The third largest city in Japan, Osaka, nickname “Japan’s kitchen”, is a city for food lovers, where you can find lots of different varieties of Japanese food that you can “eat till you drop”, in Japanese is called “Kuidaore”. So, before I set my foot on this “kitchen”, I must find out what kind of food should I try and what else is there this city has to offer.
1. What to eat in Osaka
When I searched online to look for what is the must-try food in Osaka, this one came out the top. It’s a Japanese style grill savoury pancake that has lots of ingredients such as batter, cabbage, egg and with topping such as meat, seafood, wasabi, cheese, mayonnaise or anything you like. Some of the restaurants offer iron griddles for customers to cook the dish themselves.
This is also a must-try food in Osaka. A snack that is shaped like a ball, made from the batter that cook with a special moulded pan. Inside the ball usually comes with diced octopus, tempura scrap, pickled ginger and green onions. What is fascinating about Takoyaki is that the people that prepare the dish have to be fast and with precision skill in order to cook a batch of Takoyaki balls.
There are some ramen shops in Osaka that are very popular. The noodle cooked with special pork soup that will make you coming back for more.
When in Japan, one can not miss eating sushi and also fresh sashimi.
Pablo cheese tart
This freshly baked cheese tart, originated from Osaka, is very popular among Japanese as well as tourists. So this rendered it a must try dessert in Osaka.
2. What to do in Osaka
Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
The first Universal Studios theme park operating outside of U.S. as well as the first one in Asia. Moreover, it is the only Universal Studios in Asia that has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You can probably spend the whole day at this theme park. However, the queue is also quite long for the rides. So be prepared to wait in lines or you can buy the express pass to cut short your queueing time.
This is the world largest aquarium where you can see lots of marine creatures such as whale sharks, sea lions, penguins, stingrays, dolphins, jellyfish etc. You get to touch the marine creatures in the sensory pool too.
Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
The world tallest Ferris wheel from 1997-1999, it stands at a height of 112.5m and a diameter of 100m. It has 60 gondolas and can accommodate 480 people. It was named after Japan’s lowest mountain called Mt Tempozan with the height of 4.53m only. It is actually right next to Kaiyukan Osaka. So should make it a trip since they are at the same location.
One of the top landmarks in Osaka, right in the middle of the urban city, this castle stands in the middle of a huge park. It has beautiful scenery and landscapes surrounding this giant tower. Visitors can also go on a boat ride which cruises around Osaka Castle inner moat.
Day trip to Kyoto
Kyoto is only 15 minutes away using the JR Shinkansen (bullet train) or less than one hour away by limited express train. Kyoto is famous for its UNESCO Heritage sites such as Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji, Nijo Castle etc. This is more about cultural and historical monuments visit.
Day trip to Nara park
Nara is less than one hour away from Osaka by limited express train. One of the oldest park in Japan with free-roaming deer where you can feed them with biscuits sold at stalls along the street. You can visit the famous Todai-ji temple with the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) within its hall, Isui-en Garden with beautiful landscape, Nara National Museum and many more.
3. Where to stay in Osaka
After research, the most popular and important subway line in Osaka is the Midosuji line. So if you stay somewhere near this subway line, you will be able to go anywhere in Osaka easily. If you are flying into Kansai Airport like I do, you may want to consider staying near transport hubs like Namba and Umeda which have airport express trains serve between these big stations. Both these stations also on the Midosuji subway line.
Hotel rooms are expensive in this city and the rooms are usually small compared to other cities. Do not get disappointed if the rooms are rather small especially those at or near the transport hubs like Namba and Umeda. Also, take note that there are smoking and non-smoking rooms in most of the hotels. So make sure you select the correct room or you may not be able to change the room especially during peak seasons.
Another option is to use Airbnb where you can stay at apartments if you are in a group. But the sad fact is the apartments are also rather small unless you are staying far away from the attractions and transport hubs.
My choice is to stay at Namba and the reasons being:-
- A big transport hub that easily can get anywhere in Osaka or even regional destinations like Kyoto or Nara
- Has a Rapid Express train from Kansai Airport to Nankai Namba station operated by Nankai Electric which takes less than 40 minutes
- Near shopping streets such as Shinsaibashi, Ebisubashi etc and big department stores like Takashimaya, Namba City etc.
- Near the famous Dotonburi where there are lots of restaurants and eateries so you can “eat till you drop”
- The famous Kuromon Ichiba Market where it sells all kinds of fresh produce, meat, seafood, vegetables and many more.
- The electronic town of Nipponbashi Den Den town where it can be comparable to Tokyo Akirahaba, selling all kinds of electronic equipment.
4. Travel passes
You are spoiled with choices in regarding travel passes. Here are a few examples:-
- Osaka Amazing Pass – can only be used in Osaka city with unlimited rides on subway trains, buses and trams for one full day or two full days. It comes with discounts on selected tourist attractions. Only applicable to adults that costs 2,500 yen for a one-day pass or 3,300 yen for a two-day pass.
- Kansai Thru Pass – can be used in Osaka and Kansai district such as Kyoto and Nara. Unlimited rides on the subway, selected private railways and buses within the Kansai district. Comes with a two-day pass or three-day pass for adults and children. The good thing about this pass is it can be used on nonconsecutive days.
- ICOCA Pass – a pay-as-you-use card that you top-up once the value runs low. It can be used on any of the subways, private trains, buses and trams. This can be bought from the train stations vending machines and the initial purchase cost 2,000 yen with 500 yen as a deposit and 1,500 yen in value for you to travel in Kansai district.
- Kansai One Pass – also a pay-as-you-use card like Icoca but this one comes with discounts for tourist attractions. Initial cost same as Icoca, i.e. 2,000 yen with 500 yen as a deposit and 1,500 yen in value. But the catch for this is you can only purchase it at selected sales locations.
There are also a few more options but most of them are very similar to the above examples I gave.
My choice is getting an ICOCA card as those passes with unlimited rides can be quite expensive and most probably I will not be able to fully utilise them. Besides that, I will stay in Osaka for more than three days which means I need to buy at least two passes for a 5-day visit. If I can be at the selected sales locations for Kansai One Pass, I will buy that instead with additional tourists’ benefits.
Everyone will want to stay in touch with families and friends when they are travelling and also using mobile apps to help to make the travelling experience pleasant. For travellers to Japan, you can only get the data only prepaid SIM card which comes with a limit on usage per day. After the limit is fully used up, the speed of the wifi will slow. Another option is pocket wifi which you can choose to have unlimited usage.
I choose pocket wifi as there is unlimited usage, I can share with my travelling partners, can be used on more than one devices such as laptops and tablets and high-speed mobile broadband all the way. So I will not find myself suddenly trying to google my way to a location and my mobile cannot give me the correct location because the speed slows down. Of course, the downside is I have to carry another device in my bag. The rate of pocket wifi rental and data only SIM card is about the same.
The navigate through the complex railway lines in Japan is daunting. So far, a lot of bloggers have recommended using HypeDia when you are trying a catch a train from one location to another. It shows you the departure time, the fare, the station names you have to transfer, the type of train e.g. normal or limited express and sometimes the train platform number too.
7. Bring cash
A lot of eateries and stores do not accept credit cards. So you probably have to pay cash for most of the transactions. For mid-budget travellers, the rule of thumb is US$100 per pax per day. You can adjust from there if you decide to spend more or less.
8. Tax-free shopping
Visitors to Osaka can get tax free shopping at stores that indicate “tax free”. You have to purchase merchandise of more than 5,000 Yen to qualify for tax-free shopping. The cashier will need your passport and your signature on the declaration form. In addition, the cashier will seal the bag for your tax-free items, just like when you are shopping in airports duty-free shops.
These are the tips I have collected from my research. Hopefully, these tips can help you in making your travel in Osaka a pleasant one. Most importantly is to enjoy this amazing city and to “eat till you drop”!
Want to know how to travel to downtown Osaka from Kansai Airport after 9.30pm? Check out my post From Kansai Airport to Downtown Osaka after 9.30pm