Travel Post: Our Japan Trip - Day 8 (Travelling from Tokyo to Osaka - Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi, Ebisubashisuji, Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki)

Matt wrote the posts from Tokyo and Christine is taking over to write about OSAKAAA
My writing style includes alot of WORDS IN CAPS (when I get really excited) and I tend to have more emoticons :) 

We caught the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka and the journey took approximately three hours!
When we were researching how to get from Tokyo to Osaka, we saw three station names which confused us...Shin-Osaka, Umeda and Osaka. Thought it would be handy for you to know that Umeda (is Osaka for the Subway line), Osaka (JR line) and Shin-Osaka is where selected bullet trains depart from. 

Once we arrived in Osaka, we followed Google Maps to our hotel (Mitsui Garden) which was absolutely stunning. We had the city view but was amazed with the view at night. 
 At concierge, everyone spoke fluent English and as SO helpful and advised us that there's a free bus shuttle. Little did we know.... there was a bus shuttle service which departs every 20 mins from Osaka station to Mitsui Garden!!

Since we couldn't check in until 3pm, we planned our day to visit Dotonbori, Ebisubashisuji and Shinsaibashi. dotonbori is the amazing street with food, food and more food. we added Ebisubashisuji and Shinsaibashi (great shopping streets) to our itinerary based on recommendations in the Osaka guidebook we received from Japan National Tourism Organisation.

This is where the never-ending shopping street started. When someone asks the question "ARE WE THERE YET" (referring to the end of the shopping street), you know it was one hell of a walk. 
I wanted the street to end but surprisingly Matt kept pushing us to keep walking... 

This goes on and on and on.... if you are looking to shop for clothes, I found that it was pricey but just experiencing the culture and soaking in "Osaka" was worth it. 

Once you have finished walking through the shopping streets, you will see the iconic Gilco board and takoyaki. Only then you realise that you are finally in dotonbori!

Embarrassing story from us Christine. We walked down the bridge and thought we were in the dotonbori street. We looked around and thought this DOES NOT look like what was advertised in magazines. We must be at the wrong place! So handy tip guys, don't walk down the bridge LOL
Continue walking a-c-r-o-s-s the bridge!!

Alas, we found the street and hyped our stomach for a feast! 
dotonbori, HERE WE COME!

Our 5 secs of fame being featured live on the Meiji board! *waves*

When there's a giant gyoza as a logo, you would assume the gyoza is the main star of the company. The gyoza must be amazing and will live up to expectations right? 
We returned on our last day and ordered more.... 
Please do yourself a favour when you go Japan and GET YOURSELF SOME OF THESE!
Did I mention it was only 200 yen for 5? YEP!

Fresh and handmade delicous to-die-for Gyoza!

Ah there we go, I was looking forward to some authentic Japanese street food 
Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki 

Unlike the gyoza, the Takoyaki unfortunately did not live up to expectations. 
See that's the problem with set them only left to feel disappointed.
It just wasn't crunchy (the one we had in Tokyo was beautiful) but Osaka's take on Takoyaki I guess was slightly different. Great flavours but it just didn't deliver on the crunch! The squid inside was very noticeable, and they made sure that each takoyaki had at least one piece. The saviour of the dish!

On the otherhand, these grilled scallops at 500 yen each was the highlight of dotonbori for me. When ordering, cream cheese would be placed onto the shell and blow torched until it melted. Your scallop is then transferred into a plate for you to enjoy.

Perfectly cooked, loved the juice/sauce, where did my cream cheese go?? Hiding away blended into the sauce. It tasted so fresh, clear and clean?  I hope I'm making sense! 

Apparently this place has great ramen but we were saving our stomach for lunch (Okonomiyaki)

And then we saw a huge line for Torikara stick. When there's a line, the food must be good right?
Not knowing what we were lining up to, we joined in with the queue.

It was nice, moist, crunchy but that's how I would describe something that's deep fried. It was a great snack, but you felt very guilty afterwards when your hand is covered in oil. Ah well, the walking will balance it out :)
Unusual to see chocolate sauce with chicken....

I see a sea full of heads.

This was where we had Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba but it was not freshly made in-front you (like Tokyo). It was made in the kitchen before they brought it out and placed it onto the hot plate to crisp it up. I think we both preferred the Yakisoba! 
Good thing they have all those special sauces at arm's reach!

dotonbori at night!

I can get used to this view every night. It was exactly as advertised on! I was really impressed and will definitely book with more frequently. 

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Travel Post: Our Japan Trip - Day 7 (Last day in Tokyo - Imperial Palace, Wadakura Fountain park, Zojo-ji Temple, Hibiya Koen park, Udon from Akhihabara and One Piece Tokyo Tower)

Our final day in Tokyo.. It was both sad and exciting. Sad and unfortunate because we are having the best time of our lives and we don't want to leave. Exciting because our next destination would be the combination of Osaka and Kyoto! We finally visit the Imperial Palace, stop by a park for lunch, take a detour to the Zojo-ji temple before making our way to the One Piece exhibition at the Tokyo Tower.

Today we decided to have a quiet and relaxing last day in Tokyo. So we decided to discover the region of Chiyoda surrounding the Tokyo station. We took a stroll to the Imperial Palace, which is roughly a 10-15 minute walk depending if you plan to stop anywhere. We did, so it took us longer than expected. We came across this neat little area which is bursting with fountains (no pun intended). It is called the Wadakura Fountain park and it is a great place for quiet, relaxation and perhaps to sit down and have a bite to eat!

or drink....

Just across the road is the hyped Imperial Palace.
Unfortunately we didn't get any shots of the royal baby.. wait wrong palace?

The water is filled with this green moss, and even though it does look very pretty... at the same time it is quite disgusting if you are close enough. Surprisingly there are still fish alive in there!
Another note, it might be easier to enter the palace via the South gate. We entered via the East gate and had to walk quite a distance before we actually could see the palace. However, it did let us see the wall up close, along with other structures in the palace.

There it is, the beautiful palace from afar. The heart of Tokyo only a short distance away. It is really beautiful and if you venture a bit further around the side, it is also a great photo op!
Just make sure you are prepared to fight the bus loads of tourists who are all pushing and shoving to get a perfect picture. 

If you keep walking south, you will reach the Hibiya Koen park. This park is obviously well maintained and is a clean location to sit down and take in some rays. We had purchased lunch from the Tokyo station underground shops we had mentioned before (Daimaru). Christie decided to buy the egg and pork with cheese and seaweed sandwich. The whole trip in Tokyo, she was going on about how amazing the tonkatsu sandwich and egg sandwich was.
She felt like a change, and wasn't as satisfied with the result.

Matt on the other hand decided to steal her choice and loved every bite. It has something to do with the sauce they put on the sandwich we think! Whatever it was, it was amazing. They even give you a little cooler pack to put in the bag to ensure it stays cold and fresh when you eat it!

Alright... this ice cream sandwich might not look like much to you... but it was much better than expected. Caramel ice cream inside a crisp, doughy sandwich and it worked so well. Great value for 200 yen from the vending machine! We did of course fight for the last bite...

If you walk a little further south, you will reach the Hibiya station. Take a subway train to Shibakoen station (Mita line) which is only a short stroll away from the Zojo-ji temple. We were reluctant to enter this temple at first considering we were on our way to the Tokyo Tower, but the beautifully blossomed cherry blossoms lured us in.

This temple was by far one of the biggest inter-city temples we had seen. It was busting with small shops, stalls and cherry blossoms. We even saw a couple of people wearing the traditional dress robes for pictures within the temple grounds. It was really exciting to see!

As you can also see... the temple backs onto the Tokyo Tower (our next destination) and it just looks amazing. The temple itself is also truly a marvel to see. It has smaller temples surrounding it which make up quite an interesting place to visit. We really love the design of the temples as well, it looks quite demeaning at first.

Next stop, One Piece Tokyo Tower!
Ever since Matt saw the ads for this event, he could not be any more excited. The One Piece pirates have taken over the tower, and have not spared an inch of the original structure. Everything inside is One Piece related, from the paintings on the walls, to the miniture boat outside. This place is highly recommended for any lover of the anime as you get to experience a different side of the show.

Serously, how cold you not love this anime. It is so amazing!
They had plenty of statues set up illustrating particular moments in the One Piece history and did a damn good job of it. This looks like it will be sticking around for a while..

There are several different side show attractions to experience. Just prepare yourself for a wait longer than 1 hour. We only got to play a couple... Brooks haunted house and the Chopper thousand sunny tours. All rides were free and covered by the entrance fee.
One thing we did miss out on was the live action show that is held. Unfortunately we were not aware of the per-requisite to scan our ticket for a seat. So we missed out... However, there was a really amazing 4D experience between the battles of Luffy and all his past foes. It is something you have to experience!

After leaving, we decided to go into the store and purchase some merchandise. The line also took an hour to clear, so one again. Be prepared!

We then decided to make a quick decision and head back to Akihabara for the night lights as well as the food court in the UDX building
There are sooooooo many options to chose from, so we decided to go with Udon!

The wait staff were more than friendly and treated us like royalty. The soup was also brought out quickly and WOW it was amazing. The perfect thing to finish off a nice and relaxing day. Also, the warm soup would help us warm our bellies from the cold temperatures of Japan. Unfortunately we were not aware that this was also a bar where they let their customers smoke in. We had two ladies start smoking next to us which totally ruined the taste of the food. We did move, but considering how small this restaurant was, it didn't take long for it to reach us again.

Udon noodle soup with Beef
This dish was very well prepared. The soup was not too strong or salty, but it had a great balance which also allowed the beef to stand out. It was a dish hat would not make you feel bloated, nor want you heaving for more. But in fact a cheap dish that both fills you up, and leaves you satisfied.

Udon noodle soup with Tempura
Christine decided to elect for the Tempura. The batter was amazing and she wanted to complete the dish. But unfortunately her appetite was ruined by the smoke (it is rare that she loses her appetite). The portion size was huge and could easily be shared between two people. 

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