November 2018 Our third and final day in Osaka was spent around the Osaka Bay area, more focused to the Tempozan Harbor Village. The village main attractions are Tempozan Marketplace (mall), Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan being our first stop for the day. This aquarium is reputed to be one of the largest and spectacular public aquariums in the world. It’s about a 5-10 minutes walk from Osakako subway station and the aquarium is at the far end of the complex.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan building.
Whale shark outside the building.
The ticket office for the aquarium. We bought our tickets online here.
Upon entering the building, visitors will walk through a tunnel-shaped tank where you will be surrounded by marine life. Then take the escalator up to the 8th floor and slowly descend spirally floor by floor around a huge water tank filled with 5,400 tons of water. The initial various smaller tanks display a selection of marine life inhabiting the Pacific rim in a well organized and impressive manner. The central tank displays sharks, manta rays, whale sharks and many other types of marine life. The central tank stretches over several floors, making it possible to observe fishes from different depths and perspectives. Nearing the end of the aquarium, you’ll see penguins, dolphins, seals, stingrays and many more.
The entrance ‘tunnel’ to the aquarium.
A pair of happy seals welcoming us.
Not sure what fishes these are.
The unique aquarium allows you to see above & underwater habitat.
Small colorful fishes in another tank.
Playful seals showing off their skills.
The aquarium is big, entertaining and well maintained. Walk through the first few levels with the individual tanks quickly, as the more interesting displays are lower down where the space opens up and less claustrophobic. The building is designed with a great layout with plenty of break spots with washrooms along the way. We spent almost 2 hours in the aquarium admiring the marine life in their habitat. A sense of serenity sets in when you see the them swimming gracefully around. There are a lots of benches for you to sit and absorb this tranquility.
One of the species in the main tank.
Manta ray among the other marine life.
Sharks in the main tank too.
This whale shark is actually BIG. The photo does not do justice.
See, told you so. The whale shark is big. The tail is wider than the diver.
Maintenance divers doing they job amidst a hammerhead shark.
Towards the end of the aquarium walking route are enclosures for seals, stingrays & penguins. While the stingrays are in shallow pool you can pat them, the seals are in ice enclosure and the penguin in a low level semi-open enclosure you can touch them but no one seems to want to.
Cute seal seeing us off.
Stingrays in shallow pool you can pat them. Beware of their tail.
Little penguins playing around in their enclosure.
November 2018 Shinsekai Market area is a fascinating area to wander around with lots of brightly coloured restaurants, food stalls, as well as a few tourist gift shops. One can get there by getting off at Ebisucho subway stop, the closest to the area. Shinsekai does not feel touristy and has that retro feeling, different from other areas of Osaka. In fact, the area looks like a run down town that has lost it’s former glory. There are many vacant shoplots, and shops that do operate, opens well past lunch time. This area probably comes ‘alive’ at night to cater for visitors coming for dinner.
Ebisucho subway stop.
View from Ebisucho subway stop towards Tsutenkaku Tower.
At almost 2 pm most shops are still closed.
Shops closed and place almost deserted.
Shinsekai biggest attraction has always been the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower constructed in 1912. It was modeled after Paris’ Eiffel Tower and is 103 meters high. If not for the free entrance to the Tsutenkaku Tower using the Osaka Amazing Pass (OAP), there would probably not be many visitors coming here. On the 5th floor, at 91 meters is the main observatory level which offers view of the city which sadly isn’t really spectacular. An open air deck on top of the main observatory was opened in late 2015 and this requires separate ticket to enter which is not covered by the OAP. When we were at the tower, there was a queue for the elevator up and the waiting area was stuffy. The tower itself is packed with souvenir shops and amusements arcades.
A peek at Tsutenkaku Tower.
Closer view of Tsutenkaku Tower. You go up via elevator.
Osaka city view.
Elevated highways of Osaka.
Looking down towards the Ebisucho subway stop and the almost deserted pedestrian walkway.
One of the many souvenir shops in the tower.
Glico products are sold here.
However, Shinsekai offers numerous picturesque photo spots especially around the restaurant areas where reataurants try to outdo each other with their colourful frontage decoration. This provide fantastic photo spots for the avid photographers. If you are not a photographer looking for some picturesque spot, then it is in our opinion, you could probably consider giving Shinsekai & Tsutenkaku Tower a miss.
During the day, this spot is picturesque not to mention if it was at night with the lights on.
November 2018 The Osaka Castle is the most beautiful historical Japanese architecture in Osaka and probably the only one, compared to what Kyoto has to offer. Our second day in Osaka was spending time there and thereafter a visit to Shinsekai & Tsutenkaku Tower.
To visit the castle, there are several access by train and subway. You can get-off at any one of these stations namely, Osaka Business Park, Osakajokoen, Morinomiya, Tanimachi 4-chome or Temmabashi. Apart from getting off at Osaka Business Park Station, expect to walk a fair distance to the castle grounds. Alternatively, you can take the ‘Road Train’ by getting off at Morinomiya Station which is a short walk to the road train stop.
Road Train being used to shuttle visitors to the Osaka Castle grounds.
The road train costing ¥300 one-way or ¥500 return, will shuttle you close to the castle ground and is highly recommend for young kids and elderly who do not want to walk 15-20 mins trekking up the castle grounds. The surrounding castle grounds are free to visit but has an entrance fee for getting into the castle building itself.
The 5 train & subway stations surrounding Osaka Castle.
We choose to get-off at Morinomiya station.
At Morinomiya, we exit the station via Exit 3A which has the closest ticket gate compare to Exit 3B which is quiet a distance away. After the ticket gate, it’s quite a long passage to walk and at the exit, it has a long staircase up. Definitely NOT for those experiencing leg pains. Later below, we’ll let you know of other exit as well as an exit with elevator.
Location of the road train stop from Exit 3A.
Way to Exit 3A after the ticket gate.
This is the long passageway to the stairs for Exit 3A
Finally, Exit 3A.
Oh, oh. Not for those with sore feet.
Street level of Exit 3A. Take the path behind and cross the playground.
Cross the playground till the boulevard at other end.
From the boulevard, head to the fountain. The road train stop is close to the fountain.
The road train stop facing the fountain.
The road train route map and it’s fare prominently displayed at the stop.
The road train route map. Although the map shows a stop at JO Terrace and Osakajokoen station parking, these weren’t operational when we went in November 2018.
Purchase your road train ticket at the ticket vending machine. A manned office is close-by.
When taking the road train, there will be 2 stops along the way. The first stop is at Gokuraku Bridge and the final stop at Hokaku Shrine. You can choose to access the castle from either one. Getting off at Gokuraku Bridge stop is nearer to the castle but involves uphill trek through several staircases. The trains runs every 20 minutes with first departure at 9:30 am and a final departure at 17:00 pm (please check).
View of Osaka Castle from the Gokuraku Bridge road train stop.
A stop at Hokaku Shrine however is quite a distance form the Sakuramon main gate but you’ll be walking on paved, level road right to the main gate and into the castle ground. From the Sakuramon gate, it’s a gentle 200m uphill walk to the castle ground where wheelchairs can be pushed along.
Walking route from Hokaku Shrine stop, to the grounds of the castle.
The Hokaku Shrine road train stop is at the far right, about 210 meters to the Sakuramon Gate says Google.
Staircase Exit 3B & Elevator Exit 7A Those with walking disability or sore foot may want to try Exit 3B which is another staircase exit. If Exit 3B isn’t convenient, walk further inside the station to Exit7A which has an elevator. Once on street level of Exit 7A, you’ll need to cross the street to access the boulevard. From Exit 3B it’s about a 170m walk to the road train stop.
Location of Exit 3B (staircase) and Exit 7A (elevator).
Osaka Castle The beauty and historical value of Osaka Castle makes it a must to visit, especially if your itinerary do not cover other parts of Japan. Whether you are a fan of castle or not, the castle will charm you of it’s beauty, size and the surrounding park which is right in the middle of a modern urban city scape of high-rise concrete structures.
The castle is a concrete reproduction of the original castle completed in 1931 with modern amenities, a museum and an open observatory at the top. Being one of Osaka’s main attraction, it is quite a busy place with lots of school children on excursion learning their culture. We did not go into the castle as we’ve read the elevator (up only) always has long queue and we did not want to take the stairs down either. The castle is eight storeys high.
The Sakuramon Main Gate with a glimpse is Osaka Castle in the background. Turn right to circumvent the wall
Walking up to the Sakuramon main gate, look down the bridge and you’ll see this dry moat.
Former Osaka City Museum located before Osaka Castle.
In celebration of the Japan World Exposition 1970, two time capsules identical to each other were buried adjacent to Osaka Castle.
One has been opened in the year 2000 and will be re-opened every 100 years thereafter. The other one will be open 5,000 years later in the year 6,970
School children lining up for their tickets.
The majestic Osaka Castle.
Observation deck on the top most floor.
A peek of the castle from the castle garden.
One of the signpost around the castle ground.
With an OAP, you’ll be able to cruises around the Osaka Castle inner moat for free. You board the boat at it’s platform besides the Gokurakubashi Bridge. The cruise will take 20 minutes. This is an opportunity to look at the stone walls up close.