You thought I was done with Japan? Nope! I’m just bad at prioritizing topics, it tends to happen when you accept too many blogger gigs you know. So anyway, this time let me talk about Osaka, the points of interest that you can see, food spots where you can eat, accommodation where you can sleep, among others. But first where is Osaka?
Osaka is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan (the first one is Tokyo) and previously, it goes with the name, Naniwa. It is a large port city and commercial center on Honshu island. The people here are polite and disciplined, the streets are spotless, the infrastructures are modern and impressive. Most especially, it’s the ultimate foodie destination. Are you planning to go to Osaka? Here comes an easy guide to exploring this marvelous city.
How to get there
There are two airports that serve as the entryway to Osaka, Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Itami Airport (ITM). ITM is located in the north of central Osaka and handles domestic flights to more than 30 destinations in Japan. If you’re coming from another country though, your point of entry is KIX, which is on a manmade island, about 40 kilometers south of central Osaka.
Cebu Pacific, the largest airline in the Philippines. Cebu Pacific flies between Manila and Osaka five times weekly, with lowest year-round fares starting from PHP6,399. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as from Cebu to Tokyo (Narita). Book its trademark lowest fares now through CEBsakaflights or (+632)7020888, or follow its Facebook or Twitter pages for the latest seat sales.
Where to stay
Our group stayed at Rihga Royal Hotel, a hotel favored for its proximity to some of the tourist spots in Osaka. But if you are on a budget and not traveling with family, your best bet is to stay in a hostel. Here are some of the options with the best Agoda ratings:
Chuo-ku Minamisemba 1-8-17, Chuo Ward
Rate: Starts at USD 59 (PHP 2,900+)
|Poly Hostel Osaka
2-6-12 Ebisu-nishi, Naniwa district, Namba
Rate: Starts at USD 52 (PHP 2,500+)
2-5-15 Kawaramachi,Cyuou-ku, Chuo Ward
Rate: Starts at USD 28 (PHP 1,300+)
|The Dorm Hostel Osaka
Shinsaibashi building 2/F, 1-12-20,
Rate: Starts at USD 27 (PHP 1,300+)
3F, 2-9-6 Sennichimae, Chuo-ku, Namba
Rate: Starts at USD 25 (PHP 1,200+)
|Osaka Hana Hostel
1-8-4, Nishi-shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Namba
Rate: Starts at USD 22 (PHP 1,000+)
How to get around
There are two major mode of public transportation in Osaka, train and taxi. The vintage-looking taxis are driven by senior drivers who are impeccably dressed it would make you feel like you have a personal chauffeur. Taxi fare starts from JPY 600-700 (PHP 200-300/USD 5-6). Majority of the Japanese do not speak in English including the cab drivers so communication might be a little challenging.
Tip: Keep a notebook or paper with a list of basic Japanese phrases, complete with one written in Japanese characters. This proves to be helpful when communicating with non-English speaking locals.
Here are some basic phrases to use with the taxi drivers:
|I don’t speak Japanese||Nihongo ga wakarimasen|
|Do you understand English?||Eigo wa wakarimasu ka?|
|Where is the train station?||Eki wa doko desu ka|
|Take me to the airport please||Kuukou kudasai|
|To the ____ Hotel, please||____ Hoteru kudasai|
|Please give me a receipt||Ryoshusho kudasai|
The cheaper alternative is to ride the train especially if you are planning to visit the nearby cities like Kyoto. To know more about Japan Rail Pass, click here.
Which spots to see
Now that you’re settled it’s time to explore Osaka. Here are list of tourist spots that you shouldn’t miss during your visit.
Universal Studios Japan or USJ can be found in Konohana-ku, Osaka. It’s a theme park filled with exciting attractions, the most popular of which is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To know which rides/attractions you shouldn’t miss when visiting USJ, click here.
Umeda Sky is a building that stands at about 173 meter tall. It has two towers linked together by a floating garden observatory.
Going up here has been a little challenging for me given my fear of heights. The elevator ride alone, which by the way is made of glass, almost gave me a heart attack. I almost booked it when I found out that we still had to take an escalator, but my fellow bloggers wouldn’t let me go off easily haha… With the help of Gael (Thepinaysolobackpacker), I took the paralyzing escalator ride. For some reason though, once I reached the top the fear was gone. So I was able to go all the way to Sky Walk where I enjoyed the fantastic 360 view of Osaka. Yes, I made it!
Entrance fee: JPY 1,000 (PHP 500+ – USD 8.76)
I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite activities whenever I travel aside from eating is shopping. And in Osaka, shopping is synonymous to two places: Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori.
Shinsaibashi is a 600-meter stretch of shopping area where you can find chain retail stores and fashion boutiques. It reminded me a little bit of Divisoria albeit a much cleaner and expensive version. Famous retail-clothing companies, such as H&M, Uniqlo, and Forever 21 have their outlets here.
In my case, I was able to buy a cute brown sweater from a Japanese brand, GU. I was completely stumped when it was time to make the purchase because they use machines instead of humans to accept payments. The instructions on the machine itself was also in Japanese so I couldn’t proceed without asking for some assistance from one of the staff. Honestly though, you pay through a machine? How awesome is that?! Japan is indeed full of surprises.
Note though that some of the stores have tax-free items while some are not. If you are not sure, ask the staff.
I honestly didn’t notice that I’d been to Dotonbori until I look at the photos that I’d taken on my phone. Dotonbori is adjacent to a canal and the street is lined with food, shopping, and entertainment establishments. Its most famous landmark is the Glico Man.
When you go to Dotonbori, drop by at Don Quijote if you want to shop for inexpensive souvenir items. It’s a tall building that is a popular discount store in Japan. In the Philippines it can be likened to a department store. You can buy anything here, from matcha-infused food, toiletries, beauty products, gadgets, groceries, even home appliances. This is where I got the souvenir (pasalubong) stuff that I took home for my family and friends.
Other Points of Interest
Our time was not enough to explore the whole of Osaka (the trip included Kyoto and Shiga) so we weren’t able to see the other tourist spots. But here’s the list of some of the best points of interest in Osaka:
- Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
- Osaka Castle
- Sumiyoshi Taisha
- Museum of History
- Osaka Bay Area
- Minoo Park
- Grant Front Osaka
Where to eat
Osaka was the center of rice trade during the Edo period, gaining for itself the title, the Nation’s Kitchen (tenka no daidokoro). Today, Osaka is one of the best spots in Japan for some serious gastronomic exploration.
If it’s buffet that you are looking for head on to Righa Royal Hotel where you can find one of the best buffet restaurants in Osaka. For good ramen, go to Yatai Marutoku Ramen. When you go shopping along Shinsaibashi area, try the famous cheese tart of Pablo.
Disclaimer: This Osaka fam trip was courtesy of Cebu Pacific. Some of the photos were provided by USJ. Review and opinions are my own.