We arrived early morning in to the port of Osaka in Japan. The weather was overcast, but it wasn’t raining, which was a good sign.
The port authorities seemed please to see us. Different coloured water jets from a local tug boat.
I’d checked the cost of the ship’s tours and found them to be more expensive that I was willing to pay, so I investigated an alternative way of seeing Osaka.
I’d heard of private guides in Japan, so I researched this aspect of touring, and I am pleased that I did, because the cost of a guide for six hours was cheaper than the ship’s tour for Maureen & I.
Because we wished to travel around by metro, we were bothered about the language barrier and that we would waste too much time trying to sort out which train etc. Our time was limited (we sailed at 6.00 pm), so we considered a private guide to be the best answer.
The guide and I decided the number of hours required, after I’d listed what Maureen & I wished to see. This chatting was all via e-mail, and very easy. Having a local, all to ourselves, enabled us to understand the various aspects of Japanese life much easier.
The small additional costs, over and above his hourly fee, were for the guide’s train ticket and his lunch. My only stipulation was that I wanted to eat at a Japanese restaurant that was not on the tourist route, but was typically Japanese.
This is for those readers who like shopping.
In Japan, just find a big wheel (Ferris wheel), and at the bottom you will find a shopping centre. I would say that every shopping centre that we saw had a Ferris wheel attached, or very close. I hate Ferris wheels now . . . .
Rush hour was over by the time we had met our guide, Toichi, and made our way to the local metro station. The station was spotless and I didn’t see any graffiti or litter.
The trains were clean inside & out, and if they were a few seconds late they announced an apology for being late . . . . . enough said.
Maureen and our guide Toichi holding a map of the rail system.
I doubt that we would see such a notice on Sydney rail.
We changed trains from the dock area train to a city metro – still didn’t see any litter or graffiti. Our new train is arriving.
We exited the rail system and made our way towards the mint (as in money), to view the famous cherry blossom.
Once we were in the area all the main sites that we wished to see were within walking distance.
We arrived a few minute before the gardens opened at 10.00 am. All the way along the queue guards kept us clear of the road via the orange ‘hats’. They were all very polite, but they didn’t have to worry too much as the queue was very quiet, friendly and civilised.
The gates have opened and we moved in to the park, without pushing or shoving. To see the cherry blossom is free.
The trees around the mint are pink blossom trees, as against the traditional white blossom. The white blossom had been early blooming this year, and as the pink blossom comes after the white, we were just in time to catch the pink period on opening day.
Throughout the gardens are lamps as shown in the photograph and these are lit at night, which I should imagine would add to the whole experience.
Crowds thinned as they spread out across the gardens.
As we strolled through the gardens a small orchestra from the mint played music – not just Japanese, but western music as well. All very pleasant.
There were a few white blossom cherry trees.
I took so many photographs I didn’t know where to start, so as to pick out just a few for illustration.
For such an important event as the Cherry Blossom season the media were on hand photographing the crowds for newspapers and filming for evening TV news broadcast.
We couldn’t pick up Japanese TV on the ship’s TV system, so I don’t know if we were on TV or not . .
Loud speakers warned in Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin I suppose) and English, not to pick the flowers or to break the branches, and not to walk on the grass. I did notice the security people chasing certain Asian visitors from a large country with a long wall. But most obeyed the request.
We left the blossom tree area and entered the food sales area to make our way to Osaka Castle, which was to be our next place to visit.
Not yet lunch time, but the vendors had started to cook snacks.
I did ask our guide what various items where, but I was more interested in the colourful display.
This was a different way of cooking BBQ fish over hot coals.
Keep the children happy with a fishing game . . .
Coloured dolls & stuffed toys, the same the world over.
On arriving near the entrance to Osaka Castle we saw this train – it transported passengers to the Castle, but from where I don’t have any idea.
Osaka Castle – we had yet to cross the moat.
The moat was big enough to operate small tourist boats to show the castle from various positions.
As we entered the outer area of the castle we saw this memorial.
As we walked up to the castle, damaged areas from the bombing during WW2 was pointed out to us. Note the black marks.
It was massive – the picture doesn’t do it justice – the stone weighs about 130 tons.
We visited a Shinto temple, which is the national religion of Japan. Buddhism and Shintoism live in peace, side by side.
According to our guide many Japanese are Shinto, but like many who call themselves Christian, it is because of their parents and the society in which they live.
Shinto Temple within the castle grounds.
When I saw the above display of rocks I thought it was the Ryoanji Temple rock garden, but I was wrong as the Ryoanji Temple is in Kyoto.
From what I’ve been told if you stand in the Ryoanjt garden you will only see 14 of the 15 rocks, regardless of where you stand. The symbolism being that nothing is perfect on this Earth, and only after death will we see perfection.
I tried to write the history of Osaka Castle, and keep it short – and found that it is easier to copy the Japan Guide description, after all it is their castle.
The following is thanks to Japan- Guide web site.
The construction of Osaka Castle (大阪城, Ōsakajō) started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga thirteen years earlier. Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. It was the largest castle at the time.
However, a few years after Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. Osaka Castle was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main castle tower was struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.
It was not until 1931 that the present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built. During the war it miraculously survived the city wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamor in 1997. The castle tower is now entirely modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility. It houses an informative museum about the castle’s history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The old world and the new world as we left the castle.
Next stop is a market area – in downtown Osaka
The trains are beginning to get crowded.