With the visa waiver for short-term trips, Japan had just become all the more appealing to Malaysians as a holiday destination. No longer do you need to prepare sheets and sheets of documents and forms and drive down to the middle of Kuala Lumpur to apply for a visa at the Japan embassy. Ironically, I had just gotten my Japan visa a week before the waiver was announced but no matter. The pretty sticker made a nice memento in my passport to my travel adventures for my June visit to the second biggest city in Japan, Osaka.
At the Kansai airport, we purchased two travel passes, the Kansai Thru Pass and Osaka Unlimited Pass that enabled us to travel on major subways and buses as well as gave us discounted or free access to several of Osaka's main attractions.With the Kansai Thru Pass, we boarded the Nankai Airport Express and rode the 45 minutes scenic route to the center of the entertainment and shopping district, the Namba area.
Swissotel Nankai Osaka was located right above the Nankai station with easy access to the main Namba subway station and the underground Namba shopping mall. After dumping our bags unceremoniously at the hotel lobby as our room wasn't ready for check-in, we wandered our way back into the Nankai station in search of food and to get our bearings. After wandering through the Namba Parks and Takashimaya's flagship department store, we grabbed a quick bite at a small but adorable bakery in the Nankai station that captured passerby's attention with their cute Cat Hand cakes and yellow bird buns. Not only were their pastry presentation befitting of their kawaii culture, they were yummy too.
We spotted this old-fashion restaurant and beside it was a narrow alley with paper lanterns illuminating the way. Stepping into it was a step into the city's past as along the walls were pictures depicting the lifestyle of ancient Osaka. There was also a small shrine where people could make offerings.
Dotonbori was also connected to Shinsaibashi-Suji by a bridge near the Tsutaya Starbucks and from this bridge, the iconic Glico Man can be viewed. When I was there in June, he was decorated in a Star Wars theme with two light sabers by his sides.
Shinsaibashi-Suji was simply heaven for girls as it was practically a long stretch of clothing boutiques, makeup stores, brand outlets and cafes featuring the most wonderfully displayed desserts. My mom and I only managed to cover half of this long cover shopping street before we were drawn by a growing queue outside the famous cheesecake tart bakery, Pablo. Being typical Malaysians, we joined the queue and after 20 minutes of waiting, made our order for one cheesecake tart to go. It seemed that this place was fairly popular amongst locals and known by tourists through tourist guide books.
We headed back to Dotonbori and found Lord Stow's bakery that sold the really good egg tarts with fluffy pastry crusts. This bakery is famous in Macau and I am glad I got to try it at its only outlet in Japan.
Rain was to be expected in the summer and rained it did in the early evening. Fortunately we came prepared with an umbrella and a raincoat. By now, our hunger pangs were triggered by the egg tarts and we backtracked to a Ramen restaurant that had captured my attention earlier. And it wasn't only because the food looked appetizing.
|credit to streetfood.com.au.|
Kamakura: Soup with Noodles has a vending machine outside that also doubled as a menu in Japanese and English with enticing pictures of their food. Uncertain of how it worked, we observed a man using it and followed his lead. To order, you basically insert the amount of your chosen dish in it and press the button. An order ticket will be issued which you hand over to the chef inside after taking a seat. I found this quite a convenient process as it erased the time needed to decide what to eat, order and pay. I would consider bringing this concept to Malaysia but knowing our penchant for destroying and vandalizing things, the vending machine wouldn't last a year in our lovely country.
We headed back to our hotel after dinner although my mom got side-track by a Mizuno outlet along the way. Once showered, I couldn't help myself but dig into the Pablo cheesecake tart only to find it sorely disappointing. It was too creamy for my liking and the crust wasn't as fluffy as Lord Stow's smaller version. Still I managed to get halfway through (since we did pay for it already) before calling it quits on account of its creaminess. My mom gave up after the first two helpings.
It was off to dreamland for us as we had a long day ahead the next day in two of Osaka's famous neighboring cities.
For photos, check out my photo album here: Osaka Day 1 - Shinsaibashi & Dotonbori
Transportation around Osaka tips - Getting around and about Osaka
Osaka 2013 Day 1: Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori
Osaka 2013 Day 2: Nara & Kyoto
Osaka 2013 Day 3: A Day in the City
Osaka 2013 Day 4: The Last Day and also, Momofuku Ramen Museum
Osaka Flight & Accommodation: Osaka Flight & Hotel package