Japan trip, day 5 – Osaka noodles, dogs & onsen

Saturday was my day for exploring the fun (yet still educational!) side of Osaka.

I took a train to Ikeda station via Umeda to visit a shrine to one of Japan’s biggest inventions. I was headed to The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen museum! To you and me they’re Pot Noodles, but in Japan, it’s instant ramen – noodles in a soup with added ingredients.

The museum’s exhibits were mostly in Japanese, but there is an audio guide available from reception which covers two of the more interactive exhibits. From what I remember, Momofuku Ando basically realised that he wanted to help feed everyone. After much experimentation he came up with a way of frying and drying noodles that would mean they just needed water added. Then he decided to put them in a cup, and long story short the rest is history. Although the biggest revelation I think was how he solved the problem of machines dropping noodles in to cups without them going in squint. But I won’t give it away just in case you ever visit.

The best part of the museum is where you get to make your own Cup Noodles (as they’re called in Japan). You design a cup and then noodles get put in, you choose your soup flavour and ingredients, a foil lid is put on, the pot is shrink wrapped, and voila! That’s a classy souvenir, no?!!

Upstairs was another exhibit where you could make noodles from scratch, but you had to reserve that, so I couldn’t join in. It was full of schoolkids so maybe it was just for kids.

On the way back to the train station I went into a small sushi restaurant and had lunch, then headed into Osaka again. After yesterday’s fail with a dog cafe, I’d managed to find another – Dog Mind Cafe near Osaka Castle.

I love dogs, so the thought of some place you can go just to spend time with dogs appealed to me. These kind of cafes are popular with Japanese people who crave a pet but can’t have one for work or accommodation reasons. It was 500 yen to get in and you bought your drink from a machine. Not much of a cafe! Now maybe it was because I didn’t make it there until 5pm but all the dogs looked knackered and were just lazing around. Either that or they were bored. I was hoping they’d be all excited! But no. A man dumped a small poodle thing in my lap and it started dozing. Looking around, most other people had a sleeping dog on their lap too.

It just felt a bit weird, not least because there was a funny looking guy standing watch all of the time, so I left after about 20 minutes. Disappointing!

After a nip back to my apartment to drop off my Cup Noodle, I headed off to Spa World. How to describe Spa World…. If you think of Japanese hot spring baths – lots of them – and add a bit of Las Vegas casino styling, you’d get Spa World. It’s basically a collection of hot baths, saunas and steam rooms, but all designed around different country’s themes.

I headed up in the elevator after paying the 900 yen entrance fee, and into the changing rooms. Clothing of any kind is forbidden in Japanese baths, so it was off with the clothes and into another world. Or at least Japan’s interpretation of other countries’ interpretation of onsen.

October saw men using the European Zone, while women were using the Asian Zone, so I started with a sauna in Finland, before sitting in a massive bath shaped bath. Next was Ancient Greece, with marbled hot baths. Spain was outside bathing, which was extremely pleasant in the cool nighttime breeze. Back inside, Italy offered a bath of milk, honey and royal jelly. I was excited as I hoped it would actually be a bath of milk. But it must have just been water with a hint of milk in it as it looked like normal water to me.

Before you go thinking the water must have been filthy, it was extremely clean. The idea is not to wash in the bath but to soak in it- you wash before you get in the bath.

After my fill of onsen, I headed to the eighth floor which has a swimming pool and flumes that you ride sitting on an inflatable ring. I had three goes, they were brilliant! One had a steep drop before shooting you up a wall at a 70 degree angle.

I literally thought I was going to fly off the top. Just as I was sure of it, I slowed and started going backwards, gaining speed until I ended up in the pool. It was great fun! So I would definitely recommend Spa World. It was good fun and something that felt very Japanese.

By this time it was getting near 9pm, so I headed to Namba Parks, and found a nice Italian restaurant – I figure if I eat Japanese food for lunch or dinner, the other one doesn’t have to be Japanese right?

I managed to avoid switching the TV on in the apartment, and fell into bed with a book. Tomorrow I would be saying goodbye to Osaka and be boarding a train for my next Japanese experience.