It’s been two months since the Cupcake and I visited Osaka, Japan and I feel so bad that I haven’t written anything about it yet (except for our first Airbnb experience). It’s been crazy busy for me since we got back—I’ve been doing a lot of things for work, I went back to school (which is scheduled literally right after work from 5:30 to 9:30 pm), and there were other articles for the blog that I needed to prioritize—which left me with no time to work on an article featuring Osaka.
Exploring Osaka Castle’s Garden/Grounds
Thankfully, because of temporary living arrangements (I stay in Makati from Tuesdays to Fridays with my Ninang and cousin, which cuts down my travel time and gives me two hours of my life back), I was finally able to find time, and I’d like to write about what I highly recommend to do when you’re in Osaka.
Before anything, I just want to share that out of all the places I’ve been to, Osaka is by far my favorite. And I think there are several reasons behind it. On Instagram, I mentioned that I fell in love with the city because of the discipline and politeness, efficient transportation, food and culture, technology, and sense of style. I think booking an Airbnb apartment and meeting our wonderful host, Teppei, is a big factor as well. But I think the main reason why I enjoyed Osaka the most out of all my trips with the Cupcake (Bohol, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh, and Siem Reap) is because I planned every nitty-gritty detail of our itinerary and took the lead (especially in getting us from one place to another via riding a train or walking). We didn’t book any tours with travel agencies. I researched for months and laid down everything—from booking our flight and accommodation, to the schedule and itinerary, to the costs.
Stalked these girls because I loved their #OOTD’s
Which leads me to writing about nine things to do in Osaka, Japan. It’s a mix of shopping, food tripping, and visiting iconic places—which I all enjoyed immensely. We left Manila on a Saturday and arrived in the evening. We spent Sunday going around, Monday for Universal Studios, and Tuesday going around again, before finally going home on Tuesday night. I’ll write a more detailed itinerary with the cost breakdown in a separate article.
So here are my nine things to do in Osaka, Japan:
9. Familiarize yourself with the train lines
The transportation system of Osaka is something I wish we had here in the Philippines. Honestly, if ours was this efficient and secure, I wouldn’t mind commuting to work every single day. At first, it took me a while but eventually I got the hang of the different train lines and their corresponding colors. We got the Amazing 2-Day Pass once so that we didn’t have to keep buying tickets—it’s an unlimited pass for two days and covers all train lines except the JR Line.
8. Shop in Mitsui Outlet Park
The Cupcake has a Japanese colleague who told him to look for the place that sold really nice Nike and Adidas shoes at a much cheaper price. When we asked Teppei where this was, he gave us directions to a place called Mitsui Outlet Park. This was where I got to buy pasalubong for my shoe-fanatic dad and cousins.
7. Shop in Yodobashi-Umeda
If you’re a techy person or are really into gadgets, try checking out this eight-story building of purely tech stuff. The Cupcake sure took his time here.
6. Shop in Don Quijote in Namba (near Dotonburi)
This is the ultimate place to buy pasalubong for everyone back home. I hoarded all the K-Palette eyebrow pencils and eyeliners, plus chocolates with unique flavors you can only find in Japan.
5. Visit Pokemon Center
The Pokemon Center is located on the 13th floor of Damaru, Osaka Station City. It’s definitely a haven for all Pokemon addicts. They sell everything Pokemon-related, but the most amusing part is that you can actually bring your cards and challenge fellow addicts or the staff themselves. There’s one area that’s full of one-on-one tables, and a Pokemon staff is seated in each. Kids can just sit in front of whoever and start challenging them. I got to buy my Pokemon-fanatic brother a souvenir from here.
Osaka Station City
View of Umeda Sky Building from Osaka Station City
4. Learn more about the history of Osaka Castle
Our first stop during the entire trip was the Osaka Castle, because it was literally a five-minute walk away from our Airbnb apartment. The castle itself was turned into a museum, where you can learn so much about the history of the city. The grounds surrounding the castle are filled with vendors, where the Cupcake and I got to enjoy Japanese street food.
My face as I learned something new. Haha!
View from the top of the castle
Green Tea Snow Cone
SIDE TRIP: Shitennoji Temple – this is one of Japan’s oldest temples and the first ever to be built by the state. It was founded in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who supported the introduction of Buddhism into Japan.
Walking to Shitennoji Temple
Shitennoji Temple Entrance
I was so intrigued when I saw people washing their hands and faces here. I did my research and apparently, this is a ritual purification to remove spiritual uncleanliness before worshiping Buddha.
This was the Cupcake’s lunch after visiting Osaka Castle and Shitennoji Temple. It was in this tiny restaurant we discovered along the way.
3. Be awed by the Osaka Aquarium
The Osaka Aquarium is one of my favorite places in the city. It’s literally a 15-story aquarium that takes you all the way to the top floor first, and you won’t notice that as you go along, you’re actually going back down to the ground floor. Each floor is segmented into the different oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic). The middle area is the main attraction, because it highlights a lot of big ones including a whale shark and a hammerhead shark! It was so much fun, because the setup allows you to interact with and be really close to the aquatic animals.
2. Spend an entire day and be a kid-at-heart in Universal Studios
I know it’s a little bit over-dramatic but I actually cried when I got to Universal Studios—especially when I entered Harry Potter world. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to visit Osaka in the first place—to see and experience Harry Potter world. Of course, we got to enjoy other rides as well like Jaws and Back to the Future.
We went to Universal Studios on a Monday because we assumed there would be less people, but we were wrong! The place was packed, and we realized it was because kids were on summer vacation. Lines for each ride took at least an hour waiting time. The Cupcake and I wanted to buy the One-Day Express Pass but when we arrived at around 9 am, it was already sold out so we were stuck with the regular One-Day Pass which meant longer waiting time in lines. So yeah, if you guys plan to visit Universal Studios Osaka and wouldn’t mind spending a little bit more, I suggest to get the Express Passes because you’ll be prioritized in most rides (especially the main attractions). I don’t think it’s available online but you can get these from accredited travel agencies in Osaka (it’s also available in accredited travel agencies in other countries, but sadly it doesn’t include the Philippines).
Spot Honeydukes and the Butterbeer station!
The Slytherin witch has arrived!
The Flying Car from Chamber of Secrets
Inside Ollivander’s Wand Shop
Entrance to the Headmaster’s Office
Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger!
The Fat Lady
The Cupcake enjoying his Butterbeer
Another tip to remember: since Harry Potter world is their biggest attraction, they control the crowd by giving each person or group a time slot. Though we were there at 9 am, the time slot given to us to enter was at 5 pm, so we had to wait that long. While waiting, we decided to just have brunch and enjoy the other attractions.
1. Go on a food trip in Dotonburi
If you want to get a taste of the most authentic Japanese food in Osaka, look no further than Dotonburi—which is a long stretch of restaurants and shops that offers a wide variety of items. You can find every kind of Japanese cuisine here—takoyaki, ramen, katsu, a conveyor belt filled with fresh sushi, etc. There are so many food choices, you might even get overwhelmed. (I kind of did.) But one thing was for sure, and the Cupcake and I agreed on this—we didn’t want to leave Osaka without tasting their sushi.
This strawberry-flavored shaved ice with condensed milk was sooo good.
So those are just a few things we did, and that I highly recommend you guys do as well should you consider booking a trip to Osaka. There were other places I really wanted to visit, like the Tenmangu Shrine and Osaka Science Museum, but we were pressed for time so we couldn’t go anymore. If you plan to stay a little bit longer than we did, try considering these places. You can even ride a train to Kyoto (it only takes 45 minutes) and explore the northern part of Japan!
If you guys have any questions, feel free to comment them below so I can answer them! Osaka is a beautiful, beautiful city and I really can’t wait to go back. For more details on our itinerary and expenses, click here.