Day 3 saw me in Osaka-Japan’s Second City (and culinary capital!) As there are relatively few surviving ancient buildings or cultural artifacts here, especially compared to its neighboring Kyoto, Osaka makes up for it by having several awesome, innovative museums.
The first I headed for was the Open Air Museum of Old Farmhouses, about as sleep-inducing a name for a museum as you could come up with. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find my favorite museum of the whole trip here. It didn’t hurt that this collection of about a dozen houses transported from all around the country were set in a gorgeous park full of bamboo and brightly colored maple trees. Spending the morning walking in between this foliage and the diverse, immaculately restored buildings was both peaceful and illuminating.
After that I headed for Osaka Castle in the city center. This moat-rimmed, towering edifice is unfortunately only a concrete restoration after the original was lost in the war, but it’s an impressive building nonetheless, and the view from the top of the city is excellent. There’s also a great museum inside that relates the history of the Castle and its various rulers as well as features artifacts from the era, including some awesome suits of samurai armor and centuries-old katana swords that still look sharp enough to shave with.
Lunch was some delicious, beef-flavored brown curry over soba noodles and a rice ball topped with fish flakes at an interesting restaurant where you order by machine.
From there I went straight to another museum for a different time-period, the Osaka Museum of Housing & Living, whose centerpiece is an entire model street of 1830s Meiji-era Osaka. This museum actually occupies the top three floors of an 11-story building, which must have been a logistical nightmare to construct. However, the result is quite awesome, and they even go so far as to have built an artificial (auditory) climate and installed lighting that mimics different times of day. The floor below that has a litany of dioramas of Osaka history from that period until modern times. This, coupled with the other two museums, made me feel as if I’d traveled the breadth of Osaka’s history in the course of a day.
After this I wandered over to a spot I’d seen in one of the museum’s dioramas, the 1905 Tsutenkaku Tower, built for the World’s Fair by the same architect who built Tokyo Tower. The building itself was a bit underwhelming, kind of like a old radio tower with a observation deck, but nearby was something I’d been trying to hunt down for awhile- a sushi restaurant. This was the real deal- sushi chef dealing you a few fresh rolls at a time while you sit at a counter. One interesting touch was a lack of wasabi, and the soy sauce had a sweeter tinge to it than I was used to. I made sure to try the famous top of the scale fatty tuna, which was almost melt in your mouth, as well as something I had very mixed feelings on, for more than just taste- fried whale. That had a very strong, dark meat flavor almost like chicken gizzards. Certainly not worth hunting a species to near extinction over…
My last stop was the blazing neon riverside Dotonbori neighborhood. There are plenty of takoyaki joints there (battered, fried octopus balls), which you can get in Korea but originally hail from here. After exploring a bit it was time to get some much needed rest after almost 12 hours on my feet.