I have always been fascinated with Japan. The country is rich in history and culture. Although very modern and technologically-driven, the Japanese people never forget their centuries-old traditions. It is clean everywhere. Urban landscape is in order. Everything just seems to work efficiently… not to mention that Japanese food is always fresh, good and top quality.
Prior to this trip, the family had already been to Tokyo, the city most popular with tourists. So for this long holiday, we decided to venture to the other side of Japan : Osaka and its neighboring cities. Since Osaka is in the commercial hub and in the center of Kansai region, we decided to use this as our home (hotel) base and billeted the whole family here. The train system in Japan is known to be very efficient, so we took this mode of transportation almost everyday to see the other cities and towns lying around Osaka.
Our trip to Osaka was one filled with many adventures and beautiful sights. First stop was the Ozakajo or what is known as the Osaka Castle.
It is one of Japan’s most famous castles, playing a great role in unifying the country in the sixteenth century.
We climbed all the way to the top to get a fantastic view of the city.
Speaking of the city’s view, when you’re in Osaka, you shouldn’t miss the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. This makes sight seeing more fun for the kids too! On this giant observation wheel, you can get a panoramic view of the sea, the mountains, and the entire city of Osaka.
Next to the Tempozan Ferris Wheel is the the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, which is considered to be one of the largest aquariums in the world. They are literally right beside each other, so you can actually take a good top view photo of the huge Aquarium while on board the Ferris Wheel!
Some of the beautiful sea creatures that we saw in this huge Aquarium. This was a place that delighted both the kids and the adults alike!
The next day, we took the kids to Osaka Universal Studios. Since we’ve been to the one in the US, we figured it would be a good and interesting change to finally see the Asian version! 🙂
The characters walking around certainly “amused” my little one. 🙂
We were also able to watch their own rendition of the theater hit “Wicked” in the large amphitheater.
And of course, what’s a trip to Japan without seeing a Hello Kitty store? 🙂
The spectacular Parade of Lights at night!
In the next few days, we left Osaka to visit its neighboring towns and cities.
Our first stop was Kitano in the city Kobe.
This Japanese city of Kobe is world famous because of its delicious and luxurious Kobe beef. Renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture, the Kobe beef comes from a breed of cattle called Wagyu that undergoes rigid production standards in this town of Kobe, Japan.
Of course we made it a point to experience this Japanese delicacy right from where it originated!
The beef was tender, succulent and juicy. Very much worth it!
The next day gave us another opportunity to ride the train which was always a highlight for our kids! The city we visited next is called Himeji, a place known for its historical castle and beautiful cherry blossoms.
Walking around the Himeji castle compound was a relaxing and wonderful experience for all of us, especially because the Cherry Blossom trees were blooming during this time of the year.
In Japan, these pretty Cherry Blossoms are more popularly known as Sakura. Under these trees, the Japanese are known to practice their centuries-old habit called “Hanami” which means “to have a picnic”. When the flowers are all blooming, people come here and picnic under the trees to relax, have lunch or drink sake.
The Sakura has become one of Japan’s most iconic and enduring symbols. In Osaka and its neighboring cities, they are out and in full bloom between March and April.
The Himeji Castle proved to be a very interesting backdrop for my boys’ playground 🙂
We were lucky that at the time we were here, the Cherry Blossoms were all out and in abundance!
After a great time in Himeji, the next on our list was the sleepy town of Nara. Here, we saw the Buddhist shrine called Todaiji Temple.
Inside the Todaiji Temple is the Great Buddha Hall, also known as the Daibutsuden Hall, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha.
Inside the hall is a wooden pillar with a small hole believed to give anyone who fits in it, Buddha’s blessings. I know I wouldn’t fit in such a small opening, so I asked my son to try it out for himself. No doubt he was able to fit in the hole easily – which meant he will receive Buddha’s blessings! 🙂
Another place that we visited in the city of Nara was the Kasuga Taisha.
This place is famous for its many stone lanterns that lead up to the shrine.
Back in Osaka, we hit the popular night spot, Dotonbori. This is a single street famous for its shops, restaurants and many places of entertainment.
Here, we had a yummy dinner of Okonomiyaki (a Japanese egg pancake filled with chicken and vegetables) and Yakisoba (Japanese stir-friend noodles mixed with seafood) in one of their many restaurants.
The next day, we headed to the Osaka World Expo Park. This Tower of the Sun (pictured above) is the symbolic landmark of the World Expo that was held in these grounds way back in 1970.
This World Expo Park is huge and has a number of educational and recreational facilities such as museums, stadiums, parks and gardens.
But the Tulip Gardens was my favorite among them all!
Beautiful rows and rows of Tulips – in every color imaginable!
I must admit that I am a frustrated “Martha Stewart”, so seeing this huge flower-filled garden was just a dream come true for me! How I wish I could have picked and brought some of them home!
More Cherry Blossoms around the World Expo Park! These pretty in pink trees just made everything around us look more serene, relaxing and just plain beautiful.
Who travels to Japan without a little shopping? Although the trip was mostly sight seeing, The Spoiled Mummy just had to squeeze in even a little retail therapy! 🙂
Because our trip to Osaka was made during a Holy Week break and Japan is not a Christian country, we had to search high and low for a nearby Catholic Church so we can celebrate the Easter Mass.
And thank God, we found one. This is St. Mary’s, Osaka’s Catholic Cathedral.
We saw so many temples, shrines and Buddhas in this trip so it actually felt good to find a place where we belong. 🙂
And this is just the first part of our Japan adventure…you will soon find out that our next stop was even more memorable! Stay tuned!