The hunt for breakfast
First challenge of the day, find breakfast…doesn’t sound hard, especially when you see the number of restaurants and cafés in the area, but before 10am there is very little open!! In the shopping centre just next to the hotel we did manage to discover a cosy little café that was already open, a typical Japanese establishment called…Le Croissant Shop…yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound very Japanese.
Although the pastries are based on the French patisseries, they all have slight twists…for example the chocolate-filled croissants which we chose for our breakfast…which makes them a thousand times sweeter than in France! That plus the yummy (but overly-sweet) green tea latte…complete with squirty cream and a straw meant for a guaranteed sugar rush before 9am!
Arriving at Osaka castle I caught a glimpse of the castle walls through some trees in the distance and we headed over to get our first view of the castle grounds. Under the trees a Japanese gentleman was hovering in the shade (yes, despite the typhoon weather that had been predicted for our first week today is a lovely sunny day and it’s about 24°). Back to the man…he was wearing a mint-green jacket with blue edges embroidered with Japanese writing (kanjis and hiragana) and carrying a folder filled with papers – he looked official, but slightly out of place. He introduced himself as an official guide to the castle grounds and told us that, if we fancied it, he could show us around a little.
We agreed and, after I took my photo of the castle walls, he started telling us about Osaka and its history as well as showing us up, through the castle grounds to the castle itself. I won’t go into all the details of the castle’s history here, the original, white castle was built then torn down after a big war, replaced with a black castle which was burnt down by lightning and then rebuilt in both black and white…very diplomatic!
If you want to know more then get yourselves to Osaka castle and ask for Iwai-san*! 🙂
Iwai-san or should I say sensei** seemed a fascinating chap, telling us that he plays Go (a Japanese board game using a wooden board and black-and-white glass beads) with some French people on the internet (and that he is actually a Go teacher!), he also told us that he had just recently got back from opening a second school in Rwanda, called Mako school (name inspired in remembrance of his wife who died 14 years ago) and he showed us some great photos of the work that he and some friends have done out there and what a success it is.
Stéphane explained what fascinated us about Japan and a little bit about our association « Les Tanuki à l’ouest » back home (Click here to access our Facebook page) where we organise activities to discover all different aspects of Japanese culture. We exchanged business cards and we said goodbye at the Castle entrance (and took a photo to please Chantal 😉 ).
* Mr Iwai in Japanese
** Mr Iwai the teacher (sensei = teacher in Japanese)
Where to eat? Too much choice!!
This evening (admittedly after a little nap…due to jetlag and not our age ^_^ ) we decided to head out to Namba – the lively area of Osaka. We came out of the underground and headed through the shopping malls aligned with hanko shops, pachinko arcades, little boutiques selling all kinds of weird and wonderful cakes and sweet things or strange pickled vegetables of all shapes and sizes and colours in direction of Dotomburi…
Now, all I knew about this street was that there was a restaurant with a huge plastic crab with mechanically moving legs on the wall and there were other shop/restaurant fronts with equally large objects on other shop/restaurant fronts….I wasn’t prepared for the lights, the colours and the noise (and the quantity of people) that this street contained! Every building contained at least one restaurant (if not seven, one on each floor). There were restaurants selling only crab or beef or sushi or fried things or pork or fish or everything!!! (and more!). In fact, there was so much choice that we walked around for more than an hour before deciding on a restaurant…unfortunately it was so popular that it was full and so the waitress took us to another restaurant run by the same people the other side of the river.
It was very classy and we followed the waitress down the thin corridor between the two walls of sliding doors. At one point she stopped, slid open a door and we took off our shoes and stepped up into our private room with our own grill. We chose a mixture of four different cuts of beef (some marbled with fat, some leaner) and we sat back and dined. It was wonderful and possibly the best tasting meat that either of us have ever had. The maître d’ was called Matsuno shunji and he and Stéphane had a long chat whilst I went and paid 😉 He’d spent 4 years living in Paris and working as a sushi chef and gave us the name of a good Japanese restaurant in Paris to add to our list…Kinougawa, rue Mont Thabor (si mes amis Parisiens y vont avant mon retour dites moi si c’était bon…à ces prix là j’imagine que oui 😉 ). We asked Shunji for a photo too and he whisked us outside with the chef and a couple of other members of staff…as you can see!