This is exactly the reason why I don't like to have a set itinerary when I go on trips. I often find that the unplanned explorations are the most memorable, and this was no exception.
After the craziness of Dotonbori, I decided that the next day in Osaka would be spent outside the city. Luckily, Google Maps told me that my hostel was just a 30 minute walk away from Osaka castle. And as much as I enjoy train hopping in Japan, a day without trains sounded pretty damn good.
To say the walk from my hostel to the castle was beautiful would be a gross understatement. Literally everything about that morning was perfect: It was in the mid 70's F, it was sunny with a mild breeze, there were flowers blooming and the trees were vibrant green. I walked down cute side streets, over bridges, past canals and through a small park. This day was already much better than the one before.
When I reached the castle, I couldn't help but stop and take a deep breath. Now, I've been to plenty of Japanese castles before and to be honest, most of them look pretty much the same. But there was something about Osaka castle that was different. The way it was raised high above the surrounding area, encircled by a moat and surrounded by gardens made it look so majestic.
It may have also been in part to the fact that I was so relieved that this day was much more serene than the anxiety-filled day I had before... but everything seemed especially beautiful.
When I reached the castle, I was happy to learn that I could go inside. It was filled with history and artifacts as I made my way to the top. At the top, I had a sprawling view of Osaka (shown in the cover photo of this blog) and it was absolutely amazing! Even if you're not into history, it's worth going up the castle just for that view!
When I finished at the castle, I took a stroll around the grounds and found myself in a huge bonsai garden. That garden was almost (if not more) beautiful than the castle itself.
I probably spent over an hour strolling through the winding paths of that bonsai garden. It seemed that few tourists actually took the time to explore the area around the castle, they just saw the castle then went on to their next scheduled destination. This is exactly the reason why I don't like to have a set itinerary when I go on trips. I often find that the unplanned explorations are the most memorable, and this was no exception.
After I made my way through the winding garden, I found myself back at the entrance of the castle. Outside the entrance there was a canal that was lined with food stalls and I headed there for some lunch. I then kept walking until I found myself in a huge park.
As I walked around the park, I was hit with a strange revelation: it was full of people. And I don't just mean a few hundred people, I mean thousands. There were people riding bikes, playing frisbee, soccer and baseball, families having picnics on blankets, couples on dates, etc. Everybody there was enjoying the outdoors with their friends and family. Why did this strike me so hard? Because back home, I've never seen anything like this. At home, people spend their free time playing video games, at the mall, at the movies etc. There are only a small portion of people who spend their days off enjoying the outdoors and I wish this wasn't the case.
I walked around that park for a couple hours (partially because I got lost in it for about 45 minutes...but I didn't mind). I wanted to be completely in the moment on this day, so I had put my GPS away. However, my aching legs told me that it was time to start walking back to the hostel, so I pulled out my GPS and headed back.
I spent the rest of that evening in my favorite rooftop chair and enjoyed the perfect weather until it got dark.
Although this day may seem pretty uneventful, it was my favorite day in Osaka. As an introverted person, I enjoy the calm days in nature more than the crazy days in the city. On these days, I remind myself that I don't travel just to see famous landmarks; I travel to have my eyes opened. I love to see different ways of life and to learn and grow from the experiences I have. On this day, I remembered to live more in the moment and to try to get outdoors more.
This was my last full day in Osaka and I was glad to leave the city on a positive note. Not every experience is going to be a great one, but the bad days make us appreciate the good days even more. So my message for today is: put your phone away, stray away from the beaten path, and explore!
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