Day 2: Osaka
Tennoji, Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, Tempozan Market Place & Shinsekai
Obligatory morning conbini pan!
Our first stop for the day was supposed to be the Osaka Aquarium, because someone (Lynnette) has a whale shark obsession, but they didn’t open until 11:00am. Thanks to jet lag, we were awake very early, so we decided to check out the area around our Airbnb in Tennoji. Tennoji Park was directly behind the building and is home to a beautiful traditional garden, as well as some small shrines, an art museum, a zoo and a few small historical monuments.
Sadly, since we were there in the winter, the garden wasn’t exactly as pretty as it could be, but it was still nice to look at and since we got there at about nine am, no one else was around except maintenance workers. It was also only about 200 yen (roughly $1.75 USD) for entry, which was a steal!
We then walked to Shitennoji, a Buddhist Temple, which was also in the neighborhood. Entry was, again, a steal at 400 yen (~$3.75). A lot of shrines and temples we visited during this trip were under construction/renovation, this one included. I think this is the large downside to traveling outside of the tourist season, since this is the best time for these sites to do their construction. It is nice to avoid the crowds though!
There was a morning prayer ceremony going on during our visit, which we respectfully enjoyed. I tossed a 10 yen coin into the donation box and a Japanese woman standing near the front politely dragged me up closer so that I could do my prayers in front of the monk. I was surprised, but also grateful for the opportunity.
On the grounds there was a huge pagoda, which we were able to go in and climb up! I’ve seen tons of pagodas at different temples, but never one that you were allowed inside. Since it’s disrespectful to the families whose ancestor’s and relative’s monuments are housed there, there was no photography allowed. It was a lot of stairs first thing in the morning, but it really just set the tone for the rest of the trip.
(The women-only train car is a magical place!)
After our wandering adventure, it was finally time to head to the Aquarium! Of course, we were not paying attention to the train announcements so we ended up at Universal Studios instead, whoops. (Lynnette’s Note: And this is after we both heard the announcement say Universal City a thousand times.) Train ordeal aside, we made it to the Aquarium.
Though not the largest Aquarium, it was still really fun and worth the approx. $22 USD entry. There are a lot of different areas, but the most exciting part is the GIANT tank that spans 4 floors worth of a viewing points. There were two whale sharks in it, as well as various rays, sharks and other smaller fish. The top area and first viewing point of the big tank can get quite congested, but once we moved further down we had a ton more opportunities to sit and watch the whale sharks. There was also a cute exhibit of penguins, a touch tank, and seals. The special exhibit at the time was about fish with unusual markings and faces!
We were starving after the Aquarium, so we went to the Tempozan Marketplace across the way, where there was a huge food court. It was really crowded and instead of entering the ruthless fight to get seats, we went to a restaurant on the second floor. We got delicious yakisoba, then headed to our next stop: Tempozan Anipa, a petting zoo. If you went to the aquarium first, you can present them with your ticket and get a discounted entry (600 yen, 550 with the aquarium ticket, if we remember correctly). As we were waiting in line, they were switching out the cats and a pig almost ran us over in its hurry to leave the back room and get back into the petting area. It’s kind of weird to have a petting zoo in a mall, but they change out the animals on duty regularly and post pics of them walking the dogs outside on their Instagram, so we definitely got the impression that these animals are well cared for. (We actually chose not to go to an owl cafe, because all the ones we watched videos of beforehand looked so sad.) The more shy cats wear special bandanas, so guests will know they are not as friendly or attention seeking as some of the others.
Once we got in, it was a hilarious mix of different animals in three different rooms. The first area had rabbits, guinea pigs and tortoise. The second section had cats, dogs and pigs. The third room was the ‘exotic’ animal area which had capybara, mara, red kangaroos, owls and an alpaca. All of the animals were adorable, but were were totally smitten by the capybara that seriously just sat there and didn’t give a crap about anything. Honestly, the chillest creature I’ve ever met! Huge regrets we didn’t take a pic with it, like everyone else was, but our animal selfie time was yet to come...
The mall didn’t really have anything we were interested in shopping-wise, but there were some huge gachapon rooms, which kicked off our obsession for the trip.
At night we visited Shinsekai, since we were curious about the giant tower we could see from our Airbnb. It was late by the time we got there, so we mostly just explored, bought more gachapon and picked up some souvenirs.
This illustration of a baby dolphin was Lynnette's Facebook profile pic for a hot minute...