Osaka is known for its numerous restaurants, some thirty-five thousand in this city of 2.8 million people. Vending machines abound in Osaka streets, dispensing such foods as noodles, rice crackers, soda, and dried seaweed.
Visitors are amazed at how well the Japanese do with their limited space. Thanks to surrounding waters most of the needed protein comes from fish and seafood.
For those who want to mingle with the resident Japanese and save money at the same time, the family inns, minshuku, are highly recommended. They are the Japanese version of bed and breakfasts. Rates are moderate. The inns are usually operated by a family. The overnight charge includes two meals served family style. Guests sleep on mattresses laid out on the tatami mats on the floor. House rules call for guests to take up their bedding in the morning and store it in a closet.
Every visitor to Japan should ride the Shinkansen (bullet) train to Kyoto, with its several many-tiered castles, former residences of the war lords. Japanese castles, quite unlike those in Europe, are architectural beauties as well as having been defensive structures. During rush hours Japanese trains are packed, literally packed in by rail employees, who push and shove people into the cars to achieve maximum load. So packed are the trains that at the end of the day an array of personal garments are collected, including garter belts, shoes, and bras lost in the melee. Station stops are only 45 seconds. If not close to an exit, the traveler goes on to the next station.
Unlike most of the rest of the world, in Japan about one-fourth of the railway system is privately owned. The bullet trains are computer controlled and cover the distance between the two commercial hubs of Japan Tokyo and Osaka in three hours and ten minutes. The average speed is 120 mph.