As our time in Japan comes to a close we managed to get one last trip in that has been hanging over us for the last three years. It accomplishes ticking off more than one bucket list for us. Some will not appreciate our indulgence here but it was something we truly wanted to experience and had saved up to be able to do it well.
Friday we took a quick ride from Shinagawa (Tokyo) to Osaka on the Shinkansen (bullet train – Japan Bucket List Item). It was around two and a half hours to traverse a big section of Japan. My review of the Shin is maybe a B+. The speed and punctuality were as expected however I was a bit disappointed in the comfort level of the seats. For the price we shelled out I was expecting a bit more luxury. It was about equal to a decent airline seat with nice leg space. I would have loved a little more space, cushion. They also had the heat cranked on it which makes me rather uncomfortable. It’s one aspect of Japan I don’t appreciate but understand to some extent so I try not to complain (I prefer a lot of heat to non). If heating is available it’s cranked to max. How people sit in overly heated spaces with their sweaters, coats and scarves on completely escapes me. That said, it was a short trip so I didn’t suffocate. haha (There wasn’t much photo opportunity of the Shin, sorry)
Osaka was lovely, we truly enjoyed walking around and stuffing ourselves with Okonomiyaki for dinner, walked around the area checking out the lights and shopping before turning in for the night. If you don’t know what Okonomiyaki is clicky the link which gives a decent description but it’s basically a Japanese style pancake with many different toppings and Osaka does theirs a bit differently then we have had in Yokosuka and we are big fans.
Saturday we headed to Osaka-jo Castle which was beautiful and a great final castle visit for our time in Japan. This truly tested my will power over the still healing sprained ankle as there are always many steps and slopes, but we managed ok. No tears fell at least.
After the castle we made our way to what my husband called the retro district but turned out to be a pretty popular shopping and restaurant area, Dotonbori, which has a pretty good nightlife I guess but we were there in the afternoon. We did find another Okonomiyaki to scarf down and this time I tried a tomato, avocado and cheese one, it was super unusual and actually very good.
(side note: by this time I had over-compensated for my left ankle so much with all of the steps and slopes that my right thigh muscles were screaming at me. Have you ever worked out to the point where it feels like your thigh is not connected to your knee and you are wobbly? Yep, I was there.)
Saturday night we walked to the Umeda Sky Building, which if you have seen my other posts you’ll know the husband and I kind of have a thing for tall, interesting towers. This one filled the interesting category more than the tall one. We took the elevator up then the awesome escalator to the top “Floating Garden Observatory” to check out the city lights. If you have a look at the photo below, the two diagonal structures in the middle are the escalators, it’s a pretty cool ride up. Except for the “Garden” which really was nothing like a garden, it was a cement circle basically and not allowing us on the skyway bridge half way up, it was a very cool site.
Saw some Winter Illuminations:
Sunday we jumped on the train heading for Kobe (Japan Bucket List Item) with a very real hunger and only one thing in our sights… Kobe Beef. I was going to apologize to the animal rights folks but honestly….nope. It was amazing and truly, honorably appreciated to the very core. If you aren’t familiar with it Kobe beef is the highest grade beef to be found. It is a Japanese cow from a specific lineage, bread only in the Tajima (or Hyogo now) prefecture. (don’t be fooled, most American “Kobe Beef” isn’t really it) They are pampered with daily massages and fed sake and beer mash which some say is only legend/myth but whether true or not whatever they are doing it is producing an amazing marble.
We took a stroll around Kobe shopping area and came across this little gem, Nishimura’s Coffee, and immediately had a craving before hunting down our big Kobe beef dinner. What a beautiful building, inside and out. The coffee options were European (not Starbucks-ish) and the desserts were incredible. I had a chocolate ganache cake and the husband had an apple strudel/pie that was out of this world.
We shelled out a fat Yen for lunch then an obscene amount for a ridiculously divine dinner at Ishida. Dinner was incredible. We chose the set menu, I went for the tenderloin and the husband had the steak. It was set up Teppanyaki style where they cook it in front of you and each course was mind boggling. Appetizer of chilled Kobe beef, a consomme and crab on radish, soup, salad, selected side (I had foie gras and the husband had scallop), The masterfully prepared Kobe beef, using the fat trimmings he then grilled the vegetables, and fried rice. Finally, we were given dessert of sherbet and chocolate mousse and coffee. We were very satisfied and super happy. The chef was friendly and quite informative as to what we were being served and how to best use the sauces, etc. He had just enough English to make it easier for us and a fantastic attitude. Service was impeccable.
(I just realized after adding the photos that I didn’t get a photo of the finished beef, I was enthralled at that point I think)
Originally we were planning to spend the night Sunday and return home Monday but we decided to grab an early dinner and jump on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and head home to sleep in our own bed. One thing I will admit to about Japan is the bed/pillow situation in most hotels we have stayed in kinda sucks for our spoiled American backs. We got home about 12:30 am and I had a small melt down because I’d stifled pain for 2 days basically and it all came out. Tears rolled as I iced and elevated my ankle for a while.
I will be so glad when this ankle heals up.
For the next six weeks or so we will be keeping fairly close to home, enjoying day trips and indulging in our favorite foods before our big move in March. Likely revisiting Kawasaki, Yokohama and Tokyo one last time.