Japan was on my list of places to see for a while, so I decided to make it happen even though I only had three days to spend there ( thanks to having the Korean Labor Day off). I called up my friend and we booked flights for our three day adventure then packed a small carry on and off we were! We made it a challenge to see, taste, and do as much as we could in those three days! As you will soon find out, we have outdone ourselves and were able to accomplish impressive number of things in such a short time.
Arriving in Osaka
We arrived in Osaka on Friday evening and took the subway to our Airbnb, which was in the Yodogawa area of Osaka, better known as the Friendly Street area. Right away, I was impressed with Japan because the seats on the subway were couch style, very comfortable and soft. The subway system is overwhelming to say the least, BUT once you figure it out it’s the most convenient way to get around. There is assistance button that you can push when trying to purchase a ticket, and the person pops out of what looks like just the wall, but it’s a window size door. Every time the person was very kind, friendly, and helpful and got us tickets to exactly where we needed to go. The interesting thing is that you can purchase a ticket for one way or both ways and the amount depends on where you go, so it’s not a flat fee. Another thing I was really impressed with was how there was no rush to get on to the subway. There was always a worker standing by and holding the door open for people who needed to get on. People always waited for others to get off the subway before getting on, and everyone was polite. This was obviously a lovely change from Korea where the subway waits for no one, and people rush in without letting others get out and word ‘excuse me’ is not commonly used in this setting. When we arrived at our stop we decided to take the take a short taxi ride to our Airbnb. Now, this is where I tell you a taxi is a luxury ride in Japan! There are taxi stands everywhere, so you don’t have to haul one yourself. You go to the taxi stand and the driver in a pressed suit opens the door for you to the pristine taxi and in English asks where to. Wow! How awesome is that?! I am not sure about you, but I’ve experienced plenty of unpleasant taxi drivers and taxi rides, so I was very thrilled about taxis in Japan! Now, before you decide to get around Japan in a lavish taxi on your next trip, you have to know that the taxi prices are exorbitant. It’s great for short distances, so you don’t break the bank, and still get to experience the convenience and great service.
Osaka is known as the ultimate food destination of Japan that means you MUST try all the amazing Japanese food there. From fresh sushi and sashimi, to hot ramen, to okonomiyaki, to sweet treats that are too adorable to eat, you must try it all. Also, don’t skip an amazing breakfast place Eggs ‘n Things. Food in Osaka is everywhere and you most likely won’t be disappointed regardless of where you go. I won’t give you specific places to try, but I’ll point out that you should definitely try all the foods I listed above while in Osaka.
Must See and Do in Osaka
Osaka Castle (大阪城, Ōsakajō) is definitely worth a visit because the castle is exquisite and you can learn a little bit about Japanese history, since this landmark played a role in the unification of the sixteenth century. You can also learn about Japanese samurai, and if you are lucky, you can even see some samurai performance by the castle. There are many places to picnic in the area as well as grab a bite from the local vendors. The hours of operation are seasonal, so definitely check those prior to going. This is a famous landmark, so it does get crowded. There is no fee to see the castle from the outside, but if you want to go in to the castle, it’s about 600 yen.
The Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル) and Floating Garden is one of the World’s Top 20 Buildings. On the 39th floor you can enjoy a beautiful view of the entire city from the 360 degree open-air deck, as long as you don’t have a fear of heights, this place is definitely worth a visit. There is a admission fee of 1000 yen and hours of operation are 10:00 – 22:00.
I love shopping, so those who don’t share the same love for shopping you can skip this section. Shopping in Osaka was not only AMAZING, but much cheaper than S. Korea, which I had no idea prior to going, but it was a pleasant surprise! Yes, everywhere is jam-packed; however, it didn’t feel overwhelming to me. People as I mentioned earlier are polite and everyone seemed to get where they needed to, including me with no issues. Of course where there is shopping there is food, so you can always go check out these areas for food as well. Ame-Mura a.k.a. America Mura is full of beautiful street art, restaurants, and of course some amazing shopping. This is a great place to get trendy western fashion and for a reasonable price. Even though it has some western fashion, there is still plenty of Japanese fashion there as well and the whole place has a Japanese vibe.
Dotonbori-gawa Canal and shopping street is another area not to be missed. In fact, this is where the Osakaites love to hang out and it’s easy to understand why. On both sides of the canal there is endless shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, theaters, galleries, arcades, and anime shops. Basically there is no room for boredom.
Kyoto is only an hour train ride away from Osaka, so of course it was on the list. There are many temples to see and things to do in Kyoto. Since we only had less than 24 hours to spend there, we decided to check out the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and the Kinkaku-ji (鹿苑寺) a.k.a.Golden Pavilion. Both of these places are breathtakingly beautiful and unique. They are a 45 minute bus ride apart, so definitely not ideal for those not wanting to spend 45 minute on a cramped and comically slow bus each way. Fushimi Inari is free, but the Golden Pavilion has admission fee of 400 yen, so for those traveling on a tight budget that’s something to keep in mind. There are many other places you can see in Kyoto and most are free. To me, it was worth the fee. The Pavilion is stunning, and the garden around it is a lovely place to take a walk and relax. It’s a perfect place to get a little bit of calm and peace in the midst of travel.
I couldn’t leave Japan without trying on a 着物 kimono, which is traditional Japanese clothing. There are many kinds of kimonos with plentiful variety of prints and colors. The best place to try one on and really enjoy the experience is in the village in Kyoto where there are many shops to rent a kinomo and even have a photo shoot. To maximize my time, I tried on a kimono at the visitor center at the train station in Osaka. I didn’t get to experience the walking around a village in a kimono like I would have if I did it in Kyoto, but I did get to take some photos and wear the kimono for a short time. The best part? It was free. This is something to keep in mind if you want to save a little bit of money, but still get some photos of yourself in a beautiful kimono.