The hotel breakfast buffet was…interesting. Triangles of pressed rice triangles with a sesame crust, miso soup, really hard sour pickled cherries, seaweed, some cooked vegetables. Some miniature croissants were the only concession to non-Japanese guests. We were still there when breakfast closed, and watched the serving women bowed to the almost empty room and recite a formal thank you. I wonder if they still do it with nobody there.
In the subway we asked for Kaiyu pass, and were directed to the station master’s office. The pass would give us entry to Osaka’s aquarium plus a day’s travel on the subway pass for subway for about £13 – once again, Japan was proving much cheaper than London, where the aquarium alone costs £25.
The aquarium was on the bay by a ferris wheel; it seemed a bit of a sterile area, as though attractions had been sited there in a desperate attempt to bring some life into the place. Osaka’s aquarium is, (along with a Universal Studios theme park, in which we had no interest), its biggest tourist attraction and it was well thought out, with the route spiralling down the centre to view different environments at several levels, so we could watch otters and sealions on land, then under water. The main central tank was enormous, which was just as well considering it held a couple of whalesharks. I don’t think captivity is ever ideal for wild animals but they had made an effort – the penguins could stand under an artificial snow shower if they chose (they did), and a fur seal reclined with its head resting on a pile of ice.
At the end, there was a shallow tank where you could touch baby sharks (slightly rough) and stingrays (slimy). The only things that really grated were an undersized enclosure holding a solitary capybara, and a couple of small cages holding a sloth and a bearcat respectively. I guess the sloth doesn’t want to move far though. There were surprisingly few western tourists; most visitors were Japanese, many with young children.
After we’d finished with the aquarium we took the subway to Namba station to get a bus map (but they didn’t have any in English) and to cash in our Pasmo cards, only to discover that although Pasmo’s can be used and topped up in Kyoto and Osaka, you can only surrender them and get your deposit back in Tokyo – so that was ¥1000 down the drain. To max out our day pass we then went to Tennoji station to buy a ticket for the airport train, so there would be no delays on our journey out if Japan – it was going to be a very early start as it was. Then it was back to the hotel and a 7-11 ready meal. Two restaurant dinners in a row would have been just too extravagant.