Land of the Rising Sun: Osaka

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Happy Lunar New Year! The Friday before the new year we had a special day at school. All the students wore hanboks and we did rotations of different activities.

I led the cooking rotation. The students made Korean Kabobs with ham, garlic, crab, fish cake, and a tteokbokki (rice cake) noodle covered with flour and egg then fried.Lunar New Year (2)

Lunar New Year (3)

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For Lunar New Year we had five days off work so we decided to check out the Land of the Rising Sun. We made it to Japan after a short hour and a half flight.  DSC00773

Japan is the cleanest place on Earth I have ever been to. Look at this street — do you see one piece of anything? Every street was like this, so spotless.

We started our vacation in Osaka. This is the downtown area, Shinsaibashi. A place for continuous shopping and continuous eating. Shinsaibashi (2)

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Shinsaibashi

A typical taxi in Japan. All the taxi drivers we saw were wearing ties or bow ties with a suit jacket and white gloves. Classy! 

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Please, notice the street. 

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The classic photo bomb! 

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After wandering the streets of Shinsaibashi the next day was packed with sightseeing in Osaka. First stop: Japanese grocery store, it was just so colorful and fun looking! 

MarketplaceNothing really out of the ordinary but the colors drew us in. Upon leaving I noticed shoppers putting everything they bought into a basket, take it outside the store then bag it on a shelf.

We headed to Osaka Castle. It was a beautiful sunny, clear day, I really felt like I hadn’t seen the sun in months, it was so refreshing!

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Beautiful architecture around every corner. 

Crystal Tower

That’s right. 

Crystal Tower

Osaka Castle

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This is the only picture we were allowed to take inside. There are eight floors in the castle, each had a different layout of historical information.

Osaka Castle (5)James took some great shots of Osaka from the top of the castle. 

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After exploring through the castle we wandered over to Shitennoji Temple. This temple was built by Prince Shotoku and was constructed in 593.

I was really excited to see the main temple as it is raved about online. Yet I got devastated after walking through, convinced we were in the wrong area, only to realize the entire temple was covered for renovation.

It was still a neat area to walk through. After being asked where I was from and if I spoke English, I had a humorous conversation with a friendly old Japanese man who told me the holiday being celebrated, a time for families to visit their ancestors graves and worship. Then he told me about actors he loves. Johnny Depp was his favorite, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and he mentioned something about Al Capone.

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Shitennoji (1) Shitennoji (2)

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A lot of loud grunting and shuffling was coming from this large building so we decided to check it out. The sign stated it was a martial arts center. We took our shoes off and added them to the pile covering the stairs and entryway and made it inside to take a peek.

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There were three or four “fights”?, taking place along the floor. Clapping from the crowd for reasons we didn’t know, perhaps the opponents receiving points or making a good move. Long sticks swinging at each other with stomping feet and galloping threats. These kids were pretty young. I guess we know what sporting event the families are going to on Saturday afternoons.

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This is a graveyard with Tsūtenkaku tower in the background. Isshinji Temple (2)

We walked aimlessly to the Isshinji Temple following the scent of incense (and James’ sense of direction) as the sun began to set.

We began to wonder if Japan had a permanent aroma from constantly burning incense at all the surrounding temples and shrines. 

The streets were empty and very quiet as we wandered to the temple. Approaching the graves and the burning incense, time paused and I felt a complete stillness in the air watching shadows from the setting sun drift over the graves.

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Isshinji Temple

The Buddha statues are made from, take a guess … the ashes of thousands of human devotees.

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Make a wish 

The sun set and we made our way to the Umeda Sky Building. This building is over 500 feet tall and had an amazing view of the city. Riding the elevator was a bit frightening for me, looking down was a mistake, causing my stomach to drop. 

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After the elevator, there was a long escalator tunnel ride also. 

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Our day was filled with a lot of sightseeing! We decided to plan nothing for the next day and just eat a ridiculous number of meals. …I mean, we are on vacation! 

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$1-ish Sushi

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Standing bar

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Grill your own sausages. Which we may have eaten with the white bread we packed for pb and j’s…

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Sake

We also had delicious döner kebabs and pizza, really partaking in the local cuisine. 🙂 

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This is part one of our Japan trip. There are too many great pictures to cut it short, so stay tuned for part two – Kyoto. Kyoto was a beautiful city and has been ranked the top most livable places in the world three years in a row (according to a magazine James read in … Well, Kyoto … biased ?). I won’t give it all away now, but get excited for some very unique temples! 

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