Sake in Japan’s city of Saijo

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Novice and experienced sake drinkers will want to have the city of Saijo as part of their Japan trip itinerary.  Sake brewing has been going on in Saijo for centuries and the brew masters have perfected their craft.  Saijo is home to many sake breweries.  Eight different sake breweries are within walking distance from the main Saijo train station.  These breweries are open year-round and give visitors an opportunity to learn the method behind sake brewing.  At the breweries visitors can sample sake and buy sake bottles.

Saijo Sake Festival

Those traveling in Japan during the fall time should plan their visit to Saijo for the second weekend in October.  Every year during this weekend Saijo hosts a Sake Festival.  The festivities begin the moment one exits the train station and walks on Saijo’s main boulevard.  On this street, you’ll find various food stalls, vendors selling clothes or trinkets, and cosplayers dressed as samurai with whom you can take photos.  Besides food stalls and vendors, you’ll find activities for children such as carnival games and jump houses.

Outdoor Izakaya

For the best food options continue on the main boulevard to the outdoor izakaya.  This outdoor Japanese style pub has seating for 5,000 people in the center of a courtyard.  Around the perimeter of the courtyard are food stalls.  Here one can eat made to order dishes such as fried noodles with pork and egg.  Other food stalls sell grilled chicken or karaage, chicken that is deep-fried in oil.  Besides the foods stalls and seating the izakaya has a stage for performances and special talks by local groups.  When you have finished eating, be sure to take any garbage to the trash station for proper disposal and recycling.

Sake Hiroba

The main attraction for the Sake Festival is Sake Hiroba.  In Japanese Hiroba means plaza.  Within Sake Hiroba one can sample various types of sake from breweries found throughout Japan.  To enter Sake Hiroba you must buy a ticket from the booth next to the entrance to the plaza.  Your entrance ticket comes with a small cup and large booklet.  The small cup is yours to keep and used to drink the sake.  The booklet comes printed only in Japanese and lists the various sake available to sample within Sake Hiroba.  Each different available sake has a letter and number designation.  The designation refers to the tent in Sake Hiroba where you can find that specific sake.

Sake Hiroba has over 1,000 different sakes from five different regions available to sample.  The five regions are Chugoku, Chubu, Kinki, Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa, and Hokkaido Tohoku Kanto.  A different color tent differentiates the various regions.  To get the most out of visiting Sake Hiroba be sure to try at least one sake from each region.  When you are ready to sample sake wait in the line leading up to the tent.  When you reach the front of the line place your cup on the stand and let the pourer know the number corresponding to the sake you wish to sample.  For non-Japanese speakers, a list of the sakes available are on a printout on the stand.  Just point to the number for the sake you wish to drink.

Reaching Saijo

Saijo is best experienced as a day trip from nearby Hiroshima.  From Hiroshima’s main train station board the JR Sanyo Line to Saijo’s main train station.  The trip takes thirty-five minutes, one way.  Those traveling to the Saijo Sake Festival will want to arrive as early as possible as the event gets crowded by the afternoon hour.

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Saijo

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Saijo Train Station: 34.431089, 132.743586
Saijo Main Boulevard - Sake Festival: 34.427585, 132.743039
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Saijo Train Station
Sake in Japan’s city of Saijo
Saijo, Japan
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Saijo Main Boulevard - Sake Festival
Sake in Japan’s city of Saijo
Saijo, Japan
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Dining Options on Miyajima Island

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While researching Miyajima one may assume that this tiny island with its Shinto shrines and scenic views of nature might lack an entry in any culinary journal.  Those that make that assumption find how wrong they were the moment they walk around Miyajima’s main streets.  Step into any restaurant and feast on seafood caught in the local waters.  Get a jolt of caffeine while sipping espresso drinks or indulge in ice cream served on a sweet bun.  Satisfy your food cravings by sampling any of the snacks offered by the local street food vendors.

Tori-I

With Miyajima’s proximity to water, seafood dishes take the top spot at many of the island’s restaurants.  Miyajima’s most popular seafood dishes include conger eel and oysters caught in local waters.  For a taste of both conger eel and oysters visit Tori-I.  Those who wish to eat oysters may order inside the restaurant or from the takeout window to the right of the entrance.  Order the oysters raw, grilled, or deep-fried.  Those that order the grilled oysters will find them seasoned with a soy-sauce based sauce.  Diners sitting inside the restaurant may choose from such dishes as udon with shrimp or grilled conger eel.  The grilled conger eel sits on a bed of rice in a bento box.

Miyajima Itsuki Coffee

For a classic cafe experience head to Itsuki Coffee.  The menu at Itsuki Coffee has various espresso choices, served either iced or hot.  Besides espresso the menu features pastries such as muffins, scones, and biscotti.  This cafe is perfect for visitors needing a caffeine fix or somewhere to sit and unwind.  Itsuki Coffee’s décor is modern but warm with wood accents.  Seating is available inside, or outside with weather permitting.

Melon-Pan Ice

Regardless of the day’s temperature, few can resist the draw of warm baked dessert bread with ice cream.  The chain Melon-Pan Ice opened a location in Miyajima, where tourists and locals both line-up for tasty treats.  Melon-Pan is the name of a sweet bun popular in Japan.  The bread bun is soft in the inside but the top has a thin layer of crispy dough that resembles that of a cut and diced melon.  Melon-Pan Ice takes the fresh-baked warm bun, cuts it in half, and adds a scoop of ice cream.  The resulting combination is so delicious that a nearby sign proclaiming it as “Japanese soul food” isn’t an exaggeration.

Miyajima Street Food

For those in need of a quick bite, or if you don’t have time to sit at a restaurant, you’ll find many street side vendors selling various snacks.  One dish in particular to try is a fried pastry made in the shape of a star.  These fried stars come filled with your choice of cheese, custard cream, or red bean.  Non-fried options include fresh-baked steamed buns filled with beef.  Another popular street vendor sells rolled up fish cakes, grilled and served to customers right off the hot stove.

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Miyajima Dining

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Tori-I: 34.298210, 132.321439
Itsuki Coffee: 34.296495, 132.320779
Melon-Pan Ice: 34.295516, 132.321621
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Tori-I
Dining Options on Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Itsuki Coffee
Dining Options on Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Melon-Pan Ice
Dining Options on Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Island has long been a draw for tourists and locals alike for its serenity, nature, and shrines.  Visitors are consistent in voting Miyajima Island one of the top scenic spots in Japan. A quick look on a map and you’ll find that Miyajima’s actual name is Itsukushima.  In Japanese Miyajima means Shrine Island, and the nickname has stuck. With easy access by boat, Miyajima Island makes for a perfect day trip when visiting nearby Hiroshima.

Sunset on Miyajima Island - Itsukushima, Japan

Sunset on Miyajima Island

Traveling to Miyajima Island

You’ll find Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.  Travelers visiting Hiroshima can add an extra day in the region to visit Miyajima Island.  It is easy to reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima.  The trip is less than an hour and makes for a perfect day trip.  Visitors will reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima by train and boat.

To reach Miyajima Island most visitors in Hiroshima will board the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station.  The JR Line is the fastest way to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The popular Japan Rail Pass that many tourists use to travel around Japan covers the JR Sanyo Line.  Those that did not buy a Japan Rail Pass have two options to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The fastest route is to buy a round trip ticket for the aforementioned JR Sanyo Line.  The cheaper, and slower, alternative is to take the Number 2 Tram Line from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi.

Upon reaching Miyajimaguchi Station follow the signs to the Miyajimaguchi/Miyajima Ferry Port.  This short walk leads you to the boats sailing to Miyajima Island.  At the Port, Japan Rail Pass holders may use the entrance marked JR and board the next available boat bound for Miyajima Island.  Those without a Japan Rail Pass will need to buy tickets at the nearby kiosk for the next available sailing.

Travelers without a Japan Rail Pass can reach Miyajima Island without boarding a train.  Two other docks, at Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Port, offer direct boat rides between Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Arriving at Miyajima Island

Regardless of which boat you take to reach Miyajima Island you will disembark at Miyajima Pier.  From the Pier turn right and walk along the path next to the waterfront.  As you walk along the path, and throughout Miyajima Island, you may come upon deer roaming free.  These deer appear tame and comfortable around humans, as long you do not bother them.  Visitors enjoy taking photos with the deer, but be sure to treat the animals with care.  Remember, the deer are wildlife.  Approach the deer with caution, stay at a safe distance, and do not touch or feed the deer.  The deer will eat paper tourists are holding in their hands.  Be mindful if you are holding maps or brochures near the deer.

To the left of the waterfront pathway you will find local owned businesses on the streets of Omotesando and Machiya.  Miyajima artisans are fond of using wood to create everything from trays to containers.  You can even find pieces of woodwork with etchings of various Miyajima sights.  Rice scoopers are one popular item the wood makers craft.  As you walk among the stores keep an eye out for a display featuring the largest rice scooper in the world.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

At the end of the streets with stores and restaurants you will come upon Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  The Shrine’s buildings, along with the nearby Five-Storied Pagoda and O-Torii, have the honorable designation of being a UNESCO World Cultural Site.  Most visitors are familiar with Miyajima Island because of the O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate.  The O-Torii is first visible from the boat one takes to reach Miyajima Island.

Viewing the O-Torii is a different experience depending on whether you visit during low tide or during high tide.  Upon disembarking from the boat that brought you to Miyajima Island visit the nearby Information Booth for a posted sign with times for low and high tide.  Pre-planners can find tide times posted online if you need to know the times before your visit.  High tide is the perfect time for photos as the O-Torii sits surrounded by water.  Low tide offers visitors the chance to see the O-Torii up close as you may walk up to the Gate.  The ground is wet, muddy, and slippery, so wear proper shoes for the walk to the O-Torii during low tide.

Mt. Misen (the Sacred Mountain) and Observatory

Included in the World Heritage designation is Mt. Misen, known as the Sacred Mountain.  The landscape of the Island has drawn many spiritual beings to Miyajima.  As you hike Mt. Misen, you will find large rocks and trees amidst temples and religious statues.  To hike any part of Mt. Misen requires being in good physical health.  It is possible to hike from the base of Mt. Misen to the top.  Most visitors will ride the Miyajima Ropeway, which will allow you to bypass a large part of Mt. Misen.  From the waterfront follow the signs to the Momijidani Station and use the Ropeway to reach either Kayatani or Shishiiwa Station.

Even taking the Ropeway to the furthest point, Shishiiwa, still leaves hikers with a strenuous trail to the top most observation deck.  The reward in reaching the observation deck is stunning views of Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding Islands.

 

Daishoin Temple

With its deep connection between nature and spirituality, Miyajima is home to many temples.  One in particular, Daishoin Temple, is one of the grandest on Miyajima Island.  The grounds for Daishoin Temple makes it one of the larger temples to explore on Miyajima Island.  The easiest way to locate Daishoin is if you position yourself with the Miyajima Ropeway behind you, and the O-Torii Gate in front of you.  At that point turn left to reach Daishoin.  Take your time walking and admiring the serene grounds, various halls, and thousands of religious statues.

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Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Pier: 34.302092, 132.322270
Omotesando Street: 34.299070, 132.321860
Machiya Street: 34.298441, 132.322490
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: 34.296083, 132.319915
Five-Storied Pagoda : 34.297129, 132.320752
O-Torii Gate: 34.297253, 132.318134
Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station: 34.293247, 132.326782
Mt. Misen Observatory: 34.279436, 132.319529
Daishoin Temple: 34.291864, 132.318628
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Miyajima Pier
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Omotesando Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Machiya Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Itsukushima Island 広島県, Japan
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Five-Storied Pagoda
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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O-Torii Gate
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Mt. Misen Observatory
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Daishoin Temple
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan

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Unique Eats in Hiroshima, Japan

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Modern day Hiroshima, Japan is more than its memorials.  The sprawling metropolitan’s various restaurants offers visitors delicious Japanese cuisine.  In Hiroshima, you will find tasty pastries at Andersen Bakery and St. Marc Café.  At Masui enjoy tonkatsu and Japanese curry dishes.  As for other traditional dishes, such as okonomiyaki and ramen, be prepared to eat these made with a Hiroshima twist.

The Original Andersen Bakery

Andersen Bakery, which has locations throughout the world, came from humble beginnings.  The story of Andersen Bakery began when its founder Shunsuke Takaki visited Europe in 1959.  Shunsuke fell in love with Danish pastries and he vowed to bring these delicacies to the people of Japan.  The first Andersen Bakery opened in 1967 in Hiroshima.  The success of this shop led to the franchise opening bakeries throughout Japan.  Later, more Andersen Bakery locations opened in the United States, Hong Kong, and where the inspiration came from, Denmark.

You will find the main Andersen Bakery at what once was the Hiroshima Branch of the Teikoku Bank.  After the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima renovations on the building began.  The first and second floor of the building are home to Andersen Bakery.  The first floor of the building, known as the Bakery Market floor, offers customers a variety of baked goods and pastries.  Visitors can buy coffee or tea to drink along with their fresh-baked purchases.  The second floor, known as the Kitchen floor, offers customers a variety of meal options.  Select from grilled and stewed foods, sandwiches, salads, pizza and pasta, and Chinese dishes.  Besides those options the Kitchen floor has a full delicatessen, desserts, and beverages.

St. Marc Café

Another great choice for pastries, sandwiches, and coffee is the restaurant chain St. Marc Café.  These cafes became popular throughout Japan for their chocolate croissants.  These chocolate croissants, called Choco Cro, are so famous that often people call the cafes by the name of Choco Cro and not St. Marc Café.  Look for special varieties of the Choco Cro that mark events such as the holidays Halloween and Christmas.

Hiroshima’s Take on Ramen

In the simplest terms, ramen is a bowl of broth with noodles.  Yet, as one travels throughout Japan they find a variety of styles and takes on this simple dish.  In Hiroshima, their style of ramen is tsukemen.  Chefs first cook the tsukemen noodles and serve them dry.  Patrons dip the noodles into broth before eating.  Establishments that cook up tsukemen serve their customers two separate bowls.  In one bowl you will find your tsukemen noodles, meat, and other sides such as eggs.  Another bowl has the broth.  Add the noodles, meat, and sides into the bowl with the broth, mix it around and enjoy.

A popular chain specializing in tsukemen noodles is Bakudanya.  Here you can choose what level of spiciness you want for the ramen’s broth.  A handy heat chart details the spice level from zero to a hundred.  Pick the level of spiciness you can handle.  Bakudanya offers more dishes beyond ramen such as rice wrapped in seaweed and karaage (Japanese fried chicken).

Tonkatsu and Curry

A popular Japanese dish is tonkatsu, breaded deep-fried pork.  Combine this dish with Japanese curry and you have a hunger quenching dining experience.  Masui in Hiroshima is a hard location to miss.  Next door to the restaurant is a deli with a sign reading “Sukiyaki and Foreign Food” with a bull’s head and the word beef emboldened over it.  Right next to the deli is the entrance to Masui.

Before entering Masui stop by the display case housing various dishes.  These plastic recreations of the dishes Masui serves may help you decide what to order.  Upon entering the restaurant, you will have your choice of table seating or a tatami table.  Tatami is a mat, and will mean removing your shoes as shoes should not touch the mat.  If needed, you may ask for an English menu.  Order the tonkatsu with curry for a treat of a meal.

Hiroshima and the Okonomyaki Playground

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savory dish similar in texture to an omelet and similar in shape to a pancake.  Associated with the areas of Hiroshima and the Kansai region of Osaka, the okonomiyaki dish comes in two different styles.  In Kansai, Osaka chefs mix the ingredients before using them to form the omelet pancake.  Cooking okonomiyaki in Hiroshima involves the ingredients being layered to form the omelet pancake.

Foodies that seek amazing okonomiyaki will want to visit Okonomimura.  This playground for okonomiyaki lovers offers multiple food stalls on three floors.  There are over twenty food stall on floors two, three, and four.  Pick a stall that looks good to you and saddle up to an open seat.  To keep things simple just let the chef know if you want meat or seafood and sit back and enjoy the show.  Right in front of you the chef will cook up your food.  Before you know it, you’ll be dining on a delicious Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

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Hiroshima Eats

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Andersen Bakery: 34.394735, 132.457210
St. Marc Café: 34.394070, 132.455778
Bakudanya: 34.387256, 132.460120
Masui: 34.394534, 132.463102
Okonomimura: 34.391289, 132.461894
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Andersen Bakery
Unique Eats in Hiroshima, Japan
Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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St. Marc Café
Unique Eats in Hiroshima, Japan
サンマルクカフェ, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Bakudanya
Unique Eats in Hiroshima, Japan
Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Masui
Unique Eats in Hiroshima, Japan
Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Okonomimura
Unique Eats in Hiroshima, Japan
お好み村, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City

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Hiroshima, the Japanese city forever linked with history.  As the site of the first use of a nuclear weapon on a city, it’s impossible not to think of World War II when hearing the word Hiroshima.  The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and afterwards the city and the world was never the same.  First time visitors to Hiroshima wonder what they will find upon arriving in the city.  Hiroshima has rebuilt itself from the ashes of destruction into a beautiful and modern city, one whose mission now is to spread the message of peace to the world.

Welcome to Hiroshima

The easiest way for visitors to reach Hiroshima is by train.  From Kyoto, visitors can arrive in Hiroshima in just under three hours.  Once you arrive at Hiroshima Station exit via the South Gate and head to the city’s main form of public transportation, the streetcar (Hiroshima Electric Railway).  These trams ride through the city on railway tracks.  The streetcar’s run on nine, color coded, routes that cut through the entire city and will have you at your destination in no time.

Hiroshima’s streetcars are fast, efficient, and easy to use.  Passengers need not buy tickets before boarding the streetcar.  Board the streetcar through the door marked “entrance”.  Smaller streetcars have entrance doors at the back of the tram.  Longer streetcar’s entrances will be in the middle of the tram.  When you arrive at your stop, disembark via the exit doors near either the driver or the conductor.  Before exiting deposit the flat rate for inner city travel, 160 yen, in the provided coin slot.  Those without exact fare will receive their change from the coin slot machine.

If you plan on using the streetcars multiple times in one day, consider buying a day pass.  Day passes are available to buy before entering the streetcar or on board from the conductor.  A day pass for adult riders is 600 yen and 300 yen for children.  For those that need unlimited rides in the city and ferry access to nearby Miyajima, a one day streetcar and ferry pass is available.  This pass costs 840 yen for adults and 420 yen for children.

Signpost with the inscription "May Peace Prevail on Earth" - Hiroshima, Japan

Signpost with the inscription “May Peace Prevail on Earth”

Peace Memorial Park

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15am the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima.  With the city reduced to ruins, the significant impact of what happened that day permeates the city.  Yet from the destruction a beautiful remembrance to the victims and a beacon of peace has arisen.  The Peace Memorial Park ensures visitors never forget that infamous day and gives hope that the event that transpired never happens again.  As you approach the Peace Memorial Park, you should see a sign post that reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth”.  Repeat this phrase in your mind as you walk through the various memorials built to remember what occurred there.

Those visitors that wish to learn the history of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima will want to visit the Peace Memorial Museum.  After the Museum head to one of the main memorials, the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims.  This stone chamber, in the middle of the Park, has a list of the victims who died by the atomic bomb.  From the Cenotaph, you can see, and walk to, the Peace Flame.  The Flame will continue to burn until no more nuclear weapons exist on Earth.

Children's Peace Monument - Hiroshima, Japan

Children’s Peace Monument

Children’s Peace Monument and Other Memorials

The Children’s Peace Monument is a memorial for the children who died because of the atomic bomb.  A girl by the name of Sadako Sasaki inspired others to create the Children’s Peace Monument.  In 1955, Sadako was twelve years old and diagnosed with leukemia.  The disease resulted from her exposure to the radioactive aftereffects of the atomic bomb when she was two years old.  Sadako believed if she folded a thousand cranes she could defeat the leukemia.  Sadako could not beat the sickness, she died the same year as her diagnosis.  Classmates of Sadako’s petitioned to have the memorial built and ever since people from around the world have continued Sadako’s tradition of making paper cranes.  Glass boxes surround a statue of Sadako and contain every paper crane ever made in remembrance of Sadako and the children who died because of the atomic bomb.

Other notable memorials include the Korean Victim Monument, A-bombed Gravestone, Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, the Bell of Peace, and the Peace Clock Tower.  The Peace Clock Tower chimes quarter past eight every morning, the same time as when the blast occurred on August 6, 1945.  Across the river, the A-Bomb Dome is the only remaining building from before the atomic bomb dropped.  Prior to the bombing the building was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.  Now, all that remains of the building are structural beams and blown out walls.  Flood lights used at night illuminate the remains of the building.  Near A-Bomb Dome is the Aioi Bridge. Aioi Bridge was the target of the bombing because of its distinctive “T” shape.

Modern Day Hiroshima

The memorials draw visitors to Hiroshima to remember and to pledge to bring peace to the entire world.  Around the Peace Memorial Park is a metropolitan city.  Rebuilt after the war, Hiroshima has modern buildings around the Park.  Here you will find the residents of Hiroshima living out their daily routines.  Among the buildings you’ll find shopping arcades and restaurants serving traditional Japanese dishes, such as okonomiyaki and ramen, made with a Hiroshima twist.

Modern day Hiroshima - Hiroshima, Japan

Modern day Hiroshima

Besides buildings, shopping arcades, and restaurants what you will find are the country’s friendliest people.  Hiroshima locals are quick to smile and offer help to visitors from every corner of the world.  The heart wrenches thinking of the utter destruction that befell this city, and yet it warms the heart to know beauty has come from such destruction.  The beauty of the Peace Memorial Park and the inner beauty of the Hiroshima people gives us hope that one day peace will prevail over the entire globe.

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Hiroshima Memorials

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Hiroshima Station: 34.396228, 132.475438
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: 34.391521, 132.453064
Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims: 34.392976, 132.452573
Peace Flame: 34.393445, 132.452776
Children\'s Peace Monument: 34.394103, 132.452976
Korean Victim Monument: 34.394208, 132.451847
A-bombed Gravestone: 34.394208, 132.451847
Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound: 34.394650, 132.452025
Bell of Peace: 34.394865, 132.452397
A-Bomb Dome: 34.395464, 132.453471
Peace Clock Tower: 34.395415, 132.452370
Aioi Bridge: 34.396198, 132.453403
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Hiroshima Station
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島駅, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島平和記念資料館 (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆死没者慰霊碑 (Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Peace Flame
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
広島平和記念公園 (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Children's Peace Monument
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆の子の像, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Korean Victim Monument
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
韓国人原爆犠牲者慰霊碑, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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A-bombed Gravestone
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
韓国人原爆犠牲者慰霊碑, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆供養塔 (Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound), Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Bell of Peace
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
平和の鐘, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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A-Bomb Dome
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
原爆ドーム, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Peace Clock Tower
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
平和の時計塔, Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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Aioi Bridge
Hiroshima: Memorials and a Modern City
Hiroshima Tokushimaken, Japan

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Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan

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Kinosaki Onsen, or Kinosaki for short, is a popular destination for tourists and people living in Japan.  The town’s various onsen, hot spring baths, account for Kinosaki’s reputation as a top destination.  Most visitors flock to Kinosaki for the chance to relax in the warm and restorative hot spring water.  Besides the onsen people will find a quaint town full of charm.

Manhole Cover - Kinosaki, Japan

Manhole cover in Kinosaki

Train Station - Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Train Station

Arrival in Kinosaki

Accessible by train, tourists reach Kinosaki via Japan Rail from Kyoto or Osaka within three hours.  Tourists spending the night will stay either at a hotel or a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.  Upon arrival at the Kinosaki train station, tourists with lots of luggage and reservations at a hotel or ryokan should stop at the nearby Hotel/Ryokan Information Center.  Located across from the train station, you can use the Center’s luggage check service.  For 50 yen per piece of luggage, the Center will send the luggage direct to your hotel or ryokan.  This will free you from the constraints of your baggage and allow you your first opportunity to explore Kinosaki on foot.

Street in Kinosaki, Japan

Street in Kinosaki

Restaurant serving crab, a local specialty of Kinosaki, Japan

Restaurant serving crab, a local specialty of Kinosaki

The Town of Kinosaki

Kinosaki has few cars, making it ideal for walking.  Upon exiting the train station, notice that buildings reach only a few stories high. You won’t find skyscrapers or subways, but instead a peaceful town where time saunters at a slow pace.  Head west from the Kinosaki Onsen train station to one of the town’s main streets.  Here you will pass by souvenir shops, storefronts, and restaurants.  Those visitors not staying at a ryokan that includes meals should eat at restaurants that serve Kinosaki’s local specialties of crab and beef.  For meat eaters make sure the menu serves the local Tajima beef, the root of the beef known the world over as Kobe beef.

Daytime in Kinosaki, Japan

Daytime in Kinosaki

Night in Kinosaki, Japan

Night in Kinosaki

At the end of this main street, you will reach a river that flows through the town.  Here you can walk along the river, using small bridges to reach both sides of the street.  Sprinkled throughout the town you will find various temples.  From the temples, to the buildings, the river and bridges, makes Kinosaki charming whether it be day or night, sunny or rainy.

Onsen – Japanese Bathhouses

As you walk around Kinosaki, you will see visitors wearing yukata.  Yukata are light, casual, versions of kimonos, the traditional Japanese garment.  Those wearing yukata are most likely heading to a bathhouse, known as onsen.  The yukata allows for quick changing while at the onsen.  Kinosaki has seven public onsen.  Those staying at either a hotel or ryokan should receive free passes that allows access to each of the seven public onsen.  Anyone visiting Kinosaki for the day may pay an entrance fee to access a particular public onsen.  If you prefer a more private bathing experience check with the various ryokan in town.  A few ryokans may offer, with a reservation fee, private hot spring rooms.

Bathing in an Onsen

Anyone new to using Japanese onsen will want to know the rules associated with visiting a hot spring bathhouse.  Public onsen have separate bathing facilities for men and women.  You will bath without clothing, not even a swimsuit.  When you arrive at an onsen use the provided lockers to disrobe and to store your clothing and belongings.  Before entering the hot spring, rinse yourself with the showering stations set along the wall.

At the shower station, wash yourself with the provided soap and shampoo.  Rinse the soap and shampoo off before entering the hot spring.  This way you are clean when you enter the bath and no soap or shampoo chemicals will get into the hot spring water.  Place the small towel provided by the onsen either on your head or beside the bath.  Do not put the towel or your locker key in the water.  Nothing but your skin should enter the hot spring or touch the water.  Once in the hot spring sit back and relax in the natural waters.

Hot Springs Alternatives

Kinosaki’s hot spring water isn’t found just inside the onsen.  In a few locations around the town you will find foot massage pools.  Here you can dip your feet into water pools full of fresh hot spring water.  These spots are a perfect way to rest those tired feet after strolling around town.  Near one particular foot pool is Chaya.  This food stand serves drinks, ice cream, and a unique egg experience.  First, buy a small sack containing three eggs.  Then tie the sack to the wooden plank hovering above a pool of hot spring water.  Leave the eggs in the hot spring water for twelve to thirteen minutes and you’ll have a delicious soft-boiled egg.

Hot spring drinking water - Kinosaki, Japan

Hot spring drinking water stand in Kinosaki

Hot spring drinking water - Kinosaki, Japan

Hot spring drinking water in Kinosaki

Besides foot pools and egg cooking you’ll find around the town hot spring drinking water fountains.  These fountains are not your regular drinking fountains.  You don’t push a button for the water.  Use the provided cups by the fountain to capture the water to drink.  The drinking water is helpful for those suffering from chronic digestive organ problems or chronic constipation.  Be aware though that signs near the fountain will warn you not to consume the water over a long period of time.  The reason being that the water has sodium chloride and calcium chloride.  Infants and those with kidney disease, high blood pressure, or are prone to swelling should not drink the water.

Entrance to Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

Entrance to Kinosaki Ropeway

Kinosaki Ropeway gondola cable car - Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Ropeway gondola cable car

Kinosaki Spa Ropeway

Another popular site to visit is the Kinosaki Spa Ropeway, for its panoramic views of Kinosaki.  In total the Ropeway has three stations along a mountain.  The first of these stops is at the foot of the mountain, next to the earlier mentioned food stand Chaya.  Buy tickets for riding the gondola cable cars at the first station.  Those not wanting to ride the Ropeway can use pathways to walk up the mountain.  The pathway is not an easy hike, and it takes up to an hour to reach the top of the mountain.  Taking the gondola cable cars is a much faster way to ascend to the top of the mountain.

Statue found at the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

Statue found at the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway

View from the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway - Kinosaki, Japan

View from the mountain top of the Kinosaki Ropeway

At the second station of the Ropeway you will find the Onsenji Temple and Kinosaki Art Museum.  The top most station of the Ropeway has a viewing platform.  Here you can see Kinosaki, the surrounding town, Maruyama River, and the Sea of Japan.

 

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Kinosaki

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Jizouyu Bath: 35.626658, 134.812567
Kinosaki Train Station: 35.623680, 134.813460
Goshonoyu Bath: 35.625903, 134.807370
Mandarayu Bath: 35.624462, 134.805707
Satonoyu Bath: 35.624288, 134.813457
Chaya: 35.625585, 134.804290
Kinosaki Spa Ropeway: 35.624004, 134.800590
Yanagiyu Bath: 35.675147, -224.121094
Ichinoyu Bath: 35.626448, 134.810470
Kounoyu Bath: 35.626260, 134.804486
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Jizouyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Kinosaki Train Station
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Goshonoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
御所の湯, Japan
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Mandarayu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
まんだら湯, Japan
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Satonoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
さとの湯, Japan
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Chaya
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Kinosaki Spa Ropeway
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
城崎温泉ロープウェイ, Japan
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Yanagiyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
Kinosaki Onsen-eki, Japan
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Ichinoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
一の湯, Japan
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Kounoyu Bath
Kinosaki: A Hot Spring Town in Japan
鴻の湯, Japan

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Osaka’s Foodie Destinations

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Foodies will fall in love with Japan’s city of Osaka. Nestled in the Kansai region of Japan, visitors to Osaka will find plenty of variety to choose from when deciding on where to eat. Popular dishes include ramen, Japanese pancake omelets called Okonomiyaki, sushi made from just caught fish, and a local delicacy called Takoyaki and nicknamed Octopus Balls.

Entrance to Ichiran - Osaka, Japan

Entrance to Ichiran

Ramen preference form at Ichiran - Osaka, Japan

Ramen preference form at Ichiran

Ramen at Ichiran

The restaurant chain of Ichiran is known for producing high quality delicious bowls of ramen. Osaka’s district of Dotonbori has two Ichiran restaurants. Opt for the original location right by the canal. If the original location is busy, with a line of people waiting, do not be dissuaded as the line moves fast.

Ichiran makes ramen made to order. If you’re waiting in line, a server may hand you a form. This form, available in English, lists preferences for selecting your ramen. Fill this form out so you will be ready to order once you reach the front of the line. The form will have you select strength of flavor and level of richness for your bowl. You can select toppings such as garlic, green onion, or sliced pork. If you opt to add Ichiran’s original hot sauce to the ramen check the box for the level of spiciness you prefer.

You’ve made it to the front of the line when you reach a vending style machine. Don’t worry though, your food won’t dispense from this machine. You will use the machine to place your food order. You will select the ramen you want which will set the base price of your meal. Besides the ramen select items such as an egg, seaweed, and drinks, including beer. You will pay through the machine and be given tickets printed with various parts of your order.

Private booth inside Ichiran - Osaka, Japan

Private booth inside Ichiran

Ramen at Ichiran - Osaka, Japan

Ramen at Ichiran

From the machine you will sit at a private booth. Designed for one person, partitions between each booth move to the side if you are eating with someone else. Once in your booth layout the form you filled out, along with the printed tickets from the vending machine, at the front of your table. These tickets signify what extras you bought and the form you filled out tells the servers and chefs how to prepare your ramen.

As you sit in your private booth, you will see only your server’s legs. You won’t speak to the server but you will hear their voice letting you know what they are delivering to your table. After you have received your food, a lowered blind gives you privacy. You won’t even see the legs of the server anymore. Just sit and enjoy your ramen in blissful foodie solitude.

Sign for the entrance to Kiji - Osaka, Japan

Sign for the entrance to Kiji

Plate found at Kiji - Osaka, Japan

Plate found at Kiji

Okonomiyaki at Kiji - Osaka, Japan

Okonomiyaki at Kiji

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savory dish similar in texture to an omelet and similar in shape to a pancake. Associated with the areas of Hiroshima and the Kansai region of Osaka, the Okonomiyaki dish comes in two different styles. Cooking Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima involves the ingredients being layered to form the omelet pancake. In Kansai, Osaka chefs mix the ingredients before using them to form the omelet pancake. The Osaka style of Okonomiyaki is what you will find in other parts of Japan.

Head to the Umeda Sky Building’s Takimi Koji Alley for a fantastic Okonomiyaki experience. Here you will find Kiji, with its friendly staff and owner. Although you won’t find an English menu, the staff knows enough English to ask you if you want your Okonomiyaki made with seafood, chicken, beef, or pork. The chefs will create as many omelet pancakes as you want. In the center of the table is a hot plate that will keep your Okonomiyaki warm while you eat. Enjoy the fantastic flavors the chefs bring together to make the exquisite Okonomiyaki.

Entrance to Endo - Osaka, Japan

Entrance to Endo

Menu for Endo Sushi - Osaka, Japan

Menu for Endo Sushi

Fish Market Sushi

Sushi in Japan is way and above fresher, compared to sushi served in other parts of the world. It doesn’t matter if you eat sushi at a high-end restaurant or from a subway stall vendor. Even so, levels of sushi quality exist within the various Japan eateries. For the freshest spots for sushi aim to eat near fish markets, such as those next to the Osaka Central Fish Market.

Ginger and soy sauce at Endo - Osaka, Japan

Ginger and soy sauce at Endo

Sake (salmon) and Toro (fatty tuna) sushi at Endo - Osaka, Japan

Sake (salmon) and Toro (fatty tuna)

Ikura (salmon roe), Ika (calamari), and Sayori (halfbeak) sushi at Endo - Osaka, Japan

Ikura (salmon roe), Ika (calamari), and Sayori (halfbeak)

Toro (fatty tuna) and Hamo (sharp toothed eel) sushi at Endo - Osaka, Japan

Toro (fatty tuna) and Hamo (sharp toothed eel)

One such restaurant is Endo Sushi. Here you order sushi made of fresh fish pulled out of the water by fisherman that morning and sold at the nearby fish market to the restaurant. You’ll sit either at a table or the counter and can ask for an English menu. The simple menu has just four different plate options. Each plate comes with five different pieces of sushi. Besides sushi you can order miso soup made with small clams. If you’re there when the friendly owner is working he may even come over and help you brush soy sauce on to your sushi.

Waiting in line for Octopus Balls - Osaka, Japan

Waiting in line for Octopus Balls

Batter being poured for the Octopus Balls - Osaka, Japan

Batter being poured for the Octopus Balls

Warming up the Octopus Balls before serving - Osaka, Japan

Warming up the Octopus Balls before serving

Final product, Octopus Balls with toppings - Osaka, Japan

Final product, Octopus Balls with toppings

Osaka’s Octopus Balls

You will find plenty of options to try the local delicacy of Takoyaki, or Octopus Balls, if you are by the canal walkway of Osaka. These bite size-fried goodness consist of batter mixed with bits of octopus and cost five US Dollars. You will order the Octopus Balls flavored in either soy sauce or soy sauce and mayonnaise. You can ask the vendors to add onions and other toppings on top of the Octopus Balls. Enjoy the show by watching the vendors prepare the Octopus Balls right in front of you. Eat the Octopus Balls on the spot before continuing on to your next destination.

 

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Osaka Eats

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Ichiran: 34.669210, 135.503039
Kiji: 34.704728, 135.490601
Endo Sushi: 34.684256, 135.479588
Takoyaki (Octopus Balls): 34.668515, 135.502552
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Ichiran
Osaka’s Foodie Destinations
Ichiran Dotonbori shop, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Kiji
Osaka’s Foodie Destinations
Kiji Umeda Sky Bldg., Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Endo Sushi
Osaka’s Foodie Destinations
Endo Sushi, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)
Osaka’s Foodie Destinations
Dotonbori, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

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Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan

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Osaka is the city often overlooked by visitors to the country of Japan. The flashier Tokyo or the temples of Kyoto draw millions of tourists, yet those that stay away from Osaka are missing out. Walk around Osaka and you will find yourself in a beautifully understated city.  Morning-to-night locals and tourists alike enjoy every corner of Osaka. As with any other top-notch city you will find plenty of shopping, great eats, wondrous sights, and an active nightlife.

With easy access from Kansai International Airport, Osaka is a great starting point for your trip. This is especially so if you are primarily focusing your trip on the Kansai region of Japan. If you have just arrived in Japan, Osaka is a great city to sync up into the rhythm of Japan and help you get over your jet lag. From Kansai International Airport take the Kansai Airport Express JR Haruka and you will reach Osaka within an hour.

Numbers of Days to Spend in Osaka

Although Osaka is not nearly as overwhelming in size and scope as Tokyo, you will still need at least three full days to capture the essence of the city. Two days are only enough if your focus is on sightseeing, as Osaka has fewer sights than Tokyo or Kyoto. If you enjoy eating and shopping, two days will go by in the blink of an eye. To truly experience Osaka you will be happy you added a third or even a fourth day in this relaxed and laid back big city. Osaka has multiple districts and you might miss a couple of districts if you are trying to cram everything of import into just two days.

Those that enjoy the nightlife will want to schedule their trip to Osaka to coincide with the weekends. Fridays and Saturdays are popular nights with people enjoying the city late into the evening and into the next morning. Partygoers will find plenty of bars and clubs in the city. Even late at night, popular restaurants have long lines of foodies and partygoers looking to fuel up on good food. Or if the evening air is warm enjoy walking the streets and the water-lined walkways of Dotonbori canal while soaking in the atmosphere that is Osaka.

Osaka Castle Park

The top sight in Osaka is Osaka Castle Park. The grounds of the Park are free to visitors. From the grounds you can get great photos of the various buildings on the grounds, including the main Castle itself. Entry into the Castle will cost an admission fee. Osaka Castle Park is a great place to visit during the spring or fall time. At those times of the year the grounds come alive with cherry blossoms or the autumn colors of the turning of the tree leaves.

Umeda Sky Building

Visit the Umeda Sky Building for amazing views of the city. This architectural astonishment, in the shape of an upside-down U, has a viewing platform on the very top floor. Ride an elevator, followed by a short escalator ride, to the 173rd floor and the Floating Garden Observatory. Take in views of the city by sitting inside on the various seating available or by heading outside to stand on the viewing platform. Whether inside or outside, you will be in for a treat, with stunning panoramic views of the city of Osaka.

After you’ve enjoyed the views of the city, ride the elevator to the bottom of the Umeda Sky Building. Under the Umeda Sky Building you will find Takimi Koji Alley. This floor is a recreation of an old Japanese town, with “streets” that house various restaurants and izakaya. Enjoy this peaceful section of Osaka as you stroll the “streets” and unwind while eating fantastically good food.

Dotonbori Walk

Dotonbori, or Dotombori, is one of the main districts of Osaka. This popular part of town runs along the Dotonbori canal, making this a picturesque part of the city to walk. Dotonbori is close to a section of the city known as Amerika-Mura. Here you will find a hip youthful vibe with stores selling new and used/vintage clothes. For neon lights, restaurants with big signs made to appear as food, and more shops visit the parts of Ebisu-bashi and Dotonbori Arcade. For even more stores you can stop by Shinsaibashi Station. If you need a break from the active buzz of the city, be sure to visit Hozen-ji Temple, a serene spot in the city.

Namba Yasaka shrine - Osaka, Japan

Namba Yasaka shrine

Osaka Shrines

The shrines of Osaka are peaceful oases in the bustling city. If you visit only one shrine, be sure to visit Namba Yasaka. The grounds for this Shinto shrine are small but the massive lion head makes the trip worthwhile. Use the time at the shrine for peaceful contemplation before heading back into the city.

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Osaka Sights

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Osaka Castle Park: 34.687315, 135.526201
Umeda Sky Building: 34.705384, 135.489614
Dotonbori: 34.668515, 135.502552
Ebisu-bashi: 34.669054, 135.501296
Shinsaibashi Station: 34.674413, 135.500310
Hozen-ji Temple: 34.667877, 135.502613
Namba Yasaka Shrine: 34.661625, 135.496691
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Osaka Castle Park
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Umeda Sky Building
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Dotonbori
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Dotonbori, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Ebisu-bashi
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Ebisubashi, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Shinsaibashi Station
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Shinsaibashi Station, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Hozen-ji Temple
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Hōzen-ji Temple, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Namba Yasaka Shrine
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Nanbayasaka Shrine, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

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