After spending the afternoon exploring Himeji castle, I returned to the station to catch a train to Osaka. The station area is an interesting contrast to the massive 400 year old castle that dominates the view. All of the buildings are big and blocky. There is an interesting mix of office buildings, fast food restaurants, hostess bars and kimono shops.
I was happy to get back on the train and off my feet for a while. I took a Tokaido line rapid train to Osaka, which took about an hour. I could have also taken the shinkansen, but I would have spent more and only saved about 15 minutes.
Osaka station is HUGE. The station area combines both Osaka station and Umeda station. It serves over 2 million passengers each day, and is one of the top 5 busiest train stations in the world. I managed to navigate my way through Osaka station into the connected Umeda subway station to catch a train towards my hotel.
I had made an online reservation at Park Hotel Rinkai, an inexpensive business hotel in central Osaka. The online reservation explained that the hotel was close to two different subway stations. This statement was true, however the subway stations themselves were connected together in a sprawling underground maze. Navigating a confusing subway station after a full day of exploring a castle is difficult. I went to street level and found that all of the buildings looked very similar. This combined with no street names made locating the hotel an exercise in frustration. After about 30 minutes and several creative uses of four letter words, I finally found it thanks to street maps and some luck.
I booked the hotel both for the location and the cost. My single room was only 5800 yen (about $58) per night. This seemed like a good deal for being centrally located in Japan’s second largest city. I checked in using Japanese (the staff didn’t speak English at all), and went to my room. At this point I realized why the room only cost 5800 yen – it was TINY. The room was about the same size as my single dorm room at the University of Manitoba. There was a single bed, a desk, and a tiny bathroom that somehow jammed a toilet, sink, and deep bathtub / shower into a space better suited as a closet.
Despite being small, the room was clean, fairly quiet, and well equipped. Also, it really was close to the train station if you knew the correct exit number. The TV had regular local channels, but for 1000 yen I could buy a “movie card” at a vending machine near the elevator that would allow free unlimited access to all the movies for 24 hours. And when I say all the movies, I mean ALL the movies. There were brochures that gave hints to the different options available. Watching them all in 24 hours would have been impossible.
On a likely unrelated note, there was a sign on the TV indicating that I could order an in room massage by calling the front desk. I looked at the English translation of the hotel guide for details (always read the hotel guide to find where the nearest fire exit is), and the guide explained that yes, a masseuse could be ordered. I am going to assume it was a real massage, and not a “massage”. The bigger question is how could anyone get a massage in a hotel room that tiny.
By this point it was still before 8:00pm. I changed clothes and headed back out to the subway station to seek out an attraction from my guidebook – The Umeda Sky Building. The building is famous for its design: it looks like a table on top of two glass towers. There is a glass elevator from ground level to the 35th floor, and a glass walled escalator takes you up to the 39th floor. A glass walled escalator is an interesting experience, especially at night when the city it lit up. Not recommended for those afraid of heights.
The escalator lets you off at the 39th floor, which offers amazing 360 degree views of Osaka. It’s also possible to go up to the rooftop “floating garden” for an open air view of the city. Unfortunately it was raining at the time, so I didn’t spent much time on the rooftop. If you like unique buildings or tall places with a good city view, Umeda Sky building is a cool place for both in Osaka.
I spent a long time looking out the windows at Osaka before finally deciding to call it a night and head back towards my hotel, and towards a long overdue dinner.
(2015 Note) Unfortunately Park Hotel Rinkai has closed permanently. It was a good, inexpensive place to stay in Osaka. I ended up staying there 2 more times before moving back to Canada.