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[Japan 2015] Day 1 of 7 | Osaka + Kobe: Kuromon market, Dotonburi, Shinsaibashi-suji, and Osaka castle, plus: Steak so good, you’ll die.

 

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Ah, one of those super late post. It’s going to be a series of super late posts for the coming weeks.

As per usual, my travel posts are usually super long, as I never want to force myself to condense each journey into something totally objectified. I’m sure you’ll find it easier to navigate around the site as well if I just post everything about each destination in one post, as opposed to clicking materials from one tab to another (the endless scrolling though … still trying to solve this problem). But this time, I’m dividing it up a little bit: I brought along my DSLR camera on the road, and that just means a whole lot more media to share. So I’m going to section my 7-day journey into days of the trip, and then sum up the 3-day visit to Hong Kong in one last post of this Lebaran 2015 series. So let’s begin with Day 1 of 7 in Japan today.

We decided to cover everything in Osaka on Day 1 before we begin to explore Kyoto, although we’re already staying in Kyoto from the night we arrived (8 August 2015). We stayed at Mitsui Garden Hotel for a total of 3 nights (8-10 August, 2015), before moving into a nearby ryokan 旅館 on Day 4 of 7.

Mitsui Garden Hotel (Shinmachi Bettei)


Nakagyoku
新町通
六角下る
六角町361番
Kyoto 〒604-8212
+81 (0)75 257 1133
www.gardenhotels.co.jp/eng/kyoto-shinmachi

Nearest JR station(s):

  • Karasuma 烏丸
  • Kawaramachi 河原町
  • Shijoomiya 四条大宮

Nearest subway station(s):

  • Shijo 四条
  • Karasumaoike 烏丸御池

 


In the meantime, here’s my solution to the scrolling problem: You can jump to the respective attractions I’ve listed below to view the pictures of that place right away, and then later go back to this list by clicking the upward arrow symbol (↑) whenever you see it.

 

That said, let’s begin the scrolling journey now!

 
 
 

OSAKA 大阪


 

Kuromon Ichiba Market

This popular street market is a must if you’re a true gastronomer. The whole market extends well over 580 meters, lined with more than 100 finger food stalls, eat-in shops, and fresh seafood marts (and not short of novelty shops too). There’s also the fab tea shop where I got my cherry blossom tea (see the full tea haul post here). Highly recommended to come here as early as 9am to avoid the crowd, because tour buses surely aren’t going to skip this stop.

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Them giant mangoes!!

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Uber fresh wild-caught otoro!

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Kuromon Ichiba 黒門市場


Chuoku
2 542 0073
日本橋
2丁目−4−1
Osaka 〒542-0073
www.kuromon.com

Nearest JR station(s):

  • Kintetsu Nipponbashi 近鉄日本橋

Nearest subway station(s):

  • Nipponbashi 日本橋

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Dotonburi area + Shinsaibashi-suji

Walk westward and you’re already on the back end of Dotonburi area, which is basically a promenade that runs along the Dotonburi Canal. You’ll recognize spots of this iconic area from popular shows and movies shot in Osaka, such as the Glico Man sign, as it’s the principal tourist destination of the city. In fact, the whole Namba 難波 district is central to Osaka’s prominence, though technically this is the southern side of Osaka (thus the district is sometimes simply dubbed as Minami 南, or “south”). Locals love the area for the merriness and the endless nightlife here. The first time I took a stroll here was at night, and everywhere you turn it’s illuminated with neon lights and huge signboards that screams fun, frolic, and entertainment. Even in broad daylight it magnetizes crowds from all walks of life for its unique shops, restaurants, and of course, pachinko parlors.

Also part of the city’s major center is the Shinsaibashi shopping arcade. Running about 600m long, you can find everything from retail stores to designer labels to boutique shops to satiate your inner shopaholic. This is also where I found a DHC store to get my anti-acne toner (see all Japan beauty buys here). The last time I was in Osaka, I stayed at the St. Regis Hotel, a strategic place to stay if you want to shop till you drop. Just walk straight to your right from the hotel entrance and you’ll be walking along Shinsaibashi in no time. Just click here to see their full shopping directory. Be sure to come early as well because most shops are closed by 9pm.

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Kani Doraku crab sign

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Glico Running Man sign

Processed with VSCOcam

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Namba 難波


Chuoku
Osaka 〒542-0076
www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/osaka/dotonburi.html
www.shinsaibashi.co.jp/lang/en

Nearest JR station(s):

  • Kintetsu Nipponbashi 近鉄日本橋
  • Nanba 難波
  • JR Nanba JR難波

Nearest subway station(s):

  • Nanba station なんば
  • Nipponbashi 日本橋

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Osaka Castle

You’re probably wondering … how does an old castle (built in 1583, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period) fit in the middle of a metropolitan city? Well, the castle itself only stands within an area of around 1 sq km, but the grounds it was built within covers up to about 15 acres of land area (with lots of green space), which is then outlined by majestic citadels, stone walls, and moats. It’s no surprise that during the time it was built, the Osaka Castle was the largest one in the country. Under lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s rule, he intended to build the castle for it to become the center of a new, unified Japan.

We decided to skip entering the 5-storey-looking, 8-storey-inside castle because our legs felt they were going to break any time then, as we travel everywhere by foot. But if you’re interested in Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the castle’s history, get in and learn more. Don’t worry, there’s an elevator inside so you don’t have to climb all the stairs. The admission fee is JPY 600.

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Otemon Gate (main gate)

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Had completely lost my mind

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🌼 📷: @teten02 #snapped #candid #dawnbreak #plum #girl #canon #flower #garden #nature #love

A photo posted by Not Stacie (@staciapriscilla) on

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Looking backward from the park within the castle grounds. This is where locals picnic to view plum, peach, and cherry blossoms during springtime.

Osaka Castle 大坂城


Chuoku
大阪城1−1
Osaka 〒540-0002
+81 (0)6 6941 3044
www.osakacastle.net

Operating hours:

M-S 09:00am – 05:00pm

Nearest JR station(s):

  • Tenmabashi 天満橋
  • Morinomiya 森ノ宮
  • Osakajokoen 小阪城公園

Nearest subway station(s):

  • Tenmabashi 天満橋
  • Morinomiya 森ノ宮
  • Tanimachi Yonchome 谷町四丁目
  • Osaka Business Park 小阪ビジネスパーク

 
 
 

KOBE 神戸


 

Last time I was in Kobe, I travelled by car from Osaka and got the chance to view the impressive Kobe Tower 神戸ポートタワー from afar. This time, it’s all feet plus train and subway rides – so we’re almost always short on time. The only reason we came to Kobe? The beef, of course.

Actually it was kind of my idea. The idea to travel even further out of town just to eat dinner. I had a 5-course dinner at Steak Land last time, and you know I don’t usually eat meat. But it was so good … I knew I had to give my fiance the chance to try. It was the only time in my life when I truly, verily, and indisputably savor the experience of eating meat, and so I wanted to replicate the experience by trying out Kokubu this time.

 

KOKUBU

Tell you what … the steak here is absolutely to-die-for. In their own words, my fiance and his sisters said right then while they’re munching that for them, “beef will never taste the same ever again.” For a nearly full-time vegetarian like me to say that it’s to-die-for, I couldn’t imagine how intense the #foodgasm was like for them. For me, it was divine in the way that the sirloin was soooo soft and super-duper juicy and completely stripped off its umaminess – it’s as if you’re eating fresh, warmed otoro. The tenderloin was less oozing, but equally tender and beautiful; it’s almost as chewy as a Hi-Chew candy too.

Out of all the factors of its taste, the absence of the usual red meat stink was what struck me the most. It’s a solid confirmation for me to never go vegetarian. The whole dinner experience was further amplified by the chatty chef (who speaks English, btw) and his charming mom, both of whom I’ve captured on video if you scroll down for a bit.

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Raw tenderloin, waiting to be cooked

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Nori-san (Kokubu himself) is chop, chop, chopping ’em for us.

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The good stuff

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Just couldn’t get enough of this thick, beautiful steak.
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Big-ass tenderloin, raw.

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Cooked tenderloin on top, cooked sirloin below them
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I assure you, regular tenderloin will taste like dirty old socks once you get a taste of this~
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Nori-san’s 88-year-old mom, helping out with her special garlic fried rice.
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We were dining at the 10-seat counter, which was the best seat in the house because you get to watch Nori-san and his mom cooking in front of you.

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All I can say is … it’s heavenly *closed eyes, mumbling dreamily*. You’re missing out a whole world if you came all the way to Kobe and did not make a pit stop at Kokubu. I highly suggest you to reserve your seats way ahead of time. And also, be prepared to spend at least JPY 10,000 per pax (trust me, the beef is worth every. friggin’. yen.).

KOKUBU コクブ


Hyogo
Chuoku
北長狭通
サンメイビル2F
1丁目−21−2
Kobe 〒650-0012
+81 (0)78 321 1717
www.tripadvisor.com (just look at all the rave reviews)

Operating hours:

M-Sa 17:00pm – 09:30pm
(closes on Sundays)

Nearest JR station(s):

  • Sannomiya 三宮

 
 
 

… and that’s a wrap for today. Phew. So much refining and editing just in Day 1. Next up: Day 2 of 7 | Kyoto + Nara: Exploring Kyoto station, Fushimi Inari, and the most polite deers in the world. Stay tuned!

 
 

Where are the places you’re looking to visit in Osaka? And about that steak – have you tried Kobe beef in Kobe before? If not … it’s now goes straight into your bucket list.

 
 
 
 
 


Stace

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