The Charmed Life: Osaka Castle and Kuromon Market

It is a fact of life: people LOVE amusement parks! And while most visitors to Osaka may come for Universal Studios, some of us get our culture fix by exploring castles, temples, markets, and souvenir shopping areas.

* Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most famous landmarks and is a must-see stop when visiting the city.

* Now that's what I call a moat! I'd like to imagine that this one has ninja-piranhas!

* The samurai have come to pledge fealty to the shogun!

* But first, ice cream! Featuring (oddly) caucasian twin mascots (?)

* The Castle was built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who is regarded as Japan's second great unifier.

* A special feature of the castle is the installation of gold leaves on the sides of the tower; built to impress visitors and surpass the beauty of Azuchi Castle, then the area's most famous castle.

* Toyotomi Hideyoshi is also well known for instituting the law that only the samurai could bear arms; as well as infamous for ordering the Japanese invasion of Korea.

* We have come to pay tribute!

* Kuromon Ichiba Market is another must visit when in Osaka. Known as "Osaka's kitchen", the Market is where restaurant chefs and locals buy their supplies. So you just know the food here is that fresh and good!

* Baked scallops is a personal favorite of mine; it being a speciality in my ancestral town of Cebu, Philippines.

* Apart from being a market, shop owners can also prepare, cook, and serve food to customers right on the spot. Today we would be enjoying not just the renowned Kobe Beef, but also the elusive Matsusaka Beef!

* Matsusaka is an even rarer strain of Wagyu; much more so than Kobe Beef! Per Japanese internal law, only two thousand cows can be slaughtered every year for Matsusaka Beef making it ultra premium and pricey! 

* As expected, the taste was exquisite! However, if you ask me which one is better between Kobe and Matsusaka, I would be hard pressed to decide as they both taste very similar. The higher price of one is just due to its rarity / low supply.

* For toy lovers and collectors, Denden Town is heaven!

* An area full of curiosities: there was a long queue for this shop which would only let batches in at a time.

* And stores selling solid action figures of all brands; renowned and obscure.

* For variety and value, Tokyu Hands is a souvenir shopper's dream. I must have spent three hours here just going through the store floor per floor, aisle per aisle.

* You know a place is awesome when even its cheeseburgers come in Kobe Beef meat!

* Of course, nothing beats the solid combo of pure steak and rice.

* Best enjoyed with a shot of sake. Kampai! Here's to never-ending eating!


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