After 3 nights in Tokyo, I am off to Osaka. Osaka is the other most popular destination in Japan after Tokyo. This is also the second-largest metropolitan city in the country. It is sort of like the little sister to Tokyo. Osaka is best known for its casual food and outgoing locals. The food capital is renowned for some of the classics that you will be familiar with like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. I can’t wait to check out the city. In fact, I have heard from many friends that far prefer Osaka to Tokyo given how it is less stressful and vibrant. It is also slightly cheaper than the capital. Being in the middle of the Kansai Region which is more or less the central part of Japan makes it a great base for you to explore surrounding areas like Kobe, Nara and Kyoto. Furthermore, with Kyoto hotels being so expensive, frequently, people find themself staying in Osaka and doing Kyoto with multiple day trips. With that, let’s check out my second Japanese city, OSAKA!!!
Transportation in Osaka
Travelling in Japan’s second-largest metropolitan city is very easy. It has a well-equipped transportation system and the city is very well connected with JR trains and the metro. There are even some private railways like Hanshin Line. Similar to Tokyo and other Japanese cities, you can use an IC Card to take rides. Every city or region has its own IC Card or platform. The main IC card in Osaka or the Kansai region is the Icoca Card. It is the same as your Suica or Pasmo Card that you get from Tokyo. They are acceptable in either place and use interchangeably. The only key thing to take note of is that you can’t refund a Suica or Pasmo card in Osaka and you can’t refund an Icoca Card in Tokyo. You can top them up and use them fuss-free in either place.
We took the metro throughout the city during our time there. Besides the metro, it is also worth looking into JR trains. The most useful one is the Osaka Loop Line which circles 19 stations in central Osaka city. If you have a JR Pass during a period like ours, it might be worth taking this instead to rack up some savings. Similarly, Google Maps is the best way to plan your journey.
Dotonbori is undoubtedly the most famous attraction and recognizable attraction in Osaka. This is the spot to be. It is like the central area of the city. This place is super popular in the evening and it is the place to be. There are tons of shopping and eating outlets.
When in Dotonbori, you definitely cannot miss out on checking out all the neon signs and captivating food logos and signs. Here are some pictures!
The most iconic neon sign got to be the Glico Sign. The famed giant billboard was installed in 1935 as an advertisement for the Glico confectionery company.
Nearby the Dotonbori, you can also check out the Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street which is a covered shopping arcade that stretches for more than 600 metres. There are plenty of stores and restaurants here.
Of course, you could not miss out on Osaka Castle and Castle Park! This is not only an Osaka landmark but also one of Japan’s most famous ones. The Osaka Castle is built in 1583 and had a major role during the 16th century. You can easily spend half a day here. Check out the park while on the way to the castle. The extensive park is really lovely. When I was here in November it was the peak of the Autumn Foliage. How lovely is this!
Kuromon Ichiba Market is another place that you should not miss out on when in Osaka. This will be the favourite spot for all the foodies. You can find tons of seafood and little stalls churning them out right in front of you. Come here for a bite or lunch! You will never go wrong with fresh prawns, crabs and beef. There is Fugu too if you fancy! Talk about living life on the edge. They will be expertly prepared by professional chefs.
The Shinsekai area is another lovely spot. It is a little out of the way but quite a nice area to check out if you have some time. The vibes are pretty good here.
I took a walk around my hotel and passed by the Osaka City Central Public Hall. It is quite lovely with all the lights in the evening.
The city of Osaka is gorgeous! Here is an amazing view of the city from my hotel. Look at the ripples of sunsets. Do check out a spot with a bird’s eye view when in town. I have heard that the view from Umeda Sky Building is very good too.
Eating in Osaka
There are simply too many things to eat and try in Osaka that your stomach could handle. I did not have many meals in Osaka given that I was only there for 3 days and I was out of the city for a day or so. I also had some meals at my hotel. I tried my best! Trust me! Let me share some of the highlights of my foodie journey in Osaka! On the first evening, I visited Kani Doraku! I am sure this will not be foreign to anyone. Kani Doraku is a Japanese restaurant that specialised in crab dishes. You can often find their restaurant with a huge red crab on the signboard. This is the place to go if you want some crabs. They have both snow crab and king crab. The restaurant offers various crab dishes, including steamed crab, grilled crab and crab hot pot. You can go ala carte or a crab kaiseki meal. You can find the menu here. They have more than 50 years of history with their main outlet based in Osaka at Dotonbori. You can find outlets all over Japan. Going for the original, I made reservations online to dine at their main Honten.
The staff here are not very good at communicating in English. They were very polite and tried their best to explain the menu. Similarly, the menu translation wasn’t good as well. We were a little overwhelmed by the menu. We just got two different kaiseki sets and get to try various crab dishes from Grilled Crab, Crab Sashimi, Crab Hotpot, Crab Chawanmushi, Crab Gratin and Crab Rice. They also use the leftover stock from your hotpot to make an amazing porridge. The sets are pretty huge and the portion is good. We ended up with some fresh strong matcha over ice cream which is great after such a heavy meal. Here are some pictures of the meal. It isn’t cheap and it cost around 100 SGD per pax but we had a really lovely time here.
I had the best Yakitori in my life in Osaka! I wanted to dine at Torisho, a famous Michelin yakitori restaurant in Osaka but could not get a reservation. Do try to plan early as they are one of the most sought-after places in town. Instead, the hotel recommended me a local spot that’s near the hotel. Banchou is just a 5 mins walk away from Conrad Osaka where I was staying at. They have a couple of other outlets around the city too.
The food is extremely good! Do make reservations if you want to be sure of having a table. The place was packed when I went around 8pm on a weekday. It is extremely local, you can see the locals winding down the day over some beers and skewers after work. It is really difficult to communicate in English but the staff try their very best. They also only have a Japanese menu. With some pointing and google translate, we managed to order an assortment of skewers. They were so good! I love the Chicken Karaage too! This is hands down the best Yakitori I had in my life. The whole meal comes up to around 5000 yen. Very affordable. I can’t stop thinking about this these days.
The last place that I would like to share is this random local shop near Kuromon Market. This was unplanned, we just happen to walk past it while checking out the market. You can find Tenchijin Nippombashi right at the corner. The stall was nothing imposing and it looks like a local joint. The owner’s self-run stall is a one-man show. We got the ramen and the butadon. It cost around 10 SGD for a dish. The food here is very good but I can’t say the same about the service. The owner wasn’t really that friendly.
Check out my Conrad Osaka review which is coming up very soon. I will share the dinner I had over there.
I love Osaka and had an amazing time here. It feels like the city has everything that you might need from shopping to amazing food but without the stress and crowds of Tokyo. I can see why others like it so much as well. I can’t wait to be back and wish that I had planned more time in Osaka. You can fill up 3 full days in this city and there are too many nice places that I would like to dine at. Going for a slow pace and after throwing in those day trips, a week in Osaka will not be an issue at all. I had the best Yakitori in my life in Osaka. I also wish to partake in a couple more excursions when I am back in Osaka. There is the Asahi beer museum and the Yamazaki Distillery to visit! Do remember to book early if you want to do these activities.
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