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Japan 2016: Day 6

This article is a post I originally made on Facebook about our sixth day in Japan which took place on April 8, 2016. On the 1 year anniversary of our trip to Japan I decided to repost it here on my blog. The original post has been edited/cleaned up a bit but its spirit remains.

After a good night's sleep we were all ready for our day trip to Osaka. Elsie and I once again parted ways with Jarques and Tina with plans to meet back up in Osaka at dinnertime for some tuna belly. We made our way to Kyoto Station and hopped on the Thunderbird train to Ōsaka Station.

In a previous article I described Kyoto Station as a massive train station underneath a mall. Ōsaka Station is easily five times the size of Kyoto. Not only were the train platforms much MUCH larger, the station was actually underneath a 16 story building full of all sorts of shops and the top two floors were only restaurants.

We headed up to the 16th floor and found a great tonkatsu place. My tonkatsu had pork, salad, miso soup, rice, a little prawn and some other gooey side which I think was chopped up bamboo shoots in mayonnaise or something. Japan seems very big on "set" meals where the entree comes with lots of little side dishes. To top off our lunch we got a scoop of sherbet for desert. Everything I described above still cost less than $20 a person and left us completely satiated.

With our bellies full it was time to visit the attraction that Elsie and I were most excited for today, The Pokémon Center in Osaka Station City tower! A portion of the thirteenth floor was setup to sell only Pokémon merchandise and it was pretty crazy just to see how much there was. I knew Pokémon was big in Japan but the number of different products for sale was insane. We also got our first taste of Japanese arcades here. There were all sorts of Pokémon games that could be played and people were using some sort of RFID card so they could track their progress and come back later and keep playing. I can only imagine how insane the Pokémon Center in Tokyo is going to be. After buying much more merchandise than we should have (and picking up a shiny Ho-oh as a mystery gift for our 3DS game) we headed back down to the subway station to hit our next stop.

The Osaka subway has a line referred to as the "Osaka Loop" and as its name implies it makes a loop around part of the city. Along the loop are other train lines that shoot out (like spokes on a wheel) to take people to the outside parts of the city. We hopped on the loop, took it to Bentenchō Station, switched over to the Chūō Line, took it to Ōsakakō Station and got off where we could walk five minutes to our next attraction, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

The Kaiyukan appeared to continue the Japanese tradition of not doing anything small or half assed because this aquarium was absolutely massive. It was a four story building with a gigantic tank in the middle which you circled by walking down a ramp around the tank. Along the outside edge of the ramp where smaller tanks to showcase specific species of fish but the main attractions were the two massive whale sharks in the central tank. One of them was over 12 meters long which makes it the largest sea creature I have ever seen in person. I have been to the Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto and the Kaiyukan dwarfs it. If you are ever in Osaka I would highly recommend a visit.

Once Elsie bought her obligatory plushie we left the aquarium and started walking towards the train station. The plan was to head back to Osaka Station, meet up with Jarques and Tina and hit up a izakaya place for some tuna belly. However there was one thing we did not know about the area around the aquarium. It was also home to the Tempozan, a giant ferris wheel. We took a ride and got to see the entire skyline of Osaka and even its neighboring regions. Also our carriage happened to have a diagram that was kind enough to point out the waste disposal plant that we could see from the peak. Good to know where all of that stuff goes.

With the ferris wheel behind us we took the subway back to Osaka Station and walked to Maguroya Nakatsu which was a izakaya joint that we had heard of through Mark Wiens. It is without hyperbole that I can say this was the best tuna I have ever eaten in my entire life. It was so good that I only managed to take a single picture because I was too preoccupied devouring the 15 portions that we ordered for the table. It was heavenly. If you are in Osaka you must go to Maguroya Nakatsu.

With food once again in our bellies we were ready for some more sightseeing and there was one last stop on our list for Osaka, the famed Dōtonbori. However, as we were making our way to Dōtonbori we got a little distracted. In Japan there is a chain of stores called Yodobashi Camera that typically cover a city block and are at least seven stories tall. We had been in one briefly in Kyoto but Elsie and I wanted to check out the game section of this gargantuan one in Osaka. I must do a bigger write-up on this once I have visited Tokyo but the Coles Notes on Yodobashi are imagine a standard department store like The Bay or Macy's but crank the density, the music and the lights up to 11. The organized chaos of this place was breathtaking. It was like one of our malls around Christmas but it was freaking April!

After prying ourselves away from Yodobashi we got back on the subway and took it to Namba Station which was a quick five minute walk from Dotonbori. We checked out all the standard things, the Nipponbashi Bridge, the Glico man, the giant crab. But all in all it felt like the most touristy trap thing we had encountered on our trip so far. On one of the streets we walked down there were dozens of people aggressively trying to shove flyers into our hands to get us to eat at their restaurant. For the first time in Japan we actually saw trash littering the street. The worst part was that there was actually very little street food. Most places to eat were sit down only and had massive lines. We much preferred finding our own hole in the wall type restaurants because in Japan it was so easy to just walk down a random alley and find a quaint little spot to eat.

After wandering around for about an hour we found the one good thing about Dotonbori. A takeout gyoza stand which had some absolutely delicious gyozas but that really was it. Dotonbori felt like an even sleazier version of the Las Vegas strip. The greatest lie that tourists tell themselves when they come to Osaka is that they must visit Dotonbori. In my opinion if you visit Osaka you should skip Dotonbori and make better use of your time.

By now it was approaching 9pm and we were at least an hour away from our Airbnb so we got back on the subway which took us to Osaka Station and grabbed the Thunderbird train home. Tomorrow we check out of our Airbnb and try our hand at a traditional Japanese ryokan.