Kisaichi in Osaka – Hike to Kurondo Pond

If you’re looking for a low-key place to get some nature in the Osaka area you might consider a visit to Kisaichi to hike up to Kurondo Pond. The hike from Kisaichi Station to Kurondo Pond is about 1.5 hours. I hiked it with a seven year old and it took about 2 hours each way.

Kurondo Lake
Kurondo Lake (pond?) your destination

To get to the place we started at Kisaichi station, you can take the Keihan Line from Hirakata.

Getting to Kisaichi
Hirakata to Kisaichi, 210 yen (2020)

Once you get going you’ll find many helpful signs pointing the way to the pond, and others pointing the way back to the station. It’s easy to find your way even if you do not read Japanese. Just in case, Kurondo Pond is written くろんど池。

Signs to Kurondo Lake
Many of the signs are written in English
Trail to Kurondo Lake
Part of the trail between Kisaichi and Kurondo Pond

The hike itself was great. It’s got some hills, some stairs, and you’re often near water. It’s got a bit of gravel road, some dirt paths, and sometimes you’ll be climbing over rocks and stepping around tree roots. To be honest, I did the hike in flat Adidas because that’s all I had, but I saw many Japanese in hiking gear with backpacks and poles. I should add that my seven year old indoor kid made it and only complained four of five times, so it’s not actually that demanding — though you will be tired at the end. If you’re prone to get the munchies, pack a snack and bring some water.

We went in early summer and saw a ton of neat bugs. Caterpillars?

Insect near Kisaichi
Bugs! I guess it’s a caterpillar. There were a lot of them.

When you finally make it to Kurondo Pond you’ll find a few restaurants, and of course the pond.

Kurondo Lake
Kurondo Pond!

You can pay to ride a row boat or one of those pedal-driven swan boats. Many families with kids and couples are often out on the pond enjoying the peaceful waters. You can also buy some fish food and feed the large koi that hang out near the pier.

Koi in Kurondo Lake
Koi in Kurondo Pond

One protip. One shop near the pond sells honey collected locally from Ikoma in Nara. At time of writing it was 2000 yen per bottle, so it’s not cheap, but it is delicious. You can also buy this Ikoma honey online.

Ikoma Honey
Delicious honey collected in Ikoma

There is actually a very famous suspension bridge called Hoshi no Buranko in the area that is the reason that most people visit Kisaichi. However, when we visited it was still closed due to coronavirus concerns. We’ll have to get there next time! A local helpfully pointed us to Kurondo Pond upon learning that we were disappointed that the bridge was closed.

Map of Kisaichi Area

Get out there and get some fresh air! Might be fun!

River near Kisaichi

Some relevant links!

Kansai Scene:

Kurondo Area Website:

Hoshi no Buranko:


Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka

I finally made it to Sumiyoshi Taisha after years of visiting Osaka. It was never on my radar as it’s a bit out of the way from the city center, but now that I’ve been there I wish I had gone sooner.

A friend of mine recently moved to the Sumiyoshi Taisha neighborhood, which was my excuse for finally visiting.

Sumiyoshi Taisha is the main shrine of all the Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan. On new years and during festivals the shrine attracts huge crowds. I would love to check it out at that time some day.

There is an iconic taiko bashi bridge that is steep and round. Taiko is Japanese for a round Japanese-style drum, and the bridge is shaped like that, hence the name. The bridge is one of the most memorable locations on the grounds. Grab a photo.

住吉大社 : GFDL,Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.1 Japan License
Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka
Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka
Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka
The grounds are quite large and spacious. Great place to take a walk or wander around.
Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka
Omamori at Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka
Omamori (Good luck charms) left at the temple for luck
Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka

The legend behind the good luck omamori here is unique. You try to find power stones yourself from inside of this stone fence. The stones actually have characters written on them in calligraphy ink. Once you have found a set of three stones with the characters 5 五, large 大, and power 力 (godairiki) written on them, you can bring them and purchase the omamori sack to put them in. Then you hang it up for good luck. Finally, you’re supposed to then write characters on stones yourself, and toss them back in for others to find. Pay it forward!

Sumiyoshi Taisha is on the way to Kansai International Airport. Maybe you can swing by as a last stop on a visit to the Kansai area! Enjoy!



Minoh Beer – Craft Beer from Osaka. And eat some leaves.

If you’re looking for a quality local craft beer from Osaka you must try Minoh Beer.

Minoh Beer - Weizen
Minoh Beer – the Weizen

Minoh beer is probably the easiest Osaka-based craft beer to find. You might be able to find it in a restaurant or craft beer bar. You can certainly buy it online from their shop, and you can occasionally find it in a random grocery shop. You may also have luck finding it in large cities outside of Osaka as well.

Minoh is a town in Osaka famous for its waterfall and beautiful foliage in the fall. The first time I went to Minoh I didn’t know about Minoh Beer and was mainly going for a nature-filled getaway from the hustle and bustle of Osaka. Some links about Minoh follow this post.

Minoh beer has been around since 1997. It is unique in that it is owned by three sisters. They have a relatively large line of beers and have won many awards. There is a Minoh Beer Warehouse in Minoh where you can tour and buy souvenirs. I haven’t been there… yet.

Here is an image of the Minoh Beer pamphlet (as of Feb 2020). You’ll see a pilsner, a weizen, a pale ale, a stout, a double IPA for their main line. They also have several seasonal offerings, including a Yuzu White for the winter season that I have never tried! Good to see that their product line continues to grow. More images of the pamphlet are at the bottom of this post.

Minoh Beer Pamphlet 2020
Minoh Beer Pamphlet (Feb 2020)

This time I tried this Billikin Beer from Minoh Beer that I had never had before. It’s a light fruity beer that I think would be delicious on a hot summer day. It’s also the first canned beer from Minoh that I have tried.

Minoh Beer - Billiken Beer
Billikin Beer from Minoh Beer

What else is going on in Minoh?

I was digging through the archives of my old blog and found these words that I wrote about Minoh when I visited in 2005.

One of the local foods available in Minoh is called Momiji Tempura.

Momiji Tempura in Minoh
Momiji Tempura in Minoh – Deep Fried Leaves

As you probably know Tempura is a way of deep frying lightly breaded foods so that when they are done they have a light brown crust of tasty goodness around them. You can tempura anything from shrimp to ice cream.

In Minoh they push tempura to the limits and throw their famous maple leaves into the mix. Maybe they have too many and are trying to control the population? Beats raking them I guess. Crunch.

Momiji Tempura just tastes like an extra crunchy tempura snack. You can’t really taste the leaves… The Tempura coating is more crunchy than usual tempura. You can pop ’em like potato chips. Fun for the novelty I guess.

Hey. Japanese time. Did you know that the kanji for TEMPURA is really tough? Tough like “soy sauce” and “rose” are tough. Japanese usually write the PURA in Hiragana. 天麩羅!!! Learn to write this, and dazzle your friends next time you go out for tempura.

On another note of randomness… Apparently momiji trees are normally red, and then when fall comes they turn green. Opposite of most trees. This explains why I could have red momiji leave tempura in April… Fact or fiction?

Back to beer and Minoh related links:

Minoh Beer Bottle Cap
Minoh Beer Bottle Cap
Minoh Beer Pamphlet 2020
Minoh Beer Pamphlet 2020
Minoh Beer Pamphlet 2020
Minoh Beer Pamphlet 2020

Day Trips from Osaka: Church of the Light

Sometime in 2007 I took a short trip outside of Osaka city to visit one of architect Tadao Ando’s works, The Church of Light, at Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church in Ibaraki. It’s less than one hour from Osaka station, so it’s an easy day trip.

Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church, Church of the Light

The inside of the main chapel is striking with the cross-shaped cutout in the back wall that illuminates the hall in natural light. The rest of the building is bare concrete walls that is frankly cold and utilitarian.

Organ at Church of the Light
Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church, not much from the outside

When I visited in 2007 the church happened to be having a market. I do not know if they still hold this or how often so your mileage may vary. Try contacting the church via their official website listed below if you are interested.

Church market that happened to be on during my visit in 2007

Related Links:

If your’e in Osaka and looking for something a bit off the usual tourist path, make a reservation to visit Church of the Light! Might be fun!


Extending your Visa in Japan

In another bout of personal trouble caused by the coronavirus, I found myself “stuck” in Japan on a tourist visa in danger of exceeding the 90-day stay limit granted upon entry. I had to go to the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau to apply for an extension of my tourist visa status. Here’s how it went, I hope this is helpful to someone.

If you’re going to try something similar be sure to check the latest regulations and don’t just take my word for it — these processes can change at any time. This report is from an April 2020 visit.

Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau
This way to the Immigration Bureau! It’s the white building in the back.

This was my situation.

My wife and kids have Japanese passports, I don’t. We live and work outside of Japan and were just coming for a few months stay. While we were here the coronavirus situation heated up, and the country from which we departed closed its borders so we were unable to return. My 90-day tourist visa was starting to get close to the limit, and we still had no idea when we would be able to return, so I needed to get an extension. I could have applied to change status to a spousal visa, but we are not planning on staying that long so I didn’t think that was necessary.

Here’s how I did it.

The first step is to fill out the Application for Extension of Period of Stay form (在留期間更新許可申請書 zairyuu kikan koushin kyoka shinseisho). You can get the form online at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) website.

MOJ Website

Of course, you can also click the ENGLISH link above as well.

Print out the form and fill it out. (The forms are also available at the immigration office, but it’s much more convenient to fill it out ahead of time.)

The form has a space to include a 40mm x 30mm photo, but the photo is not necessary to extend a tourist visa.

You may be asked to provide evidence of your ability to fund your stay in Japan. You can do this by providing copies of bank statements. I had these bank statement copies prepared, but I was not asked to show any of this evidence.

Find your nearest Immigration Bureau office. I’m in Osaka, so I needed to go to the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau in Cosmo Square. It’s very close to the train station exit, which is on the Chuo Line. The area where I live is actually closer to the center of Kyoto, so I called the Osaka office and asked if they had a Kyoto location where I could apply. They said that if I was living in Osaka then I should go to the Osaka office.

The office is pretty well organized. Someone is seated near the entrance that you can explain your situation to, and they’ll point you in the right direction. The office employees will explain things and call out numbers in Japanese first before trying another language. I often heard them go from Japanese to English. Some of the staff were native Mandarin speakers.

Once you have turned in your application, if they are going to approve your extension you’ll be asked to pay for a 4,000 yen revenue stamp that is available on the premises. When I went in April 2020 payment was accepted in cash only.

Once everything is said and done you will leave the office with an additional stamp in your passport showing the extension. In my case I asked for an additional 90-day extension and it was granted.

I was probably in the building for about 1 hour.

Good luck! It won’t be fun visiting the office… but hopefully you’ll get your stuff done without much stress.


The website for the Osaka is here:

This video shows you how to get there from the station.
This shows the inside of the office and was taken recently. Dramatic title.