When Jien and I visited Japan for the first time in 2016, our tour guide Sachiko spoke fondly about her hometown – Osaka. She was so enthusiastic about the wonderful experience we would have that Jien insisted we make a pitstop to Osaka before we headed to Hokkaido last September.
While it marked the beginning of autumn in Japan, the weather in Osaka was sunny with mild showers now and then. Jien and I were unfortunate to have missed our flight from Tokyo to Osaka due to a flight delay from Kuala Lumpur to Narita. It’s best to anticipate a longer time gap (we allocated a 3-hour time gap) to buffer for any possible flight delay.
A rescheduled flight and a train ride later, we got to our accommodation without too much hassle. For those taking the train from the airport to Osaka city centre for the first time, do note that there’s only one train line so you either go from one end to another. Just head to the train platform and look for your stop – either left or right.
Sometimes, communication barrier can be confusing as we got pretty confused when asking for directions. The apartment we booked was located pretty near Dotonbori as well as the train station; within a 5-10 minutes’ walk to the designer shopping district. Note that Japan gets a good variety of designer items especially the limited edition ones so it pays to do your research on what to buy.
As we only had 3 days in Osaka, Jien and I tried to maximise our time where possible – by visiting the Osaka Aquarium, Yamazaki Distillery, Osaka Castle, Shitennoji Temple and of course, Dotonbori for all the shopping and eating one can indulge in. Travelling around Osaka is fairly easy as directions are clear and it’s easy to navigate around with portable WiFi.
Melissa prefers using Travel Recommends but both Jien and I find Samurai WiFi better in our case as the service (so far) is faster and it gives us better connectivity. Most Japanese people would recommend Samurai WiFi if you’re traveling to Japan, so I guess it’s a matter of preference and patriotism haha. :P
We almost didn’t make it to the Yamazaki Distillery as the tour was fully booked when we attempted to secure a slot two weeks prior to our trip. Fortunately, there was a last-minute cancellation when we called to try our luck so we found ourselves in the tour, understanding the history of this distillery and sampling some of the best produce it has to offer.
If you’re into whiskies, do try the 21-year old available for sale (by glasses only) at the bar just below the gift shop.
Osaka Aquarium offers both the young and old an underwater journey of some of the most magnificent sea species around. It’s advisable to spend at least 2 hours inside the aquarium to maximise the experience – at the end of the tour, you’ll get to pet some stingrays assisted by a guide.
It takes about 30 minutes to get to Osaka Castle from the train station so please wear comfortable shoes. You will need to climb a slight uphill to the castle so breakfast prior would be a good idea.
I really liked the experience at the castle as the guides provided (there’s English too) are informative and entertaining. Spent a good 2 hours immersing myself in the history of Osaka and how the empire was built over the centuries.
Osaka wouldn’t be complete without all the good food, and Dotonbori is the perfect place to explore if you’re into local delicacies like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakiniku and desserts. Some of the more memorable spots we tried are 2nd best melon-pan, Wanaka Takoyaki and Yakiniku M Dotonbori.
While Osaka is popular for desserts, both Jien and I only enjoyed Pablo cheesecake, which is really a level-up from the one in KL. Other treats we tried (from Maison De Gigi) were nothing to shout about.
I liken Dotonbori to our local night market where you get to shop affordably and sample all the local delights as you walk along the stalls and restaurants. The place is clean and properly maintained so I’m certain food lovers would find this ideal.
Watch this video compilation of my time in Osaka! :)