This weekend my friend Beth and I struck out for a day trip to Osaka Aquarium, because time is growing shorter and shorter and why be productive when you can go look at pretty fish.
After a forty minute train ride or so and navigating the veritable beehive of Umeda station, it was still early so we decided to take a look at Osaka Castle. We wandered out into the hot sun, shooting for what we figured was the right direction. Japan’s reaching some intense temperatures, and I felt my clothes start to stick to me as the heat radiated up from the concrete. I had already gone through a bottle of grapefruit soda and was looking for a water fountain when we rounded the corner and came upon a towering, gleaming cluster of buildings. If there’s one thing Osaka has going for it, it’s its futuristic architecture.
There was also notably a lot of wide open space. In Japan that speaks wealth or history. We had to be getting close.
Round another corner and sure enough…
…We found a moat.
It was an odd sight, towering palace walls, an ancient stronghold surrounded by a bustling vibrant city. As I walked across the moat, I couldn’t help but think of all the fantasy books I’ve been reading lately, and how dad gum difficult it would be to lay siege to this thing. It’s walls had more walls and its moats had more moats. It also boasted a huge amount of defensible space. The darn complex was clearly designed to withstand the most outrageously powerful assaults, and when we reached the actual castle, it was clear that it had.
We gawked for a bit, but with the sun directly overhead and the entry fee, well, costing money, we decided to head for our original, watery, air conditioned destination. And after much walking aboard the train we went.
We came to this whole other section of Osaka seemingly designed for daytime tourist romping. I mean they had a huge ferris wheel. What’s not to love?
More walking and following signs with cute sea creatures on them, we found it.
Feeling more excited than all the little kids around me I forked up the cash for a ticket. We waved at the otters, squealed with the little kids chasing the dolphins and babbling in Kansai dialect, and when a walrus gave us a proper Japanese bow, we returned in kind. Then we came to the star of the show, the whale shark.
Happily chilling in his three story tank, he was accompanied by all manner of fishy friends. Various sharks, rays, groupers, you name it swam around in the biggest tank I have ever seen. It was hardly real. I was so entranced I didn’t know there was an octopus tank behind me until Beth pointed it out. I went over and properly introduced myself.
We met all sorts of different friends, fish and human alike, and when we finally got out we realized how hungry we were. We were in Osaka so nothing else would do than to grab some Takoyaki (balls of fried dough filled with octopus) on the way out.
In the late afternoon sun we sat ourselves down at a mom and daughter run shack and munched on the doughy octopus goodness. And older guy stopped by and ordered a jumbo size of them, then in the very not-shy Osakan fashion chatted it up with us. It felt good to flex my Japanese.
We headed home for some Korean cooking in our dorm, the sun glimmering behind concrete buildings as the train raced by. I was wiped out, but such an adventure, even a little one, I won’t soon forget.