Japan itinerary: 1 day in Osaka

I’ve said it before, but expectations are key if you are going to enjoy Japan.  It’s a very busy and orderly place and sometimes can feel overwhelming. I didn’t want to feel too rushed and so only chose 3 areas to visit. However, I thought we had 2 days, whereas in fact due to an overnight flight we only had 1 day in Osaka!

Travelling to Japan

Originally when I booked our travel here it was all driven by money. We picked the cheapest flights we could get and inevitably meant arriving at 5.30am! It also meant taking indirect flights and so we had very little sleep! In fact, the boys had the most at 3 hours!! It wasn’t a great start to our Japanese adventure.

Getting connected

You need a Japanese SIM card! in order to get around, use Google translate, research sites etc… Again, this process didn’t seem straight forward. Lots of choice & lots of websites talked about a Mifi (which you loan). This is a little gadget that you can hire and allows 5 devices to connect to WiFi. You just need to what’s have the Mifi on you to connect.

Or you can (like us) go the standard route and buy a SIM card (it really is very expensive). And when I needed data I asked Keith to turn on his hotspot.

We selected the 5GB for 10 days option. The cost was yen 2340 for the SIM including delivery (£17/$20). There’s lots of choice and klook is mentioned as an option too. We chose a SIM that we could pick up at 9am at Osaka airport. It did mean hanging around for a few hours after we landed but we were tired and actually all had a nap, some breakfast and bought our train tickets.

Here’s where we purchased ours:

Go to store & purchase and select visitor SIM
Select delivery option as post office at the airport (6 major airports included).

Note: you can get a SIM from BIC camera stores also, but there’s just wasn’t one near our airport when we arrived.

 

Travelling around in Osaka

I will create a separate ‘Travel in Japan’ blog post in more detail. But in short if you intend using the subways, you need a travel card. You can buy an individual ticket to destinations but time is precious here.

Osaka is based in kansai region and for Japan railways is classed as ‘JR west’. Confusing eh!

We landed at 5.30am & so hung around and went to the ticket office to purchase an Icoca card.  There’s desks for foreigners.

We purchased the “Icoca & haruka” card. This just meant we got a slight discount on our ticket from haruka airport to the city. Total cost of card is yen 3,120 (yen 500 is a deposit which you get back when you return the card & haruka journey costs Yen 1,120). Therefore, you have Yen 1,500 to spend on transport.

 

For the boys the ticket office suggested we buy a separate ticket to Tennoji (as it’s cheaper) for yen 850 and then purchase a yen 2,000 icoca card for them.

  • Things to note:
    This card can be used in (kansai region) Osaka & Kyoto so yen 2,000 won’t be enough. We had to top up a couple of times. We topped up the cards at withthe station easily.  We added yen 2,000 for us & yen 500 for the boys.
  • Kids cards are different and provide a discount – usually half the adult price.
  • You need to return your card within Western Japan region (ie Kyoto or Osaka) in order to get the deposit back. You can’t return the card in another ‘JR region’
  • Try not to leave any credit on the travel card. You will get all the money back… after you pay an admin fee.

Luckily we found that Google maps provided you with an estimated cost of the journey you intend to take. Note: not all journeys cost the same. I’ll explain more in my “Travel in Japan” blog.

Total cost for Osaka & Kyoto travel:
Icoca cards – Yen 11,940

Travel planning in Japan

Before we arrived here we joined a group in Facebook called Japan travel planning. A very busy but very informative and knowledgeable group who were able to answer even the silliest of questions. I think everyone understands how confusing it can be to travel here.

Where to stay in Osaka

Peace hostel in Osaka for a compact 4 bedded room with shared bathrooms. It was a very sociable place with some longer term residents. The place is run by travellers and so everyone some English which is a bonus! And meant we could chat to them about travels.

The house was a traditional Japanese home with lots of wood, squeaky floors and low ceilings – loved it!  We had 2 bunk beds but some rooms have the traditional Japanese futons on the floor which are rolled out each night.

They also have a fully catered kitchen area for you to prepare meals, saving money on eating out. There was also free tea and coffee!

A very nice, friendly and cheap hostel.

Cost – Yen 4,010 (1 night)

 

Where to go in Osaka

We’d left ourselves with only an evening and morning to explore Osaka! I’d forgotten we were on an overnight flight and also our lack of sleep meant we needed an afternoon nap to recover! Still, we squeezed in what we could and loved what we saw of Osaka.

As it was late afternoon we decided to walk through the streets of Osaka to take in as much as we could. Our overall aim was to get to the Dotonbori area.

In the way from our hostel we passed through a fabulous, and more local area, called Ebisuhigashi, in the niwari ward.

There were side streets with lots of small eateries and everyone seemed to be drinking beer. It’s something we didn’t really expect to see on Japan! But we loved it – Free

We wandered past the Tsutenkaku tower and onwards to the Minami area, where Dotonbori.  It is best visited at night to see the city with its neon lights. Lots of shopping in the area and very busy!

Great views from Ebisu bridge and where you can see ‘the running Man’. But it was so busy!!! – Free

Next morning we got up early in order that we could explore Osaka castle and Gardens before catching our 1 hour train to Kyoto.  The area is easy to get to by subway.  The area is surrounded by a moat.

As you enter there are lots of maps to show the areas to explore.  We found there was one garden which you had to pay to enter, but didn’t  give you access to the castle, so we skipped this.  Instead we walked round to the fortress bridge and walked into the Castle Gardens.  We expected to pay for this part, but in fact it was free.  You can get up close to the castle and enjoy the surrounding area.

 

It was busy but still peaceful as it´s so spread out.  The cost to enter the castle is Yen 600 but kids are free.  We didn´t have much time so decided not to go inside – cost Free.

 

Other Things to do in Osaka

There are a few more places to visit in Osaka, but it was suggested that if you are going to Kyoto that the temples are a little better.

  • Shitennoji – Famed Buddhist temple built in 593 A.D. & featuring a 5-story pagoda, statues & ponds with turtles. Yen 300 for adults, yen 200 for kids.
  • Hozenji Temple – Intimate Buddhist temple along a quaint alley, with a moss-covered statue of the deity Fudomyoo.   Free, but there´s a fee for the gardens.
  • Umeda Sky Building – described as striking conjoined skyscrapers with a garden rooftop observation area, restaurant & cocktail lounge.  Yen 1,000

Eating in Japan

As well as travel, one of the most expensive costs is eating out. Therefore our dining experience was limited to 7-elevens and family marts! Although we did treat ourselves to 1 McDonald’s!

More often than not we grabbed a delicious and light steamed bun which had a number of different options such as pork or curry or pizza flavour.  You’ll find these in a heated glass container near or on the counter.

Food costs on average per day – Yen 5,600 (about £40 per day)

 

Conclusion

Osaka is a great arrival point to access the Kansai Region and for a trip to Hiroshima.  Osaka is less hectic than it´s sister city of Kyoto.  Although it has a few temples the consensus is that the temples are better in Kyoto so don’t get too templed out here.

Instead, wandering around the streets, especially around the Ebisuhigashi area.  It was definitely less hectic than Dontonburi which was great for city lights but soooo busy!

Use your time in Osaka to get familiar with a few key things and get connected before you start exploring.

 

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