Day Nine and Ten of the 13 Day Japan Trip – Osaka and Hiroshima
TR Robertson … Day 9 of our trip to Japan was perhaps the easiest so far. Our group boarded a bus, luggage loaded on board and off we went to our next destination, Osaka. Osaka is the 2nd largest city in Japan and known for its manufacturing trade. Osaka is also home to the tallest building in Japan, Abeno Harukas, standing some 980 feet (60 stories). There is an observation platform on the top level. Osaka and the Ikeda area has the distinction of being the home of the development of Chicken Ramen and Cup Noodles. There is a factory and museum, The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, those interested can visit.
Photos will follow in a separate article
The short one hour ride took us to the Osaka Castle, a large complex in the center of the city. The castle is surrounded by both a wet and dry moat and huge stone walls. There are several gate entrances to the castle grounds, we would enter through the Sakura Gate. The Osaka Castle played a major role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the construction of the castle in 1583. The castle has seen several wars, lightning strikes and fires and as a result has been rebuilt and restored several times. The castle was damaged in WW II during bombing raids by the United States.. The last restoration was in the late 1990’s and this area was turned into a historic site park. The center piece of the castle site is a large 8 story museum, accessible by an elevator and stairs to get to the top and an observation area for a 360 degree view of the castle grounds. Samurai warrior suits of armor and miniature displays of the “Summer War” and the castle grounds are on display in the museum.
After the visit to Osaka Castle, our bus dropped us off at the Kurommon Ichiba Market. This market is over 190 years old and known as Osaka’s Kitchen. The narrow pedestrian only street extended for 1,902 feet and has received a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. Every kind of Japanese food items can be found here, as well as a number of “touristy” items. The poisonous puffer fish is on sale and will be prepared for those daring enough to try this food specialty.. After a quick lunch stop, our group continued on to drop a small number of us off at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel and we said good-bye to those that remained on the bus and did not sign up for the Optional Extension to Hiroshima. They headed to the Osaka Kansai Airport to catch their flights to various locations around the world. A small group of us decided to be daring and take the Osaka subway back to the Kurommon Market area and have dinner at a restaurant that specializes in a pancake type dish. Known as Okonomiyaki, this dish is basically a stuffed pancake that is placed on a hot flat cooking area at your table. The pancake is stuffed with an amazing variety of items such as shrimp, octopus, noodles, cheese, and a variety of vegetables and covered with a sauce. We tried a similar item in Hiroshima, except the dish had more of a crepe look. This was another food experiment we tried and found it was quite good. Tomorrow we would begin with an early rise and a trip on the Japan Railway super express train, Sakura #549, and a speedy trip to Hiroshima.
Day 10 … The following morning we were off for another bullet train ride, this time from Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima. It was as smooth as the first time and a quick 1 ½ hours from Osaka we found ourselves in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is the 11th largest city in Japan with a population of 1.2 million people. The chief commerce for the city is car manufacturing, cultivation of oysters, agriculture and tourism. As in most of the major cities in Japan, Hiroshima has a professional baseball team. Many foreign players are on their teams. The Hiroshima team is called Toyo Carps. Japanese baseball is not like American baseball, at least from a spectator point of view. We were able to watch a few innings on TV in our hotel rooms. The crowds stand for most of the game chanting, singing, yelling organized cheers and there is a constant drumming going on. It is a very festive event to witness.
Our first stop after arriving on the bullet train, was a short ferry ride across the harbor to the Island of Miyajima, designated as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. From the ferry we could see many of the oyster farms scattered in the harbor. This mountainous scenic island is a sacred island with about 2,100 people living on it. The island and shrines on the island are a World Cultural Heritage. There are numerous shrines on the island, the most famous being the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the three Munakata goddesses, worshiped as deities of the sea, fortune and accomplishment. The shrine is noted for its unusual construction and Shinden style of architecture. The shrine extends out onto the shoreline and at high tide the majority of the shrine is surrounded by water. Extending out on the beach in front of the shrine is the O-Torii Gate. This structure is 54 feet tall and weighs 60 tons. At high tide the structure appears to be floating on top of the water. It is made from camphor and cedar wood. The gate actually stands under its own weight with nothing holding the gate in place. The island also has many pagodas on it as well as nature walks, a ropeway to the highest point (Mt. Misen), several shopping streets and the ever present sacred sika deer. Miyajima hosts many festivals throughout the year. We were visiting on a Sunday and could tell this is definitely a hot spot for the Japanese to visit on the weekends. After wandering the island for a while, we walked back toward the ferry, taking the narrow streets lined with small booths cooking a variety of food as well as tourist shops selling lots of goodies. One shop we stopped in was a wood carving shop with beautiful traditional carved statues and many table tops you could purchase and have shipped back. Several of the food items we were told to look out for was the freshly grilled oysters being cooked in their shells over gratings and boiled conger eel on top of rice. We did see them, but did not try them. Another item the island is known for is momiji-manju, maple leaf shaped pastry cookies that are filled with either shrimp, oyster, octopus, cheese, chocolate of sweet red bean paste. We tried the sweet red bean paste. Interesting flavor to taste. As we arrived back at the ferry landing and boarded at our appropriate time, we headed back to mainland Hiroshima and a drive to downtown Hiroshima for a visit to the site of what was once horrific devastation. This experience was unlike any other park or area I have ever seen as far as the feeling you are left with after visiting. This visit will be covered in a separate and final article on the amazing land of Japan.