We started our third day by visiting the Osaka Castle. Compared to the other attractions in Osaka, Osaka Castle was relatively easier to navigate to as the signs at the stations were a little clearer. It is a good 20 minute walk from the station to the entrance of the park. It is another 15-20 minute walk to the castle from there. On a 33 degrees summer day, this was quite brutal even with an umbrella and sunglasses.
You have to purchase a ticket before you enter the castle. If you have the one day bus pass, you will also get a 100 yen discount here as well. At the entrance, you can either walk up 7 floors to the observatory deck or wait for the elevators. The elevator line is longer but it moves pretty quickly.
You can get a pretty nice view of Osaka from the top and the nice breeze was quite refreshing on a hot day. From there you can get a closer look at the exterior designs on the layered roof of the castle. Once you get back inside, you can take the stairs down to each floor to read about the history, see the artifacts and watch videos about the castle. There are two floors where photography are not permitted. The souvenir shop is located on the ground floor.
There are also some shops that sell souvenirs and snacks near the castle. There is also alot to see here as well so make sure you allocate at least half an hour here. In total, we spent about 2 hours at this attraction but we did not watch any videos and we skimmed through the readings.
Our next attraction was Tenjimbashisuji shopping street which was about a 30 minute transit from the castle. We sat down for lunch at a kaiten sushi restaurant. The place was pretty full with only three seats left. This was our first time eating at a kaiten sushi restaurant so we did not know the protocol (i.e. where to get cups, utensils, etc). We learned that the utensils and tea are self-served. You can grab any dishes on the conveyor belt. If there are items you want that you do not see, you can place an order with the server or the sushi chef. All dishes are 125 yen. The sushi was pretty fresh and it was interesting to see the chef make the sushi up close. Definitely try a kaiten sushi restaurant when you are in Japan for the cultural experience while saving money!
It was quite stuffy while we were walking down the Tenjimbashisuji street. Although the street has a covered roof, the ceiling is really low so the hot air is trapped inside. Also, most of the clothing stores here are tailored to an older audience (i.e. moms) so we spent most of our time strolling in the pharmacies.
With the pharmacies, you have to be careful as not all items are sold at discounts. Some items will be significantly cheaper than other stores but others may have higher margins. Therefore, I suggest you stroll through the pharmacies and compare prices before you go on a shopping splurge! If you purchase more than 5,000 yen, you can waive the consumption tax. However, they will staple the receipt to your passport and seal your purchases as you are not allowed to consume these items in Japan.
After shopping, we made our way to the Namba Yasaka Shrine only to find that it was closed! We arrived at 5:30 p.m. and apparently they close at 5 p.m….
We headed for our next destination which is Namba Parks, another large shopping mall in the Namba area. The mall is famous for its floating garden and waterfall on its rooftop. This is also another mall where you can spend half a day if you want to see everything.
We sat down for a light snack at a beef tongue specialty shop. We ordered the bambo grass fish paste, beef tongue tendon stew and grilled beef tongue. The first two dishes were alright but the beef tongue is worthy of mentioning. I personally do not like beef tongue but even I found it very good. It has the thickness of a minute steak but with a crispier taste. Grilling it made it even more delicious. It was a pricey snack but I would recommend trying it out!
After our snack, we strolled around the mall. The layout of the mall is actually quite confusing as each floor is a huge circle so you never know when you reach the end. Escalators are usually indicators of the ends of the mall but not for Namba Parks. They have escalators at every corner. Before we left, we went up to the rooftop garden to take a look. The garden was very vibrant and covered the area of the mall. There are many cafes with outdoor seating on this level so it is a perfect place to grab a coffee and relax. We did not see the waterfall however.
We were on the lookout for a place to grab dinner. On a quieter street, we found an udon restaurant which serves katsune udon which is one of the must try dishes in Osaka. They only have 3-4 variety of udons on their menu but they also have a self-serve tempura station. We ordered a katsune udon and cold udon to share. Also, we grabbed two pieces of prawn, fish and chicken tempura to try. The udon was cooked not too soggy nor chewy but the highlight for me was the prawn tempura. It was very fresh and had the right amount of batter. I have never tasted something like this in Vancouver before! This is a chain restaurant in Japan so there are multiple locations. For $8 CAD, it is definitely a good deal for dinner!
On our way back to the hotel, we also stopped by at 551, a store famous for its butaman (pork buns) and siu mai. They were all sold out of butaman as we went right before closing but we grabbed some siu mai for our late night snack. The siu mai is very different than the ones I’ve had in the past as it has a very strong onion taste. Siu mai’s are my guilty pleasure but I think this one did not appeal too much to my taste buds.