We started off our last full day in Osaka at a cat cafe. Animal cafe's in Japan are amusing to Americans because it's an odd concept to pay to hang out with domesticated animal breeds that most of us have at home. In large cities on the tiny island of Japan, the ability to have a pet is more of rarity. Tokyo is currently the most populous metropolitan area in the world, so I imagine every square foot of home space is valuable.
Matthew is allergic to cats and I've never been fond of cats (and quite honestly, I had never even touched a cat until a few years ago) -- let's just say we are dog people. That being said, over the past few years, I've taken more of a liking to these cute creatures, especially the cat of our travel mate and Matthew's bandmate, Paolo. Paolo is a cat whisperer of sorts so we all agreed this was definitely on the to-do bucket list for our trip. I mostly watched on the sidelines and drank my matcha tea latte that came with our entry fee (only $10 per hour) while locals giggled and took endless photos of the cats. Definitely a unique experience.
We then grabbed some amazing ramen at Ramen Zundoya in Shinsaibashi. One of our Osakan friends had just spent a full year eating ramen nearly every single day in Osaka to find the very best, so we trusted his judgment. At Zundoya, you can actually choose how fatty you want your broth! We went with regular fatty, which already seemed like a decadent choice. The broth was rich, almost thick, and incredibly flavorful. Definitely on our Osaka list for all future visits.
With bellies full, we bundled up on this cool winter day and headed to Osaka Castle for some scenic walking, fall leaves, and a little culture. Along the way, we had the opportunity to rent samurai outfits to walk around in, but we declined and experienced it by laughing at others. This guy was thoroughly enjoying himself.
Onto the castle! Crazy enough, we didn't feel like going in. We just wanted to see the exterior architecture in all its glory. I'm a little wild for gilded gold trimmings.
A family photo op to document the trip.
We then headed back to catch the Mr. Big show! Don't know who Mr. Big is? Don't worry, I only know the huge monster ballad To Be With You. < Click on it! You know you want to soundtrack the rest of this post with all of that early 90s glory. Being "huge in Japan" is definitely a real thing. Many bands experience years, even decades, of major success in this tiny region of the world well after the US has forgotten.
After the show, we headed to Rock Rock Bar and were treated to some authentic home cooking with my favorite dish, sukiyaki, a sweet and salty stew prepared tableside in a hot pot with thinly shaved beef (we were treated to kobe beef!) and vegetables. Our chef was Seiji, the owner of Rock Rock, prepared an amazing meal and we stuffed ourselves beyond capacity.
We were exhausted and said our goodbyes to our good friends who showed us an amazing time. Matthew and Paolo updated their very old polaroid on Rock Rock's wall of fame and we were on our way to rest up for our travels to Tokyo the next day.
The next morning we caught the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. If the US had enough sense to create high speed trains across the country, there would be an amazing ability for the average American to travel economically and efficiently. Riding the shinkansen is definitely part of an authentic Japanese travel experience.
Passing Mt. Fuji is always a beautiful sight. Here's a crummy iphone video in real time speed!