Anyway, we were wandering around the courtyard (there was another chrystanemum exhibition there) when an elderly gentlemen accosted us and told us (in half-Japanese, half-English) to get up to the 8th floor of the castle, because the view there was magnificent! He also pointed out the best spot to take a picture of the castle (klik obliged), and since he pointed out the ticket office (actually the three ticket dispensing machines) we went in. It was busy and the line for the elevator was long, so we decided to take the stairs -- but not before we had seen all five of the introductory videos about Hideyoshi and the castle.
On the 8th floor, you could step outside to take in the view. It was indeed magnificent, but the overcast sky made it impossible to see very far -- apparently you can see Kobe and Nara on clear days. I also bought a pin of Osaka Castle, which now adorns the bag. After that, we went down to see the exhibits. Most of it details the winter siege and the summer war between the Toyotomi and the Tokugawa, the rebuilding of the castle by the Tokugawa and the everyday running of the castle and the city of Osaka. All very interesting, but it was a lot, there was little context and little English explanation, and there were a lot of people milling about... At least I got three more stamps for my collection. ;)
After a lunch consisting of a takoyaki set (quite delicious, but I didn't care much for the octopus) and two imagawayaki (very good, especially the custard one), we took the subway again to Nippombashi station, to "Den-den Town" -- Osaka's version of Akihabara. We decided to look for a lens for klik's camera, and the smallest shop seemed to have the best price by far (beating the others with at least 12000 yen) -- and still it would be more expensive than we would pay in the Netherlands for that lens... So much for that plan.
But we didn't know that at the time. When we were contemplating entering a building that looked like it had interesting wares, we were accosted by Ken, a Taiwanese Chinese who had grown up in Canada. He talked us into the building, which was operated by Chinese people. He told us all about himself and about the store, about the restaurant on the third floor, etcetera. When we said our goodbyes later, he even offered to drive us anywhere we wanted with his car. It was a bit uncomfortable, like he really wanted to stick with us or something. Sorry pal, you're friendly enough, but we're only with the two of us.
After having escaped, we wandered through the various streets -- the shops are indeed very similar to what you can find in Akihabara, with lots of overlap. Volks has a large presence in Akihabara, it also has it in Osaka. There's Yellow Submarine stores, an Animate and a Gamers... if you have seen one, there is little need to visit the other. We did buy the CD single of the Spice & Wolf ending theme (we hope it's the ending theme) at the Gamers, but that's about it.
Then we wandered into the Bic Camera, known for their huge selection of products. If it gets sold even once per year, they keep it in stock. They had that particular lens too, but also more expensive than the first shop we checked. We did check out the PC hardware section, and it had indeed a huge selection -- racks and racks and racks with nothing but mice, as many keyboards, etcetera. Really mindboggling -- and very noisy! Osakans seem to be more noisy than the people in Tokyo, turning up the volume of the prerecorded sales pitches just a notch higher, accentuated with colored lights and stroboscopes...
By then we were quite done with it all, so we searched for a place to have dinner. It ended up being an okonomyaki place, where they baked the pancakes at your table. Very delicious, and indeed a different style than we saw in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Still after that, we ambled up to Namba Park, a giant shopping mall that's built as a series of terraces. On top of each terrace is a small park, so that if you are on the top floor and look down, it seems like a green hill all the way down to the street level! We walked around on those top levels for a bit, took some nice photos of the whole thing, and ended up eating an ice cream next to the movie theatre. The three teenagers who were tending the store got all giggly because they had to speak English to us. The first one pointed to the second one, as if saying: "He will help you, don't ask anything to me!" but the second one referred us to the third one, who had no-one else to blame... With a lot of laughing and pointing and broken Japanese and English, we managed to order what we wanted. They asked where we came from, what we were doing ("Oh, that is quite the vacation, coming from the Netherlands to Japan!") and a few more things. When the third one, who had helped us, left for the evening, she came by to wave at us and say goodbye to us. Cute.
Then we got back to the ryokan all tired and a bit cranky. Now we're chillin' after a hot bath.