We went to Dōtonbori Road to see the huge advertising billboards synonymous with Japanese cities. The busting crowds were a bit much for Seamus who slept and had to be carried through the busy streets at times. Queues of people waited for freshly cooked octopus balls and there were restaurants everywhere touting their wares.
We found a nice place to eat which was a small collection of four or five different small bars/restaurants where you sat at one but could choose a few dishes from the others too. Soba, pizza, skewers and beer – quite an eclectic order from our family! I won a free beer somehow which resulted in a round of applause and lots of cheering in the entire place – result! On leaving the kids were given a promo flag/runner with lots of Japanese writing on it. However, we decided they made great headbands, cue Seamus running all the way home saying ‘Ninja’, ‘Hi-Yaaah!’ and striking a pose much to the great amusement of all the passers by.
We went to the very pretty Himeji Castle which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We travelled there by train and walked up the six floors via the steep wooden steps. In high season it gets really busy, but we were lucky it wasn’t too bad on the day we went.
Close by is Himeji City Zoo which we visited, partly because the entrance was so cheap – less than £6 for the family. It wasn’t nice, the poor animals had such little space. There were lions, elephants, polar bears, hippos, giraffes, camels, kangaroos, zebras, bears and much more but all were in such tiny cages and looked so bored, it wasn’t pleasant to see. We all agreed that they would be better for the animals and the visitors to charge more money and have fewer animals with nice environments to live. Such a shame. There were rides too, so the children got to ride on the train.
We were invited to a family meal in the home of Hiroko, which was really kind. She had prepared lots and lots of sushi, so we were shown how to wrap. The kids managed well, considering they were not fans and nibbled the rice – leaving lots of seaweed and raw fish subtly on my plate. Our new friends are lovely, which made for a nice evening … even if we did require apps on our phone to help with the translations at times. Thank you to Hiroko and her wonderful family.
We decided to take the kids swimming so made our way to Osaka Pool. The 50m pool was closed for repair and we were told that they did not admit pre-schoolers, so couldn’t even go into the parts which were open. Staff were helpful in explaining how we would travel to Nishi – Kujo pool, which we did, only to find it was on the 6th floor of a tower block. However, in for a penny …. we had come this far. It is such a shame I couldn’t get a photo of Shay in his little Japanese swim cap(I had brought caps for the rest of us) He looked so cute in his rented white cap which required signatures, mobile phone numbers and a bit of admin! It was covered in Japanese text, so no doubt he was branded with ‘This poor child is now the property of Nishi-Kujo Pool because his silly mummy didn’t pack enough swim caps.” Kids pool was tiny, but Seamus was happy enough … even in his rented cap!
Our time in Osaka came to an end. We then activated our Japanese Rail Pass and travelled with the Thunderbird to Kanazwara. We’re there now in a lovely family hostel ready for the next adventure …..