Tag Archives: Osaka

Temples and Some More Temples in Kyoto

When we were planning our trip to Japan, we decided that while we were in Osaka, we would make a day trip to Kyoto! Since Pork wasn’t as interested in exploring temples and the “traditional” part of Japan as much as exploring the city life, we decided to only go to Kyoto for the day. The train ride is only 50 minutes from Osaka. And we started our trip the same way we start every day — with food! At Kyoto Station there was a standing restaurant. Since Japanese businessmen are always on the go, there are these “standing restaurants” located in metro stations where you order outside using a type of vending machine. The process goes somewhat like this: 1. Look at your options, 2. Insert your money, 3. Press the button that displays your choice, 4. Receive a ticket and change (if any). Then you step into the restaurant, hand your ticket to the waitress/chef, and you stand at the counter while you wait for your food. Two or three minutes later, you are served your food and you eat your bowl while standing. Japanese businessmen can eat these bowls in an average of 7 minutes! That’s a ridiculous amount of time to eat a piping hot bowl of noodles!!! I definitely couldn’t handle it. Pork, on the other hand, ordered cold soba noodles so his bowl was a lot easier to eat at a faster pace. He finished before I did so he waited outside for me. Trust me, the struggle was real. I noticed multiple people come in and finish their bowl before I finished mine. Afterward, I didn’t feel so good from eating that fast haha..

Soba set from standing soba restaurant in metro station

Soba set from standing soba restaurant in metro station

Piggy trying to keep up with the businessmen

Piggy trying to keep up with the businessmen

Vending machine for ordering food -- genius

Vending machine for ordering food — genius

Outside of Kyoto Station

Outside of Kyoto Station

The first touristy spot we decided to go to was Fushimi Inari (seen in Memoirs of a Geisha). This is the famous shrine where there is a path of torii (gates) that takes about 2 hours to walk through. We actually didn’t walk through the path because we heard that it wasn’t worth it, especially since we were only spending a day in Kyoto. Statues of foxes are also found throughout the main shrine area because they are considered to be the messengers of the Inari (spirits).

Some fox statue in front of Fushimi Imari

Some fox statue in front of Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Imari entrance

Fushimi Inari entrance

Center temple of Fushimi Inari

Center temple of Fushimi Inari

The famous rows of gates in Fushimi Inari

The famous rows of gates in Fushimi Inari

Piggy posing with the poles

Piggy posing with the poles

After walking around and taking a few pictures, we decided to head to our next destination, which was the Kiyomizu-dera Temple! Even though it was a cloudy day, it was definitely still humid. On the way, we passed by SO many dessert places and got hungry (ok, let’s face it, I was the one that became weak and succumbed to the delicious looking desserts). So we stopped by a dessert shop and ordered a dessert set with matcha green tea. SO DELICIOUS!

Matcha green tea came with our dessert set

Matcha green tea came with our dessert set

Delicious but small green tea sundae with azuki and mochi

Delicious but small green tea sundae with azuki and mochi

Road to Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Road to Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Finally, we got to the temple and found it PACKED with tourists and students. I have no idea what the Japanese school schedule is like but Pork and I were so surprised at how many Japanese students were out during the day. The uniforms looked different so we didn’t think it was just one school that got out early either.

Kiyomizu-dera packed with tourists and students

Kiyomizu-dera packed with tourists and students

Piggy would make a good temple guard

Piggy would make a good temple guard

Entering the main area of the temple

Entering the main area of the temple

We bought tickets to go inside the temple (I believe it was about 30 yen/person), and one of the first things we saw was this display of shoes and weapons. All of them were SO heavy, especially the one in the middle. I think we only saw one guy able to lift the middle weapon and it literally took all of his brute strength. Crazy how the guards back in the day had to carry those all the time!

School kids huddled around a massive steel pole

School kids huddled around a massive steel pole

These kids had trouble lifting the heavy objects

These kids had trouble lifting the heavy objects

The main pole was probably 300 pounds and this European insisted on moving it

The main pole was probably 300 pounds and this European insisted on moving it

Those are for some big feet

Those are for some big feet

Extravagant panorama of Kiyomizu-dera

Extravagant panorama of Kiyomizu-dera

I can only imagine what it’s like to be here during cherry blossom season or even Autumn. I hope I can come back to visit during one of those times to see how beautiful it is here.

Piggy used to be a dancer as you can see

Piggy used to be a dancer as you can see

Pork moving along

Pork moving along

We finished walking through the temple area, and walked out toward a busy street filled with tourists and students shopping for little knickknacks and mochi! We went inside the busiest looking mochi store and bought a couple of boxes of mochi as gifts! But then, after buying them, we realized they would be pretty “old” and possibly moldy by the time we got back from Hawaii so make sure you plan ahead if you plan on buying food as gifts.

Lanterns right outside of the mochi store

Lanterns right outside of the mochi store

Busy mochi store with students and tourists buying like crazy

Busy mochi store with students and tourists buying like crazy

As we were walking to Nishiki market, known for showing Kyoto’s famous goods and food, we met a woman from Canada who was somewhat lost and asking us for directions. It was actually hilarious because she tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to her map, and said, “Excuse me! Do you know if this road is..?” And since we were standing in a really narrow road, there was a car coming behind her and I motioned her to move forward and said, “Watch out!” And she looked at me a little confused and looked behind her, and she said, “Oh! You said ‘Watch out.’ So at least you know a little bit of English.” Then I said, “Oh! We’re from America!” From there, we found out we were taking a similar route, and we shared bits and pieces about ourselves and how we had just moved from Southern California to Northern California as she was telling us about herself and her life in Canada. She was so nice and had such a bubbly personality. At our separating point, we decided we should take a picture together to remember that we had met. Selfie skills FTW!

We met a lady from Canada while walking to Nishiki market

We met a lady from Canada while walking to Nishiki market

Once we got to Nishiki market, it was actually mostly closed and most of the fresh things were already sold. So we just walked through, and stopped at a coffee shop for a bathroom break.

Nishiki market street - mostly closed at this time

Nishiki market street – mostly closed at this time

Some of the food sightings in Nishiki

Some of the food sightings in Nishiki

Stopped for an iced coffee -- served in a copper cup!

Stopped for an iced coffee — served in a copper cup!

We decided to go back to Kyoto station for dinner since we were looking at the map earlier and saw that Kyoto station had a gigantic eating area (those floors that we were talking about in an earlier post). There are several different sections that we were considering, including The Cube Food Court, Eat Paradise, and Kyoto Ramen Koji. We were planning to have a lot of ramen in Tokyo so we opted to look at the restaurants in the other two sections which were across from each other. We decided to eat at a sushi restaurant that had a wait outside.

Beautiful set of digital stairs leading to the restaurant floor

Beautiful set of digital stairs leading to the restaurant floor

View from the top of the stairs

View from the top of the stairs

The wait was about 45 minutes and after being seated, we ordered sake and 2 Chirashi bowls.

Getting ready for some sake~

Getting ready for some sake~

Chirashi bowl (in this case, box)

Chirashi bowl (in this case, box)

Pork prepared to eat

Pork prepared to eat

Piggy also ready to dive in

Piggy also ready to dive in

We were both pretty disappointed in the quality of the sushi. It was definitely on the expensive side and not worth the price or wait. I think that’s when we learned that Kyoto is actually not known for having good sushi. Since arriving in Japan, we were utterly disappointed that we hadn’t had any great sushi by this point so we decided that we should just not order anymore sushi until we get to Tokyo. Dinner was our last stop and we went home after a long day of walking. Our airbnb host provided this full body towel for all women in the house since the showers were in the common area. I was pretty darn excited to use it.

Piggy posing in the awesome full-body towel provided by our host

Piggy posing in the awesome full-body towel provided by our host

Instructions for the body towel

Instructions for the body towel

To end, Pork routed our entire walk for the day! Our feet were really tired, but I guess it’s to even out all the eating/drinking. 🙂

Today's walking route -- we walked this much almost everyday

Today’s walking route — we walked this much almost everyday

Until next time!

– piggy

Fish Are Friends, Not Food: Captivated at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Another fine day in Osaka and today we’re going to the aquarium! Osaka Aquarium, Kaiyukan, is the world’s largest aquarium and has been highly recommended by travel guides and locals so it was one of our top destinations. Both Piggy and I love watching Animal Planet, National Geographic, and basically anything featuring the fascinating creatures of our planet. So the aquarium was a perfect spot for us to go to. We headed out to Osaka Aquarium on a brief ride on the metro and got to our stop pretty quickly. Posters of whales, turtles, and other fishes covered the station. We definitely knew we were at the right stop. As we exited the station, we saw a group of school kids all lined up with the signature yellow hat commonly worn by little kids in Japan.

Group of kids on their school trip

Group of kids on their school trip

The walk to the aquarium from the station was brief and took us about 10 minutes. But before making our way to the aquarium, we desperately needed to eat lunch. Luckily, right next door to the aquarium is an entire shopping plaza along with a giant ferris wheel. The plaza was reminiscent of any shopping plaza you would see at a pier with lots of wood paneling. As we entered the food court section, we took a loop around and a Tonkatsu shop caught our eye. Really, those food display cases do a fascinating job luring in customers!

Tonkatsu restaurant before going to the aquarium

Tonkatsu restaurant before going to the aquarium

Piggy's tonkatsu set

Piggy’s tonkatsu set

Pork's tonkatsu set

Pork’s tonkatsu set

The tonkatsu here was cooked to perfection. The pork (yup, pork!) was tender and not dry whatsoever. The batter was crispy even with the sauce that my order was drenched in or the eggs that Piggy’s order was cooked with. With a full belly, we toured around the shopping plaza a little more and spotted a Crocs shop. Granted, Crocs are sold in America too, the two of us needed some better walking gear and Crocs seemed to be a good option despite their notoriously hideous styles. But to our surprise, they did have very non-Crocs-like shoes that would very easily be mistaken for another brand. You can see the ones I bought from their website here. With a new pair of kickin’ Crocs, we were ready for the aquarium.

The beautiful Kaiyukan, Osaka aquarium

The beautiful Kaiyukan, Osaka aquarium

From the outside, it’s easy to see how the Kaiyukan is the world’s largest. The building was massive but incredibly gorgeous. The two dolphins seen on the front of the building are made from chimes which shimmer as the wind blows. I knew this was going to be good. We purchased our tickets and got ready to head in. The tickets cost roughly $25 USD a person which is really worth it.

Piggy looking beautiful and ready for the fishies

Piggy looking beautiful and ready for the fishies

Before we entered, we also saw the Santa Maria cruise which was another attraction in the area. It looked neat but not really something worth our time so we didn’t bother with it.

View of the Santa Maria cruise ship

View of the Santa Maria cruise ship

One of the first things we saw when we stepped into Kaiyukan was a massive closeup of this mantis ray.

Greeted with a giant HULLOOOO!

Greeted with a giant HULLOOOO!

After admiring the posters, we followed the arrows pointing towards the aquarium route and was taken through a tunnel encased with an aquarium with fishes swimming above us.

Fish tank corridor near the beginning

Fish tank corridor near the beginning

The tank had a wide variety of colorful fishes and even what looked to be a small shark. After going through the tunnel, we turned the corner to see a long escalator ascending multiple floors. We rode it up to the 7th floor and proceeded into a forest-like atmosphere and spotted river otters by a waterfall.

River Otters going for a dive

River Otters going for a dive

The river otters were zipping through the water going for small fish at the bottom of the pond.

Continuing with the route through the forestry, we entered what appeared to be the indoor aquarium route where various tanks were visible. The next one we saw was a pleasant sight.

Adorable sea otter cleaning himself

Adorable sea otter cleaning himself

This sea otter was just floating around and scrubbing itself! It was incredibly adorable to watch and we took a few too many photos of him.

Just a few tanks over, we were stunned by what we saw next.

HUGE fish

HUGE fish

There were MASSIVE river fish that looked like serpents. I’m not sure what they’re called but they look to be straight out of the show “River Monsters”. Yes, that fish was bigger than those kids combined.

The route continued  in a downward spiral from the 7th floor and we passed more and more tanks with many amazing critters and fishes.

Emperor penguins strutting around

Emperor penguins strutting around

Dolphins playing in the water

Dolphins playing in the water

Great Barrier Reef section. There's Dori!

Great Barrier Reef section. There’s Dori!

The fish are all looking at something...

The fish are all looking at something…

The fishes in this picture were particularly eerie. All of the fishes were perfectly still in the water facing one direction. Creepy!

Some large mantis ray cruising by

Some large mantis ray cruising by

Around the aquarium were several posters with renditions of various sea creatures. This one is my favorite!

Best rendition of a sea otter ever!

Best rendition of a sea otter ever!

It’s so simple but it gets the point across. Haha.

Sea lion striking up a conversation

Sea lion striking up a conversation

Piggy admiring the majestic blue tank

Piggy admiring the majestic blue tank

This picture really demonstrates how the aquarium was laid out. As we descended the aquarium, we got to see the full breadth of the tanks. The one Piggy is staring out into is the main center tank that spans all 7 floors. It was truly remarkable and enchanting.

Mesmerizing, massive center tank

Mesmerizing, massive center tank

Turtle saying hello!

Turtle saying hello!

I like to pinch

I like to pinch

Magnificent colors

Magnificent colors

Lovely ice lighting

Lovely ice lighting

This baby seal has such a dopey expression like my doggy

This baby seal has such a dopey expression like my doggy

The aquarium was incredibly alluring. The lighting and the classical music humming in the background really created a fully immersive experience. The aquarium was quite large and we saw many animals from various regions of the world. They even had a rainforest section with none other than…

Heehee sleeping sloth

Heehee sleeping sloth

…a sloth! It’s as adorable in person as it is in pictures. We also happened to be in that section when the river otters were being fed.

These small river otters were being fed. So cute!

These small river otters were being fed. So cute!

The rainforest section was the last part of the entire route. It took us about 2 and a half hours at an easy-going pace. I definitely think it was worth it and highly recommend it to anyone. Just look at those cute animals!

We thought the aquarium would take the whole day but we finished around 4PM. So we decided to try and visit some other tourist spots and find some dinner. So we decided to go to Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle moat

Osaka Castle moat

Path to Osaka Castle

Path to Osaka Castle

In front of the gilded castle

In front of the gilded castle

It was very windy at the castle area but the views were great and the sky was fairly clear. There wasn’t too much to see but it was really a nice walk and you can see many locals around that area jogging or relaxing on benches.

Stunning look over the city

Stunning look over the city

Once we got our fill of Osaka Castle, we were ready to fill our bellies! We headed to Osaka Station because we figured that it would have plenty of restaurants. And of course, it did.

On the 11th floor of one of the department stores sitting on top of the station, we found a ramen shop with a line. In Japan, lines = good food. So we waited.

Fast Ramen shop

Fast Ramen shop

We managed to get 2 seats within 15 minutes but our food came out even faster and we had our meals in less than 10 minutes.

Pork rice came with the set

Pork rice came with the set

Very yummy and hearty ramen

Very yummy and hearty ramen

The ramen felt very homey and hearty but not greasy like many of the Tonkatsu based ramens. It was delicious and satisfying and also affordable too.

After our meal, we stepped outside the department store from one of the top floors and caught a glamorous view of Osaka.

The lights of Osaka glowing in the night

The lights of Osaka glowing in the night

With that, we were ready to go home. But before getting home, we needed some dessert!

Finishing the night right

Finishing the night right

We picked up this strawberry cake and brought it back to our room in Shin-Imimaya and proceeded to devour it. It was light and fluffy and the perfect way to end a perfect day.

– pork

Claw Machines Will Ruin Us: Osaka Shopping at Shinsaibashi

Full first day of Osaka, here we go! We decided to hit up downtown Osaka otherwise known as Minami (Namba), which consists of smaller shopping and restaurant districts. The main shopping and restaurant districts we explored were Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. But first stop, lunch! So what you will find in Japan in general is that at a lot of subway stations and inside malls, there will be restaurant floors, where you either go to the basement, or the 10th/11th floors of the building to find restaurants galore! And if you are little piggies like we are, this is either Heaven or Hell, depending on how you look at it. It is Heaven because there is food everywhere! It is also Hell because if you are indecisive, then it will take you a long time to decide where to eat.

Also, word of advice: before you go to Japan, learn how to read/speak Japanese. A lot of Japanese restaurants actually don’t offer English menus so just keep that in mind. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t learn anything, but it will definitely help since Japan has much less access to English than Korea did, therefore making foreigner-native interactions very charades-like with a lot of pointing, nodding, and bowing..haha. Anyway, Pork and I downloaded 2 Japanese language learning apps (“Learn Japanese Phrasebook” and “Learn Japanese”) to learn some common words/phrases. For those interested in downloading these apps, “Learn Japanese Phrasebook” is by Codegent and “Learn Japanese” is by Bravolol. The apps definitely came in handy at certain points of our trip but we will get to that in a different post.

So anyway, back to the restaurant Heaven/Hell. It’s GREAT seeing so many restaurants in one area but it makes your decisions that much harder because Japanese restaurants put out a lot of fake displays of what’s on their menu (as you see at Japanese restaurants in America), so every restaurant has something that looks delicious but then you also don’t know if it’s good. So another tip: do as the Japanese do. If you see a lot of Japanese people waiting at a restaurant, that restaurant must be pretty good and you should probably wait too. If there aren’t that many people in the restaurant, then I bid you good luck. Haha, I’m kidding, it’s not that scary. Just don’t expect the food to be great. Our first glimpse to this restaurant Heaven/Hell was in Osaka station. We decided on this ramen restaurant and once seated, the waitress quickly realized we didn’t speak any Japanese so we ordered our food by walking to the outside of the restaurant with the waitress and pointing at one of their fake displays of ramen sets. Thank goodness for those fake displays! 🙂

Grabbing lunch on the way to Shinsaibashi

Grabbing lunch on the way to Shinsaibashi

Piggy and her ramen set

Piggy and her ramen set

Pork's sesame noodle with side of omelette rice

Pork’s sesame noodle with side of omelette rice

Piggy's ramen and fried rice set

Piggy’s ramen and fried rice set

Once we finished and paid, it was time to shop! Woot! We stumbled past a lot of different types of stores selling clothes, shoes, accessories, you name it. We didn’t really buy anything though. I bought shoes because I definitely wore the wrong pair of shoes that day, so yay! New shoes for me! ^^

Uniqlo in Shinsaibashi. Looks heavenly

Uniqlo in Shinsaibashi. Looks heavenly

Sanrio store

Sanrio store

Silly Attack On Titan paper model

Silly Attack On Titan paper model

And then we stumbled upon this…

Sega UFO Catcher store!!

Sega UFO Catcher store!!

So if you guys don’t know what UFO Catchers are, they’re claw games. Pork and I got ridiculously addicted to these claw games when we studied abroad in Taiwan for 3 months way back in 2010. So, OF COURSE we went crazy and spent a ridiculous amount of money on these claw games in Japan because we’re such suckers for cute things and anything that has to do with LINE or any anime that we know/watch!!! This hobby is not recommended for anyone. You feel so much pride and joy from winning the prize, whatever it may be, but then you end up with a bunch of things that you don’t even know what to do with, and you can’t part with them because like I said, they’re your pride and joy. Please don’t judge us. (Okay okay, judge all you want. We shall pretend that you guys are all jealous of all the stuff we won, so HA! Ignorance is bliss.)

They have LINE characters!

They have LINE characters!

Brown and Cony dolls

Brown and Cony dolls

Piggy won a Moon doll

Piggy won a Moon doll

Pork won 2 Brown dolls at the same time!

Pork won 2 Brown dolls at the same time!

After our fun, we explored more through the downtown area.

Famous Dottunburi Glico board

Famous Dotonbori Glico board

Oh, another thing that we found very common in Japan is restaurants having gigantic mascots (I’m not sure if this is the right way to describe them) above their location to attract attention and boy, did they get our attention!

Giant crab that moves!

Giant crab that moves!

If God made and handed us sushi, I imagine it would look like this

If God made and handed us sushi, I imagine it would look like this

We found more claw machines! Of course, this machine has things that only Japan can get away with… Not sure if you guys know, but the subject of “sex” is way more common and open in Japan. No one really talks about it, but it’s just understood that Japan has an entire industry involved around sex. I’m not talking about prostitution. Yes, Japan has that, but Japan takes the sex industry to the next level. I’m sure a lot of you have heard, but we can save that talk for another time. Anyway…the next picture, haha. 🙂

Japan can be silly...

Japan can be silly…

So we got to Dotonburi and this area is filled with more shops and restaurants.

Dotonburi shopping

Dotonburi shopping

And it was time to try some takoyaki (octopus dough balls)! Pork and I didn’t look up any really famous takoyaki places to go to, just because we figured any place in Osaka would be good. Osaka is known for having the best takoyaki and okonomiyaki. So the takoyaki that we’ve had back in the states were more fried and chewy, whereas this takoyaki that we had was very soft and runny. All the foreigners I spoke to about it said the same thing as well. I’ve noticed a lot of Japanese dishes have egg and most of the time, the egg has that soft boiled or poached texture. (I also noticed a lot of the eggs we ate in Japan had an orange-red colored yolk, as opposed to a yellow yolk that’s so common in the states.) So if you’re into that type of texture, then definitely try some!

Takoyaki covered in green onions

Takoyaki covered in green onions

It started to rain later so we rushed inside a department store to get some coverage. Near the entrance of the mall, we found a small group of people gathered, examining at first glance, what looked like a girl dressed up in a kimono. But when you step closer, you notice that she’s not exactly a human. It’s pretty crazy where technology is going these days.

Super creepy and life-like robot girl

Super creepy and life-like robot girl

Anyway, after we checked that out, we left and went to go find more UFO catcher places. 🙂

More UFO catchers!

More UFO catchers!

So before you plan that trip to Japan, make sure you have a handy coin pouch. Everything below $10.00 US is a coin in Japan. So if you don’t have a coin pouch, be prepared to jingle. Pork and I won these silicone coin pouches from (what else) a claw machine!

Pork won a much needed coin pouch

Pork won a much needed coin pouch

Piggy with her coin pouch winning

Piggy with her coin pouch winning

After all of this spending (ahem, I mean WINNING), we needed some dinner! Pork and I were determined to get some good sashimi/sushi (since we weren’t so impressed with last night’s sushi), but we kept finding Sushi Train/Boat places, and knowing the reputation of those types of places in U.S., we wanted to avoid them. So we finally settled on this rice bowl place and both ordered the Deluxe size of the rice bowl pictured below. It honestly wasn’t…great. Truth be told, there weren’t that many people inside the restaurant either. That was our first mistake. The uni had a bit of a fishy aftertaste (bleh). So, we spoke with a friend (hi Tim!) we met at the Osaka airbnb about it afterward and he was the one that told us we should just follow as the Japanese do. We should still go into a Sushi Train restaurant if it seems popular, and if we see the Japanese people taking sushi off the train, then the sushi should be okay to eat it, but if we see the Japanese people ignoring the sushi train and ordering directly from the chef, then we should follow suit too. Good advice, however, we never even set foot into a Sushi train restaurant for the rest of our time in Japan (heh..we kinda forgot about them). But nonetheless, the advice still generally applies to dining out at Japanese restaurants. So remember guys, I know I’ve already repeated it a lot, but when in Japan, do as the Japanese do.

Uni, salmon, and negi toro rice bowl

Uni, salmon, and negi toro rice bowl

-piggy