On April 24, I bid Kyoto goodbye and moved on to Osaka. I mostly wandered around Kyoto for a bit and took the train to Osaka in the late afternoon.
As expected, Osaka felt utterly overwhelming. Kyoto had felt big and busy compared to quieter Shikoku, but Kyoto had nothing on Osaka, which is known for being a large, modern city that is a little crazy and a bit different.
When I checked into my hostel (Khaosan World Namba), I was informed they would be having a takoyaki-making party later in the evening. Perfect!
I met three other tourists there – two Australians and an American. After having our fill of takoyaki, we headed to Dotombori to walk off some of the takoyaki and maybe find some dessert. I ended up buying a massive ice cream that, including the cone, was probably about a foot high! I had to eat it quickly because it was leaning precariously to one side.
Everything was starting to wind down even in Dotombori, though, so we didn’t stay long.
The next couple of days were mostly spent wandering around. I bought a carry-on size bag to bring some of my souvenirs back home, though I still had no idea what to do with my sedge hat, which was too big for either my backpack or my new carry-on bag. I also purchased a new wallet to replace the one I had accidentally thrown out in the beginning of my trip during a big purge of my backpack (I had simply been carrying my cash and cards in my purse).
As for food, I was spoiled for choice. Osaka is known for good food and good shopping, and I definitely ate. Okonomiyaki, takoyaki, Kobe beef, matcha shaved ice…it was all delicious. It was a shock when I found out I still fit into my new pants, which were a size down from what I wore before. I thought I would have gained the inches back!
My last full day in Osaka was a rainy one and the staff at the hostel suggested I see an indoor attraction, like the aquarium or the ramen museum. I had seen the aquarium during my first trip to Japan but a ramen museum? Yup, had to do that. Maxine had visited the one in Yokohama and said she enjoyed it a lot, so I wanted to try it, too.
I took the train there, not really knowing what to expect. I learned that the man who created instant ramen was actually from Ikeda, a suburb of Osaka, and that was where they chose to build his museum.
The museum itself is actually tiny with only two exhibition halls. Luckily, admission is free and even the audio guides only require a deposit that you get back when you return the pack.
The real draw is the ramen factory, where you can build your very own cup ramen. It only costs ¥300 so I went for it. Basically, you buy a styrofoam cup and then decorate it. One of the staff provided me with a sheet with the cup ramen mascot in different outfits and poses, so I picked out and swapped out his hat with the henro hat and gave him a walking staff.
After, you head over to the factory counter and give your cup to the staff, who then put the noodles in (though you get to turn the lever that moves the conveyor belt). Then you get to choose your soul base and four other toppings/ingredients. I’m not very creative so I chose the original soup base with little fish cakes (in the shape of the mascot), corn, green onions, and pork. Then the staff seal the cup and put shrink wrap over it. Then you get a little inflatable bag to store your cup ramen in so it doesn’t get destroyed. You inflate it yourself, too!
The whole experience only took me about an hour, so I took the train back into town to eat dinner.
Overall, there isn’t a whole lot to see or so in Osaka unless you like to shop and eat (in fact, I saw many tourists from China whose primary goal seemed to be to buy tons of Japanese cosmetics, bags, and clothes), but it was still a great place to chill and relax rather than run around tourist sites.