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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Random Thoughts: Adventure in Japan -- Part 3

This is the last installment of the series. To read the previous two installments, follow the links below:

Adventure in Japan -- Part 1

Adventure in Japan -- Part 2

Osaka, Japan is a the second largest city in Japan with over 20 million people and the commercial capital. It was also the base for Toyotomi Hideyoshia in his successful unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. Different functions and roles resulted in a city that mixes modern technology with historical heritages, making Osaka into a unique city where traditional culture thrived side-by-side along present day life style. Here you can find skyscrapers (e.g., Business Innovation Center Osaka, where HRI 2010 conference was held at) alongside sixteenth century castles (e.g., Osaka Castle right in the middle of the city), and highly sophisticated robots (e.g., D+ ropop robot, designed and made in Osaka) together with women wearing the traditional Japanese clothing, Kimono, waiting at the subway station.

Left: Business Innovation Center Osaka. Right: Osaka Castle in the middle of the city

Left: D+ ropop robot representing modern beauty and advanced technology. Right: Woman in traditional Kimono waiting at the subway station.

During our visit, we stayed at the City Plaza Osaka hotel (left below) right at the heart of downtown, where we can see the crowded city landscape right from the hotel window (right below). The building has a very modern look from the outside. However, the oval shaped top portion actually contained traditional Japanese spa, where people would bath together completely naked (they do separate men from women).

Left: City Plaze Osaka Hotel. Right: City landscape view from our hotel room.

Due to our busy schedule, we only had half a day to look around the city before we fly back to the US, so in the morning, I was forced to take on the Japanese subway system all by myself so I could complete the mission of getting wife some famous Japanese cosmetics. I had two hours to do it, and I pulled it off even though I almost got on a train going the opposite direction and had to run in pouring rain in random directions.

Left: People riding subway train on a Saturday morning. Right: Street view of downtown Osaka.

Left: Saturday shoppers at the shopping district. Middle: people enjoying traditional Japanese food (in the cylinder). Right: Female customers shopping for Kimono.

Left: Cosmetics store. Right: Sushi shop along the street.

Later in the morning, we visited the famous Osaka Castle. Since the castle is located right in the middle of the city, we simply walked over. It was raining at the time, but that didn't stop us from a nice spring field trip. The ancient looking castle with a moat surrounding it was right next to the very modern looking Osaka City Museum, making a very sharp visual contrast.

Left: Osaka City Museum right across the street from, Right: Moat of the Osaka Castle

Students making spring field trips on Saturday. Left: Elementary school kids heading to unknown location at the subway station. Right: Middle school students visiting the Osaka Castle

The Osaka Castle park covers approximately 15 acres of ground. Due to limited time (and we really didn't want to miss our plane), we walked straight to the main building in the castle and then walked straight back to the hotel. I wish we could have spared a bit more time because there were already beautiful cherry blossoms in other parts of the park.

Looking at city landscape from the top of the Osaka Castle (can you see the cherry blossoms?)

The main castle has turned into a museum showing many historical artifacts and documents dating back to the sixteenth century. Most levels of the building prohibited photographing, so I don't really have a lot to show you here except the two below.

Left: Miniature figures depicting an ancient battle. Right: Battle helmets wore by ancient war lords.

It was quite fortunate that such a famous historical site is within walking distance from our hotel, so we were actually able to see traditional and historical sites during the trip. I hope one day I can bring my family to visit the beautiful city again, so wife can go shop for cosmetics while I do real sightseeing. :)

Video of the Day:

The beautiful Osaka Castle