Japan: Osaka, Day 4

I had been running through all kinds of wild ideas for my last day in Osaka. I had the “I should see more of the city” idea as well as the “Let’s hop a train and see another city” idea. When I woke up I knew it would be a “see more of the city” kind of day. I was tired but I still got up and plotted my way to the Abeno Harukas building. This place is 300 meters tall and is currently the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The observation deck is known as Harukas 300 and it costs money to go up there but I was interested in seeing it so I paid. The views of Osaka were amazing and I wandered the 3 floors that I had access to; apparently there is a way to visit the helipad on the roof but I had not seen that option. I had once again failed to get up and eat food so I was hungry. I decided to have some food while I was up there so I went to the café there. I was not enthusiastic about my choices there so I bought mango ice cream. Armed with my ice cream I set up shop at a table and took selfies and a few photos.

When I decided to head out I briefly contemplated seeing the art gallery on the 16th floor. The show they had did not really seem worth the price to me so I headed down in search of food. I found a place that did a Japanese hot pot of some kind and I ate there. It was very good and I would like to eat there right now as I sit here reflecting back on it.

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Lunch at Abeno Harukas

After lunch I headed toward the park I had seen from the top floor of Harukas 300. It had Tennoji Zoo and an art gallery in this park and I figured it was probably worth my time. I followed the signs to the park and it led me through the subway station and out in the park. I was debating going to the zoo because when I was reading guide books they failed to mention the zoo. The price was only 500 yen, which is about 4 USD so I decided to risk being disappointed. This was a gamble that did not pay off. The zoo is old and does not look like they have updated anything since they first opened. I kind of get it, they have nowhere to expand to but they had way too many animals stuffed into a small footprint. Tigers, lions, elephants, red pandas, various wolves, kiwis, seals and many more were all put in cages that were too small. Being too small gives a benefit to everyone except the animal. The people get to be up close to the various animals and the keepers have a small space to clean. Unfortunately all these benefits tend to make the experience of the animals a hard one. I watched a giant wolf run around a space smaller than the living room I am currently sitting here writing in. It was just jogging in a lop over and over again. I felt pretty bad for it and I ended up not even seeing all the animals because I was feeling overwhelmed by sadness. In an interesting side note, this place had a hamster handling area of the zoo because Japan loves all cute things. Japan is strange.

The next stop was the National Art Museum and of course it was closed until mid January for some reason. The entire walk through the park was a total bust. I had been disappointed by the zoo and stood up by the art. There was one saving grace though…. the cat signs.

 

I had been looking at the Tsutenkaku tower all day and as I continued walking through the park it continued to get closer. I decided to just walk to it and according to my map I was really close. I just had to wind my way through the lively streets of Shinsekai, without getting too distracted, to get to it because it was in the middle of that area. Shinsekai is made to distract you with all the  signs, neon and wonder at all the randomness around you. Which meant that I immediately got distracted and took this random side street for quite a long distance. I ogled the stores I passed and a few of them ogled back because I was the only obvious foreigner wandering through. It was not as shiny as the rest of Shinsekai was but it went on forever so I kept walking. In fact, I walked for so long that I got a little confused and forgot that I had branched off and I was sure at any moment I would walk out and see the Tsutenkaku tower. I was wrong because I actually walked way out of the Shinsekai area and past my hostel. This meant I had to double back and try again. This time I stuck to streets that weren’t covered by a roof, allowing me a way to see the building I was trying to find. As I walked back the correct direction I was astounded by how far I had walked on that covered road. I had been like a man possessed.

The Tsutenkaku tower lay before me and I was determined to head to the top and enjoy the view. It is not as tall as the Abeno Harukas or the Umeda Sky Building but it was eye-catching and I had seen it from my hostel as well as from Harukas 300. Its observation deck is at 87.5 m and the entire tower only stands 103 m. It was originally built in 1912 but had some issues with fire (a common theme) and was torn down. Apparently it had been popular because it was rebuilt in 1956. I think it is very appealing visually but I had no idea what was going on once I walked in. You walk in through the basement and head to the area to buy a ticket to head to the 5th floor observation desk. As I walked through their were weird statues and strange mascots all over. You also walk past a shop where you can buy various food items and strange souvenirs; and of course the shop is accessed on your way out. After I bought my ticket I stood in line for the elevator. They crammed us into the elevator, Asian style, meaning we had no personal space bubble and were nearly uncomfortably squished. Once it started moving a video started playing on the ceiling and it had an image of a fat baby looking person that I had seen all over Osaka. All of the people around me oohed and awed and a few exclaimed “Billiken!” When the elevator dropped us off I entered the world of Billiken and the seven deities of good fortune. I was confused but I was thoroughly enjoying all the Japanese tourist delight at the statues and watching them rub Billiken’s feet for good luck. The views weren’t too bad either. I decided to head down but leaving is not as quick as entering. You have to hit every floor on the way down. The 4th floor is also an observation area and it’s mascot is a lucky elephant. The 3rd floor shows you what the area used to look like in 1912 with dioramas and films on loops. Apparently there was some sort of fancy amusement park surrounding the area. The 3rd floor is also your first chance to buy things like Pocky. The 2nd floor is a Kinnikuman museum, Kinnikumen is a super hero apparently. He looks like a dude juiced with steroids and sports a shark fin mask. This floor also has a giant store for all your random purchasing needs. Finally you go back to the basement where you get one last chance to buy something before you leave. I made a couple random pressed coin souvenirs and called it good.

When I was leaving it was the afternoon and I was headed back to do laundry before I headed out to Tokyo the following morning. I briefly contemplated going to Spa World but I wanted the laundry done and I thought maybe I would go back later. I didn’t go back instead I made friends at the hostel and stayed up way too late chatting and drinking beer. It was a good evening and it seemed like a good way to end my time in Osaka.

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