Osaka is not the nicest place in Japan. It's entirely possible to leave this entry at that but it's been a while since our last update so we should probably go into more detail.
When we stepped off the Shinkansen and Shin-Osaka station the weather wasn't great and there was nothing except depressingly grey buildings all around the station and, as it turned out, everywhere else. After getting the wrong train (or it might have been the right train in the wrong direction) we eventually ended up at our place of refuge, which was an unhappy cross between a hotel and a hostel. It was also in an area not unlike a slightly taller, less welcoming Neasden in appearance. It was also swarming with homeless people and other characters of low moral fibre, whose massive shelter we discovered by accident when trying to find our hotel. We didn't do much on our first night except take the rickety old subway to somewhere more lively, had dinner in one of those places with the entire menu recreated in plastic form in the window outside and wandered around for a bit. Not a great start.
Our remaining days weren't exactly highlights either, but the aquarium was worth going to just to see the two huge whale sharks they have there. We had also planned to go up to the roof of the Umeda Sky building, which is basically four different buildings that join at the top and look a bit like a bar stool. The last few floors before the viewing area have to be passed via an escalator which starts at sixty floors up (or something stupid like that), but it decided to rain and we just couldn't be bothered as the place really was, in my humble opinion, rubbish. It's entirely possible that we just didn't do enough research and so didn't know where to go, but then again we haven't had to put a huge amount of effort into finding things to do anywhere else on our travels. If you have to put effort into finding things to do in a place, then the place must be doing something wrong! In fairness, the evening wasn't a total disaster as underneath the Umeda Sky building is a mock up of an Edo period street, complete with shops and restaurants. We found a place to eat there that looked nice and, in keeping with the general Osaka theme, turned out to be alright, so-so, ho hum, not bad, can't complain and average.
We rounded off our stay in Osaka with a bit of stupidity born of our desperation to get the HELL OUT of there. Our plan had been to return to Kyoto and get buses to some of the temples we'd missed out during our stay there, but I thought that because we had these rail passes which allowed us to pretty much go anywhere, we should just pick a place a go there. We picked a place called Takayama, which apparently is very nice. We wouldn't know much about that though, as we spent a grand total of one and a half hours there, which was enough time to eat and leave. The journey turned out to be four hours either way, but after checking distances on the map and comparing them to the distances we'd been traveling by train elsewhere in Japan, we'd assumed that it would be much shorter. Unfortunately we failed to take into account the fact that the Shinkansen travel at over 200mph, whereas the mountain railway we had to take... and there's no other way to put it... didn't. However, the journey itself was interesting and pretty scenic, winding round mountains and over rivers, and we'd have taken more photos had it not rained for most of it.
Overall, Osaka was, for us, alright. It could so easily have been worse, as if the hotel had copied the example set by the area outside we'd have been paying to sleep on wet cardboard in the rain with cobwebs as blankets. Luckily that didn't happen, which is about the best thing I can say about the place. Things should improve though, as our next stop is Hiroshima, which I have high hopes for!