The last country on the Amarvelous six-week honeymoon around the world was Japan, and probably some of our favorite moments of the trip happened on these nine days. Japan is this wonderful mixture of ancient and traditional culture, high-tech modern technology and architecture, plenty of opportunities to do soul searching while connecting with nature, thrilling theme parks, and kitschy opportunities for entertainment and adventure. Our time in Japan consisted of three cities – Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo – and these next few Amarvelous Honeymoon posts will be split up by city. This week’s post is on Osaka!
Of the three Japanese mainland cities, we spent the least amount of time in Osaka, because Hubby and I knew we wanted to prioritize Tokyo. We arrived in Osaka from Sanya, “the Hawaii of China” (read our blog post about this tropical paradise here), just in time to enjoy dinner and explore the nightlife. We also spent the next morning and afternoon in Osaka before leaving for Kyoto. This post will cover the currency, transportation, food, accommodations, and attractions of Osaka, plus a few things we researched but didn’t have time to do.
Generally speaking, Japan isn’t a cheap travel destination. Of the Asian nations we had been to on this trip (China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan), Japan was the most expensive. At the time of writing this post, the conversion is $1 (USD) to ¥108.66 (Japanese Yen). Don’t get sticker shock when almost everything you buy is sold by the thousands of yen. For example, a bowl of ramen can range from ¥600 to ¥2,000 (JPY), or $5.52 to $18.41 (USD). I wouldn’t say Japan is unaffordable though. We live in New York City, and I found the pricing in Japan to be similar to Manhattan. So perhaps some tourists won’t get as much bang for their buck as at home, but for us it was relatable.
The flight from Sanya to Osaka was incredibly affordable, about $194 per ticket, with a layover in Guangzhou. Unfortunately, flying from Hainan, China, to Japan means that you lose one hour due to the timezone change. Upon arrival in the Kansai International Airport, which is on a peninsula and not on the Japanese mainland, you have two options to get into the city: train or taxi.
Hubby and I decided on taking the hour-long train ride to our accommodations in Osaka, which were located near the Nishi-Ohashi train station. For reference, the drive can be just as long, depending on the traffic! In general, our recommendation for mainland Japan is to travel by train, because the subway system is one of the best that we’ve seen in the world: it’s very efficient, clean, and on-time. The video below, created by JapanGuide.com, is an excellent breakdown of types of trains in Japan, some rail lines, and rider etiquette:
Traveling in Japan (and especially taxi rides with drivers who are not always fluent in English) was made more enjoyable since Hubby luckily speaks Japanese—but don’t fret, because most of the public transit signage is in English, and many people speak English too. It doesn’t hurt to learn some phrases ahead of time though. Take a look at this blog post before your trip to Japan: Enjoy traveling by trains and buses! Phrases for using transportation @ LiveJapan.com
First thing we did in Osaka was check into our cute but tiny Airbnb, probably the smallest room of our honeymoon. The room consisted of a small entryway, a petite kitchenette, a bathroom, and a bedroom on a soft linoleum floor. Something we hadn’t considered was that the rules of the house did not allow you to wear shoes or have bags on the linoleum floor, as it could dent and damage the flooring. This forced us to stack up our luggages at the front entry for them to fit in the room. Then when we needed to access our bags, hubby had to carry them over to the bed and open them on top of the bed.
In addition to the room being among the tiniest of our trip, so was the bathroom. Many bathtubs in Japan are deep soaker tubs, but the tub in this bathroom was the smallest we experienced, which didn’t bother us since we didn’t have the time to soak anyway.
The small size aside, the room was comfortable, had nice décor, included free wifi, and perfectly fit our needs for a single-night stay. The option to self check-in and check-out saved us some time. This is the exact Airbnb we stayed at, if you are interested in booking the same space. In the photo section, the host shares very useful information about nearby transportation, convenience stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and tourist spots. For $37 (USD) a night, it was a steal and an incredible savings compared to a regular hotel.
The main reason we selected this room was because it was close to public transit and in prime location to our nighttime and next-day activities. As soon as we settled in, we went out exploring by foot.
Attractions & Food
It was a cold night, and we had a craving for ramen, so we googled ramen restaurants in the area and walked about 15 minutes to a busy area of town named Dotonbori that had lots of restaurants. In fact, Dotonbori is the most famous food district in Japan, and Osaka is known as the “Nation’s Kitchen,” with exquisite restaurants, world-famous chefs, and delicious dishes aplenty.
Down a small side street, we found Ramen Makotoya Shinsaibashi. The restaurant was long and narrow with a bar-top down the length of the whole restaurant, seating on one side for guests, and a kitchen workspace on the other side for the cooks. The format meant you sat next to your companions versus across from them. We encountered many restaurants in this same style while in Japan. We ordered gyoza as a starter and two bowls of ramen: one with a chicken broth and the other with a beef bone broth. Both bowls had tender pork belly slices, soft boiled ramen eggs, bamboo shoots, scallions, and hand-made noodles, then mine also had cabbage, and hubby’s had mushrooms and nori (Japanese seaweed). Still to this day, this was the best ramen that we have ever had in our lives. For a first meal in Japan, we were over-the-moon excited for the rest of the food on our trip.
By the time we had finished eating, we left to explore some more, but many of the places that we passed were closed. We continued to walk around and noticed something interesting: In the country that created Godzilla and the mecha entertainment genre (think Power Rangers and Pacific Rim), it’s no wonder that restaurants and stores put these types of huge cartoon and robotic structures in front to attract customers. Definitely some photo-worthy opportunities.
Although some shops were closed, the area was still busy with open bars and clubs to experience. This area of town was hip with a lot of young people in their early-20s. After a long day of travel and a time change, though, Hubby and I didn’t partake in the nightlife but instead went with full bellies back to the Airbnb to sleep and get an early start the next morning.
Hubby and I woke up early to pack up and then go through the self-check-out procedures for the Airbnb. Once all done, we headed out with our luggages for our daytime activities. It wasn’t ideal to roll our bags around all day, but the area of town that we were headed to was on our way to our next city, Kyoto. So instead of requesting a late check-out, going to the next activity, going back to the Airbnb to pick up the bags, then continuing back to Kyoto, we just brought our bags along from the beginning. Figured this plan was smarter, faster, and cheaper than backtracking. Take a look at just how far our next destination (Expo City) is from the area of our hotel! Osaka is huge!
If you’ve read some of our other posts, you know that we usually dine at McDonald’s around the world because Hubby likes to order the McDouble and compare them in each country. Well, my favorite fast food is KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). We’ve passed KFCs in other countries and regrettably not had time to stop in. In preparing for this trip, when I learned that the first KFC buffet in the world was created in Osaka, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of having lunch here.
Our first stop of the day was to a shopping mall called Expo City so we could have all-you-can-eat brunch at KFC! It took a couple of trains to get from our Airbnb to Expo City, and the ride was just over an hour long. The trains were very clean and not busy. Expo City mall is located next to the 1970 World’s Fair/Expo Commemorative Park that includes gardens, museums, and a nature center. Expo City even has a ferris wheel called the Redhorse Osaka Wheel. Had we had more time in Osaka to make this a day-trip and not a stop in between cities, we wouldn’t have had our luggages and we would have explored the park after KFC. That may be an option for you if you have a day to spend in this area.
When we arrived at KFC, there was a short wait to sit. But eventually they sat us and even found a patio area where our large bags could fit next to our table. They allot you 90 minutes max to eat—that way you don’t just hang out all day, and they can get others inside. There were about 60 different menu options ranging from multiple types of fried chicken prepared in different seasonings and cooking methods, biscuits, pasta, vegetables, soup, salad, and ice cream.
We were absolutely stuffed in way less than 90 minutes, so the clock didn’t matter. Although they say the recipes are Colonel Sanders, I think the chicken and biscuits are a little different than America. I did expect some variation, so I wasn’t disappointed, and everything was really tasty. Prices vary based on day of the week and time of day. For example, weekday afternoons are the lowest price, and weekend evenings are the highest price. Adult prices range from ¥1,880 to ¥2,480 (JPY), or $17 to $22 (USD). Well worth the money being that we had one meal all day until a late dinner in Kyoto.
After lunch, we decided to walk around the mall to work off the full feeling. We shopped and bought some souvenirs from Osaka. Then when we were done, we walked back to the train platform.
Some Additional Attractions
Hubby’s and my time in Osaka was a mere 24 hours, so we unfortunately did not have time to see and eat everything that Osaka has to offer, and that’s a lot! If you’re planning a longer trip there, then make sure to add these options to your list:
- Universal Studios Japan: Just like Orlando in Florida, this park now has a Wizarding World of Harry Potter section
- Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: The world’s largest aquarium!!
- Tempozan Ferris Wheel and HEP Five Ferris Wheel
- Jiggly Cheesecake at Uncle Rikuro’s Café: As made famous around the world by Buzzfeed
- And everything else on this Buzzfeed article in general: 12 Reasons Why Osaka Should Be Your First Stop In Japan @ Buzzfeed.com
- Hotels in Japan can be costly, so consider alternative accommodation website such as Airbnb where you can rent someone’s home. We utilized Airbnb for our Osaka and Kyoto stays but opted for a hotel in Tokyo because we found an affordable option (which was still one of the most expensive we paid for while in Asia).
- Some traditional accommodations in Japan may have tatami flooring, which is a tightly woven straw mat flooring used in Japanese households. It’s hard to clean and generally more delicate than tile, which is why many people remove their shoes before entering their homes in Japan. Just like Osaka’s Airbnb linoleum, we couldn’t put our luggage on the flooring in Kyoto either, since it was tatami flooring.
Besides a two-day stop to the island of Okinawa, Japan, (which was a port of call on our cruise through Asia), Osaka was the first Japanese city (on the mainland) that we visited. These nine days and three cities in Japan were the final stops on our six-week honeymoon around the world. Though brief, Osaka was great so far, and we were excited to continue the journey to Kyoto and Tokyo.
If you are interested in reading more about our travels, then check out the Amarvelous Honeymoon Blog.
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