Strap yourself in, It's Osaka!
 Dotonburi, Lively

Dotonburi, Lively

Searing heat hit us as we got off the local JR railway line at Osaka, this wasn't helped by the fact Namba station seemed to give us as many stairs as we could manage, the sweat of determination made us glow almost as much as the bright bright lights of Dotonbori that evening.
Our hotel is opposite the swinging street that everyone gravitates towards, situated between a restaurant that lets you catch your own fish for your meal and a vending machine that looks like a cat.

Nightlife
Dotonburi is a street or series of streets that centre around a lively short canal, food shops, bars, Pachinko halls all line the streets, stacked over one another like a super market aisle. Not all the good shops are at ground level it is always worth looking up and seeing what lies above!
The main street is mostly food and tourist shops, a covered arcade runs parallel over a bridge packed with people taking pictures of the Glico running man (dont worry, I had no idea who he was either) the shops stretch on for as far as the eye can see but be warned taking a shortcut back to the bright lights of the canal may take you through the red light district.

Food
The restaurants all have giant signs, often animated, that signify what you will find to eat there, giant Crabs, a Puffer fish a giant angry chef(?). The food is great and all sorts of local delicacies can be picked up for not much money. Try Okonomyaki - its an egg pancake filled with vegetables filled with various things of your choosing, covered in sauce. Dontonbori is like Blackpool on steroids in carnival season, its bright its brash and it's a lot of fun.

  Okonomyaki on Dotonbori Canal

Okonomyaki on Dotonbori Canal

 Glico's (maker of the Pocky sweet) Running man

Glico's (maker of the Pocky sweet) Running man

It's not all bright lights and short skirts you know
Himeji Castle, about an hour on the local train or 20mins on the Shinkansen, is a brilliant white (apparently its far too white for the locals) , newly restored castle dating back to 1333. It isconsidered to be the blueprint for feudal period architecture in Japan and is an impressive site. I have to admit one of the problems Japan has is that nearly all of its historic buildings are/were made of wood so frequently you will read either certain bits or most of the building were burnt down (normally by lightning) at some stage. and rebuilt over the intervening centuries.

 Himeji castle, gleaming after recent resotration

Himeji castle, gleaming after recent resotration

 Himeji gardens...stunning

Himeji gardens...stunning

Nara, Buddha and the bowing deer.
A little closer to Osaka is Nara a small town that has several amazing shrines, including the world's oldest and the world's biggest wooden buildings. More importantly for tourist are the wild deer that roam freely. Forget the path to enlightenment, buy a bag of crackers and let the deer bow to you, shit on the floor and lick their own piss, now thats entertainment in anyones book right!

There are 7-8 temples spread across the town, some are little over run by Japanese school children when we went but that has been par for the course everywhere so far. Todai-ji Temple, the world's largest historic wooden building (note: was struck by lightning, surprise!, and is only 2/3rds of the original size) is an awesome sight. The main hall houses the world's largest bronze Buddha the ears are 8.3 ft tall alone.
 

 Todai-ji Buddha, weighs 500 tonnes

Todai-ji Buddha, weighs 500 tonnes

 The deer in Nara actually bow to be fed by tourists

The deer in Nara actually bow to be fed by tourists