Never in my life would I ever, ever, ever think that I would miss the cold. Seriously. The thought of moving to a subtropical island was a friggin dream come true. Finally, no snow. No bulky coats. I would get to use a beach chair for most of the year. Cold? Screw that mess. Warm months with tropical sunshine and beach bum happiness. Bring. It. On.
It’s funny how well we think we know ourselves and how quickly we are put in our place. 1.5 years. That’s how long I lasted before I found myself thinking “I wish I could wear that sweater Wade got me”. I was definitely feeling it when Christmas came around, it just wasn’t the christmas I was used too. Okinawa has had a pretty mild winter so far and frankly it’s starting to suck. I guess the weather you grew up in seeps in your bones and takes hold after all.
Solution: Get cold.
Wade and I both really needed some weather change for this winter and after some debate on where to go, we settled for Osaka. I, of course, wanted beautiful scenery and photo opts and he is always down for some good food and city nightlife. Osaka serves as a great jump off point for all these things and is an easy direct flight from Okinawa. Done and done.
We had such a wonderful time and I felt we really used it wisely. We took a day trip to Nara, a day trip to Arashiyama (north west of Kyoto city), went for a small hike and visited a shrine for the annual laughing festival. Oh yes, a laughing festival! The rest of our time was spent lounging in our adorable airbnb room or eating and drinking our way through town. This vacation was about Wade and I being able to spend some important time together. Poor guy has been jet setting the world this year with work and me. I mean it, he has been literally around the world four times this year. When he is home, life has to go on. We still need to work, do chores. etc etc etc. It was easily the best part of the trip. To be able to soak each other in, especially around the holidays!
Osaka has a long history of being a central hub for transport. Located at the end of a canal and a perfect port to the Pacific, it became a merchant city early on, transporting rice specifically. With its deep roots in the importance of Japan’s major food resource, it was coined the “Nation’s Kitchen”. Even today, Osaka is known for its plethora of unique food and ideas. They invented instant ramen and conveyor belt sushi here, important stuff! So we ate, and drank and ate some more in Osaka.
So along with being glutinous fools we explored some small neighborhoods throughout Osaka. Our room was located in the Umeda part of town, which just so happens to be an amazing area for bars and food. We picked our AIRbnb because of it’s location to the main train station but this was pure luck. We were a two minute walk away from some really great hole in the wall type places. Our favorite was a bar geared towards 80’s Japanese cartoons (think Dragon ball Z ) and Japanese women disco singers, 二番どり(second is in …?). Ha I swear, Japan is just great. It was there that we were able to have seared chicken. Raw Chicken!! I was so pumped for this. It is served to you at the bar as an amuse bouche (Top Chef lingo!) with chives and sesame. It was quite delicious, Wade and I ordered seconds. This area of bars slightly reminded me of our time in Golden Gai, Tokyo.
Of course we had to check out the Osaka’s version of Akihabara, “Den Den town”, AKA, Nipponbashi, for Wade. This area of town was a gamers paradise. There were tons of stores dedicated to anything a gamer could possibly want! We went into a few but at times even Wade was overwhelmed with the obnoxious music and lights. Still, this place was full of really interesting people and shows you a very different side to the Japanese culture. I’ll just say that Japanese women action figures would make a marvel character’s blush.
Namba is known for its really cool outdoor roof park. Located on top of the area mall, it is loaded with restaurants, and small boutique shops. Inside are department stores and the streets below are filled with high end shopping. We didn’t do much shopping, not really our thing. Instead we took the time and advantage of the Japanese holiday, the emperor’s birthday, to figure out where we could get a good view of the roof park. First stop was the building attached to the park. We rode the elevator up to a bank floor, which was the highest we could go without a key card. We were pretty surprised we could get in. I took some shots from out the window but the angle was tough, the park was straight below us. So, we tried to use the freight elevator. It sent us to the basement which was a maze of doors and hallways. We retraced our steps, found the elevator, went back up and tried the stairs. We thought ahead this time and checked the door to make sure it wouldn’t lock behind us. All was good. We ascended. Climbed a few floors. Tried the door, locked. Went back down.
We weren’t giving up though, time had been invested! So we took a quick survey of the area and decided the Swissôtel would be a good view. We went in, clicked the button that said Skybar. Violá!
We got some amazing burgers at Kokopelli, located in the Dotonbori district. We later went back to give some Osaka food a try. Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake filled with cabbage, Kushikatsu, an assortment of fried food on a stick. Of these things, the burgers were my favorite. See, I really am trying to like Japanese food!! I’ll keep trying. This is the list I used to get some ideas of what we should try when visiting.
On our last evening in Osaka, Wade really wanted to try a bar called Space Station located in the Shinsaibashi district. It is a mostly expat bar that has game consoles set up throughout, both old and new. You drink and play video games. The difference between this and our living room I was told is; this bar has every game that you would want to play, on any system you could want. Off we went. The bar was covered in black lights, because, you know, space. I don’t have any photos but I spent a few hours showing off my Mario Bros. 3 skills. Thats right, bet you didn’t know I had that up my sleeve. I’m not kidding, I was actually able to show Wade over a handful of tricks and secrets that I knew about. I spent years playing The Original Nintendo. While everyone else was upgrading I stayed true to my Super Mario Bros. I may have had to hit it a few times, along with some blowing to make it work (that’s what she said), but I knew in life there would be a moment when I would need to use these skills. Apparently it was to impress my husband while playing in a bar in the middle of Osaka.
Osaka on first glance doesn’t seem to offer a ton but once you are enveloped in an area you can’t help but love the variety this city has to offer. There are more districts that we just didn’t have time to explore but we certainly will make it a point to spend a little more time in this city. Osaka makes it easy with its great train access around the city and other important sites in the country. Osaka also answered our needs for this little christmas time get away. The temperature was perfectly brisk during the day and below chilly in the evenings. The skies were overcast and gave the city a beautiful grey cast, reminded me of the moments before a snowfall. It may not have been the same as christmas’ past but we are heavily considering making this our new Christmas tradition.