I’ve brought you to Kobe and Kyoto, now let’s go to the city in between – OSAKA (大阪). It’s the third largest and 2nd most important city in Japan, after Tokyo. If you were to compare Japan to the USA, I’d say Tokyo is like New York City and Osaka is like Los Angeles. The cities are both populated with tourists, but the latter is more laid back in comparison and there are lesser “must-see-or-you’ve-never-been-here” kind of attractions. You could spend 3 to 4 days here, with a comfortable itinerary and leave happy and rested.
Here’s my list of 5 things you have to do in Osaka:
1. SPEND A DAY IN NAMBA 難波 ( DOTONBURI / SHINSAIBASHI )
Namba, often known as the heart of Osaka, is the major tourist attraction where all the shopping, food and good photography spots congregate at the same place. Here, specifically in Dotonburi, you’d find the famous Glica running man and famous crab (mine got cut off) that is representational of Osaka.
And if you’re on a Kit Kat hunt like myself, go to this shop under the yellow “ferris wheel”, they have the 3 Kyoto flavours, baked pudding flavour, dark chocolate flavour, strawberry flavour and the matcha (green tea) flavour. Other than kit kat, they sold a lot of Japanese snacks and you’d be spoilt for choices. I wish I could buy more things but my luggage space was limited. 🙁
When you’re walking around Ebisubashi, the Dotonburi area, and you find yourself craving for some snack, try this fluffy cheesecake! The shop name’s called Rikuro Ojisan no mise (translated from the Hiragana). People were constantly joining the line but it was moving pretty fast.
Another place to check out would be MUJI 無印良品, with an outlet in Namba, diagonally across Takashimaya. Unlike their international outlets you’re probably familiar with, Muji stores in Japan are huge, almost like IKEA. They sell furniture, clothes, smart travel essentials, stationery and food. They even sell foreign curry paste and etc! Sipping a cuppa in their café wouldn’t be a bad idea after a day of walking.
Further down from Namba / Dotonburi area, lies this hipster shopping district at Shinsaibashi. You’d find many youngsters there roaming around in their fashionable clothing. To my surprise, I saw many African Americans working at the stores in this area, shouting out to tourists/locals in Japanese promoting their offers. How lovely. I really like it when someone who is obviously not from the country speaks the host country’s language so fluently. But be warned, the things there aren’t cheap, except for this particular 300yen shop!
So there you go, you might not even cover every corner within 1 day!
2. EAT (SUPPER) AT ICHIRAN RAMEN
you place your order using this machine, where you can decide to add additional toppings/noodles etc
They favour solo dining, so everyone has a little cubicle to eat at, and your food will be served from the closed ‘wall’ you’re facing. However if you’re there with a friend or two, you can push in the board in between you and your friend so that you still can interact.
This popular ramen store only specialises in Tonkatsu Ramen (pork noodles) and nothing else. It’s open 24h and located in many prefectures in Japan, so tourists and Japanese alike go there for a quick meal. The only store situated outside of Japan is in Hong Kong, so those of you going there could also give it a try, since reviews said that the experience and quality are as close! Although it’s not exclusive to Osaka, you won’t want to miss out on this. THIS IS ESPECIALLY SHIOK FOR SUPPER. Their website here.
(*Shiok is Singlish, a Singapore Colloquial English, which can be translated as super good, satisfying, or 爽 in Mandarin Chinese.)
Okonomiyake is known as the Osaka pancake. They’re sold in restaurants and street stores, most of them are decently priced and well done! This is one snack in Osaka that you have to eat more than once and decide where you like best, just like Takoyaki!
4. OSAKA CASTLE PARK
Situated at the Osaka business park, this is the #1 attraction with the #1 view of Osaka. As travellers, we’ll always like to see the city from a top of a tower or something, except that this time, it’s from a castle that has a history of uniting the Japanese. Pretty interesting history, you’ll learn about it inside with information and videos (though the latter is only in Japanese). 🙂
If you’re getting the Osaka day pass for transport, you’d get a discounted price for the admission fee as well! Otherwise, admission fee is 600yen.
5. INSTANT RAMEN MUSEUM / CAT CAFE
I’ve heard many raved about the Nissin cup noodles museum, where you can customise and make your own! However, it’s all the way at the Northern part of Osaka, so the journey from the main area (assuming Namba) would take about 1h or more by public transport. It’s a pity because I wanted to go on the last day but we had no time. I’ll be back definitely. 🙂
It cost 1000yen for an hour with the cats, including a small box of cat food for you to feed and a drink (such as green tea latte and etc) for yourself. The Japanese take the 1h seriously, so do not hold back the cat food for too long because you won’t be allowed to continue feeding once the 1h is up. They also have a quota for the number of people allowed in, so as to avoid overcrowding and a better place for the cats to roam around. Reservations are also allowed, but you have to know how to converse in Japanese to make that reservation of course. 😉
Cat cafes are suddenly everywhere, I’ve been to the one in Seoul last year, and this year in Osaka. Singapore suddenly has two popping out, which I’d love to visit. Meanwhile, I hope this list is of help to those wanting/planning to go Osaka! 🙂