Osaka, Japan: Travel & Tips

 

I was recently in Osaka, my first time ever in Japan – and no surprise, I love it there! I love the food, the culture, the weather and the cleanliness. Now, Osaka isn’t as crazy packed and happening as how Tokyo is (I’m sure, even though I’ve not gone there yet), but it has its own spirit and charm.

I have listed some stuff below that you need to prepare for any trip to Japan, things to do in Osaka, things I did there, and some personal recommendations. If you’re heading to Osaka, this post is for you! Some of the other places I’ve traveled to around Osaka, will be linked here but in a separate post. There’s just way too many things to cram into one post, honestly!

Places in Osaka covered in this post:

  • KUROMON ICHIBA MARKET
  • OSAKA CASTLE
  • DŌTONBORI

Here are links for the other places I’ve visited within and outside of Osaka:

  • NARA – famous for its free roaming deers and temples
  • KYOTO – famous for its market’s good food & geishas on the street of Gion
  • UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN – famous for the new Harry Potter park
  • UMEDA SKY BUILDING – a sky-high experience (and a place for love)

WHAT TO PREPARE FOR ANY TRIP TO JAPAN


Money. Cold, hard cash. Many places in Japan do not accept foreign credit cards, so just keep it primitive and simple.

VISA application for entry is no longer needed for Malaysians. Just as long as your passport is the latest, updated version with the chip, and a black & white passport photo.

Bring international adapters. Japanese electrical plugs are not the same as Malaysian ones, so bring an adapter lest your cameras and phones run out of juice.

Get a portable WiFi. Do not waste money on expensive roaming charges. Instead, rent a portable WiFi (for only 400JPY/MYR12 a day) that you can bring along with you for constant connection and connect up to 10 phones at once. I rented mine from this amazing site called Pupuru, feel free to check them out.

Comfortable shoes. Because everyone walks in Japan, and so would you; be ready for massively aching feet after a long day of walking about. Their public transportation system is pretty flawless but you still would definitely need to walk some distances. Which brings me to my next point.

Bring massage oil for sore feet. Trust me, it helps. Apply and massage the oil in before you sleep every night, and it would make you feel much better in the morning. I ignored my mom’s advice the first night, and regretted it the next day.

Dress accordingly. If it’s a much colder season, bring your warm things. Likewise for warmer seasons. As it is always hot here in Malaysia, I had to buy a few jackets and long sleeves for the Autumn season in Osaka. It wasn’t too cold yet when I went, so what i had were good enough.

PLAN AHEAD FOR YOUR TRIP


Research and know your train lines. Being the main transportation means available, you need to know that Osaka has quite a number of different train lines, and it is good to know which are the stations and lines closer to your hotel. Take some time to study the routes and research a little. However, if in doubt, you can always ask the station master for help, or the staff in tourist centers.

Plan your destination(s). Know where you want to visit while in Japan. Then research on how to get there. For me, I used this site called HyperDia that allows you to search your travel route by keying in your point of departure (nearest station to your hotel) and your destination. It will calculate the fare(s) for you, as well as show you which train lines to use and how long the journey will take.

Never take a taxi from the airport – take the train or bus instead. Unless you’re willing to fork out at least RM500 per trip. Most taxis in Osaka are quite expensive, and the drivers don’t speak English at all, so you can’t even negotiate or be sure if he understood where to go. Utilize the train, it’s much cheaper and sometimes faster. There are train lines running to and fro in the Kansai International Airport (and most airports in Japan). It only cost us JPY920/MYR27, one way! You can learn more about train lines here. Alternatively, you can take the limousine bus (just a normal bus actually) if you arrive late at night and there’re no trains running – details and timetables here.

I think that about sums it up. Of course, there’s a lot more work to go into research and planning – you must take the time to do it, and do it properly. Remember that from Osaka itself, you can branch out via train to visit other places like Nara, Kyoto and Kobe. It’s very, very accessible and convenient.

A simplified map of where everything is.

Now comes the fun part. Upon arriving at Osaka (it was about near 11pm at night), we got to our hotel in one piece via train and settled in for the night. We stayed at Hotel Relief Namba Daikokucho (the name is as such because we are within the Namba area, and staying along the same street as the Daikokucho station) if you need to know, and it’s really clean, modern and quite affordable too!

There’s also a Family Mart convenience store right downstairs for us to grab fast food, sushi, drinks and cup noodles. I’d go back for a stay again then next time I head to Osaka. Here are some of the sights around out hotel. I initially took these photos because I was afraid we might forgot where our hotel was!

 

 

Drink vending machines everywhere! But we saw none of those fabled ramen noodle machines or even those which gives you soft-serve ice-cream in funky flavors. Only in Tokyo, I guess.
 

 

This ramen restaurant we never tried, but it is a main landmark towards our hotel. Why? Because at night, this big bowl of noodles lights up, and the chopstick moves up and down as though an invisible giant is playing with his food. Come to think of it, it’s a way of taunting people to go into their shop.

We ventured out on our first day and headed towards the Kuromon Ichiba Market. It’s less of a market because we see mostly restaurants and a few seafood stands here and there, but it didn’t have the sort of market feel we were expecting. The other market we visited in Kyoto was much better. However, seeing that we are already here, we decided to have some sushi first.

This is how the entrance looks like.

 

 

Sushi here ain’t cheap, but they are much larger in size, and more generous in serving.

 

 

The old school way of grilling salmon.

 

My fresh sushi platter. It’s really good. Looks like any other sushi here in Malaysia, but the taste is so much fresher, the soy sauce tangier.

After having our fill, we ventured about to have a look at some of the goods. Dried goods seem to be the main thing here as every shop sells more or less the same stuff. There were also a few wet market seafood stalls in between, and some selling yakitori (grilled food). My mom stopped by a certain stall to eat some fresh oysters – I had one and boy was it superbly fresh, and huge!

 

 

Three of these huge oysters for JPY1000/MYR30, which makes it MYR10 for each! But it was worth the price paid. I had mine with just a squeeze of lemon – you get the fresh taste of the sea in one gulp.
 

 

 

 

Spotted a lovely little Totoro shrine. 🙂

 

Having had our fill of breakfast, we got onto the nearest train towards Osaka Castle. From wherever you are, take the train towards the Osaka Business Park Station. When you get off, it’s a mere 10-minute walk from the station, cross the bridge and you are in the Osaka Castle vicinity. You should be able to see it from the bridge. Now all you need to do is walk, walk and walk (didn’t I tell you there’s a lot of walking to do?).

 

The vicinity also serves as a park for joggers and cyclists.

 

We spotted a few elderly artists working on paintings and sketches of the castle.

 

 

Then comes the steep incline up.

 

 

A few food trucks milling about the area – we can’t say no to more food!

 

Ticketing systems are very common for many food establishments in Japan. It’s quite a smart system.
 

 

Our first takoyaki (Japanese squid balls) and fried soba.
 

 

Spotted some dressed up locals working for some local samurai event in the area.

 

 

There were also a lot of cute, and well-dressed dogs.

We went around the area for a bit before heading back to our place in the Namba district. It’s another long walk out of the Osaka Castle compound, but the scenery makes it all worth it. We also whiled away some few hours away taking photos and selfies.

The weather was good so we actually headed to the shopping district in Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura (also referred to as Amemura). It was disappointing though, because all we got were overly expensive designer brands (that you can get for a cheaper price in Malaysia) in Shinsaibashi; and really cheap fashion staples with too much bling on them in Amerikamura (little America in Japanese). We decided to cut the afternoon short and head back to our hotel to rest.

A very huge Marc Jacobs shopping centre in Shinsaibashi. 

After a quick nap in the hotel, we headed out in the evening (it was dark already by then) in search for dinner. One of the most popular places to visit in Osaka, is Dōtonbori. They call it the mini city of lights for reason – because it lights up like Times Square every night. There’s a canal that runs through it, and boat rides are available. There are also lots of restaurants to try, and a variety of shopping choices. It is more packed than most places too, so be sure to stay close together with your group.

 

 

 

This is the famous Kani Doraku Crab landmark, built in the 1960s. This mechanical crab is about 6.5 feet wide, and the eyes and legs all move independently.

 

The crab sort of inspired this new octopus, that puffs steam out and its mechanical tentacles move about.

 

 

Another famous thing to see at Dotonbori is this Kuidaore Taro mechanical clown which plays the drum and is built in 1950. The sell quite a lot of merchandise related to it too. I find him a little too creepy to like. 

 

 

Part of the canal, with a huge Buddha installation overlooking it.

 

And finally, the famous Glico ‘man’ billboard, which was just recently changed to the Glico girl
.

 

 

 

 

And then, I had one of the best ramen, ever! Succulent pork in rich broth and beautifully made soft-boiled eggs, all for a mere JPY820/MYR24! Much cheaper than having this in Malaysia at Menya Musashi, and taste much better as well.

Dinner was followed by a lot of shopping within the area – as there was too much too see and so much to do. We shopped and shopped – till it was late and we trudged home, tried on our purchases and went to sleep in anticipation for the next day… cause we’re heading to Universal Studios Japan! Coming up in the next post so stay tuned! 😉 (UPDATE: See what we did in Universal Studios Japan!)

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18 thoughts on “Osaka, Japan: Travel & Tips

  1. Informative and interesting. Flying there on Nov 9. Will be staying in the Hotel Relief too. How did you go the hotel from Nanba (Nankai) Station?

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  2. Hi! That's great to hear. It's a mere 10 minute walk actually. However, it can be confusing if you don't know the right exits. You can either:

    1. Google Map walking directions and use Takashimaya (in Namba) as as reference for the right exit.

    2. Go to Daikokucho station, which is parallel with the hotel and easier to walk. From Namba Nankai Station, take the Yotsubashi line to Daikokucho Station. Once at Daikokucho, take exit 2 up a few stairs. As you walk out of the station, turn and walk towards the direction of the back of the station. Not sure if you understand, but do not walk towards the direction where the stairs lead out. Head straight in the opposite direction of the stairs, and within 10 minutes or less, you would see the Family Mart and the Hotel's entrance next to it.

    Good luck! I hope this helps. Enjoy your holiday!

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  3. hi. thanks for your informative post. I'm actually considering to visit Japan for my next trip; either Tokyo or Osaka. If it's not too personal, may I ask how much did you spend for your whole Osaka trip? Just want to know the budget as a reference. Thank you! -Christyn-

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  4. Hi Christyn,

    Not a problem, glad to help. I spent about RM2k for food, train fares, theme park fees, temple fees and souvenirs. This is not inclusive of flight and hotel, and some of my more exorbitant spendings. Overall I think RM2k is good enough for covering basic expenses over a span of 5 days.

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