Day 3 in Osaka, Japan

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Most Americans have never heard of Momofuku Ando. I certainly had not… and perhaps one of the last products I would imagine to be synonymous with the quote “Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat” is CupNoodles Top Ramen. In fact, I was quite curious as to why a visit to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum was on the itinerary for our Japanese culinary tour.

The museum was swarming with people of all ages from school children on field trips to adults visiting from throughout the world. Each of us were shepherded through the lines to make our own personally chefed CupNoodles, while listening to the fascinating story of how one man, deeply affected by the poverty and starvation caused by WWII, invented the world’s first instant noodle product, and subsequently used his fortune to establish a foundation dedicated to the sound growth of young people. Who knew that CupNoodles has such a rich and textured history and global impact on feeding the world? It was indeed a morning well spent.

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Lou Preston thinking how to have organic make the same impact in Japan and throughout the world

Observations about Osaka as we leave for Kyoto:

–          There is a fanciful sense of style with young, old, men, and women in Osaka, where there seems to be no one fashion trend, rather, individuality and creativity with fashion.

–          At the Hotel Granvia Osaka, everything is minimalistic with exquisite attention to detail. The toilet seats are heated; there is a heated mirror in the bathroom to prevent the glass from fogging up; the beds are hard as can be but comfortable and rice pillows are a reminder of Japanese lifestyle.

–          Architecture throughout Osaka is in transition, with old narrow alley ways and crowded spaces that open into large boulevards with modern glass high rises, artistic sculptures scattered about, and innovative design. The city is very clean and people seem respectful and orderly. They drive and walk on the left side, as in England, and during rush hour the subway station is a sea of black moving quickly.

–          The best shopping for food is found in major department stores in the basement level. There are unbelievable choices of fresh fruits and vegetables, gourmet delicacies and packaged foods. Shelves upon shelves of soy sauce choices made us all laugh.

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Day 2 in Osaka, Japan

We began our day mastering the elaborate subway system beginning at our Granvia Hotel, which is centrally located next to the Osaka Station.

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Arriving at Osaka Castle Parkwe were greeted by an impressive rock garden (a mini version of Stonehedge). IMG_4481

We crossed the Gokurakubashi Bridge leading to the castle which was built between 1583 and 1598.

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The museum displays with human actors animated over-elaborate artwork depicting scenes from the violent history of this castle throughout the centuries. The original castle was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi at the site of Ishiyama Hogan-ji Temple. After being reduced to ashes during the Winter Siege and Summer War of Osaka in 1614, Tokugawa Shogun mobilized 64 feudal lords in western and northern Japan and reconstructed the castle over a period of 10 years. Apparently, over 500,000 stones were used in the reconstructed walls of this castle.  IMG_4485

As you can see in these photos of John Ash and Rick Permutt, it doesn’t matter what century one lives in the lure of battle looms large. Rick Permutt

Our tour guide had brought Bento Box lunches for us to enjoy among the Stonehedge-style gardens of the park. Rick, ready to retire as a Kaiser Doc, is practicing for his new career as Japanese Sommelier, while Vintner Susan and Lou Preston pose for a photo op for their new Japanese brand.

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No rest for the weary as we continued our adventures in Nakazakoi, a neighborhood reminiscent of New York’s Chelsea. Nakazakoi offers a welcome reprieve from the bustling metropolis of Osaka with its fancy shopping, offering small boutique shops where entrepreneurs sell handmade artisan items. The shops are interspersed between quaint living spaces with tidy, abundant gardens.

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Our favorite shop, Nijiyura, sold batik fabrics representing both traditional and modern Japanese art.

We opted for the wild and crazy nightlife scene and took taxis to Dotonbori area of Osaka which resembles New York’s Time Square on a quiet night.

Tombori River Walk Osaka

Eating octopus balls on the street encouraged us to look for a more subdued place to dine along the Tombori (river walk). Much to our surprise, John and Jill found a well-named restaurant – Zen. This tiny restaurant on the river front seated about 15 people. The owner’s father-in-law who spoke perfect English lured us in, helped us to order, and after trying many of the house Sakes, upon hearing that we were from the Sonoma wine country, treated us to a bottle of quite delicious white Japanese wine.

…Just another day in the Land of the Rising Sun.