Osaka City ー Now that classes are in full swing, school has been getting busy! We have a kanji (Chinese character) test almost every day and a lot of vocabulary quizzes too. There is a lot to learn in only one year. My most recent task has been to remember the 17 eras of Japan and put them in the proper order. Thankfully, Golden Week just so happens to take place during the first week of May and gives students some time to travel (or study) before heading back to the classroom.
Golden Week is a collection of holidays that fall back-to-back each year. The week starts with Showa Day (昭和の日) on April 29th to honour the birthday of Emperor Hirohito who reigned from 1926 to 1989. This day serves as a reminder of the turbulent reign of the Showa Emperor. May 3rd is known as Constitutional Memorial Day (憲法記念日), a time to reflect on the value of democracy and the role of Japanese government. May 4th is Greenery Day, a name inspired by the emperor’s love of nature. The last day of Golden Week, May 5th, is Children’s Day, a time to celebrate children’s personalities and happiness.
Osaka University held its annual Ichou Festival (いちょう祭) from April 30th to May 1st. I took the intercampus shuttle down to Toyonaka Campus where the main events were taking place. One of the streets on the campus was lined with food stalls and students trying to recruit members for their clubs or teams. Throughout the day, each club had the chance to show off what they do best on a big stage, with smaller performances and demonstrations going on around the campus.
From May 2nd to 4th, I met a friend who went on exchange in North Bay several years ago. We toured around Osaka city for 3 days and walked around 40km in that time. The first day we went to Sumiyoshi Taisha, a famous Shinto shrine that was founded in 211 C.E. After that, we went to the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium which is one of the largest public aquariums in the world. There are 16 main exhibits so it took a few hours to walk around and see everything! Surprisingly enough, there weren’t too many people considering it was Golden Week. Later that evening, we went to Dotonbori which was featured in a previous blog post. Given that it was my friend’s first time sightseeing in Osaka, we had to go get Takoyaki for dinner (picture below).
The next day, we started out by walking to Osaka Castle. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period (can you tell I’ve been studying the eras?), the castle played a significant role in unifying the country. After taking a few pictures and grabbing some green tea ice cream, we carried on to the Osaka Science Museum where we went to a planetarium. We settled on getting some ramen for lunch (picture below) and then went to the National Museum of Art, Osaka to see an exhibit by Ryan Gander. With some time to spare, we decided to check out Tsutenkaku, a famous tower that was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. For dinner we had another classic dish in Osaka, Okonomiyaki, at Chibo Restuarant (千房).
On the last day, we spent our time walking through the enormous buildings around Umeda Station and Grand Front. There has to be at least 50 different restaurants and every type of shop you could imagine. In the afternoon, we said our goodbyes and went back home. Even though I have been living in Osaka for one month now, this was the first time I really went out and saw the city. There are definitely some places I’d like to go back to!
Food ー Takoyaki & Ramen
A blog post would be incomplete without talking about food, so I’ll touch on two Japanese classics. Takoyaki is a famous street food across Japan, but Osaka easily takes the title for the best takoyaki in the country! Take a stroll down the streets around Dotonbori and it’s impossible to miss the stalls serving this delicious soul food. Takoyaki is made from a wheat flour-based batter and has octopus (tako in Japanese) inside. Most food stalls have a variety of toppings that include green laver (aonori), tempura scraps, and dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi).
Second to sushi, ramen might well be the most well-known Japanese food around the world. Unfortunately, instant ramen has given this popular food a bad reputation in many countries. In Japan, the style and flavour of ramen vary from region to region, and it’s interesting to try the different choices when travelling. There is even a ramen restaurant in Tokyo called Tsuta Ramen that has a Michelin Star.
I look forward to hearing what you are interested in reading about. Please don’t hesitate to send suggestions or questions!