Osaka is the third largest city in Japan. Many incorporate a visit to Osaka though just for a few days in their Japan Trip. If you only have as short as a day I think it is worth the trip. We initially planned to be in Osaka for 3 days but we were charmed by Kyoto so much that we decided to spend another day there (and to Visit Nara) and give up on Universal Studio Japan leaving us with just two days to explore. It was 2 days packed with all Osaka highlights. The below is our itinerary. In the end I’ll add some other interesting things you can do in and around Osaka should you have more days to explore, yay.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
It’s safe to say that this is the best and largest aquarium I’ve been in. It is also one the largest in the world featuring life of the water from 14 habitats all over the world and Japan. Some of the fish displayed here includes whale sharks. If you are not a diver, this may be as close as it can get to experience the deep underwater world. The animals they exhibit are extremely well maintained and utterly kawai like these crowd-pleaser penguins.
Before the exit, there is a shallow pool where you can touch the fish – it was an interesting experience to feel how super-smooth is the skin of a stingray and how rough is the skin of shark though they look equally smooth from the surface.
Opening hours: 10:00 – 20:00
Adult (16 yo and older) 2,300 JPY
Child (elementary and junior high school students) 1,200 JPY
Preschool (4 yo and older) 600 JPY
TIPS: If you plan to ride on the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel, purchase a ticket that includes the entry to the aquarium and a ride on the ferris wheel to save a few hundreds yen.
Tempozan Marketplace (Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho)
After visiting the aquarium, we visit Tempozan Marketplace just very near it to dine at Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho. Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho is a food theme arcade taking the architecture and inspiration from 1955 traditional shopping and entertainment area. There are a lot of food selection and we choose omurice for lunch.
Omurice is omelette rice, one of Japanese dish consist of lightly flavoured fried rice wrapped in thin omelette sheet – resulting in perfect looking football shaped dish. It is commonly served with tomato ketchup. For the side dish we ordered chicken karaage that we can’t get enough of.
Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
Within the same building as the marketplace is where the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel is located. Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel is one of the biggest Ferris wheel in the world. I am not usually afraid of height but the experience was pretty memorable to me. It was windy and you can hear rackety sound from the inside so even I was holding on tight. On our return we saw the sign that the Ferris wheel has been closed because of the strong wind. Lucky that we get to ride it just before it became too windy.
Grand Front Building
We leave Tempozan Harbor Village to Umeda to visit the Sky Building. We plan to visit during sunset and we had some time to spare so we visited the Grand Front Building just very near it. It’s a fantastic place to shop but for me it is Quil Fait Bon that I’m after, cafes selling delicious fruit tarts. We had several tarts but I love their apple and honey tart best. How I wish it is right in front of me now. Grand Front Building is located just in front of JR Osaka Station. Within the Station itself, there’s another mall called Hankyu which is also a great place to shop.
Umeda Sky Building
We reach the 39 Floor observatory deck just as the sun was setting and it is truly the best time to be there. You can come earlier too to secure a place. When you come before sunset you will be there to see the changing colour of the sky as well as the gorgeous night view.
Opening Hours: 10:30 – 22:30
Adult 800 JPY
Junior and Senior High School Student 500 JPY
Elementery School Student 300 JPY
Child 100 JPY
Senior 600 JPY
Dotonburi and Namba
We spend the night at the icon of Osaka Dotonburi and Namba arcade. I love this place! So much food! These are definitely the highlight of Osaka. Some of the must eat here are ramen, egg tart, takoyaki and ohkonomiyaki. There are also countless others so come here with a empty stomach is a must. I’ve written a separate blogpost about street food here (38 Street Food to Try in Japan) including some I had in Dotonburi. This area is full of life and pulsing like a rapid heart beat. It is also brightly lit with many neon lights and decorated with many giant sculpture of food.
Don’t forget to visit the icon of Dotonburi here which are the big crab Kani-Doraku and Glico Running man where you can take out your selfie stick without shame because – everybody were doing it.
We also come across ShinSai Bashi –Suji which is a super long shopping street just a across from the Glico Running man poster. It was imposible to walk through everything – my feet wouldn’t cooperate with my heart. So we decide to visit again the next day just to visit Tokyu Hand (missed it in Tokyo) and Ippudo Ramen (missed in Kyoto) located here.
Osaka Castle is a magnificent castle in the form of a tower. It used to be a home for Hideyoshi Toyotomi when he’s in power and the castle was built to fit as the resident of the ruler of Japan. It was during a turbulence time that the castle were destroyed and it took about 10 years to reconstruct the castle. The castle has stood and witness many turmoils in history and change of eras including the world war 2 where it was then again damaged during bombing. It has now restored and turned into a museum. Within the castle you can learn the life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and how he came about to be a significant figure from a poor farmer family background.
Opening hours: 9:00 – 5:00 (last admission 4:30)
Adult 600 JPY (100 JPY off with a subway day pass)
Children 15 yo and below FREE
Kuromon Market is a lively market that has many fresh produce, local long established restaurants and delicious food. some of the highly recommended restaurants are as below.
I finally has the pleasure of sampling Japanese curry at its best at New Daruni. It has been featured many time as the best curry rice around and has been around for 60 years. We tried their best seller which is the pork cutlet curry. Japanese curry is starchy but that’s how I like it. It was delicious and such a comforting food.
You know I love eel if you have already read my blog post on 38 Japanese Street Food to Try so I couldn’t pass this one. The eel were smothered with special homemade sauce made from finest soy sauce that was delivered from specialized soy sauce store that has been around since the Edo era. The sweet flavourful sauce and juicy eel is always a treat. There’s slight fishiness but overall delicious.
Hana no Ki
This restaurant has great hot cakes, ohkonomiyaki and takoyaki. Since we had a bit too much takoyaki at Namba we just tried the hot cakes and it was delicious.
Osaka is also a good place if you want to try fugu (blowfish that if incorrectly prepared is poisonous).
Apart from the above, there are countless finger food and fresh seafood here too.
ShinSai Bashi –Suji (Namba)
We are back to Namba but we went directly to Shinsaibashi Train Station to visit Tokyu Hand and have the last meal in Osaka (Ippudo Ramen). ShinSai Bashi –Suji entrance is just across from the iconic glico running man in Namba. Since we have already explored it the night before (walking all the way pass 2 train station stops) today we are just relaxing before our trip back to Kansai Airport.
Tokyu Hand is a large home concept and craft store made up of around about 8 floors. They have everything you can imagined here from travel necessities to anything you could possibly need while crafting something. This is definitely my sort of place. It has a whole floor dedicated for travel needs, bag, and backpack (at the highest Japanese Quality), a whole floor of stationary and kawaii diaries, a whole floor of bookshop (all in Japanese, so pass), A whole floor of craft materials and the list goes on. Yes it sells genuine leather that you can custom to make a bag, pouch or whatever. The stationary part has a constumisable pen where you can engraved names. There are countless home wares too like bed-sheet, towel, kitchen ware and everything else in between (with the cutest Japanese design and unquestionable quality). It also has the cutest bento (lunch) boxes I’ve seen in my life that sure will make any kid’s a star during lunch time. What I cannot resist is the midori notebook – I’ve heard about it before but when I see its display and how well-packaged it is I have to get it. Not to mention that this will make a great gift for travel lovers. I could spend a whole day here If I want to but we need to move on.
Ippudo Ramen is one of the most famous ramen in Japan that has now open countless branch all over Japan as well as internationally. There is one in Kyoto near the Nishiki Market that I didn’t manage to go (sad) but was delighted when I pass by it here. It is near Tokyu Hand so it was perfect. We had 3 ramen during our japan trip and a tsukumen. The verdict is the original ramen here is the best in our opinion. They offer two type of ramen in Ippudo, one is the original thin noodle with milky soup and the other a thicker noodle with soup that has a tinge of red from miso paste.
We tried both and the original is the clear winner. The gyoza here looks extremely tempting too but we were stuffed as you can imagine from the amount of things we consume within the day.
After a very satisfying ramen experience, we went back to shinsaibashi station (we stored our luggage here in the locker in the morning) where we catch the subway to Tengachaya to change lane to catch the Private Nankai Line to Kansai Airport. The trip from Tengachaya to the airport take about 40 minutes but keep in mind that this train doesn’t come every 5 minutes like the subway, it comes in more like every 20 minutes. You can choose to use the rapid express train or the normal train. The different in price is a few hundred yen but since we are cheap (and we think we have more than enough time) we took the normal train.
Normal Train: 920 JPY / Ticket
Rapid Train: 1,430 JPY / Ticket
Check out the timetable to make sure you get there on time and give yourself plenty of time to reach the airport (you can even shop and eat more in the airport – they have a uniqlo there).
The rapid train is actually really cool looking. The rapid train that goes to Kansai Airport is the shape of Darth Vader. Next time, I’ll go for the rapid for sure.
Other Highlights of Osaka
Below is what we’d squeeze into our Osaka Experience if only we had more days.
Universal Studio Japan
The main attraction here is the Harry Potter Hogwarts school. If you do come, we were advised to come really early (be there at 8) and secure yourself some fast pass and go straight to Harry Potter. The entry ticket to this is 7,200 JPY. The entry price is rather steep for us plus with the time constraint we didn’t visit the Universal Studio Japan. Then I promise myself that I will do a whole Harry Potter thing in London and felt much better.
Cup Noodle Museum
I have written about this in 5 Unique Museums to Visit in Japan which includes this Cup Noodle Museum. Why does this has such appeal to me is because I love noodles (if it’s not obvious enough already). And basically this museum is just so cool – you can make your own instant noodle, who wouldn’t want to do that? I’m also a huge fan of Heston Blumenthal and it kinda remind me of his experiment with instant noodle.
Another arcade bursting with the youth culture, the concept of this place is very appealing. For those who have been here please tell me what it’s like.
Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Arcade
This is the longest shopping street in Japan (or maybe even the world). I walk through ShinSai Bashi –Suji and thought that it never ends (and we never get to the end), so I can only imagine Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Arcade.
How do we get around?
We get around by subway and reach the airport using private railway. We were lucky to be there on a weekend so the day pass for a weekend/public holiday is cheaper (600 JPY). On a normal day it cost 800 JPY for a day pass and this pass is valid for Osaka Subway, New Tram and City Bus.
If you have any other must-visit place in Osaka I’d love it hear it on the comment section below. This is a place that I definitely don’t mind to come back to. Thanks for reading!