Friday, November 20, 2015

Osaka ‘15, Day 3 – Osaka Aquarium, Osaka Castle and Traditional Food

Monday October 12th was our first full day in Osaka and we had a very exciting thing planned: we were going to the Osaka Aquarium. This aquarium, also known as ‘Kaiyukan’, is one of the largest aquariums in the world and I since I love aquariums I have been wanting to go there for a very long time! So when we woke up, I was quite excited despite still being a bit tired. I took a shower and put the mermaid-themed outfit I had come up with at home: ‘my ‘Mermaids have more fun’ shirt, my favourite long skirt, a pair of shiny earrings and necklace I borrowed from my mom and my Jule et Lily shell necklace. My mom wore her blue shirt outfit, because… well blue. ^^

Ouffits One
Our outfits of the day!

I am really happy you can actually see that magic that is my skirt so well in this picture! When I saw it during shopping a couple of months earlier, I immediately fell in love with it! The gorgeous see-through overskirt is made out of that typical scratchy material cheap Barbie clothes used to be made of, you know what I mean? However, it has a beautiful mint (and sometimes pink) shine to it in certain light conditions and it rarely shows up on picture, but this time it did! I call I my mermaid skirt and I adore it! ♥
During the booking of our hotels, we made sure all our stays were breakfast included, except for the hotel in Osaka. So we went on our way to the pancake restaurant we had spotted the day before, called Honolulu Coffee, to have breakfast at.
We walked into Dotonbori and walked to the restaurant, which was quite close to the Glico man. The line was quite short but gave us enough time to choose our pancakes. There were only three choices, although I initially thought there were more. But since we wanted simple pancakes it was fine. We also got a coffee for my mom and a can of ‘Hawaiian Pineapple Orange Nectar’ for me. Since the pancakes weren’t ready yet, we received a small sign that said ‘1’ and sat down. We chose a seat next to the window with view upon the Dotonbori canal.

Waiting for Pancakes
Honolulu Coffee from the inside and me and my tired face with our order sign.

We waited for a while until finally our pancakes arrived. Whooaaa, there were so big! And we got three each in a neat pile. It was so much more than we expected haha! The kind waitress showed us where to find the syrup and coconut syrup(?) with a bit of non-verbal pointing and so on. We thanked and then went on to inspect the dot white cream on top of our pancakes. At first I thought it was some kind of ice cream, but it turned out to be salted butter or something? I quite liked it, my mom ended up nauseous. x)

Pancake Breakfast
My pancake (after putting syrup on it). ♥

The coconut syrup ended up being nice as well. ^^ A great, but very heavy breakfast.
We paid and went on our way to Nanba station from where we would take the Sennichimae line to Awaza station and then the Chuo line to Osakako. I had researched in advance, which of course helped a lot. However, when we arrived at the tixket machines at the station, I immediately spotted a problem: everything on the subway map was written in kanji. Unfortunately I hadn’t copied the kanji of the station names as well, but we were lucky: there were two English speaking guides to help us! During our days in Osaka, I really felt like people were generally helpful wherever they could. They really tried to cater to tourists which was really great!

Finding Your Way
Waiting for the guide to help us out.

We got our tickets and went on our way to Kaiyukan~! After a while we arrived at Osakako and followed the stream of people to the exit. Immediately noticed the amounts of parents with children. This has surprised during previous trips to Japan as well: it was a normal school day, did these children have to go to school? Oh well, it didn’t bother me. Just a thought. :)
We started following the signs and flags that were basically everywhere, guiding us into the Osaka Bay Area.

Osaka Bay Area
Flags welcoming us into the Osaka Bay Area.

In the distance we could already see the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. It was really big and striking against the grey sky. We followed the signs and soon I spotted the enormous building of the Osaka Aquarium. We walked up some stairs and walked past a bunch of Lego giraffes, promoting a big Lego shop in the building next to us I believe. And then, there it was: Kaiyukan! The outside of the building is hard to overlook: first of all it’s huge, stands freely and with its bright blue,red and glass walls it really stands out. The blue walls are covered in mosaic-like depictions of all kinds of fish, almost like a children’s drawing. I really like this building, it’s so different!

Osaka Aquarium
The Osaka Aquarium. Doesn’t it look interesting?

I was very excited at this point and really wanted to go in, however we went to find a toilet first (haha). These things seem so normal, but as you probably know: going to the toilet in Japan is never normal! By now I am used to the heated toilet seats, handy children’s seats and panel with buttons for sounds and the bidet, however the sinks not only had a built-in soap dispenser, the hand drier was also built in! The future is upon us! Also, the lamp was really pretty, with sea animal-shaped ornaments hanging from it.

Fishy Toilet
The beautiful lamp at the toilets of Kaiyukan.

We went on our way to the ticket counter, which was just across from the aquarium. While standing in line I spotted an adorable girl wearing pastels from head to toe. Fluffy hair pompoms, a sailor collar cutsew, a polkadotted skirt and platform sneakers. Her outfit was such an inspiration to me! I saw her several times while wandering around in the aquarium.
We bought our tickets (I was jumping around) and took some more pictures before we went through the ticket gate.

Welcome to Kaiyukan!
Taking pictures of Kaiyukan and the ferris wheel! ☆

We entered the ticket gate, which was surprisingly not at the big colourful building you see in the pictures above. It was actually in the middle of the square. We walked up some stairs and passed a statue of a whale shark that you could take pictures with. Of course, everyone who wanted to stood neatly in line first. ^^
Before we entered my mom and I walked to the fence and looked upon the bay. We spotted the Universal Studios park in the distance (I saw the Harry Potter castle!) and enjoyed the view. Then we turned around and entered the aquarium.
We walked through the welcome hall and followed the crowd of people through a following hall. I spotted the gift shop on the left, but of course we wanted to check it out after our visit. We kept on walking, turned left and suddenly found ourselves in a water tunnel! There were sharks and rays swimming around in it. It was very unexpected, but it got me even more excited!

Shark Tunnel
Walking through the first water basin of the Osaka Aquarium!

We exited the shark tunnel and walked past a display of more whale shark statues that you could take picture with. They were decorated with garlands and hats because of Halloween, It looked quite funny! XD
We followed the signs and went up a huge, narrow escalator. It took quite a while before we got upstairs, but it quickly became clear to us that were all the way at the top of the building! Then we entered… a jungle?

Osaka Aquarium Jungle
I didn’t really expect to walk into a jungle in an aquarium!

It appeared that in the glass upper parts of the building, a jungle was built! We followed the sign of a waterfall and spotted a small crowd looking at something. After waiting for some people to leave, we could see for ourselves: they were otters! They were all lounging on top of a tree trunk and looked very cute. ♥
We walked on past a basin holing a Japanese giant salamander and past another waterfall that had a whole group of adorable little crabs clinging to the wall. There was no fence or glass surrounding them, so I wondered whether they ever escaped? I guess they always stay close to the water though. ^^
We walked on and entered the darkness that you always have in aquariums: dark rooms so you can see the basins well.
The aquarium consisted of basins of several different seas and places in the world, like Monterey Bay, the Gulf of Panama, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember which animal belonged to which area, but I’m sure you will
forgive me. ^^

Osaka Aquarium
Several different animals we saw at the Gulf of Panama, Great Barrier Reef and
Antarctica areas.

Taking pictures at an aquarium can be really hard for amateur photographers, so we don’t have that many good pictures. However, I think we have some at least decent pictures so I will be glad to share them with you in this post! If you want to get a more ‘moving’ image of Kaiyukan, check out the video I made below! ♥
We walked on and soon arrived at the biggest attraction of the Osaka Aquarium: the giant 5400 cubic water tank with two whale sharks in them.
Before I go on, I would like to ask you not to start up a discussion with me about whether it’s ok or not to keep these animals inside a tank or any discussion of the sorts. Yes, I have an opinion about it, but it’s complicated and knows many sides and I am really not up for it. If you start a discussion anyway, I will not approve your comment. I’m sorry. It’s not that I am not open to opinions about this matter, but not here on my blog. Now let’s go on!
The giant tank was overwhelming and felt strange at the same time: because of its size, it was hard to see the other side of the tank at times. However, it really is huge. I mean, it fits two whale sharks, several sharks and a group of manta rays and lots of fish! It was massive and massively impressive!

5400 Tank
One of the whale sharks inside the giant Pacific Ocean tank.

The glass of this tank was sooo thick! I mean, of course it was, but you could really tell when an animal swam close to you: the window was so thick their size sometimes changed depending on the angle you were looking at them. ^^
My mom especially liked the big rays. Some had such cute noses! Like a pig. :3 They swam so elegantly through the water.

Meeting the Ray
Rays are like floating dresses… Does that makes sense? *o*.

We walked around the tank and passed several other basins as well, with sea lions swimming gracefully around. These basins were all placed around the giant Pacific Ocean tank.

Fish in a Circle
The fish in this tank all swam synchronously. It was so beautiful! ♥

The interesting thing we found about Kaiyukan is: in comparison to some other places they don’t have that many different basins. However, almost all of their basins are really deep and while walking through the aquarium, you go down and pass all these basins several times, but on deeper levels. For example: we had passed a basin with sea lions chilling on some floating platforms, but we passed them two more times while walking around: once just swimming past and once swimming around the bottom of the basin. I thought that was actually really cool and different!
Whale Shark
Taking pictures of one of the whale sharks

We walked around and around the biggest tank until we finally reached the bottom. A diver was cleaning the pebbles on the bottom, while another was feeding the rays. Rays being fed always looks so cute! The last time I had seen that was during my first trip to Japan, when my dad and I visited the Sunshine Aquarium.

Feeding the Rays
One of the divers feeding the rays and sharks.

We continued our way and passed a basin filled with giant spider crabs. Now, I am already not a big fan of these creepy animals, but one was being particularly creepy. He kept on touching his belly and acting all weird! I can’t really describe it, it was so weeiiirrd! x)

Giant Spider Crab
Uhm… hi. ^^’ Sorry, we’re never going to be friends.

We walked on and officially left the side of the Pacific Ocean tank. Writing this makes it sound like it was short, but we actually walked really slowly, rested a few times and it was really big there, so it actually took a very long time!
We then arrived at the jellyfish exposition! There were a lot basins with different coloured and shaped jellyfish. Some were super cute, others elegant and graceful!

Jellyfish Kingdom
Jellyfish are such cute animals! ♥ Well, from up close and without the possibility of
stinging me. ^^

We walked on and arrived at a dark tunnel with illuminated (fake) ice blocks in the ceiling. The mirrors in the wall suggested a much larger space which was really cool. We then arrived at the Arctic.

The Ice Hallway
The ice hall leading us into the Arctic. ❄

We entered a big room with illuminated ice blocks, where the main source of light came from the ceiling. It was a large, dome-shaped window. I walked underneath it and saw water wrinkling around more blocks of ice, when suddenly a seal swam pas! It was an amazing sight!

The Light in the Ceiling
Filming the seals swimming above me through the window.

We continued our way and went up a floor, where we finally entered the light again. There was a small exposition about narwhals (damn they’re big) and I quickly discovered the source of the dome we had stood under: a small basin housed a couple of adorable ringed seals. One of them smoothly swam back and forth over the window, while another one was just relaxing partially supported by a rock. He was really so super cute! He reminded me of my dog Catootje, a pug: big, fat, round and cute.

Isn’t this seal adorable!? ♥ He was so sweet!

we walked on and arrived in an area I was really looking forward to: the ray and shark petting area. I have been dying to carefully touch a ray for so long; I was so curious to what it would feel like! I was nervous at first, but finally got my chance! Not everyone was equally careful unfortunately, so I decided to be extra gentle.

Petting a Ray
After years and years, I finally petted a ray!

The ray felt so different from what I expected! I thought rays would be rough, like sandpaper. Instead, it felt soft, slippery and almost slimy, like soap! It was amazing.♥ I also petted a small shark, which was as sandy and rough as I had imagined a ray. It was incredible!
We walked on, through the temporary shark exhibition (they had really cool machines showing how a shark jaw worked for example) and finally, we were at the end of the aquarium. And you know what that means: gift shop!

Kaiyukan Gift Shop
Some of the cute items in the gift shop.

They had a lot of cute things in the shop. Not only plushies, but also bags, key chains, magnets, utensils and other random cute things. I adore key chains and was immediately drawn to the display. Almost every animal I had seen in the aquarium was represented by a key chain, some even had several! Naturally, I had a hard choosing the key chain I wanted and I ended up with two: a ray and a seal. ♥ Not the seal from the picture above by the way, haha! You can always view my purchases of the day at the bottom of the post and of course this time is no exception! ^^

Kaiyukan Keychains
‘Which key chain shall I buy..?’

My mom bought one of the soft seal bags you can see in the collage above and also a ray key chain. ^^ Our first real purchases of our trip!

Kaiyukan Purchases
My mom holding her purchases.

We finally left the gift shop and followed the stairs down, where there were more gift shops! We didn’t buy anything, but we did check them out. I really fell in love with a jellyfish plushie, it was so cute! Even cuter than in real life. :3

Jellyfish Plushie
Isn’t this jellyfish super cute!? Aaah, I should have bought it. XD

Then, we finally left Kaiyukan. Whoa, we had spent so much time there! It was much later than we thought! We sat down on a bench for a few minutes and then decided to go get a drink somewhere. We entered the Tempozan Food Village. I had read this was a shopping centre with lots of restaurants and even a small village inside! We suddenly passed a Sanrio store and I couldn’t help it: I needed to take a look. Sanrio really has too many cute things and of course I immediately spotted something. It was an adorable pink head band with My Melody ears on it. I decided to think about buying it while looking for something to drink.
We soon found the small, old fashioned village.

Tempozan Food Village
The Tempozan Food Village. For a moment I really felt like I was walking in a small village!

We walked around the village for a bit. It was very cute, but somehow I didn’t feel drawn to any of the foods. I wasn’t very hungry I guess. We did take some nice pictures, also of each other. ^^

Pictures of Pictures
Taking pictures of each other. ♥

We ended up getting drinks at the ‘First Kitchen’ a little further away. They had some interesting-looking drinks with ice cream on them. They looked quite tempting, so my mom and I decided to go for it. I chose a bright green drink, my mom a white-with-something-that-looked-like-fruit drink.

First Kitchen Drinks
You have to admit my drink looks way cooler than my mom’s! ;)

My drink was pretty nice, but my mom’s won! Ok, in terms of looks, mine was way more awesome, but mine didn’t taste as good as my mom’s. :3
We sat down for a while and just talked, until we felt reenergized. Even though it was quite late already, I really wanted to visit the Osaka Castle too and since we already had plans for the next day, this day was the only possibility. So we decided to go there! But… after I bought the cute ears at the Sanrio store. :3 I ended up buying a cute Kiki&Lala clear folder as well (it was just too cute)! ♥

To the Sanrio Store
On my way to the Sanrio store.

Then we went on our way to the Osaka Castle! We walked back to the subway, passing some interesting buildings and houses. We took the metro straight to station Tanimachiyonchome. We are used to all the station having escalators, but this one had none and my mom was feeling not only very tired by this time, but she is also asthmatic. So that was not so great. ^^ It also turned out we had to walk quite far before we finally reached the outer walls of the Osaka Castle. But well, in the end it was worth it. :3
We walked away from the station and followed the signs, passing several huge modern buildings, one belonging to NHK. In the distance we spotted the first walls of the castle, surrounded by trees. We crossed the road (when the annoying light finally turned green) and entered the park. We spotted quite some people walking their dogs (mainly Shiba Inus) and followed the small stream of people to the entrance.

Entering the Castle Grounds
Walking up to the entrance to the Osaka Castle grounds.

The great and annoying part of this castle (and I am sure it’s the case with every castle in Japan) you have to walk quite a while before you reach the actual castle. There are a lot of giant, stone walls and watchtowers to protect the inner part of course, but because we were quite tired the walking seemed endless. From our previous trip we had learned we needed breaks regularly and we certainly tried to incorporate that into our days, but today’s rest hadn’t been enough apparently.
We walked on, passed a bunch of cute shops and food stalls, walked through another gate, around a corner and finally I spotted Osaka Castle! It was so beautiful… I had seen it on pictures many times and wanted to see it for myself so bad. And now I finally could! The walls were white and the roofs were mint. It was so pretty! ♥

Portraits at Osaka Castle
Someone was kind enough to take a picture of my mom and me together.
I adore these pictures! ♥

We walked round the castle for only a bit, because dusk was already setting in (somehow the pictures all look lighter than it actually was, which is great for the pictures though). We didn’t want to follow the path down since it would take us further away from the station. We walked up some (giant) stair steps to look up at the castle, when an old Japanese man started talking to us. At first we were a bit wary. Did he want to sell us something? But he turned out to be a funny, nice guy telling us stories and listening to ours. He said Osaka people were much nicer than Tokyo people and he was very happy to hear we would visit Hiroshima as well. He also wanted to know what you say in Dutch at a café when you toast. He already knew it in English, French, German and Italian, so we taught him how to say ‘Proost!’ It was quite funny! ^^ Then we said goodbye and walked back to the station. That sounds like we did it in a minute, but it took quite long. x)

Osaka Castle
Bye bye, Osaka Castle! ✧

It took me a while before I found the right station and fare on the sign above the ticket machine. While I was studying the map, my mom went to get a drink. Finally I managed and we went back to Nanba station. Unfortunately, I directed us to the wrong exit, so we had to ask someone to point us in the direction of Dotonbori. The poor guy I approached seemed so scared at first, but he turned out to be very helpful. ^^ After a bit of walking, I spotted a big neon sign saying ‘Dotonbori’ and we walked through a street in that direction.

This sign is pretty clear, huh? XD

The street we were walking in was such a weird place! There were lots of love hotels, weird hotels and small shady cafés. It was great, I absolutely loved it! XD We also found a dog café! The pictures of the cute and well-groomed doggies were so tempting! Maybe one day I will visit it…
We arrived at Dotonbori and also at our next task of the day: finding a place to eat. But before we did so, I got myself a Sailor Moon gashapon!

Sailor Moon Gashapon
I love how focused I look in the first picture. All I had to do was insert money and spin
a wheel. XD

I was so excited and ended up getting Sailor Moon’s Crystal Star (I had to ask what it was before writing this since I don’t know anything about Sailor Moon). It was so cute, I was very happy with it!
We walked around for quite a while. Somehow we weren’t really tempted by anything in particular. Many restaurants had lines in front of them and we weren’t keen on the idea of eating at a street stall. And although the giant canons to roast chestnuts looked awesome, they didn’t really provide a full meal.

Chestnut Cannon
This is how they roast chestnuts! How cool is that!?

Finally we got tempted by a sign with an okonomiyaki picture on it. It turned out we had to walk through a small bar first, go up some stairs where the kitchen was, go up another stairs and then sit down. Everything was so small and a bit shady, it was weird but also great! We sat down at a table with a griddle on it and for a moment we thought we had to bake our food ourselves. But the griddle turned out to be a tool to keep your food warm. ^^ We were handed an English menu and ordered a plate of takoyaki, okonomiyaki for me and yakisoba for my mom (or ‘worms’, as she calls them).
Our takoyaki arrived first and was really good. :3 Then my mom’s yakisoba arrived and soon my okonomiyaki too. Oh okonomiyaki, how I had missed you… ;_;

Takoyaki, Yakisoba and Okonomiyaki
Dinner time! Apparently, without knowing, we ate three specials of Osaka traditional food that night.

While we were eating, we heard quite a noise outside. We couldn’t really look outside, except for a side street next to the restaurant, but we would find out later what was
going on. ^^
We finished our dinner, paid and left the restaurant. The noise was still going on, so we decided to follow it to its source. It turned out to be… a girl group performance! A group of hyper, young girls all dressed in white were dancing, singing and jumping on a stage in front of a big group of mainly shouting men. I was handed a flyer showing pictures of the members in the same outfits and the name of the group, but unfortunately I cannot find the flyer right now. So I will edit this later. Apparently, doing cartwheels was sort of their trademark, because the girls often jumped and cartwheeled past each other on the (quite small) stage. They even had pictures of them cartwheeling on the flyer! A guy who spoke a bit of English told me these girls were touring Japan and were becoming quite popular!

Girl Group Power
Not my best picture, but just to show you a bit of the girl group we saw performing.

My mom and I kept watching for a while and finally left for our hotel. We were super tired! We quickly picked up some drinks and desserts at the 7/11 next to our hotel and then went up to our room. I took purchase pictures and we changed into our pajamas. It had been a long, amazing day.

We had the same desserts as the evening before! ♥

Oh, wait..? You think this post is over now? Ha, I wish! Because then something happened. In order to charge our electric devices, I had brought an international plug, or international converter (not sure what to call it). All our devices worked on it, however… my laptop did not. I needed my laptop for everything: contact with home via Skype, storing my pictures, as a Wi-Fi spot, internet source, everything! And it wasn’t charging. We tried everything, but the plug just didn’t want to work! My mom went to ask at the hotel reception whether they could lend us a plug, but they didn’t have any that fit our plugs. They suggested to buy one a Bic Camera or another electronics shop. Perhaps they even had some at Don Quijote. It was quite late already, so we decided to do so immediately the next day. However, I was so stressed out at that point sleep would have been impossible, so we decided to go to Don Quijote (which was open 24/7) in our pyjamas past midnight! When we arrived at the shop I was overwhelmed by all the items, but a kind staff member directed us to the 4th floor. There, they had every kind of cable and plug imaginable… except for ours. I checked every plug but ours was not there. I asked for advice at the desk but through very broken English of the staff I understood they didn’t know how to help me. Luckily I had brought my laptop charger and went to secretly test it on all the plugs available, just to see whether they fit. None fit but one: ‘region SE to region A’. I had no idea what that meant but when I got to the desk, the staff members said ‘No, no, abunai, dangerous, fire!’ and made explosion movements and sounds. Of course I didn’t think my laptop would blow up the hotel, however I didn’t trust it completely either and decided to listen to these men’s advice. So no plug. My mom and I walked back to the hotel and once we arrived there, finally my father called back (I had been calling him multiple times. Our provider is able to connect to the other side of the world!). He said it wouldn’t be as dangerous as the staff men had said and advised us to get the plug that fit. So we went back to Don Quijote (it was sooo late now) and I called my dad again just to verify once we were there. We bought the plug (the staff must have thought we were freaking nuts XD) and returned to the hotel. There, I attached my charger to the plug, plugged it in and… it worked! My laptop was charging! Perhaps a bit slower than usual, but it didn’t matter! I was so happy! Looking back at this situation I can laugh about it, but man was I stressed out during it! The good side is: we did find some matcha Kitkats and the candy we liked so much at Narita airport. XD
Finally, we could go back to sleep. It had been a very long day!

Purchases of the Day
Purchases of the day

And to end this post with, here is the video I made about our adventures in Osaka! I filmed a lot and tried to make the best videos I could about our trip. I hope you will like it! ♡
You can find day 3 from 2:55 until 6:49. Please take a look if you want! ♡

Thank you for reading! ~☆~