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As many of you know, I was finally able to visit my brother in Japan earlier this year. While I was planning on just one post about my trip, I decided to break it down into the three cities we visited, starting with Osaka!
So stay tuned for Kyoto (with the monkeys!) and Kobe. But below, I break down my favorite highlights from Osaka, Japan.
Ok, so I have to get the cheesy stuff out of the way – but I do want to say that while exploring is amazing, my ultimate favorite part of this trip was spending some one-on-one time with my brother. Even though he isn’t so little anymore, he’s always going to be my little brother, so why pass up an opportunity to gush about sibling time with him online?
Also, can I say how fun it is to travel with someone who knows the ins and outs of the city you’re visiting? It’s such a perk to have insider knowledge, someone who speaks the language, and someone to take all the pressures of traveling off of you! (Thanks!) Now onto my favorite parts of the trip aside from that:
Construction of Osaka Castle started in 1583 and it was surreal walking up to a building that old knowing I was going to be able to venture inside. Being from Chicago, our old buildings are really only a hundred years old or so (thanks Great Chicago Fire). It makes traveling and seeing culture like this extra interesting. And yes, I know I really need to travel more so I can see buildings a great deal older than this!
But back to Osaka Castle – the outside is gorgeous! And the inside is full of a museum detailing the castle, the turn-over of power throughout the years, and the surrounding area of Osaka. And once you get through the museum, the top floor is open with an amazing view of the more modern downtown Osaka skyline and mountains.
The downtown area of Osaka reminded me a lot of Times Square from New York, but with less cabs and many more pedestrian only streets. The main area is full of stores and restaurants, flashing signs, bright lights, and sensory overload. It was fun to explore, peek in many of the open food stalls, and take it all in.
As you can kind of see from the photo, there was an interesting mix of familiar brands and local spots. I really loved that the streets were mainly free from cars. It is something I wish Chicago had more of – though I understand why the United States is much more reliant on vehicles.
Endless Shopping Streets
Aside from the downtown area, there are two main shopping areas that I visited that felt endless – and I mean ENDLESS. You basically start walking down another pedestrian only street expecting it to be a few blocks, but then it seems to go on forever.
I didn’t want to drag my brother around for too much clothes shopping but I did peek in a few stores and then immediately wished that I had brought a nearly empty suitcase instead of packing so much. Next time I’m going to have to pack just a couple days worth of clothes and then buy a new wardrobe while I’m there.
Aside from clothing, they had all sorts of other stores and restaurants that were fun to explore. The only drawback were the crowds. The streets were always full.
If you are unfamiliar with Gudetama, you are in for a treat. Gudetama is a Japanese mascot that is a cartoon egg yolk with seemingly severe depression. That sounds awful, but he is darkly hilarious. He was developed by the same company that made Hello Kitty and is quickly gaining popularity in Japan.
I love everything Gudetama so when we visited the Gudetama Cafe I was giddy. All of the food incorporates this character somehow into the dish and it was fantastic. You can see my Gudetama curry above.
If you want to learn more about Gudetama, I suggest you do a google image search of him and be prepared to fall in love. And once you have, take a look at all the hilarious things you can buy from Amazon with Gudetama on them. You can thank me later.
Shrines Around Every Corner
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan (second to Tokyo) and feels very modern in many parts of the city. However, the city was built around many shrines. So you can be walking down a city block and stumble onto a beautiful, secluded shrine. It was a really cool juxtaposition of modern culture and sacred history.
Who knew that Japan would be so into their arcades? I know we have some here, but Japan is FULL of them and the arcades themselves always seem to be full as well. They had some really fun games. I have no idea what the names of any of them were, but many of them were based on music. I have no rhythm what-so-ever, but they were still fun.
To say we did a lot of goofing around and shopping in Osaka may been an understatement, but if you’re going to do just a little this is the place to go. It’s huge, filled with hilarious things, and some of the stuff was oddly not too expensive.
If you’re going to be heading to Osaka and have any questions for me, feel free to message me!
And if you’ll be traveling elsewhere in Japan, make sure to sign up for post updates below. I’ll be posting about the other cities I visited soon!
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