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.

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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”.

Wandering in Camiguin

There are so many tourist destinations in Camiguin. Gladly, I could say that this island is with full boost of natural wonders. One traveler said that roaming in Camiguin can be done for a day but for me it’s not enough.

The White Island is the most photographed site and became famous as background for any traveler who have been in the island. It is a white sand bar that can be accessed by renting a  motor boat situated in Marina port near Paras Resort, the most known resort in the island.

By paying 650 pesos as rental, the motorboat brought us to the white island. It is a long sand bar with actually nothing. No trees, no plants. There were so many tourists, both foreigners and locals, but couldn’t fill the entire place. Nobody stayed longer in the white island because there was nowhere for shade. We’re still lucky, the gloomy sky kept the sun hiding from the clouds.

After an hour, we asked the staff to call our motor boat to fetch us. The staff is the man having handheld radio and stationed in the center. It took few minutes before the motor boat came and brought us back to the mainland. Before we left the dock, everyone availed the shower rooms for a fee of 5 pesos per head.

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The Walkway. A few minutes drive from the port is what they called Walkway to the Old Volcano and Stations of the Cross. The group stopped just to buy souvenirs and not part of the itinerary. As we were curious of what was on the place, we stepped on the stairs and paid an entrance fee. As we are moving upwards passing station 3, we met a staff and asked her if what services they are offering on the hilltop and how many minutes to reach the last station. It looks like the gap between stations are quite few meters. She told us that there is a volcano crater on the top and might reach there within 30 minutes. We didn’t have so much time, so we agreed to go down and continued to our next destination.

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Standing on the exact location of the real cross of the Sunken Cemetery

The Sunken Cemetery. Whoever thinks that it was an old ruined cemetery. Beneath the water lied hundreds of dead people. I thought that we will just pass by after taking photos with a big cross on the water as a background. But there was a twist on the visit.

I was invited to do snorkeling on the sunken cemetery. It was a weird thing. Swimming on top of the cemetery! Hesitated,  but I agreed and we did the stuff. There we have to pay the environment fee and the guide. The area is a protected area since long time. But who dares, it still a cemetery!

The next thing happened was the nicest experience I did. Swimming on top of the colorful and different types of corals, big shells and fishes. I personally saw the real cross under the water and some of the evidence that there were buildings on this part of the sea. The area is no longer a cemetery. For me, it was the most remembered place of Camiguin. However, I didn’t have underwater camera to prove what I saw under the sunken cemetery.

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Old Church Ruins. A few minutes from the sunken cemetery is the old ruins church which was damaged when the volcano erupted in 1871. A candle lighting on the unseen altar was done with a solemn prayer. At the back of the old church was a tree which was believed to be more than hundred years old.

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Majestic Katibawasan Falls

Katibawasan Falls. We moved back passing the town proper ascending up to the mountain to see the famous Katibawasan Falls. After paying the entrance fees, we directly headed to the magnificent water falls.

The water drops made the entire place covered in humidity. It looks like it is always raining. The water from the falls was so cold that nobody can stay longer. I noticed a rope as caution. I asked the guard if what was the rope for. He told us that getting near the fall was restricted for the falling water was sometimes with rocks.

After the whole tiring day in Camiguin, we spent our last hours in Ardent Hot Spring. We enjoyed the day exploring one side of the island. Camiguin has still more wonders so it has more reasons for me to come back and continued rediscovering this wonderful island.

On the next day, we woke up early for our long road trip back to Central Mindanao.

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Beautiful island of Camiguin, Northern Mindanao, Philippines