Osaka – My Very First Trip

Written here is just a transcript of the notes that signifies the best holiday I’ve ever done in my life and the one that sparked this whole blog.

Introduction

Welcome to Osaka! Affectionately known as Japan’s Kitchen, this was the first stop for our trip and a wonderful place to eat. We dove straight into the local cuisine visiting markets, street food stalls, and restaurants that required ordering from ticket vending machines. But our trip to Osaka wasnít all food. In between all the eating, we also managed to visit towering skyscrapers, hidden temples, and retro gaming arcades – all of them complete surprises. So if you’re curious about what there is to see and do in this city, stick around and let us show you 25 things to do in Osaka, Japan! Alright, guys, so we are currently visiting Shitennoji, which is a Buddhist temple and this is actually a pretty large complex. Like it’s made up of various parts, and we are starting off in the Japanese Gardens. We paid 300 yen per person to access this area.

You’ve got like little streams, and little ponds, lots of trails where you can walk around, and yeah, we’re just going to enjoy this for a little bit before we continue to the main part of the temple. Founded in the year 593 this is the oldest officially administered temple in Japan, though the buildings you see today have been rebuilt over the course of the centuries. This temple is named after the Shitenno: the four heavenly kings of the Buddhist tradition said to guard the world against evil. We found the golden fish. Look at that! Glowing in the sun. You go fish!

So we just finished visiting the Shitennoji Shrine, unfortunately, part of it is under
renovation so we couldn’t visit the 5-story pagoda, but instead, we’ve crossed over to Tennoji Park, so we’re just walking through here now. And again, it’s so tranquil, so peaceful, beautiful summer day. I’ve had my camera out all day and it’s just gorgeous. And it’s nice that we’re kind of starting out by exploring some green spaces here in the city. It’s been a really fun time. This next place is the Horikoshi Shrine and we stumbled upon it completely by chance. It was like a miniature version of the torii gates that we would eventually encounter at the Fushimi Inari Shrine once we reached Kyoto. And then we found this oasis in the middle of Osaka: the Keitakuen Garden. So the next attraction here in Tennoji Park. So we’re visiting Keitakuen Garden and the tickets were only 150 each. Mmmmhmmm. So really good price. Again, it’s another beautiful green escape here. It’s tranquil, it’s lovely. It’s so nice to just wander around, and we’ve been actually just finding little places to sit down and take it all in. Alright guys, so we were melting. It is so hot outside! So we decided, we need some ice cream. We got some green tea match soft-serve. Oh yeah.

Looks good. Let’s cool down. Looks so good. I think the temperatures were as high as 30 today, so. Yeah, and the ice cream is melting fast so let’s do this. Let’s do this! And this right here is going to be our next stop. Abeno Harukas. We’re going to this skyscraper for some views of Osaka. Alright guys, so we made it to the Abeno Harukas Building, and we are currently on the 16th floor. We took the elevator up and they have a garden on the 16th floor of the skyscraper. Like this is pretty cool. And admission is free of charge. You get amazing views of Osaka, and you can even go up higher. They have an observation deck you can pay for, but honestly, the views from this garden are pretty cool. This is currently the tallest building in Japan standing 300 meters tall and 62 stories high. We only went part of the way up, but the views were impressive! Osaka Castle Park is a large urban park complete with shrines, gardens, moats, and its namesake landmark: Osaka Castle. Itís a nice place for a stroll, especially on a weekend. And now here’s Osaka Castle itself. The original castle was built in the year 1583, though itís needed some serious reconstructions and renovations many times over. Itís quite the sight from the outside, and we also paid to go up to the 8th-floor observation deck which offers 360-degree views. Alright guys, so we made it to the top! Made it. We had to climb eight floors.

It was a bit of a sweatfest. It was also crowded too. And you also know there is an option to take the elevator if you want to, it’s just the lines were way too long. There were too many people. We legged it up instead. Alright, so time for thoughts on Osaka Castle.

Yeah, so our, basically, the consensus is we enjoyed it more from the outside than the inside. The complex area itself is quite impressive, just walking around and seeing the castle from different vantage points. I would agree. It’s incredible. But inside, we chose to go on a weekend, which was a bad decision in hindsight. It was packed. So many people!

Namba

Umm, the best part was the views at the top. There were some really nice views. But, you can get better views in Osaka, and we’re going to show you those later in this article. Yeah, exactly. Alright guys, so next up, we are visiting the Namba Yasaka Shrine, which is shaped like the head of a lion. It’s pretty unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it. And the idea is that the lion is meant to swallow any evil spirits, and it’s also a popular place where people come to pray if they want to do well in business or in their education. So yeah, the cool little spot here. Another place that canít be missing on your list of things to do in Osaka is Dotonbori. This is one of the main tourist areas in the city and itís a place known for its nightlife and entertainment. We visited by day and got a much tamer experience of the place, but you can expect lots of neon, billboards and massive signs that let you know each restaurants’ specialties. One big reason why we visited Dotonbori was to enjoy the street food! There are countless food
stands in this area, and it was our mission to hit them up! We tried taiyaki, kushikatsu, gyoza, and takoyaki, among other things. This is actually a dish that originated in Osaka in the 30s. So if you come here, like you have to try takoyaki. It’s just mandatory. How could you no? Look at these little balls. It’s one of the most iconic food items you can try in Osaka for sure. Piping hot. Piping hot. While youíre in the neighbourhood, you can also check out the Kuromon Ichiba, a covered market often nicknamed Osakaís Kitchen. There are shops selling fish, meat, and vegetables, but you can also find stands serving street food. One final tip: don’t forget to look up because this market has some cool seafood-themed signs. Alright guys, so I’m getting number 6, ramen with soft-boiled seasoned egg. And Sam is going for number 11, meat-filled wonton dumplings. Still talking
about food here, another dish that we really wanted to try in Osaka was ramen.

We had this in Dotonbori where we ordered it from a vending machine and then had it served inside the restaurant. Sam got the ramen with dumplings, and I ordered ramen with a perfectly soft boiled egg. Okay, Sam, how thrilled are you about this bowl in front of you? Beyond. So, I mean, look how big this is. Check this out, guys. Oh my gosh! It’s huge. And this is just the regular size. You could actually upgrade and get a bigger one. Yes, you can do one and a half times, or twice as big. And it’s not that much more. I decided to get mine with dumplings. See the dumplings there. They look a bit like momos, the shape. So it looks like there’s some cabbage. We also have lots of noodles and some pork.

Yes, I just love egg. Whenever I try making them at home, I usually overcook or undercook them. It’s usually a cooking fail. So sad. And let’s bite into this magic right here. I’m not a huge fan of an egg so it’s less magical for me than it is for you. Mmmm. Isn’t that good? It’s amazing. That egg looks so good I might even like it. That saying a lot! Noooo. That’s saying a lot. You’re going to have to share. Weíve talked about Japanese food quite a bit already, but another dish that needs to be added to the list is okonomiyaki. This is a very popular dish in Osaka, and itís best described as a savory pancake with toppings that vary by region. We ordered two different kinds: one with pork and another with seafood. Both were topped with a bbq sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes that dance in the heat.

There are restaurants where you can cook it yourself or have it prepared for you. We had quite a bit of help at our table, but it was a really fun food experience! Let’s sprinkle a little bit of this on. Whatever it may be. And aside from that, we can’t forget the bonito flakes. Yes! These are the ones that dance in the heat. Yeah, they dance. Look at that. That’s the best way I can describe it. They look like they’re alive. Yes. Look at them moving. They are moving right now as you see. Fish flakes. Fish flakes, load it up. Let’s try this!

Umeda Sky Building

If youíre looking for things to do in Osaka at night, weíd recommend checking out the views from Umeda Sky Building. The structure consists of two towers that are connected by glass-tunnel escalators and an open-air observation deck at the very top. The views from there are pretty spectacular! While in Osaka, we also made sure to try a typical Japanese breakfast. The highlight: grilled fish and delicious miso. The lowlight: a raw egg and natto. The latter is a fermented soybean with an off-putting slimy texture. And it looks like a really nice piece of fish. I like how you’re using the chopsticks as a fork and knife. Yes, definitely. Why not, right? Take it for a big swim. I think I’m going to grab a little rice with it. Oh, wow. Mmmm. The fish is so tender it just melts in your mouth. And I love the soy ginger sauce
too. Mmmm, oh that’s really good. It’s nice to be having protein in the morning as well.

So next up we are vising the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. It is on the 8th floor of this building. We had some trouble finding it, but now, you know. We didnít visit too many museums in Osaka, but one that we particularly enjoyed was the Museum of Housing and Living. This museum recreates how the streets and buildings of Osaka would have looked like during the Edo Period. They also have a kimono experience where you can dress up and take photos, however, we visited on a weekend so there was a long wait time for that! As you can probably already tell, food was a major focus of our trip to Osaka, and one food experience that we couldnít miss out on was conveyer belt sushi! We ate at Kura Sushi, which is a sushi chain where you can get plates for •100 – the equivalent of $1 US Dollar. A bit of wasabi! Whoa-ho, he’s being adventurous with that wasabi. Yup, gonna mix that around a bit. Alright, let’s try this. One biter, right? Yup. One bite or go home. Mmmmm. How is that? It’s absolutely wonderful. I’ve been craving salmon so much, and to get it here, and the quality is pretty decent too. Yeah, I would say so! For sure. For conveyor belt sushi, this is really good. Yeah, it’s just awesome. It’s such a nice taste. I love salmon! The cool thing about this sushi restaurant is that you can win prizes. Every time we finished 5 plates of sushi, we would slide them into a machine for a chance to win a capsule toy. We tried 3 times and failed, but itís certainly a fun incentive to consume more sushi. Womp womp! Haha, we didn’t get a prize. We have to eat 5 more. Here’s an accompanying video to show you what we did (sorry we didn’t film one!)

Our next stop was Den Den Town, which is the heart of all things anime, manga, and gaming related. After exploring the area on foot, we went into Taito Station, which is a gaming arcade, where we proceeded to lose a few hundred yen on our quest to win a Pikachu. Oh, no. No! Oh my gosh, we’re just wasting money at this point. We’re just wasting money. One evening we decided to visit Shinsekai. This is an older neighborhood with a bit of a retro-futuristic vibe. The centerpiece is Tsutenkaku Tower, which stands 103 meters tall. If you visit Shinsekai, itís good to come hungry. There are lots of restaurants where you can try things like blowfish, kushikatsu, and sumo-sized meals. One cool find in Shinsekai was a retro arcade with games from the 80s
and 90s. They had some classics like Pac-Man, Mario Brothers and Street Fighter. This arcade was located on the left diagonal lane moving away from Tsutenkaku Tower. Oh, you got it! Another place we visited in Osaka is Tsuruhashi, which happens to be the largest Korean neighborhood
in Japan. The area around the train station is full of eateries and restaurants sure to satisfy your kimchi cravings. We found a small little restaurant and ordered up some of our favorite Korean dishes: pajeon, sundubu jjigae, and dolsot bibimbap. It was all delicious and we walked out of there feeling beyond satisfied. Now my main dish, this is the one I ordered. I got the sundubu jjigae, which is a tofu stew. Ooo, this one also has seafood!

Nara

Oh, this is so good. Even though it’s a really hot day outside, I’m all about this hot soup. I remember, when I was in Korea, someone told me once, that you fight fire with fire, so on a hot day, you have hot food. You just don’t care. Today is baseball game day. It’s baseball in Japan! We’re going to be watching a Japanese baseball game, and it’s our first time ever to do that. We’re watching one of two local Osaka teams called the Hanshin Tigers. We just arrived at the stadium. As you can see, I’ve already picked up a new hat. Fancy! I’m loving it. Last but least, there’s one day trip from Osaka that’s not to be missed
and that’s Nara! This was the capital of Japan from the years 710 to 784 AD, and that means there’s plenty of history. We visited temples and gardens, but the main highlight was getting to see the inhabitants Nara is so known for: deer! We bought crackers called ëshika senbei and fed them to the deer who eagerly bowed their heads waiting for their next treat. Another reason we enjoyed Nara was that there is quite a bit of street food to sample. We had freshly-pounded mochi, takoyaki, sushi and more. Now a quick note on transportation in Osaka. When it comes to getting around the city, subways and trains are your best bet. We spent our first few days buying one-way tickets and day passes, which in retrospect was a bit of a headache. The easiest thing to do is to get a prepaid card where you can load money as needed. Osaka’s version of this card is called Icoca, but you can also use Pasmo and Suica in the city.

And that’s a wrap for our Osaka travel guide. We hope you found this article helpful and that it gave you some ideas of things to do in Osaka on your own trip.