Osaka holds a really special place in my heart, and I don’t know why. Even before we got to Japan, I wanted to visit Osaka the most and I knew it would be my favorite. Maybe because it is the food capital of Japan? Maybe because of the quirky everyday fashion? Maybe because everyone is so friendly and down to earth? Whatever the reason, I love Osaka!
We landed in Osaka at 6am on a Sunday morning in July. It was relatively easy to get to our hotel which was on the bay by Legoland and the aquarium. At the airport train station, I bought us the 3000 yen per person tickets that included unlimited trips for 24 hours and admission to the aquarium. They only take cash, and there is an international ATM in the 711 in the airport. We did have Japan Rail (JR) passes, but only for 7 out of the 10 days of our trip and we didn’t want to activate them yet. Unlimited day passes around Osaka’s metro were around 600 or 800 yen ($6-8 USD) for 24 hours and we got discounts at some attractions we visited by showing our tickets.
Where we stayed: Universal Bay Condominium
The hotel we stayed in was so hospitable! They had free-to-borrow umbrellas, slippers, lotions, shampoos, board and card games, and were really just always willing to help out. It was in a very quiet part of town and walking distance to the train station and to the aquarium / bay area.
Things to do:
You can take the elevator up to the 5th floor, and then walk up to the 8th floor, or you can skip the elevator and walk all the way up. At the top is a deck with views of Osaka. Each floor on the way down is like a small museum of the castle. The path is well marked with arrows and the flow of traffic is clear. TMy absolute favorite part of the museum featured a very large (several feet long and high) painting featuring tiny and, to most, indistinguishable faces. To my surprise, each face and person in the below painting was a real person that is identifiable to historians! The first photo below is of the large painting, the second one is a zoomed in portion, the third is tiny models they constructed from the painting, and the fourth is narratives and biographies of each of the faces. I am STILL blown away! How is this possible? My second favorite floor of the museum was where they created moving depictions illustrating Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s life using a mix of holograph and real props. The depictions were equally as interesting as his life story of how he went from sandal warmer to unifying the country.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
One of the largest aquariums in the world! I can’t figure out if it’s the second or third largest, so I’ll just say top three largest. Also, one of the top three best aquariums I have ever been to, along with Atlanta and Baltimore in the USA.
Dotonbori was my favorite place to walk around in the evenings. It was vibrant and full of things to catch your eye. The lights were bright, the air was filled with delicious aromas from foods being cooked outside, and there were many interesting shops and arcades to stop in.
Conveyor belt sushi
If we had conveyor belt sushi in the USA, I would live there. Our first conveyor belt sushi experience was in Dotonbori. There was a long line, but it moved quickly and was very organized (as shown in the picture below). It was such a fun and cheap way to eat AMAZING sushi. When something you are interested in rolls by on the conveyor belt, just take it and it’s yours! When you are finished, someone comes over and counts how may plates of each color you had (different colors = different prices) and adds up your bill. Then, you pay and leave. One of my favorite things about this sushi place, and most of the restaurants we went to in Japan, is the unlimited matcha tea that you can get from a faucet at your own seat.
Mino park is a little ways out of Osaka city, but there is a train and a bus that go there. Neither the bus nor the train are covered by the Osaka metro pass, so it will cost 200-300 yen extra each way.
Walking to the park from the bus / train station is easy and quick. You pass by some food places and several vending machines (even in the park). At the entrance to the park, there is a temple that we went up to. Past that, the trail continues to Mino falls (pictured above). The trail is relatively flat and very easy. I think it is usually crowded, but we went while the weather was threatening to storm so the crowds were thinned. Once you reach the falls, there are restaurants, ice cream shops, and souvenirs available for sale. The trail kept promising us that there would be monkeys, but we did not see any 😦
Eat at 711
We would not have discovered this gem if we weren’t so hungry and so short on time. We debated going to a cafe, but we were already low on time and didn’t want to have to order and wait. 711 was the closest place to our hotel and we stopped there on a whim.
(Unless in a market, do not walk around and eat at the same time. Find a place to stand or sit while you eat or snack)
Really check out the bathrooms! Music, baby seats, lounges with chargers and mirrors, and more controls than I can identify on all the toilets. Some toilets even have built-in sinks so that the new water can be used to wash your hands before it refills the toilet.
Even though I like to carry a refillable water bottle, it was fun to stop by the vending machines sometimes to try something new. There are vending machines EVERYWHERE and all the drinks are around 100-200 yen.
Also, I love the “straight up” water fountains we saw in Osaka. It was much easier to drink from, but a little harder to fill water bottles.
Make sure you have cash on you! Very rarely did anything accept card. Even the train stations in the airport only took cash.
After our 2 days in this amazing city, we took the metro to the Shin-Osaka station and took the bullet train / shinkansen to Tokyo! Join us in our next city with my next post 🙂