Osaka, Japan (2 nights)

After arriving at Osaka (KIX) airport, we bought an express train ticket for part of the journey into Osaka.

The express train from the airport was spacious.

When we switched to the subway, we were pleased to find that we could use the Sucia IC stored value cards (that we saved from previous trips to Tokyo) in Osaka. We checked the value on both cards, reloaded one card with 1000 yen ($8.82), and boarded the subway. From the subway, it was a short 5 minute walk to our Comfort Hotel Osaka Shinsaibashi. We had booked two nights in a twin room (much better than one small double bed) for just 8,000 Choice points per night.

Our small twin room at the Comfort Hotel.

JT got settled into work using the in-room wired internet, while Katie went to find fast food since it was nearing 11pm. She found on her first outing that neither McDonalds or Burger King accepted credit cards. After heading back to the Comfort Hotel to get the Charles Schawb Debit card and then to Family Mart to use the ATM, she was finally able to go to McDonalds and order a burger, chicken nuggets, and two large fries for 1220 yen ($10.77). Despite it being a Wednesday evening, the short 4.5 blocks between the Comfort Hotel and McDonalds were absolutely packed with people going out for the night.

After JT stayed up late working and we both slept until 11am, we decided to find ramen for lunch and go visit Osaka Castle Park. We wandered around our hotel for a while first and eventually found ourself by the St. Regis Osaka. We found multiple ramen places right around the corner from the St. Regis and opted to try Niboshi-ramen Tamagoro Honmachi. We used the machine outside the restaurant to order.

Ramen menu and ordering machine.

JT opted for large dipping noodles (930 yen / $8.21) while Katie ordered a soft boiled egg and pork belly ramen (830 yen / $7.32). We also each ordered a Coke soda (200 yen / $1.76 each). We both enjoyed our meals, although JT found the large portion to contain more noodles than he could eat! We also found that we ate our meals much slower than our Japanese counterparts. We enjoyed listening to the sing-song calls of the three men working in the restaurant.

Ramen and dipping noodles.

After finishing our lunch, we took the subway to the Osaka Castle Park. We wandered around the castle grounds, but were overwhelmed by the hot and humid weather. We stopped for a break in the Plum Garden where we both got to experience pooping using a squat toilet (albeit a nice one with toilet paper, a hook on the door, a basket for belonging, and a flushing mechanism) and bought two sports drinks from a vending machine (130 yen / $1.15 each).

Squat toilet in Osaka Castle Park.

We saw many signs throughout the park warning visitors of walking while using their smartphones.

The “Dander Walk Smartphone” signs were great.

We were able to walk surprisingly close to the castle without paying an entrance fee. We sat near the castle for a while to recover from the heat. There were many areas close to the castle with very nice views of both the city and the castle.

The moat and Osaka Castle.

After enjoying the views, we exited the park and took the subway back to the Comfort Hotel.

Leaving the castle park we walked into downtown.

JT took a nap until dinner while Katie got some work done. We decided to walk towards Daiki Suisan, a conveyor sushi restaurant for dinner. As we were nearing the restaurant, we crossed the Dotonbori River. We noticed an approaching boat with drums and a guy chanting loudly. Then we noticed that there were many people lining the riverwalks and bridges along the river. We had stumbled across the Namba Yasaka Shrine Summer Festival Funatogyo.

A boat in the Namba Yasaka Shrine Summer Festival Funatogyo.

In the boat procession (funatogyo), numerous boats – some Shinto-styled, others carrying shrine parishioners, and still others carrying drummers – sail up and down the Dotonbori River. In the Edo period (1603 – 1867), Funatogyo used to be one of Osaka’s greatest festivals until it was discontinued. In 2001, the festival returned with support of shrine parishioners and local companies.

Many boats lining up in the Namba Yasaka Shrine Summer Festival Funatogyo.

Between 7pm and 9pm on July 13, more than 20 boats cruise between Ebisu Bridge and Nipponbashi Bridge. We enjoyed waving back at the people in the boats, listening and watching the performances from the different boats, and exchanging “Osaka Jime” (an Osaka-style ceremonial hand‐clapping) with the people in the boats. All in all, it was a wonderful festival to stumble across!

Dotonbori River shortly after the Namba Yasaka Shrine Summer Festival Funatogyo.

Once the last boat passed us, we continued onto Daiki Suisan. The 1-Chome street that Daiki Suisan was on was very crowded with locals and tourists. We found Daiki Suisan and noticed a line of people waiting to enter. We joined the line and found that it was moving quickly – we only waited about 10 minutes. We obtained two seats in the corner at the front of the restaurant, which were located right after one of the sushi chefs that was adding new items to the line.

Conveyor sushi restaurant.

At a conveyor sushi restaurant such as Daiki Suisan, the price of each plate is set by the plate’s color and/or design. In our case, white plates were 100 yen each, plates with a blue rim design were 150 yen each, and plates with a red rim design were 200 yen each. There were also 250 yen, 300 yen, 350 yen, 400 yen, and 500 yen plates — but we didn’t select any plates over 200 yen.

Prices for each type of sushi are demoted by the color and style of the plate.

There is a conveyor belt that runs in front of all of the tables, as well as by sushi preparers. At Daiki Suisan, there are signs with the type of sushi and price preceding multiple plates of each option.

Signs indicated what sushi followed and how much it cost.

We ended up eating 12 plates of sushi – 6 white plates (100 yen), 5 blue rimmed plates (150 yen), and 1 red rimmed plate (200 yen). We also each enjoyed a cup of green powdered tea, which seemed to be complementary (we weren’t charged for it). The sushi was surprisingly good, and it was nice to be able to see things before deciding whether to select them to eat.

Our first round of sushi.
A later round of sushi.

After dinner, we went back to the Comfort Hotel. Katie went to sleep until her 5am RoboCup meeting call, while JT stayed up working until about 6am. After the call, Katie got to work while JT took a nap. After JT woke at 8am, we both went down to the lobby for the complimentary breakfast that we had slept through the previous day.

After breakfast we went back up to our room to work until our noon checkout time. After checkout, we headed to the large breakfast area in the lobby to continue working until heading to Kyoto around 6:30pm.

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