On this day: Osaka, Japan

See more from my On This Day series here, where I celebrate travel memories on their trip anniversaries.

On November 12, 2018, I was in Osaka, Japan.

We had spent two fun-filled days in Kyoto and wanted to break things up with a day trip over to Osaka. At only about 20 minutes away from Kyoto via the rapid service train, getting to the neighbouring city of Osaka was easy to arrange.

Mr. Chuckles is quite the whisky connoisseur, so one of his top bucket list items for this trip was a visit to Suntory Yamazaki Distillery. Established in 1899 by Shinjiro Torii, Suntory is the oldest Japanese alcohol distribution company, originally selling fortified wine and later specializing in malt whisky production. Yamazaki Distillery opened in 1924, and released Japan’s first single malt whisky five years later, the Suntory Whisky Shirofuda (White Label).

Nowadays, you can visit Yamazaki Distillery, located in the town of Shimamoto in Osaka Prefecture, for daily tours and tastings. Book early as spots usually fill up weeks in advance. Although I really do not have much taste for whisky, it was interesting to observe the distillery operations and learn more about the process.

After a morning at the distillery, we got back on the train and headed into downtown Osaka. We spent most of our afternoon and later evening in Dotonburi, the city’s principal tourist destination. Running along the Dotonburi canal from Dotonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge, this area was historically a theatre district but has since become a popular nightlife and entertainment zone. Large illuminated signboards line the district, highlighting a plethora of yummy food options.

The first highlight of our gastronomic exploration was a stop at Ichiran Ramen, where we had the unique and quirky experience of eating in a private booth.

Giving our stomachs a break, we walked over to see Osaka Castle. This historic landmark has gone through several rounds of destruction and restoration over the years. Construction originally started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple, which had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga 13 years earlier. The new castle was intended to become the centre of a new, unified Japan under the rule of daimyo (feudal lord) Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Following Hideyoshi’s death, the castle was attacked and destroyed by Tokugawa troops in 1615. It was rebuilt again by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but was burnt down in an unlucky lightning strike in 1665. It was not until 1931 that the castle tower was reconstructed once more, with major repairs decades later in 1997 bestowing upon it modern glamour and amenities.

It’s possible to enter the castle for a look within the tower, but we passed on this and opted instead for a trip back to Dotonburi for dinner. Our final meal in Osaka was waiting for us at at Fukutaro, where we enjoyed okonomiyaki, a pan-fried savoury pancake that is considered a regional culinary speciality.