Thursday, 12 May 2016

Touring the Famous Street of Dotonbori, Osaka

Fanciful Dotonbori Street

Our first stop in Osaka was Dotonbori. In fact, we purposefully selected a hotel that was near to this famous street and the plan was to visit it whenever we had the opportunities. Dotonbori is famous for it's countless restaurants and the interesting and life-like mechanized billboards and neonlights that adorned their facade. It is known as a gastronomic street for great reasons. Just name any Japan delicacy, they will surely have it- Ramen, Takoyaki (Octopus balls), Okonomiyaki, Kushikatsu, Gyoza, Tonkatsu-don, Sushi, Sashimi, Udon, Unadon and the list continues on. We were spoilt for choices when our stomachs groaned for food and the usual complaints were the limited capacities they held.

Mascots of Dotonbori
There are many landmarks and mascots one will not miss when visiting Dotonbori. The Glico man (running man), and the moving King Crab billboard of Kani Doraku are the ones that we will always remember. It is impossible to walk through all the interesting destinations we visited in a single blog. But I will be sharing on those that have left us great impression and feel that you shall not miss them when you visit this famous street.

The Glico Man (aka The Running Man)
This was our first stop at Dotonbori. Located near the always busy and crowded Ebisubashi bridge, the Glico Man billboard was stationed here since 1935. For those who do not know, the Glico group is the Company which produced the famous Pocky stick snacks. There are flavors which are unique to Osaka stores only. They will serve as good souvenirs for your loved ones back home . We would take photos with this "celebrity" in similar running posture which earmarked the commencement of our interesting trip. I personally feel this is a "Must"for everyone that visit Dotonbori :-) !

The Glico Man

Kani Doraku (The Giant Moving Crab Restaurant)
There are in fact three of these at Dotonbori. One was situated near the start of the street, one in the middle and the last the end. The famous and prominent one is the restaurant at start of the street with the largest mechanized crab. It is just opposite the Glico Man and I strongly recommend you have at least a meal here during your visit. Kani Doraku serves one of the best and freshest crab cuisine in Japan. It is not cheap but worth every cents that you will be paying. We certainly enjoyed ourselves here and the crabs were certainly one of the best that I have tasted. One tip here is that you have to reserve early (at the counter near the entrance) in order to get a place in this famous restaurant.

Kani Doraku Moving Crab Billboard
Live Crabs
Crab Sashimi

The Ramen Restaurants (Shi-ten-noh 四天王, Kinryu 金龍, Ichiran 一蘭, Kamukura 神座)
Your visit at Dotonbori will not be completed without tasting at least one of the famous Ramen here. I had in fact tasted all the above mentioned and it was a struggle to decide which is the best. After a democratic family poll, we decided our favorite is Ichiran! The average price of the Ramen is about 800 to 1000 Yen per normal bowl. They tasted especially good during the cold weather period and our family had at least 1 Ramen meal everyday when we were here. All the mentioned Ramen restaurants are actually clustered together somewhere in the middle of the street and you will have little problem finding them. The most easily recognizable Ramen restaurant is Kinryu with it's formidable looking Dragon above their outlets.

The Ramen Restaurants
Kamukura Ramen
Charlotte and Alison feasting on Kinryu Ramen

Osaka Ohsho Restaurant (大阪王将)
The store famous for it's Gyoza (dumplings with pork meat) is easily spotted with it's big succulent looking mammoth Gyoza above it's facade. Osaka Ohsho has actually expanded their presence in other countries and we have tried the Gyoza back in Singapore and Hong Kong. But nothing beat trying the real McCoy in Dotonbori, Osaka. We gave two thumbs up for these delicacies and agreed unanimously it tasted better than the ones we tried elsewhere before. The price was around 210 Yen for 5 Gyoza.

Osaka Ohsho Restaurant
Queue to buy my favorite Gyoza

Can you resist the succulent Gyoza?

Acchichi Honpo Takoyaki 
Do not tell people you have come to Osaka without trying their trademark Takoyaki (Fried Octopus Balls). Takoyaki is basically a fried wheat flour ball with octopus meat inside. There are in fact many outlets selling Takoyaki at Dotonbori but the one we always saw with the longest queue was Acchichi Honpo. It is located near the Dotonbori canal where tourists board the boats for the Tombori River Cruise. We could smell the aroma of the Takoyaki from the store at a distance and inevitably queue up for the delicacy. The rest was history :-) (I remembered one serving of 8 Octopus Balls was around 500 Yen. Their most popular flavor is the soy sauce mayonnaise taste Takoyaki)

Acchichi Honpo Takoyaki in the background

Waiting for the sizzling hot Takoyaki
Be Careful! They are HOT!!!
Tombori River Cruise
This cruise offers a 20 minute boat ride down a length of the the Dotonbori River. The ticket booth and boarding point are near the Acchipi Honpo Takoyaki outlet.  During our ride, there was a Japanese narrator onboard who seemed to explain us the history and the landmark of the river. We did not understand what she was saying but her humorous gesture and expression won our applauses. I recommend to take this ride at night when the buildings are illuminated by the colourful neonlights with their wavering reflection cast on the river surface. Ticket fee is 900 Yen per adult and 400 Yen per child.

Tombori River Cruise
River view during boat ride
Family Photo in boat

As mentioned before, one article was too limited to cover Dotonbori. I just stated on those that I felt you must try if you plan a visit here. This will serve as a good guidance when you are mesmerized and wondered where to start in the maze of restaurants and shops.

To reward and help our readers in their exploration of foreign cities, Travel Bugs has recently collaborated with GPSMYCITY to give away free self-guided City Walks App (worth $4.99)!

Simply leave a comment in the comment column on which city you will visit soon to win the free app!

Winners will get a free promo code to download the app. The city list for selection is listed here. Note that the app can currently only work in IOS (Iphone and Ipad) only. This free app is only for the first 20 valid comments only. Act fast, I am waiting to give this freebies away ;-)

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Osaka, Kyoto and Nara Trip

At Kinkaku-ji Temple, The Golden Pavilion

We visited Osaka, Kyoto and Nara back in last year November and December. It was a different experience compared to the visit to Tokyo two years back. The people, culture and food have their own unique flavor and we were glad to visit during the autumn. The spectacular and colourful sceneries with the sea of reddish and yellowish leaves left deep impression with us.  For the local, the fall autumn season holds equal significant meaning to the Sakura season. I was not too surprise after being very fortunate to witness the splendor of both.

The Famous Dotonbori Street
The Osaka Castle
We would spend about two weeks exploring the Kansai region. Osaka was our base with side trips to Kyoto and Nara. Being fans of Japanese gourmet, we decided to reside in hotels near the famous Dotonbori street. This was one of the best decisions made as we conveniently managed to savour the different delicacies for our meals. The only regret we had was the limited capacities of our own stomachs :-(.

Let's Start Running with the "The Glico Running Man"!
All my readers shall know by now I am a "Temple Man". The beautiful Japanese temples and shrines were "Must Have"items in my travel plan. Top in my lists were the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto and Nara. To name a handful-Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji, Todai-ji temple and Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. The last name is not a UNESCO World Heritage site (yet) but we were always fascinated by the Senbon Torii (thousand of Torii gates) situated along the mountain trails behind the shrine.

The Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The trip would not be completed without including plans for my young daughter, Charlotte. Her best memory would be the time spent with the deers at Nara Park and the snow monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park at Arashiyama. We would also indulge ourselves at the different theme rides at Osaka Universal Studios and the sight of wonderful sea life at Osaka aquarium (Kaiyukan).

At Osaka Universal Studios 
Charlotte feeding a Nara Deer
With LARGE Stingray At Kaiyukan

More posts and tips will be shared in my later blogs for this trip. Below are my itineraries for this trip for your planning and reference:

Day 1

-Arrived at Osaka
-Checked in Metro 21 Hotel
-Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi
-Tombori River Cruise

Day 2

-Osaka Castle
-Umeda Sky Building

Day 3

-Sumiyoshi Taisha
-Shitennoji Temple
-Tsutenkaku Tower

Day 4

-Arrived at Nara
-Nara Deer Park
-Todai-ji Temple
-Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine
-Higashimuki Shopping Street

Day 5

-Universal Studio

Day 6

-Arrived at Kyoto
-Checked in Amenity Hotel
-Kiyomizu-dera Temple
-Gion District
-Yasaka Shrine

Day 7

-Nijo Castle
-Kinkaku-ji Temple
-Ryoan-ji Temple

Day 8

-Arrived at Arashiyama
-Tenryu-ji Temple (with Bamboo Groves)
-Saga Scenic Railway Ride
-Monkey Park Iwatayama

Day 9

-Tofuku-ji Temple
-Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

Day 10

-Yasaka Pagoda
-Higashiyama District
-Arrived in Osaka
-Checked in Naniwa Hotel

Day 11

-Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan)
-Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi

Day 12

-Hozen Temple
-Kuromon Market
-Tennoji Zoo

Day 13

-Back to Singapore

Have you been to Osaka, Kyoto or Nara yet? Share your experience at the comment columns below!

For Your Pinning

Friday, 25 March 2016

Travel Photos Series#18-Panoramic View from the Mountain City, Jiufen (Taiwan)

View from Jiufen
I remember it was raining and the day was gloomy when we visited Jiufen in Tawian. But it was no surprise to us as the Mountain City was also known as the "City of Sadness" (made famous by the award winning film of the same name). Rain was a very common affair here so do not forget your raincoat or umbrella when you are preparing a visit.

We love the view from the top of city. Here you could savour the scenic sight of sea meeting the mountains while immersing in the cooling atmosphere. Although the area was bustling with tourists, you could still find a quiet spot for your own activities.

Photo taken on 28 Nov 2013.