Again, Namba Station is a BIG station. It is so big, it has two subway stops.
After missing my stop, I found my way to Osaka Castle, which was the main thing I wanted to see on this trip. If you:ve seen “Shogun,” you would know this castle. It is on humongous grounds with two moats. All around it are different gardens and shrines.
I entered through the big gates and bought a ticket to tour the inner turrets. This is the closest to historically authentic Osaka Castle gets. Inside looked like an old wooden warehouse with fake torches lining the walls. A nice old lady, who volunteered at the place, took it upon herself to explain to me the details in Japanese and occasional broken English.
After the tour, I entered the inner castle grounds, where it looked like a festival was taking place. When I got to the castle itself, I bought a ticket to see the inside museum at one of the vending machines. I also filled my water bottle at the running spring.
I had read complaints on the internet that Osaka Castle is too modern on the inside. After going through a few castles in Europe and Korea, I find it a relief. Many castles I have seen have never looked that impressive on the inside, no matter how authentic.
The inside of Osaka Castle is a nice, multi-storied, air-conditioned museum. I went the suggested path and climbed eight flights of stairs to the observation deck at the top. I then meandered my way down one floor at a time. All the multimedia presentations were in Japanese with no subtitles (and no dubbing, of course). Yet I knew enough Japanese history to be fascinated at the artifacts — Samurai armor, personal letters from shoguns, battle paraphanelia.
I bought some souvenirs at the castle and exited to see the gardens.
The brilliant design of Osaka Castle includes deceptive pathways to trick intruders. Well, they succeeded in tricking me. I followed a winding path that led me straight out of the castle. I looked at my map to see where I was and found that it would be too far of a walk to get to where I wanted to go. So I called it a day and headed back to Mirami, the area I was staying.
At the hotel, they gave me (for 200 yen) the envelope that was the purpose for me coming here. I opened it, got together my things, and headed around the corner to the Korean consulate. I filled out my visa application and took a number, even though I was the only one in the building.
The girl behind the glass waved me over and told me that it was after business hours. Nonetheless, she still checked my application to see if everything was okay before telling me to turn it back in the next day.
So I had the rest of the day free. I went back and took a shower, drank a beer, and read my book.
I then realized that I hadn:t eaten all day. So I headed out and wandered the streets of America Mura, or American Village, where the hotel is located. It:s the Soho of Osaka, with people going around in punk fashions. I looked at a few clothes shops and saw a cool t-shirt that said “Mississippi” with something else in Japanese down the side.
I did break my rule and went to a non-Japanese restaurant. It was a Mexican restaurant, and I would not have entered if I hadn:t noticed mole poblano on the menu. So I had the chicken mole and a beer and headed out for more food.
Again, I ran into the frustration of wanting to go into restaurants but not by myself. And also wondering if they had an English menu inside.
I went underground and wandered around there. I peered at the plastic food displays and checked the prices. I was looking at what looked like plastic beef on iron skillets when a waiter came out and beckoned me inside. I figured that if he asked a foreigner inside, they must have an English menu.
Well, they didn:t have an English menu, but thank goodness it had pictures on it. In the end, I think this was a terriyaki place. My order came out sizzling with a paper ring around it, for my protection, I suppose. It consisted of tender slices of marinated beef, lightly grilled bean sprouts and green beans, a slice of lemon, and a lightly cooked egg yolk about to burst on top. It was succulent.
I paid for it, and the cashier almost gave me 1000 yen (ten dollars) extra back. I said, “Oh, come on, please?”
The whole staff and I laughed.
The terriyaki still didn:t fill me up. I also decided that this, what was starting to become a tapas hunt, was not a good idea for Japan on a budget.
To cap things off, I bought a pork sandwich and a beer at a convenience store and headed back to my favorite spot on the boardwalk next to the canal. I was staring at the giant Buddha ferris wheel and decided to go inside the building to see what it was about.
The building was a multi-level shopping place full of fun gadgets and toys. I don:t know how to describe it. I wanted to buy everything in there. I resisted, though. I may stop by there tonight when I do my souvenir shopping.
I wandered through the streets and entered the hotel. Took a shower and finally tried out the hot bubbling Japanese bath. It was so-o-o-o-o nice. I felt like jelly walking up the stairs to my pod.
So it:s Thursday morning, and the consulate just opened. I:m heading out to get my visa.