Quick flight to Osaka, Japan a breeze from Guam
Quick flight to Osaka, Japan a breeze from Guam
One of the top unchecked items on my bucket list has been to experience Osaka in Japan, and since it’s only a short 4-hour flight from Guam, I decided to finally make the trip.
United Airlines flies direct from Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (GUM) to Kansai International Airport (KIX) twice a week. We left Guam in the morning and arrived by noon Japan-time. Once we cleared customs, we jumped on one of the convenient express trains to Hankyu Respire Osaka Hotel in downtown Osaka.
Osaka is the third largest city in Japan with a population of 2.7 million and is known for its local dialect and casual attitude, which sets it apart from Tokyo.
Osaka Castle and Umeda Sky Building
After checking in, we took another train to see the famous Osaka Castle. Like many historical Japanese buildings made of wood, Osaka Castle has burned down and been rebuilt many times over the years. The current castle was rebuilt in 1935.
Until you complete the walk from the main entrance to the actual castle, it is difficult to understand the scale and elaborate stonework of the Osaka Castle property. The castle itself has eight floors with intricate screen displays and artifacts reflecting how the resident shoguns lived. From the observation deck on top, we could see the famous golden carp on each side of the rooftop.
Next, as the sun set, we made our way downtown to see the famous Umeda Sky Building observatory, which consists of two connecting 40-story towers. The vertigo-inducing towers are 173 meters tall, and from the round rooftop atrium we could see every corner of Osaka as night fell over the city — a perfect ending to our first day in Japan.
Memorable walking path
Early the next morning, we took a train to Koyasan Station to visit the Mount Koya, UNESCO World Heritage Site and mausoleum of esoteric Buddhist founder Kobo Daishi whose grave has been the site of pilgrimages for over 1,000 years.
At the station, we hopped on a bus to the entrance of the Ichonohashi walking path where we met with our English-speaking monk guide Tamura-san. As we crossed the bridge and ascended the snow-covered stone path going up the mountain, it seemed as though we had entered a different realm as all sound was muffled with no wind. The ancient stone path was lined on both sides with rows of ancient stone gravestones of old Daimyo feudal lords with tall forest cedars growing in between making a natural roof over the path.
As we hiked up, our guide explained the symbolism of the trees and rocks around us in addition to the history of many of the larger recent graves, including the location of many large famous Japanese company plots purchased by their founding presidents for personal and employee use. Tamura-san went on to explain how his sect believes everyone is the same in death so petty differences in life are pointless. After reflecting on this and the incredible scenery around us, several of my friends were overcome with emotion and started to cry.
As we continued our ascent, we passed the famous Sugatamo no Ido, a well where legend says if you cannot see your reflection on the water inside, you will die within three days. Fortunately for those of us dared to do so, we saw our faces.
We climbed about 45 more minutes to reach the final Torodo lantern hall where photography was prohibited from that point. Our guide walked us to the front of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum, which is actually a 3-meter-deep cave sealed by a door. Kobo Daishi is said to have locked himself inside where he is not dead but in a state of eternal meditation. We lined up before the door, closed our eyes and bowed while our guide chanted verses of enlightenment.
Terrific Tsutenkaku Tower
After, we made the trek back down the mountain to our bus and next stop to Tsutenkaku, or the 108-meter-tall Eiffel Tower of Osaka. Tsutentaku Tower was built in 1956 and is famous for its illumination, which changes color based on what the weather will be like the next day.
If you have the guts, the tower has a slide that snakes around the building from the top. The 94-meter level floor is made of class, offering a great view of the city from above.
Inside Tsutenkaku, each floor had shops and restaurants with Osaka-themed souvenirs and more. After exploring, we left to enjoy some famous Osaka Kushiyaki fried meat and vegetables for dinner. We made it back to the hotel to rest in time for our next day’s big adventure in Kyoto.
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