In my Japan Trip 2012 vol. 1 post, I mentioned that we took Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) from Yokohoama to visit Kobe and Osaka in western Japan. My best friend was getting married in Kobe so our family trip to Japan was planned so that I could attend her big day. Also, my maternal side grandparents and relatives live in Osaka, so we extended our trip 3 more days to spend time with them afterwards.
We stayed in Oriental Hotel in Kobe, where my friend was wedding at. It was a nice newly remodeled hotel and we enjoyed our stay.
At the hotel I had the breakfast and wedding banquet course meal for lunch. I was very pleased with the quality of food they served. I was way too busy socializing during the wedding so I failed to take the beautiful course meal. The only photo from the hotel was the breakfast. For breakfast, guests can choose Western style or Japanese style, and to share pictures for my blog I picked Japanese style. All the basic Japanese breakfast dishes were served on the tray. Tofu, pickles, Onsen Tamago (hot spring egg), seaweed, Nimono (simmered vegetable dishes), rice, Gindara Saikyo Yaki (Miso Cod), and Miso soup (from left top to right bottom).
No, these are not the only thing that I ate actually. You can also go to a buffet section to get the various side dishes including two different kinds of Chinese dumplings, stir fried vegetables, sausages, eggs, and so on. At another area, there were various kinds of bread and pastries. They also serve fresh fruits, yogurt, cereal, and several fresh juices at another station.
The afternoon after we arrived in Kobe was free so we booked tickets to KidZania Koshien in advance. KidZania concept was created and developed by a Mexican founder. It’s a child-sized replica of a city, including buildings, shops, banks, theaters, and there are vehicles moving on streets. There was one KidZania in Florida in the US but it is now closed. The first KidZania location in Japan was in Tokyo.
When a child enters KidZania, they are free to choose from any of the 80 occupations, from an airplane pilot to photographer. For our children, we booked EAP (English Activities Program) since they are not very fluent in Japanese so there were fewer job choices. However, the benefit of the EAP program is that kids in EAP don’t have to wait in line to work at job they want. The jobs in the program are already pre-arranged so the teachers will leads the students from the assigned job to the next.
For that day, our children were assigned to work as a jet pilot (ANA airways), a factory worker at Coca Cola bottling plant, a pizza maker at Pizza-La, a worker at Idemitsu gas station, and a photographer at SONY Photo Studio.
Our kids worked really hard from 4:30 to 8:00pm. After each job is done they get paid a salary (play money). For kids in the local area, they can save the play money in the bank. Since we don’t know when/if we’ll return to Kidzania, we told them that they can spend all the money they earned at the department store (inside the complex as well). I was going to help my kids pick their gift, but adults weren’t actually allowed to go inside the store. They were happy with small toy they could buy with the salary they had earned on their job.
While I was attending the wedding, my husband took the kids to Suma Aqualife Park Kobe (須磨海浜水族園). It was great because children were free and they got to see a lot of creatures and a dolphin show.
After the park, they stopped by for the traditional western Japan snack – Takoyaki (たこ焼き). It’s a popular street vendor snack in the Osaka area.
Takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese pancake made of batter. It’s cooked in a special grill with rows of semi-circles (picture above) and filled with diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion. After it’s cooked, they brush takoyaki sauce and customers have the option of mayonnaise, topped with aonori and katsuorubshi (shaving of dried bonito).
The wedding banquet was over by 3pm and our trip continued to Osaka that day. Kobe, which is known for Kobe Beef, is about a 25 minute train ride from Osaka. For the next 2 and half days, we spend most of the time with my grandparents and my relatives.
While we were in Osaka, Sakura (cherry blossoms) were blooming everywhere. It was so pretty. My family took my grandparents out for Hanami (花見; flower viewing) in the neighborhood. We walked around a little bit and took family pictures. It was a clear sunny afternoon with beautiful blue sky, and everyone look up to see the full bloom Sakura.
We didn’t have much free time but whenever we had some time for ourselves, my husband and I took our kids on mini sightseeing trips in Osaka. We went to ride Tempozan Ferris Wheel at Tempozan Harbor Village next to the famous Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (one of the largest aquariums in the world). At the time it opened in 1997, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel was the tallest at 112 meters, roughly 35 stories tall.
Two of the cars were completely clear including the floor so we decided to take it for fun. Below is the famous aquarium, Kaiyukan.
And some views of Osaka Port.
The views toward Osaka downtown.
Later on that day my cousin and his wife took us for a walk to check cherry blossoms along the river near the Imperial Hotel.
During Hanami (flower viewing), a lot of people picnic under the trees and enjoy the scenery. Friends and family bring some food and drinks to get together to relax for the day. You have to get to the best spots very early in the day to claim them because there are literally thousands of people along the river.
Another afternoon, we went to see Osaka Castle. We often stop by Osaka Castle because our kids love seeing it. Here, the entrance to the Castle.
We started to see the castle.
Behind them, it’s the single biggest rock that makes up the castle’s wall. Look at how tiny our children are.
There were lots of tourists because of the cherry blossom season. Some people enjoy the gardens but our focus was checking the castle so we continued to walk. Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most popular castle to visit. If you are curious about this castle, you can continue reading about it here.
Now here we are!
It makes a huge difference when there is cherry blossom tree in front of it. We went up to observatory in the central tower. Just one picture from the top.
On the way down to the main entrance to the central tower, we also quickly went through Osaka Castle Meusum (as our kids were too young and impatient to understand the history).
The miniature figures show the scenes from the folding screen depicting the Summer War of Osaka.
After seeing the samurai worriers, my son wanted to take a picture with the cannon.
Lastly I’ll just show our lunch boxes we had on Shinkansen on the way back to Yokohama from Osaka. Anago (sea eel) Sushi on the right is very famous in Osaka.
Next Thursday, my husband will be a doing restaurant review at Japanese Teppanyaki dinner. We had high quality Wagyu (Japanese beef), lobster, and more! This was an unforgettable meal, so make sure you don’t miss it!