Day 3: The Castle, Temple and Tower
Day 3 would have us wandering around Osaka yet again, but this time headed towards more monolithic and touristy destinations. The plan was to visit Shitennoji in the morning, a famous temple which supposedly has large fields of zen pebble tracings, then Osaka Castle in the afternoon, and Umeda Sky Building in the evening. The meals on this day were unfortunately not worth noting so details about them will be sparse, if any.
And so right on the train after breakfast to Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka train station which probably just means train station in front of Shitennoji temple or something like that. It was a short walk to the temple which we managed to find by following the signs, although it was confusing as to which gate we should enter by.The Shitennoji Temple’s compound is very large. There are 3 or 4 temple structures as well as a big garden featuring koi ponds, making it a nice and peaceful place to slowly stroll through.
I was expecting more intricate patterns to be traced out in the fields of pebbles but the theme on that day seemed to be straight and absolutely parallel lines.
Once it got to noon and we were satisfied with having seen most of the temple, we returned to the nearby train station and made our way to Osaka Castle.
Despite having visited this particular destination on a previous trip to Japan, we decided to revisit it for the benefit of the party members of whom this would be their first time in the country. It was not long before we spotted the gleaming golden trims of the castle.
This time, we were armed with Osaka rail passes and therefore had free tickets to enter and climb the castle itself, something we did not do in our previous visit. Once phototaking had ceased, we joined the queue to take the lift up. The Japanese love squeezing into tiny little spaces and before I knew what was happening, the lift had far too many people in it. The lift attendant would stand with her face 2cm away from the lift’s control panel and attempted to give us a short introduction to the castle’s features and history while a guy didn’t have any qualms letting his girlfriend stand, facing in my direction, awkwardly close to me. The castle’s interior exhibits included relics of weapons and armour as well as various miniature buildings and soldiers. Some videos describing the castle’s history would be playing on a few floors. At the topmost accessible floor, you could step out onto the balcony and enjoy an aerial view of the surroundings.
It was here that you were able to see the golden “dolphins” that are apparently a signature Osaka object. There’s even a giant one you could climb on and take a photo with somewhere downstairs closer towards the ground floor. After I made a circuit through the floors and exhibits, I was pretty much satisfied and descended to the ground floor where I bought a novelty Date Masamune chibi wooden figure.
It was then time to look for dinner and after having done that, search for Umeda Sky Building. We had more trouble than expected finding it as it wasn’t particularly near Osaka train station but we got there in the end. This giant building was in fact two towers joined at the top in a skinny “n” shape and being christmas eve, it was couples day again! We joined the massive crowd that went from the ticketing counter to the lift, all the way into the sky garden itself.
Up there we were greeted by many lovey dovey couples sitting together staring out windows. Similar in fashion to how it was in the aquarium, these couples would wait their turn and sit at a window for a limited time before moving away to allow the next couple to have their turn. I would have been able to peek out each window if I really wanted to but I settled for the unromantic spot next to the fire hose. As the Umeda Sky Building is situated in central Osaka, the view was very different from that of the ferris wheel near the aquarium. The sky garden is built in the shape of a ring so it is possible have a 360 degree view as you walk around it. While doing so, I realized that there was a stairway leading further up. Ascending said stairway revealed a darkened open air viewing area which spanned the entire ring of the sky garden. Now this was where the view was truly a sight to behold. The absence of ambient lighting and glass windows allowed the lights of the city to reach you unadulterated. However, the cold winds also reached you unadulterated so I left after making two circuits.
There were many coupley things to do within the confines of the sky garden itself. Aside from staring out into the darkness, you could write on little hearts and hang them on trees interspersed around the area, or you could participate in the usual love temple type things (wooden placards, tying strips of paper) which were also set up next to each other, or, most amusingly, you could queue up to have your picture taken while you stand behind a cheesy lit up heart.
Once we had enough, we took the lift back down to the ground floor and returned to our hotel and that was the end of a rather exhausting day climbing stairs and walking like a maniac. Stay tuned for day 4!
Lessons learnt today:
- Zen temples are zen.
- Osaka Castle may be majestic on the outside but it’s really cheesy inside.
- Visit Umeda Sky Building when it’s not couples’ day…unless you like crowding with other couples.