Since the main reason for our visit to Osaka was to go to the Arashi concert (twice), we didn't really do much tourist stuff over the four days we were there.
I was wondering how to write about the Arashi concert without sounding like a total fan girl but that is going to be impossible so I'll save it for another post. A totally fan girl, squealing with excitement post.
We had big plans for Osaka - Harry Potter world at Universal Studios, Osaka Zoo and other touristy things but my sister's health wasn't the best so she saved her strength for the concert and we took it easy. And, in between concerts and spending time with friends, we really only had the Saturday to play with.
Our big (non-Arashi) adventure was a visit to Spa World. I'd been to a few onsen before but but my sister had never been to one and was a bit apprehensive.
Before I go any further, Spa World absolutely does NOT allow admission to people with tattoos. You might get in if you had one small enough to cover with a band-aid but otherwise it's not going to happen.
When you go to smaller onsen in Japan, the system is easy to figure out. You go in the change room, strip off, shower then hit the baths. It's pretty hard to go wrong.
Spa World is huge though. There are a number of floors including two zones - European and Asian which change sex monthly. Well the availability of the areas changes according to the customer's gender anyway. We got the European zone on our visit.
To start with, you pay the entry fee and get a wrist band with a thingy that you charge things to throughout your visit (massages, food etc). We got a voucher at our hotel so our entry was $10 instead of the normal $25. It's definitely worth asking about if you intend to go. We weren't told about it until I asked at the hotel reception and it's a huge saving.
You store your shoes in a locker at the entrance and walk around barefoot. I'd have much preferred a pair of the disposable slippers you get everywhere else in Japan because the floor felt a bit manky.
We started on the floor with the massages. You get to walk around and check them all out. The prices are pretty much standard - about $1 a minute and there were heaps of places to choose from.
After that, we headed to the spa zone. That's where it got confusing. You had mumu things to put on after you stored your clothes in a locker. This is where it got confusing. We weren't really sure if you were supposed to wear knickers under the mumu or if that would be would be weird. I tried to watch what other people did but that was even weirder.
So in knickers and mumu on, we headed to the spa only to find you had to enter completely naked. Back to the locker to get rid of the knickers then put the mumu on for the short walk to the spa entry only to throw it in the laundry basket. We expected the showering area to be before the entry but it's actually in the middle of the place. It was a strange and non-intuitive system but finally we hit the water.
There were a heap of different spas with different themes. My favourite was the outdoor spa where you can lay back and relax and watch the moon (rather than the moons in the baths). There were a few sauna areas too. For an extra price, you could get treatments like full body scrubs. We walked by the room and one of the clients was laid up on the table, legs spread with just a small towel to cover her inner workings. Umm, yeah not sure why they don't face the tables the other way.
After all the relaxation, we headed to the grooming area. There is a ton of grooming stuff provided but some of it is a bit... well, I guess some people are comfortable using things like foot scrubbers that have other people's dead skin in them but that's not for me. The hairdryers, toiletries and other single-use items were okay though.
Because Spa World is a one stop shop, we headed to the food area for some okonimiyaki. That was pretty good except the staff cook it at your table and the girl kept walking off, forbidding us to touch anything while she was gone. Forbidding. Of course I touched it. At the same time, anything else you ordered, you grilled yourself so it was a bit confusing.
So, totally relaxed, we headed back to the hotel for a relaxing night of sleep.
While takoyaki and okonomiyaki are the most famous foods in Osaka, my favourite is kushi katsu. Food on sticks, deep fried. Does it get better than that?
Check out the pictures. OMG, awesome. Some of the vegetables were a bit dry especially the potato and the prawns came with their heads on which was a lot of messing around to eat. The cheese was extremely good and we had a variety of meats. The scallops won my heart. They always do.
We stayed at the Raizen Kita hotel which is part of the Chuo group of low cost hotels. You get your own room with a shared bathroom and basic facilities like toiletries, towels and a communal area with tea and coffee, internet, bikes for loan etc. All for the price of $20 a night.
To be honest, for that price, so long as the place doesn't have bed bugs or other nasties, you are getting a great deal but I stayed there last year and was not nearly as impressed this time.
When we booked (via Hostelworld), I emailed them and asked for us to have two smoking rooms next to each other. We arrived early and no rooms had been assigned for us. They told us there were no smoking rooms but eventually found one. That meant we were on different floors which was a bit annoying.
I found the staff rather rude except for one girl who was fantastic. The room I'd been given was between two group rooms which also meant it was really loud.
But, considering we had private rooms for the price most places charge for a bunk in a dorm in Japan, it was pretty good value.
We'd booked the Raizan Kita for all the time we were in Osaka but my sister had a 7am flight out and we realised that the first train was at 5.15. That meant it'd be a stretch for her to get to the airport on time. We ended up finding a place near the airport with a shuttle bus for our last night. I can't remember the name (will add it in later) but it was a standard business chain with decent sized rooms.
We got there late and had to organise all our luggage. Even though it was winter in Osaka, the weather had been hotter than it had been back home. Our room was on the 15th floor and really warm. We couldn't get the air conditioner working so rang reception. They told us that they air conditioner was turned off in winter and we could open a window!
Osaka is a fun city and definitely much cheaper than Tokyo. It's a city I've never really got a handle on, as far as geography and getting around even though I've been there a few times now. It's a fun city though and definitely worth a visit.