Cotswold (Bibury, Gloucestershire)

Type : Countryside, National Park
Best Date : Jun-Aug
Expense : Fair
Things to do : Fishing, Sightseeing, Afternoon Tea ect
Points of Interest: Bibury Trout farm, St Mary’s church, Arlington Row ect
The Good: Peaceful and beautiful British countryside
The Bad:
Very small, no ATM, limited shops and restaurants

Brief

The Cotswold is a 800 square miles area in the English countryside which centres between 5 counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire). Cotswold is a large place and would take several days to visit every beautiful areas. Here I will talk about the small village of Bibury in Gloucestershire.

Bibury is a typical Cotswold village known to be one of the worlds most picturesque villages. Bibury which runs along the river Coln only has a few attractions but its peaceful scenic charm would make you want to stay for a whole day.

The Place

Bibury is a very small village within the Cotswold area in Gloucestershire. I visited this place in a nice summers for the purpose of fishing and having a picnic, in their trout farm in a nice summers day. However little did I know I visited one of the most special area in the Cotswold.

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The first place of interest in the village and maybe the central tourist spot is the ‘Bibury Trout Farm’ which is popular with families and children. The farm is a great place for a picnic and you are able to barbeque by the ponds. There is an entrance fee and you may have to pay for a table or a tent if you are planning to barbeque depending on availability. Nonetheless within their complex there is a beautiful café if a picnic is not your thing. To do some fishing there is a beginners pond and a more skilled one, the equipment is free and you may catch however many you want but you will pay for the fish depending on its weight.

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Another place to see in Bibury is ‘Arlington Row’ which is a 10 minute walk from the farm. It is beautiful collection of traditional British cottages a great area to roam and take photos.

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The ‘River Coln’ runs right in the centre of this village, it creates a beautiful environment and views of the landscapes. Again another place to unwind and take photographs.

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A traditional ‘St Mary’s church’ is also in the area, it is a operational church of England diocese.

Other than that Bibury as a whole is a reason to visit, the landscapes, traditional stone buildings and surroundings is just a pleasure in a warm summers day. There are various different wildlife that are seen here, some more welcome than others. Furthermore depending on the season flowers and plants also vary making the village an incredible sight to see.

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Conclusion

Bibury was small and you could walk from one end to the other. There was not plenty to do but fish trout, picnic, have a walk or go for an afternoon tea. However the surroundings cottages, river and greenery is why Bibury is a definite place to stay or visit whilst in the Cotswold.

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Reference:

https://www.cotswolds.com/
http://www.bibury.com/

 

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A Quick Tour of Japan

This was my first trip to one of the richest and most powerful country in Asia, one which has rich history and best preserved tradition. I expected a very busy working country and also the most technologically advanced. My trip consisted of three of Japans most notable cities or prefectures (as its known) in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. I only had a total of 6 days and took the local trains to travel around except for a flight to Tokyo. I saw the most modern side of Japan but also its magical history and culture all whilst experiencing Japans world famous dishes.

Please click on the cities below to see how my journey went.

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First Stop Osaka

First part and entry point of my Japan trip was Osaka, starting with a busy airport and a confusing transport to our hotel. City looked industrial with many modern amusements.

Next Stop Kyoto

 A tiring start to the Kyoto experience, as we used a very busy commuter train to travel from Osaka. Although it rained on our Kyoto visit, the city definitely had character.

The Finale in Tokyo

The last city on my Japan trip, a bustling mega city.

 

 

 

Tokyo

Type : City
Best Date : 
Sep-Nov, Mar-May
Expense :
Expensive
Things to do : Sightseeing, Dining, Shopping, kart tours, ect
Points of Interest: Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Senso-Ji, Ueno Park, Ginza District, ect
The Good: Friendly and respectful people
The Bad: Very complex and busy public transport, Expensive

Brief

Tokyo (formerly known as Edo) is the capital and the largest city of Japan. However the city or prefecture was not always the country’s capital, as this always moved around depending on where Japan’s emperors wanted them. Furthermore greater Tokyo is said to be the most populated city (according to worldatlas) and known to be an alpha world city the largest modern metropolis in the world.

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The Place

Tokyo was the third and last city I visited during my tour of Japan. My expectations before I visited was a bustling metropolis full of the most modern technologies and infrastructure. Researching before my travels I found the city to be very reputable, which has more acclaimed restaurants than anywhere in the world, even more than Paris. Furthermore it is said to be one of the most safest capitals in the world with the lowest crime rates  than any around the world especially against tourists.

Firstly one of the must do activity in Tokyo is shop, as the city known as the best tax free shopping around the world. Ginza is an upmarket district in central Tokyo which has the most famous brands such as Gucci, Armani, Chanel and many alike. Furthermore many nightclubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants are also around here.

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Another shopping area in Tokyo that centre around the younger audience is Harajuku and Aoyama. This is a small narrow street bustling with affordable garments, accessories, toys and adventurous deserts , souvenirs are also found here and I believe the best place to buy them.

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Shinjuku is also another place for shopping, and centred around the middle working class community. Here there are the  more affordable brands such as Uniqlo, Lumine, Muji and others alike. 20180601_013022

However probably one of the most famous shopping district around the world, due to its bustling atmosphere is Shibuya. Most notable for the ‘Shibuya Crossing’ which has featured in many movies such as ‘Lost in translation’, ‘Fast and the furious’ and ‘Resident Evil’. The crossing is said to be the busiest intersection worldwide and is beautiful moreover at night when all the lights make for a great picture phot opportunity. Restaurants fill the streets in this area and there are a lot more amusements such as arcades, karaoke and clubs.

Apart from shopping there are also various attractions you could visit in Tokyo, its newest attraction which opened in 2012 is the ‘Tokyo Sky Tree’, this is a broadcast centre which is fast becoming the city’s cover attraction. Including restaurants and a observation deck this building is inspired by traditional Japanese architecture and is a great place to go if you are looking to see the city from a different view.

A much older point of interest in Tokyo is the ‘Meji Shrine’ which is not too far from the world famous ‘Shibuya’. This shrine is located in a calm tranquil area in the middle of the beautiful ‘Yoyogi  park’, which is again a sight to see in the cherry blossom season. Completed in 1920 the shrine which is dedicated to the Emperor ‘Meji’ and Empress ‘Shoken’ is surrounded by ‘Meji Shingu’s Forest’ which is entered through 2 large ‘Torii Gates’ one in the northside and the other southside. Pass these gates there is still a serene 10 minute walk to the shrines complex and upon arriving there is plenty exhibitions such as banzai trees, artwork, rituals and many others. The complex itself had various traditional architecture which is an excellent place for photographer type tourists and is a definite must whilst visiting Tokyo. There is a lot to see in the vicinity of the forest and you may stumble upon the ‘Kiyomasa Wells’ and the ‘Sake Barrels‘. Overall I believe that this was the best place to visit in Tokyo.

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‘Tsukiji Hongwanji’ is an operating Buddhist temple with free admission for tourists. It is a landmark for the Tsukuji area. Built on 1657 this temple has had huge historic significance. For me it was just a simple touch and go visit, so I am unable to give more information.

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Next to the temple is ‘Tsukiji Fish market’ a haven for fish or sushi lovers, a place where wholesale fish occurs, viewers are able to observe tuna auctions. Moreover there are plenty sushi restaurants where you are able dine and also learn the trade. Other produce are also sold here so for any food lovers this market is worth visiting.

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Lastly the ‘Imperial Palace’ which is the current residence of Japans Imperial family. It is actually the location of where Edo castle used to be. An interesting fact was that the palace was destroyed during the world war but then rebuilt in the same way afterwards. Similar to that of Osaka castle the imperial palace is bordered by huge stone walls and bridges which are appealing but does get in the way of a good picture. Take note no visitors are allowed inside the complex nor the buildings, however guided tours are available for the palace grounds.

Other places to visit are the ‘Senso-Ji Temple’, ‘Mount Fuji’ and various other museums and parks but I didn’t have time to visit them so I wont write about them.

Conclusion

All in all Tokyo was an interesting metropolis, it was definitely the busiest place ive been, a working city just like London. However unlike Kyoto and its magnificent shrines, in my opinion Tokyo’s main appeal for tourism is its shopping and dining as it doesn’t have many historic buildings. In my opinion a 3 or 4 days visit is enough in the city, stay very close to central of Japan and most places should be walking distance.

Back to my Japan Trip
Reference:

According to worldatlas.com  (Population)
https://www.factinate.com/places/30-interesting-facts-tokyo/
http://www.globalblue.com/destinations/japan/tokyo/top-ten-most-interesting-facts-on-tokyo

How do you travel?

Do you buy cheap airfares or pay the price for the experience?

There is now the popular arguments between family, friends and even oneself on whether to travel cheaply or pay more for the added perks on flights. We know there are two types of carriers, “standard or premium airliners” which we recognize as flag carriers and even somewhat being the symbol of aviation in its country, secondly the increasing popularity of “budget or low cost airlines” the companies giving passengers very cheap tickets for bare necessities (no thrills as its known). I work for an airline and I know that the battle of the skies is difficult for every carrier out there. Its simple the more passengers the higher profitability which will also illustrate its reputation. Wealthy carriers are consistently advertising, upgrading seats, product and services, lowering prices also comes to the equation but only to an extent and with unfavourable consequences. Budget airlines spend less which enables them to lower tickets, this results in no food (buy on-board), less legroom (more row of sellable seats), undesirable airports and many more. Standard and budget airliners are now far apart on the service it offers, for us as passengers there is now a huge choice and it is something that divides opinions. So what is your method in flying?

Budget/ Low cost Airlines (Flying Cheaply)

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Advantages

Spend less money (more for the holiday itself)

One of two reasons I believe people travel with budget low cost airlines, is the price. There are many people who believe that air transport is only a small part of the holiday and would rather spend more on hotels and activities than a simple flight. Furthermore if the flight is only 1-2 hours there is no real effect on sitting in a budget airline than that of a more luxurious one.

Only pay for what you need

There is plenty of aspects on a standard airline company that an individual traveller doesn’t desire, such as insurance, food and even baggage weight. This is something budget airliners capitalises on and gives passengers the choice to pay for only the services you require, which is popular amongst many youthful travellers who aren’t swayed by insurance protection or seat choices, this is normally known in aviation as ‘no thrills’ flights.

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Disadvantages

Less Comfort

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Everybody has heard the saying that ‘you get what you pay for’, which is true when it comes to spending on flights. Easily seen when you book economy, business and first class within a single carrier and somewhat true when choosing between standard and budget flights. Cheap airlines usually only incorporate the essentials (the product required by law) which are very basic seats, a stowage and a toilet (no thrills as they call it). Take note low cost airlines have also been looking at the possibility of charging to use toilets but were unsuccessful due to various laws. Leg space is also affected and many (not all) budget carriers give the bare minimum required by the law, in order to increase the number of rows which will fit more people

No Baggage Allowance

If you know about aircrafts, you would know that weight is a big issue. The heavier the plane the more expensive fuel it uses resulting in higher costs, reason why many airliners are strict on baggage weight. Cheaper budget airlines do not give complimentary baggage weight as these need to be purchased, usually at a high cost.

Undesirable Airports

Getting away from huge costs and taxes reputable airports demand are something low cost carriers prefer to get away from. This enables them to avoid charges such as parking and facilities, overall lowering ticket prices to sell to customers. However although very attractable to customers at first (due to prices), these airports may be further and somewhat difficult to get to, resulting in further costs and unnecessary journeys to and from the airport.

Less protection

Many have experienced the undesirable event of delays, cancellations, overbooking, missing a flight and even damaged luggage’s. Many budget carriers do not include protection for these in your ticket bill, and again would require to purchase if you want one, some being very expensive.

Standard/ Premium Airlines (Pay for the experience)

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Advantages

Better products, comfier and more convenient

Standard or more premium airlines attract their customers for the product and service they offer. Leg space and recline are usually the simple advantages from budget to premium airliners, however the seats itself could be more comfier (leather, foam, ect). Long-haul flights (on standard/ premium flights) usually have IFEs (In-Flight Entertainment) which budget carriers do not equip themselves with due to its initial and running costs. Simpler products such as storage, tables and arm rests are also usually enhanced (depending on airline carrier) and probably the most important in the modern world are charging points which are now being increasingly introduced in all tiers on these airline companies. Furthermore these airlines also lend blankets and pillows for extra comfort something that low cost carriers do not.

Meals and giveaways

Depending on the journey and duration of flight the airline would offer complimentary meals, it could be breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack depending on the time of the flight. Two meals may be offered for longer long-haul flights depending on the carrier. Amenity kits are sometimes offered on standard airlines but on budget carriers food and amenities must be purchased.

However take note that even premium/ standard carriers are starting to roll out a buy on board system (buy your meals) on short haul routes this is a model that may increasingly be popular and even the norm in the future.

Higher Standards

For premium and standard carriers, their brand is most precious, to attract customers means to give customers the best they can give. Usually the products on more expensive carriers are steadier and more robust, generally made from better quality materials. Inflight meals are also of better quality than what you can get in low cost carriers as their budgets for these would be paid for in the ticket prices. Furthermore Staff appearance (uniforms) are usually better and more fashionable than that of budget carriers and their training are far better which would results in better customer service.

Standard Baggage

Depending on the airline you travel with, there will be complimentary baggage weight for you to use (usually 20kg-40kg), this is something that is not included in cheaper carriers and thus an advantage for premium and standard airliners.

Choice of classes

If money is not a big barrier for you, standard airliners offer different classes and tiers, these have different products, services and food, something that budget airlines don’t offer. Depending on your standard of life, to be able to choose your tier and how much money you want to spend is another advantage over cheaper airlines with only one standard cabin and layout.

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Disadvantages

More expensive

Probably the only big disadvantage of standard and premium airlines, is the cost of their tickets. Usually double or sometimes triple of that on a budget airline the price is usually the big reason why many turn away from high end carriers.

Overall

There are positives and negatives flying both budget/ low cost and standard/ premium airlines, it just depends on the type of traveller and travel you are or having.

On a personal view, I am content to fly with both low-cost and standard airline companies for shorthaul flights but would edge more in favour for expensive carriers for long-haul flights as long as I am happy with the service I can get.

I wouldn’t mind flying budget/ low cost for Journeys less than 2 hours (short-haul) such as domestic routes or flights to neighbouring countries. These routes are too short for me to care about the service I receive as I usually just fall asleep for the duration of the flight without needing to eat, drink or entertain myself. My only disadvantage would be the airports I may likely be arriving or departing from as it may be too far and inconvenient for my target destination. However if the price difference from budget to standard are not too great then I would spend that bit more for the extra perks.

On longer (long-haul) flights I would pay the price for the extra service and comfort provided by standard/premium carriers. This is because travelling to the likes of Dubai which is 8hrs or Hong Kong 13hrs (from London), is just way too long for no thrills. Simple aspects such as blankets, pillows and meals would benefit largely in a long flight, likewise a big advantage are the IFEs (In Flight Entertainment) which would largely entertain anyone for many hours. Furthermore to be able to eliminate the fuss of further spending before , during and after the flight (on long journeys) would make travels so much better knowing everything is paid for in advance and all you need to think about is the holiday ahead.

So in conclusion, the most important aspect of the flight for me is the experience and not the money I spend as I’ve always seen the flight as a part of your holiday (the beginning). However if there is very little to no difference on the flight experience I am choosing from, then why should I spend just for the sake of a brand.

Kyoto

Type : City, Provincial
Best Date : Feb-May
Expense : Expensive
Things to do : Sightseeing, religious prayers, dining, shopping, dress up in kimono, ect
Points of Interest: Nijo Castle, Fushimi-Inari, Kiyomizu-Dera, Gion, Kyoto Impreial Castle, Nishi Hogan-Ji, ect
The Good: Best preserved Japanese culture
The Bad: Generally expensive

Brief

Kyoto is another of Japans former capitals. Rich and famous for is various Buddhist temples, shrines, gardens, imperial palaces and wooden houses. The Prefecture or city is said to be the historical and cultural centre of the country with its traditional society, dining and architecture still experienced today. The kaiseki dining and the female entertainers known as geishas are found within this city.

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The Place

Getting a train from Osaka to Kyoto (S rapid train) within 30minutes was amazing to say the least, even though it was very busy and crowded. I was expecting to get out of a very rural small station but was surprised to arrive to a large station just like Osaka central. Walking out of the station I was starting to get a vibe that Kyoto was anything but provincial but another metropolis.

I arrived in Kyoto in the evening and planned to check-in and head straight out to visit what I could. The first building you see once stepping out of the main entrance of the station is ‘Kyoto Tower’ which is an observation tower overlooking the city, I didn’t enter the building but ive heard its a sight to see. After we planned a trip to a place called Shijo Dori (Shijo Street) to have something to eat and see what the nightlife is like as it was also the area for their clubs and bars. Walking around the streets there were plenty of shops some more traditional than others. Arcades were also a big thing around these streets and can get very busy with local children, some even still in their school uniform.

The next morning we went to ‘Fushimi Inari-Taisha’ it rained but this gave our experience a little more character. Dating back to year 794 when Kyoto was capital, this shrine is one of the most important which is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, Inari. The iconic shrine is famous for having over a thousand orange vermilion torii gates which routes up mount Inari and into the wooden forest. The experience was incredible, the whole visit took about 3-4 hours in total trekking up and down the shrine. There were plenty of stops and different shrines to visit. I saw lots of fox statues and didn’t know what they were for till I found out that foxes are seen to be the messenger for the God Inari. The top of the mountain (shrine) was a bit of an anti climax (in my opinion) as there was nothing different than the various shrines that you pass along the way.

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After hiking for almost 3-4 hours, we went back to Shijo street then got something to eat in ‘ Nishiki market’ which is known to have the best traditional food in the city.

On that same day we also visited the ‘Kiyomizu- Dera’ which is a one of Kyoto’s notable attractions. ‘ Kiyomizu Dera’ is a huge Buddhist temple which is significant to the city and named a UNESCO world heritage site. When I visited the main building was being refurbished and had plenty of scaffolding and a cover, so it wasn’t as picturesque as it would normally be. Nonetheless the Kiyomizu-Dera is one of Kyoto’s main attractions and must be visited, even with all the construction the place was still very beautiful and scenic.

‘Gion’ is also an excellent place to visit especially in ‘ Hanamikoji Dori’ the street famous for the Geisha tradition. Filled with long-established wooden buildings, this area is also famous for its traditional dining and hospitality. The walk is only about 10 minutes from one end to the other and the Geishas are rarely seen, there are very strict rules in the street which include no touching of the geishas, selfie sticks, littering and others alike. Take note although dining here is a must, it is very expensive.

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Nishi-Hogan-Ji is another place that should be visited as it is the largest school for a particular type of Buddhism. Here you will find beautiful large traditional Japanese architecture.

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One place that is not really advertised for tourist to visit is actually an observation point above Kyoto station. Here there are views of Kyoto but the most observed are its stairs with LED lights acting like one huge screen where short light shows happen. I don’t know a special name for this place but yeah, the light stairs!

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Conclusion

Kyoto was the best place I went to in for Japanese culture and history. I was expecting a provincial rural atmosphere but was surprised that the whole city looked like a miniature Osaka and Tokyo with many lit up and technological areas such as ‘Gion’. Although it rained when I was there, this only just gave the city more character. Tourists rent Kimonos and Geisha outfits whilst around the city. This was interesting as this is not done in any other place around the world with their local traditional outfits. I did however under estimate the time I needed in the city, so there were plenty more places I haven’t visited.

Back to my Japan Trip
Reference:

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3915.html

Photo:

www.circumnavacation.com (Kyoto station light show)
663highland (Nishi Hogan Ji)

Osaka

Type : City
Best Date : 
Don’t Know
Expense :
Expensive
Things to do : Eat, Theme Parks,
Points of Interest: Osaka castle, Universal Studio, Dotonbori, Osaka Aquarium, Umeda Sky Building
The Good: Excellent food, Very nice people
The Bad: Most confusing train system (Japan in general), Expensive

Brief

Osaka (formerly known as Naniwa) was the first known capital of Japan. Today it is the second largest metropolis in the country behind the country’s current capital ‘Tokyo’. Osaka was destined to be the political centre of Japan as the then general ‘Toyotomi Hideyoshi’ chose this city to build his castle only for his successor to shift the power to Tokyo.

Osaka is known for its food, nightlife and architecture especially in the Dotonbori.

The Place

Osaka was the first city I visited in Japan and my first impressions was that it was an industrial city as I saw plenty factories whilst travelling from the airport to my hotel.

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We stayed at the ‘Keihan Universal Tower Hotel’ near the ‘Universal Studios’ theme park.  Although far and complicated to travel to ‘central Osaka’ and other significant attractions in the city, it was a good clean area with its own characteristics. The area which is just outside the theme park is known as Universal citywalks it was a very lively place from early morning till about 11pm in the night full of performers, restaurants and other amusements. Food is plentiful and although expensive there are various local and western cuisine to choose from, whether a quick snack or finer dining ‘citywalks ‘ caters to all.  The nearest station ‘Universal city’ can get very busy at peak hours in the morning and evening from tourists entering and exiting the theme park, so if staying in the area it is would be good to plan timings of when to roam.

Universal studios was a great outing, but you will have to leave a whole day.

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Another Place we visited in Osaka is Dotonbori a very famous place for nightlife and dining, one of Osaka’s principal tourist destinations. Best visited at night the street which runs along the Dotonbori canal is lit by many luminous flashing lights full of different colours and shapes which equates to stunning photographic opportunities. Here we found a brilliant Japanese restaurant (forgot the name) where we tried the famous Wagyu beef.

Shinsabashi which is the next road parallel to Dotonbori is also a booming place at night, full of restaurants , bars, clubs and a traditional market.

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Probably the cover attraction of the city is ‘Osaka castle’ which centres ‘Osaka castle Park’. The park in itself is beautiful and around the ‘cherry blossom’ season  it is said to be a sight to see. In the middle of the park is two large ring lakes surrounded by amazing thick steep stone walls which were built to protect the castle in the early years as this was a frequent battle ground. These walls are impressive and there are boat tours to see these walls closer. Furthermore around the park there are many attractions such as shrines, various gardens, an American world war factory, baseball field and an outdoor events stage. Various restaurants, cafes and food stalls are inside the park which is very convenient as the park is huge and can take a whole day to roam. However the main attraction of the park is the ‘Osaka castle’ and its ‘Museum’, in my opinion the outside (of the castle) is impressive but  inside not too much, although it has plenty of historic artefacts.

Central Osaka (Umada district) is not much of a haven for tourist but a nice place to visit anyway. Here you can go shopping with many different modern outlets and dine at some of the city’s finest restaurants. ‘Osaka Station’ in itself is a nice place and aight to see, although very busy with workers there are many places to unwind.

Just outside Osaka station you will see the famous and spectacular ‘Umada sky building’ with the ‘Kuchu Teien Observation deck’ which is a floating garden above the two towers. Here you can see the whole of Osaka.

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Lastly another place that must be visited whilst in the city is ‘Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium’, which is one of the largest in the world. A popular amusement and one in a few which houses the enormous  whale shark which they also use as their mascot. This aquarium has been the best so far with a diverse collection of creatures from mammals such as sealions and seals, birds such as penguins and the many fishes from around the world. The ‘Tempozan Ferris wheel’ and ‘Legoland’ are also based within the area, however I didn’t bother going to them as I believe they are more for the younger audiences.

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There are other places to see in the Osaka prefecture (city) that I didn’t or couldn’t visit due to the time I had. I decided to leave shrines and temples for my next city (prefecture) Kyoto as that was the place for it. Otherwise the only places I missed out were other districts and amusements such as Tennoji zoo.

Conclusion

My visit to Osaka City (Osaka prefecture)was interesting and a good place to start my whole Japan experience. The best way I could describe it was a smaller more conservative Tokyo (in my opinion). The city was busy and full of people with the train systems (like many in Japan) were a bit more complicated than other countries. There was plenty to do and visit in Osaka but the majority are modern amusements like the Universal studios, Lego land or Osaka aquarium. Osaka is not a place if you want to see shrines and temples as there is little to none, with the only significant historic structure is the castle.

Back to my Japan Trip

 

Reference:

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2157.html

Photo:

Brücke-Osteuropa (UmedaSky Building)