The Kansai region of Japan is well known for its historical significance. Visitors flock to famous sites such as Himeji and Osaka Castles. It boasts many superlatives: Hōryū-ji Golden Hall, the oldest wooden structure in the world, Tōdai-ji Main Hall, the largest wooden structure in the world, which houses Daibutsu, the largest bronze statue in the world, Japan’s tallest temple pagoda in Tō-ji, Kyoto. Even the animals make it onto the mainstream tourist track, with opportunities to feed bowing deer in Nara and mischievous macaques in Kyoto. Having spent time here before and had our fill of history over the past year, we sought out the quirky, quintessentially Japanese things in Osaka.
The Museum of Housing and Living has a wonderful walk-through re-creation of the city in earlier years, and smaller dioramas for periods from its beginnings to present. We were offered kimonos to wear completing the immersion into the past.
There is a museum dedicated to the invention of instant ramen. Centered around the quest of Momofuko Ando and his quest to create a nutritious food that would be easily stored and distributed in post world war two Japan. We watched a movie in Japanese about the history and people making noodles, we colored our own Cup a Noodle containers and had them filled with our choice of ingredients and flavors.We tried our hand at throwing ninja stars in Iga City, the birthplace of Iga-Ryu Ninjutsu. The visit included a tour of a ninja house, complete with trap doors, and displays of clothes and weapons and history. The most impressive was the demonstrations by the masters of the art of ninjutsu, the ninjas.
Although none of these will make it onto the main tourist trail, they embody a part of Japan we love. Under all the aesthetics and beauty and pride, Japan is filled with quirkiness.