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O Fim duma Viagem

Osaka Castle Park

JAPAN | Saturday, 27 February 2016 | Views [327]

Last Monday, Yamaguchi-sensei had asked what we’d done over the weekend, and had been disappointed when none of us responded “I went to Osaka Castle!” Apparently the plum blossoms are supposed to be particularly beautiful this time of year. (Turns out Japan has flowering trees that aren’t cherry trees. Who knew!) Friday was another classless Friday, so I decided to go visit the castle. Well, not actually the castle, but at least the park around it.

I almost talked myself out of it when I saw the public transport directions. There was no single train that I could get on that would magically bring me to Osaka Castle, but if I got onto the JR line, and then transferred at Umeda to the Loop Line, it should bring me right there. It would take 1 hour. Given how many difficulties I’d had recently when it was all the same line and the commute was 30 minutes, this sounded like it would be ripe with opportunities for failure. Not to mention expensive, especially if I needed to transfer leave past the turnstiles to transfer from one line to another. I mean, Google said it was only 220 yen, but what did they really know?

Then reality sunk in. I was spending a semester in Osaka. I couldn’t do that and not visit Osaka Castle. And if there were beautiful plum blossoms now, I wanted to see those before they died and the sakura started next month. I needed to be able to manage Japanese trains semi-competently instead of being scared of them.

So I sighed, made sure I had a book, and set off. The first step was at least easy, because I knew how to get to Umeda via the JR line. And then it turned out that all I needed to do was take a left and follow the signs for the loop line. A quick confirmation of the map of stops (you win this round, parentals… Even if it’s not the most accurate description, I think it does make it clearer what I’m talking about) confirmed which direction I needed to get on, and I did. The loop line trains looked a lot like a long-distance train. More seats, less standing room, and basically no hand-holds. I don’t think this is just an effect of being from Chicago: Osaka loop line sounds like it’s only going to cover Osaka proper, right? Not huge distances that warrant a train that looks like it’s made to cross the European countryside?

Despite it constantly feeling like I was on the wrong train, I wasn’t, and a few stops later I could get out at the station for Osaka castle park. Conveniently named “Osaka Castle Park Station.” Basically, Japanese likes smashing words together even more than German does. Except that, unlike German, Japanese occasionally goes “this word is a bit too long,” and will shorten it into Castlesation, or something like that. (Note: This is a completely made up example.) So I got out and started looking around.

Google had been right and wrong. It was, in fact, only 220 yen, which was very cheap for a trip from my apartment to the center of Osaka. It was wrong because the trip took well under an hour. And Google did not even begin to prepare me for a station that actually looked pretty.

Train station

It got even better when I got outside.

The park was much larger than I’d been expecting, and I was very glad that I’d come for the park and not the castle. Because, although I did end up working my way there, I was very much moving at my leisure in whichever direction I wanted. Which, all else being equal, usually ends up bringing me to the highest ground I could find. The people who built Osaka Castle must have had the same idea in mind.

The park was beautiful in that dreary way nature is in February. Most of the trees were still dead, and there was no consolation of snow, resulting in a landscape that, by itself, would probably not have been that nice. But I could see the potential of what it would look like in spring, and I knew I’d be back.

Waiting for spring

There were some areas that didn’t need to wait for spring…

Tree

Green

And others that would have been pretty no matter when you saw them.

Pond

Osaka

And of course there was the castle.

House

 

 

Castle?

Castle

It was beautiful and amazing and would have been worth everything even if it had been much harder to get to. The fact that it was simple and cheap was just an added bonus.

When I’m exploring for myself and find a new place, it generally fits into one of four categories:

  1. “No! I will never go back! Unless, like, there’s an earthquake and it’s the only place I can go.”

  2. “Eh, probably won’t go back. We’ll see, though.”

  3. “I’d like to go back. Sometime. Sometime soon.”

  4. (Wakes up next morning.) “What shall I do today? I could find something new… or I could go back… hmm… I don’t really need to do new things, do I?”

Osaka Castle Park was definitely in the last category. So, since I was leaving with the intention to come back, and soon, that gave me a very good reason to scout the surrounding area for important things. Like a place that sold coffee.

As I left the park, I realized that I’d spent the majority of the last few hours standing and walking, so my standards for what I wanted out of the coffee-selling place fell a lot. Like, all I really wanted was a place that sold coffee and had chairs. And the first place I found that fit that criteria was a Starbucks, specifically a Starbucks with sakura lattes, so I stopped there and got my first taste of what the entire next month would taste like. (Sakura flavoring is very popular during sakura blossoming month. Which is the old name for March.)

Starbucks

The coffee was very good, but I regretted it very shortly after leaving the Starbucks. Because, on my way back to train station, I passed a very familiar logo that stopped me short. The logo for Seattle’s Best Coffee.

Seattle’s Best Coffee is the coffeeshop that was attached to every Borders. When Borders went out of business, they survived, though finding places that sell them, particularly places that sell lattes, became much, much harder. The last time I found one was when I was made a visit to Carthage College. Not entirely coincidentally, I am a Carthage student now.

I am definitely coming back.

Distance

Tags: beautiful, castle, coffee, park, sakura, trees, water

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