Aboard Jetstar flight from Manila to Kanzai, I was excited to set afoot in the land of the rising sun. Though I have been to Tokyo before, I was excited to see a different part of Japan. I have read and heard so much about Osaka but I believe that nothing would beat seeing it with my own eyes.
The Adventure Begins…
After going through immigration, my first agenda is to get connected so I hurried to find the counter that rents out a pocket wifi. For roughly US$2-3 a day at high speed connection, the gadget was a reasonable spend. Such had been a great help not only in staying in touch with the people back home but also in getting around.
Couldn’t wait to board the famous Japanese trains that will bring me to the heart of Osaka!
Overwhelmed by the exceptionally large and complicated Osaka Main Station, I looked at the train map with such bewilderment figuring out how to connect the railroads to my destination. After much guessing, I queued up to try the ticket vendo.
ROADBLOCK: The ticket vendo screen shows instructions and buttons all in Japanese!!! Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji! OMG!
Worried, I looked around and saw a train attendant in blue with a label in his sleeve saying “English”. The sight of him was an instant relief. He guided me back to the vendo to teach me how to switch the language to English.
I tried to enjoy the whole ride and all the interchanges from Osaka Main Station to the local train station where my accommodation would be (Nishinakajima-Minamigata Station).
By the way, I booked my room from Airbnb.com. My host was helpful enough to give me advance instructions how to get to her place. The apartment location, though tricky, was easy to find. Funny, I couldn’t get in because I didn’t know how to use the digital access box. After few minutes, a resident of the building was getting in so I asked for help and gave him my code. He couldn’t speak English but universal sign language worked. Wee! I am home! The room was adequate with a kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave and hotplates; a short-legged table known as chabudai; sitting pillows; pillows; futon sleepers and WiFi. The bathroom was very small and was forced with a tub. Knowing the Japanese culture of onsen, I understood why. At roughly USD 415 for 7 nights (triple sharing), I had a decent place to sleep.
My first meal was a lowly convenience store food. I was too lazy to walk and just wanted to have something to fill my tummy. I bought a boxed rice meal and gyoza set and had the attendant heat my food. I was pleasantly surprised because the food was in no way tasted like it came from the 7-11 shelf. The gyoza had the proper wrap, firmness and texture. The rice meal was not a bit disappointing either! Later on, I learned from locals that 7-11 food is something they like themselves.
Aside from the usual ramen bowls and delicately prepared sushi rolls, Osaka is known for Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. Near the place where I stayed is a traditional Okonomiyaki house. Okonomiyaki is a grilled savory pancake made of flour, egg, cabbage, a variety of seafood topped with bonito (dried fish flakes) and drizzled with special sauce, which I think was concocted from heaven. Okonomiyaki can be cooked with Yakisoba for a more filling variant. Takoyaki, its balled cousin, has octopus as one of its main ingredients and it is enjoyed as a street food snack. I so love these two that I ate Takoyaki everyday and had 3 Okonomiyaki meals for 1 week. Please don’t leave Osaka without trying any!
Top photo: Okonomiyaki
Bottom photo: Takoyaki
From preserved castles to lively shopping centers, Osaka has everything a good destination could offer!
Osaka Castle is a white castle with green roof and gold etches. It is located on a raised ground and was built in the 1500s.
Surrounding the castle is a garden-like park with few food and souvenir stalls.
Travel Tip: Try to come early as doors to the interiors of the castle closes at 5pm or when the management deems necessary based on the volume of tourists.
Very opposite in atmosphere from the aged Osaka Castle is the district of Dotonbori. It is best visited at night where all the advertisement boards are piped with neon lights and signs. It is very busy with buzzling tourists, high school Japanese students and many locals as well.
Another attraction is the canal cruise that tours tourists from Dotonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge.
Don’t miss taking a pose with the Glico billboard – the modern icon of Osaka!
This is where you buy your souvenirs and gifts for people back home. Japanese call it Omiyage.
Not too far from Dotonbori is what locals call Den-Den Town. A paradise for those who collect manga comics, toy collectibles such as Gundam and Transformer robots, PokeMon collectibles, animation items, electronics and a lot of things that Otakus (obsessive collectors) would enjoy.
Tsutenkaku Shops and Observation Tower
In another area called Shinsekai is the Tsutenkaku Observation Tower. It has a total of 103m in height and an observation deck that is 91m high, providing a commanding view of Osaka. Like any other tourist attraction, shops are within and outside the tower.
Nothing is really special with this zoo but a visit will not be a waste of time. Lions, tigers, birds, flamingos, sea creatures, petting and feeding the more domesticated animals such as sheep and goats are a few of the attractons. It is a good break from the busy shopping alleys and a nice way to get in touch with nature.
I normally go to zoos not only to observe the animals. I also like seeing school kids enjoy the wonders of nature.
Ikeda Shiroato Park
A little further off Osaka’s center is Ikeda. The Ikeda Shiroato Park has the remains of Ikeda Castle. It is reachable by the Hankyu train line from Osaka Center.
The well-manicured garden surrounding the castle is the best part of this park. It is peaceful and quiet – a good date place.
The Instant Ramen Museum
Fifteen to twenty mins away from the castle is The Instant Ramen Museum. This museum will tell you the history of instant noodles and how it contributed to outer space missions.
The most exciting part is making your own cup of instant ramen – from the cup design down to the flavor!
Travel Tip: In the main train stations like Osaka Main Station and Namba Train Station you can get an Osaka Amazing 3-day pass that will give you unlimited train ride (except for JR line and Shinkansen lines) and free entrance tickets to a few tourist attractions for 3 days at only JPY2300 (approx. USD22).
I have seen and experienced so much more than I can tell in words. Japan is a country tourists will never get tired of! Next time I will bring you to Osaka’s neighboring cities – Kyoto and Kobe!