The rain cleared overnight so today we headed to the centre of Osaka and Umeda. A bit of research overnight revealed a 1 day metro pass costing JPY800 each was better value than using our tap-and-go cards, so with tickets in hand off we went.
The Umeda Sky Tower is a forty storey building designed by the same architect who penned Kyoto Station. Although not in the futurist style, it is a modern complex of buildings in a city characterised by modern skyscrapers. What sets it apart from everything else is the garden on the 40th floor which forms the observation level. The garden bridges the gap between the two towers. There was just one problem - damage from the typhoon meant the garden is closed indefinitely.
Whilst we were disappointed, it was entirely understandable. The garden faces south to get the best view and so would have had no protection from the storm. Given all of the damage we saw elsewhere through the Osaka and Kyoto region, the Sky Garden was the first place we have visited which was closed. Instead we wandered through the beautiful gardens at ground level and saw more hummingbird moths.
In the centre of the city there are many sculptures to serve as focal points in public areas.
With extra time on our hands we moved onto the Namba/Dotonbori district. This is Osaka's main tourist area, filled with extravagant neon signs, a huge variety of bars and restaurants and many rather seedy hotels with names like Goody Goody Hotel, out of place themes such as Bali, or strange ornamentation. Rooms can be hired by the hour for a "rest", a half day for a "relax" or for the full day.
The Glico running man neon sign is a focal point of the district and dates back to 1935. Obviously it would be more spectacular at night.
The ferris wheel (if you could call it that) looks a rather scary and claustrophobic contraption but that did not stop people climbing aboard.
There is also a boat tour of the canal. However if you walk from one end of the waterway to the other like we did, there is no need for the tour. The internet provides any other commentary one might need.
Glitzy restaurants and bars are not our thing but there were plenty of people queuing for lunch. Wagyu beef steak, shabu shabu, fugu (puffer fish), octopus dumplings and crab are local specialties. Instead we headed to a nearby temple tucked away in a narrow alley. Hozenji Temple has three stone Buddhas covered in a thick layer of green moss.
Later we visited Osaka Castle with its original moats. Although there has been a castle on this site for centuries, the current castle was rebuilt in 1935 using steel and concrete. Barely any of the wood and plaster buildings still exist having been ravaged by many wars and fires. There are a number of contemporary buildings inside the main walls which date to the same era and are out of place with the traditional looking castle.
Having climbed to the top of the original castle at Himeji we did not go inside. Instead we viewed the enormous moats - the walls are much taller than at Himeji. A number of stones used to form the walls are massive and some have faces larger than 50m2 - bigger than the floor area of our hotel room! How on earth did they manage to construct it?
We continued our walk through the typhoon damaged grounds where we again witnessed the ferocity of the storm. We found the local dog park, full of owners with miniature poodles madly dashing after balls.
Finally we wandered through stalls selling bonsai, wishing we could bring some home.