Monday, October 23, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 9: Osaka, Over and Out

December 1, 2016

Ah, the ninth and last day of my solo Kansai trip. Today I will be visiting two museums, one of which is in Toyonaka City, north of Osaka City, and I start my day early wanting to arrive at the Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses as it opens. I use the 1-Day Osaka Visitor's Ticket  (can be used on Osaka's municipal subway, tram, and buses) that I had bought for 550 yen at Kansai Airport on the day I arrived.

I take the red line to Esaka Station (the last stop) and transfer to the Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway. The automatic gate bars me from entering. Oops. My pass is not valid in this railway and I ask for help from the station attendant. Without her uttering a word in English, she helps me at the machine where I have to pay 90 yen for fare adjustment.

Nearest Station: 4-minute walk from Ryokuchikoen Station

I arrive at Hattori Ryokuchi Park, where the Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses is located. It's a huge park. The size overwhelms me; I have to gather my wits about. As I wend my way through the park in the general direction of the museum, I observe a man sleeping on a bench, flower beds abloom, and a bunch of kids on a school outing.

I finally reach the museum. Students clad in suits are lingering outside. I—we are a few minutes early. Good, I can eat my breakfast on a nearby bench. By the time I come back the students have disappeared.

Tuesday to Sunday 930AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 500 yen

Nearest Station: 10-minute walk from Ryokuchikoen Station

Even as I pay for my ticket, I am already transported to the Edo period—the ticket office is a structure that used to be a village master's house in Osaka in said period. I am given a map of the 3.6 hectare museum. The map has houses numbered 1 to 12 and I switch my OC mode on: I visit the houses in numerical order.

The open air museum consists of twelve houses from the 17th to 19th century (Edo period) from different prefectures of Japan. These are not replicas but the real thing. These have been moved and restored from as far as Iwate in northern Japan and Kagoshima in southern Japan!

Farmhouse with thick thatched walls. This farmhouse is from a mountainous area in Nagano.

 A narrow farmhouse with wooden boards under the eaves to protect the house from wind and rain. This farmhouse is from a valley in Nara.

 A farmhouse with thick solid beams built for the snowy region in Fukui. 

Tearoom from Osaka

Rural kabuki theater from Kagawa

An elevated storehouse to protect the stored grain from humidity and mice. This structure is from Kagoshima.

A farmhouse with a steep roof called gassho-zukuri as it resembles hands pressed together in prayer. This farmhouse is from Gifu.

Rice granary from Osaka

Most of the houses can be entered and explored, and I take my time doing so. Some houses have earthen floors, some houses have rooms that are elevated, some houses are L-shaped, etc. The design of each house is dependent on the area it was built in. Really interesting.

By the time I reach the fourth house, I see two local visitors. Like the students, they are also in suits...and I think to myself 'It must be nice to be able to take a break in between office hours and explore your local park.'

As I follow my map and visit houses, I find groups of students, those I had seen waiting outside the museum earlier, scattered about. Two or three are busy sketching, others are exploring the interiors, others are listening to a local guide, others are having a conversation with the two local visitors in suits I had seen at the fourth house.

I cross paths with them several times and as I leave the open air museum, I think 'Will our paths ever cross again?' And I laugh at the absurdity of it. Osaka is too large.

Wednesday to Monday 10AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 600 yen

Nearest Station: Tenjimbashisuji6-chome Station

Exit 3 of Tenjimbashisuji6-chome Station goes straight to the building where the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is. The museum entrance is on the 8th floor. I am given a 100-yen discount thanks to my Osaka Visitor's Ticket, and a free audio guide (regular price of 100 yen) and a museum map thanks to my Kansai One Pass. But first I have to leave my backpack in a locker.

After stuffing my bag in a locker, I am told to go to the 10th floor where I see rooftops through a glass window. These aren't rooftops of the buildings outside, but rooftops of the buildings inside the museum.

Rooftops seen from the 10th floor

The buildings on the 9th floor are what one would find in Osaka in the 1830's: a bath house, a town meeting hall, an apothecary, shops selling dolls, books, fabrics, etc, and tenement houses. There are visitors in kimono adding to the ambience of the museum.

Visitors can explore any which way they like (some areas have printouts visitors can read and keep), but with my audio guide and map, I again turn on my OC mode and follow the map. The audio guide gives me insight about life in Osaka in the 1800s. As I go from bath house to shop to town hall to house, the museum lighting changes from day to night and back to day—time inside the museum moves faster than my watch.

1830s Osaka

Doll shop


Inside the bookshop

A kitchen


Drinking well shared by tenement houses

The museum route leads me back to the 8th floor where there are dioramas showing how Osaka evolved from 1868 to 1950. I am fascinated by the teeny tiny details of the dioramas.


Osaka had trailer homes!

Barber shop

Luna Park, an amusement park in Osaka in 1912

My trip through time ends and I go back to the bank of lockers to take out my backpack. I shut the locker door and spot a large group of students in suits. Seems like it's a popular day for field trips. And then I see a familiar face: one of the two men in suits I had seen at the open air museum. It dawns on me: they are teachers out on a school trip with their students. He does a double take as he recognizes my face. I could see he wants to laugh. I hold my laughter in. Instead, I grin, say hello, and hurry into the empty elevator where I laugh out loud.


Nearest Station: Nippombashi Station

It's past lunch time and I am hungry. Not a good idea to visit a market, but I go to Kuromon Market (Kuromon Ichiba), six stops away, anyway. I am sure I won't see them again. This place has nothing to do with houses. But has everything to do with food! (If I do see them again, I am sure I will burst into laughter right in their faces.)

I enjoy looking at food. I especially enjoy tasting food. But not now. I just take a stroll around the market and check out the displays of fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits (I want to try the white strawberries but it is wayyyy too expensive!).

3-8-25 Nihonbashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka
11AM to 8PM

The fresh but all too expensive seafood I saw in the market was making my stomach rumble. I leave the market and check out my pinned places on my Google map. Aha! I see Cafe Gram a few minutes walk away! Those facebook videos of fluffy pancakes I will now see (and eat!) for myself!

Cafe Gram is on the second floor. It is quiet; only one table is occupied. A sign on the counter says the Premium Pancakes (yup, the fluffy pancakes) are limited. Luckily, it is available and I order it despite it being too expensive in my opinion (950 yen for pancakes!). It's my last day in Osaka anyway.

Premium Pancakes

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Yoshiki-en, Todaiji, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City
Kyoto: Day 5.5: Tofukuji, Kawai Jinja, Shimogamo Jinja
Kyoto: Day 6: Ginkakuji, Ryoanji, Ninnaji
Kyoto: Day 6.75: Gion Night Walking Tour
Kyoto: Day 7: All Day in Arashiyama
Kyoto: Day 8: Last Day in Kyoto
Osaka: Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori
Osaka: Day 9: Osaka, Over and Out (you're here!)

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