winter lights displays. This year, a large christmas tree took up a spot in front of the aquarium’s facade while a bunch of giant marine animals occupied the steps near the entrance and exit. There was a large commotion amongst the several hundred metre queue in front of the christmas tree as they counted down to the lighting of the display.
Being impatient gaijin, we decided not to join the ridiculous queue and instead went to the much smaller queue to the ferris wheel next to the nearby shopping center. This was free with the Osaka rail pass and would afford a rather nice aerial view of the aquarium, its light displays, and the surrounding cityscapes. While queueing, I noticed that there was a mysterious figure in one of the cars but didn’t think much of it till I realized it was that exact car that I would be boarding! Entering said car revealed the mysterious figure to be a giant Winnie the Pooh soft toy which was rather sadistically chained to the seat. The view was breathtaking as the aquarium was situated on the edge of the waterscape.
Eventually, we left the area to head back towards shinsaibashi where our hotel was located. Somewhere around Hozenji Yokocho Alley, we found an izakaya where we had nabe, yakitori and a bunch of other classic izakaya dishes. The quality of the food was standard local Japanese fare but relative to what I’ve had in Australia,this was amazing. Everything was neatly presented, tasted good, and served in a timely fashion by a very polite and professional waitress who even reversed to arrangement of our shoes to facilitate and easy exit.
The rest of the evening was spent touring the shops around the Dotonbori canal before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel.
Things learnt on this day:
- Places, particularly eateries, can close unexpectedly during the holiday season.
- Random eateries have a tendency to be pretty decent.
- It’s pretty much couples’ day every day at the end of the year, even on weekdays.
- Large crowds, where unwieldly and day-ruining in other countries, are surprisingly manageable as long as you are patient.
- Anything to do with pretty lights will have large queues attached, mostly made up of couples.
- Osaka-ben is the classic form of Kansai-ben but the accents of service staff is minimal so understanding what they are saying should be no problem provided you are able to understand some Japanese.