Osaka, Please Hold the Last Sakura

This year, the cherries blossomed so early than expected in Osaka and its nearby cities. The data was according to the Japan’s forecast as we checked it a day before we traveled. Seeing a cherry blossoms was deleted from our travel expectations but we’re still hoping to at least see even one petal left hanging on the tree until our arrival.

Location: Osaka, Japan

Where I Stayed: J-Suite East Namba, nearest station is Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka of Tanimachi Line

Buddies: Family

DSC_0032Day 1 – Osaka City Tour

We woke up with a cool breeze when opening the room’s sliding window. From there, we glimpsed on the vicinity of the neighborhood and noticed that the area was so quiet. The air smelled clean though high rise buildings circling the apartment.

At 7am, there was a news feed in the social media showing flowering trees at the park along O River. It was only four subway stations away from our location by Tanimachi Line. We prepared and headed to the station for a quick ride to Temmabashi Station. It was our only chance to see real cherry blossoms.

We lost our instinct compass when we went out from the underground station. We already crossed the busy road but came back when we realized that we were tracking on the opposite direction of the map.

DSC_0045aCherry Blossoms

Flocks of tourists were also heading to the area. Everyone was in hurry and steps were quick and fast. The displayed banners and signs containing instructions and visibility of traffic enforcers guided us until we reach the park. The trees were at their peak blossoms. It was so wonderful that we had watched it so close. There were park’s staffs who control the mobs. They kept on reminding the people to move and not to stay longer in one area (speaking in Japanese but their gestures are quite understandable). Tripods and selfie sticks were surprisingly not permitted for taking photos. Even carrying my child on my shoulder was also not allowed.



After an enjoyable walk, we turned back to visit the food market and have breakfast on one of the food stalls. We refueled our bodies since our first hours already consumed a lot of our energy. After our first sumptuous Japanese meal, we left the park crossing the bridge of O River and walked up to Gokurakubashi Bridge, the northern entrance to Osaka Castle park.

Osaka Castle Park

The Osaka Castle Park is surrounded by trees, moats, and stone walls as first defense of the castle from the invaders during its historical time. This significant and well unique structure is a symbol of the culture which was continuously preserved by ages. The entrance to the park is free but there is a payment when accessing the castle tower.

After a short stay at the tower’s ground, we walked south and accidentally visit the Shudokan. It is a school for martial arts and intriguingly observed the locals (mostly grandpas) while harnessing and sparring with their wooden samurai sword. We stayed there a bit longer for my kid was enjoying it and didn’t want to leave.

DSC_0200When the students took their breaks, we moved out from the school and headed to Otemon Gate, the southwestern gate of the castle. We walked south passing the Osaka Museum of History until we found an old style Japanese house. We didn’t find anything to identify its name. However, it was so peculiar that it still stands untouched even surrounded by modern buildings.

DSC_0218aWe headed directly to the nearby Tanimachiyonchome Station and rode a subway train (Chuo Line) to Osakako Station. The nearest station to the attractions that we planned and included in our own“Do-It-Yourself” tour.

DSC_0232aTempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel greeted our eyes from the subway station. We walked for around five minutes to reach this giant ride. We bought our ride tickets and the giant structure soared us up at the height of 112.5 meters from the ground for approximately 20 minutes. From the top, the panoramic views of Osaka Bay and overlooking views of the city filled our sights. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Osaka Aquarium, and even the Universal Studios are an eye away from the top. This gigantic ride supposedly non-stop but it stops when the riders are not quick enough to catch the moving cabin during entering and exiting.

DSC_0256aOsaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

At 2pm, we found ourselves queuing at the entrance gate of the Osaka Aquarium, which claimed to be one among the largest aquarium in the world. We entered and walked straight to the escalator which was the longest escalator ride I ever experienced. I was shocked that I  forgot to click the camera but instead busy on counting if how many floors was its equivalent. The escalator started from the 2nd floor straight up to building’s top floor. From the top floor, the fish tank viewing started all the way down to the ground. There are so many varieties of marine species from arctic and pacific we saw. Some are huge too!

DSC_0297aDSC_0294aThe pathway down to different fish tanks was dark and crowded. I personally ensured that I would not lost sight to my child who was enjoying them much. The aquarium is the best place for children to meet up with different species of fishes and marine animals. A lot of different families of penguins, dolphins, and seals are there too to entertain both adult and young visitors.

DSC_0267aAt 3:30pm, we went out from the aquarium. We’re both tired and hungry. The famous “takoyaki” and chocolate filled crepe partially filled our emptiness while a light rainfall started to moist our jackets.

We rode the Chuo line subway back to Tanimachiyonchome Station. From there, we changed subway platform to Tanimachi and rode to Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka station. We arrived in our accommodation at 4:30pm.

DSC_0321A few minutes walk from our accommodation, we found the LIFE supermarket as our lives saver. We bought foods for our dinner at 20% to 40% off. The best time to buy those delicious cooked meal is during the night partnered with Japanese precooked rice and cold beers. I’m so impressed that the cashier never speak English (but I think can understand) and handed me the change with two hands while the head was down and said “arigato gozaimashita”.

Travel to Osaka

One of my travel dreams is to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan. This country is home to beautiful blossoms of cherry trees,  bowls of delicious “ramen” , and to thousands of undying anime characters. To put this goal into reality, I applied a tourist visa together with my family and was happy that it was approved and received it after a few days.

Guesthouse and Flight

Most hotels in Japan are noticeably expensive even the simplest one. Some of the accommodations at any booking websites which has very affordable rates are having shared toilets and bathrooms. However, convenience and location had helped me decide and break funds for an offered apartment. Renting a local apartment was found the most practical way of getting a comfortable room to stay in Japan compared to the expensive hotel rates especially I am traveling with a small child. The availability of J-Suite East Namba, 4F in Osaka which booked at suited our needs.

DSC_0024aThe flight to Japan from the Middle East offers cheaply but the flight using our national flight carrier, Philippine Airlines saves us half of the normal fare. The complications of transit in Manila might be a burden to other nationalities but we, Filipinos, can endure it. We arrived at Philippine Airport Terminal 1 and as instructed by airline transfer desk, we passed at immigration for entry, rode the airline transfer shuttle bus to Terminal 2,  and passed again at immigration for exit stamps before reaching the pre-departure area of our connecting flight. There are changes which will happen to Philippine airports in August this year and I hope that the idea will help for a smooth transit and transfer in the future. At this time, transiting in Manila is not advisable unless it is a personal choice or there are no other options.

We departed from Manila at 4pm and arrived in Kansai at 7pm in Japan’s local time. The flight from Manila to Kansai was less than four hours and was happy seeing the delectable flight meal as the food served was a Japanese bento, a local cuisine in a box. On the arrival, a bio-metrics was taken for all adult visitors before queuing at the immigration counter. The advantages of traveling with a small kid were availing the express lane and no doubting questions expected from an immigration officer. As noticed, most of the person staying longer and being questioned at the immigration window are solo travelers.

After successfully passing the Japan immigration and customs, I exchanged bills to the local currency and headed to the Express Haruka train station for a 35-minute fast ride to Tennoji station. The Express Haruka is a limited express train servicing Kansai Airport to Kyoto with stopover in Tennoji and Shin-Osaka stations in Osaka.

Express HARUKA luggage space

First Impression of a Japanese

The Japanese have the heart to help. They don’t commonly use English to communicate but they help voluntarily especially to tourist who are struggling in operating the train ticketing machines. We had knew from a young lady that two tickets should be inserted to the ticket gate upon entering the station. While on our way, another woman stood up from her seat and came back with the train inspector to confirm that the train we rode in will stop to the right station because we pronounced the station’s name incorrectly.

Brawling with Stairs at the Train Station

As we get off at Tennoji Station, I started to face the problem that I expected to encounter. I was grudgingly looking to our big trolleys.  There was no escalator but I was happy to see that there was an elevator. We used the elevator but we were lost and confused. We didn’t know the way out for it led us to another train platform. We returned back and used the stairs in going up lifting our now became heavy trolleys. My nerves beat like my heart. My flex was tested while on the stairs while stepping as fast as the pace of newly arrived commuters who were at my back and walked with the flow of the crowd. I left my wife and son but following me behind. Trains are the most used transportation in Osaka so it was expected that the station become crowded instantly once a train stops.

Getting lost at Tennoji Station

Tennoji station is big and was asked few individuals for direction to reach the station’s exit door. We easily recognized the entrance to Tanimachi subway station, our second train ride in Osaka. A deep long breath was given as I saw that I have to go down manually by stairs equivalent to two-story building. It was the most tiring moment of our travel, grasping and lifting of two big trolleys at each hand while stepping down the stairs. We normally travel together with a single trolley but because we will stay longer in the Philippines after our Japan visit, we carried additional two luggage.

After buying our tickets from the machine with the help of two locals, we entered the platform and shortly traveled for three minutes to Shitennoji-mae, the station near to our accommodation. Another stairs going up was waiting for me and my carried bags.

Self Check-in Accommodation at J-Suite East Namba, 4F

It was 9pm when we got out from the station. We walked another four minutes pulling our trolleys until we found our rented apartment. The offline map and the access directions emailed by the owner saved us. It was my first time to experience the self check-in method upon entering an establishment. The room key was kept inside the postal box and the password was separately emailed by the owner together with a house guide. Before we traveled, I researched on how to unlock a postal box and gladly opened it at a single attempt.

cofJ-Suite East Namba is a four-story small building, one room apartment per floor, with occupants on the first two floors and the remaining top floors are for rent. The entire 4th floor was for us as our base for our Osaka and neighboring cities tour.

The room has a refrigerator, microwave, heater and  with kitchen utensils free to use. The most appreciated tool we found in the room was the pocket wifi that can be brought when going out. This handy tool kept us with internet connection anywhere while staying in Japan.

J-Suite East Namba, 4F