I chose Osaka as my base, as opposed to Kyoto for exploring the Kansai region of Japan. Osaka is ideally situated to visit other cities as day trips, such as Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Kyoto and Naoshima. I also found in comparison to staying at Kyoto, Osaka was more affordably priced in relation to good accommodation. As well as an excellent location for exploring nearby cities, in Osaka, I also visited the Osaka Castle, (my favourite of all the castles I visited in Japan), Dotonbori for the night life and watched an epic game of baseball!
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- Visa – As a British National I was exempt from requiring a visa to visit Japan for less than 90 days, however, some nationalities will require a visa. For the most up to date information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – Just like London, Osaka is a very safe place to visit. You should use usual common sense, around protecting valuables to avoid pick-pocketers, and staying safe at night.
- Currency – Japanese Yen
- Language – Japanese
I travelled to Osaka from Hakone using my JR Pass, travelling from the main station Odawara via the Hikari Shinkansen to Shin Osaka, which took around 2 and a half hours. Osaka has a huge transportation hub though so wherever you are coming from in Japan you will easily be able to access Osaka. I always use the Hyperdia app to check travel times and best routes.
I chose Osaka as my base accommodation for a little over a week as it is perfectly placed and central for visiting lots of other cities in the Kansai Region. Due to its strategic location, I was able to visit Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji and Naoshima all as day trips. I chose to stay in Hostel Bushi, which I found through Booking.com. The Hostel was a little outside of the main city centre but only a short walk to Kyobashi Train Station on the Osaka Loop Line so was only a quick train into the main centre of Osaka.
Trains! Obviously, as I enjoyed lots of different day trips I took full advantage of using my JR pass and experiencing the different JR lines. Near my accommodation, there weren’t very many sights so to visit the main attractions such as Osaka Castle, the Kyocera Dome and the Dotonbori area for nightlife I used the Osaka Loop Line. Although it doesn’t run all night so if you stay out past midnight you’ll need to get a taxi back to your accommodation.
I arrived late in the afternoon on day one so I took the opportunity to familiarise myself with my surroundings. I took the train into Osaka and indulged in a little shopping at Hankyu Shopping Mall and other nearby shops. A pair of sandals I brought with me broke beyond repair so I replaced those at the H & M there, and then enjoyed a tasty healthy lunch at Cosme Kitchen in the Hankyu Shopping Mall, which although a little expensive was delicious especially as I was craving some healthy food!
My first day trip to the wonderful historical and cultural city of Kyoto. My favourite activity in this beautiful city was wandering through the 10,000 Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha, and admiring the golden glow from Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden pavilion. Read more about ‘How to spend a day in Kyoto’ in my blog post here.
Another train ride to the nearby city of Nara, home to the cutest deer which roam freely across the Nara Park. Over 1200 deer reside in the park so you will be sure to see them walking around the grounds on any visit. You can also purchase ‘Shika Senbei’, which are special deer crackers to feed them if you like if you’re lucky they may even bow to you before you give them their snack! The huge Buddha in Todai-Ji Temple was also an awesome sight to see. Read more about ‘How to spend a day in Nara’ in my blog post here.
Taking a break from day trips I decided to stay put in Osaka and explore the city for the day, visiting the magnificent Osaka Castle during the day and then Dotonbori in the evening, as well as catching a game of baseball!
Osaka Castle Museum
Of all the castles I visited in Japan, Osaka Castle was my favourite, as it has also been transformed into a museum.
There are a total of 8 floors in the entire castle, and I hadn’t realised at the beginning but there are two queues one for the elevator and one for the stairs. I thought that I would have no problem climbing the stairs. However, when I realised that the recommendation is to start at the top and work your way down and that I would be climbing 8 flights of compact staircases with lots of other tourists I wish I had taken the easy route with the elevator! Either way I could do with the exercise so ploughed through to the top. Which you won’t be disappointed by as it is the observation deck, where you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of Osaka City at 50M above ground.
As you walk through the rest of the floors and down each staircase you will be guided on a journey through the ages where you will learn about the life of Hideyoshi, who built Osaka Castle and succeeded in uniting the entire nation. Prior to the unification, many wars took place in Osaka. As well as original artefacts and replicas from these historic periods, you’ll also find folding screens, Japanese armour and detailed ornate furniture items. It’s a great museum and really provides a detailed history and understanding of Osaka, set in this beautiful historic building.
I really wanted to experience a baseball game during my stay in Japan, as I was aware that the Japanese are crazy for their baseball and it’s a national sport. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get tickets whilst I was in Tokyo, but my luck changed when I reached Osaka. There was a great atmosphere amongst the fans, with lots of chanting and singing, although I must admit I didn’t know what was happening half the time and even had to ask my neighbouring fans if the game had finished when people started to leave (apparently there was still around 30 minutes left of the almost 3 hour game!). It was a great way to spend the evening in Osaka though and I was so pleased I got to see a baseball game.
It was a little difficult to navigate buying tickets online, but thankfully my hostel helped me to book my e-ticket online. When entering my details online it didn’t like my English name so I had to borrow the hostel receptionists’ name so she could write it in Kanji (Chinese characters). So if you are planning on seeing a ball game during your stay, try asking your accommodation for help in the first instance. I have read in other places online it’s possible to buy tickets at the ticket office of the stadium on match day but I didn’t want to take my chances that I would miss the game.
So why is the running man so famous in Osaka? Well, it’s one of the most famous landmarks in the Dotonbori area because the sign has been illuminated for a whopping 80 years! The running man advertises Glico, the manufacturer of one of Asia’s most famous confectionery companies. The icon itself has also become somewhat of a merchandise magnet, you’ll be able to find shops nearby which sell socks and other souvenirs just with the running man on it!
But why a running man to advertise sweets of all things? Well, it dates back to Glico’s earlier years when they made their first product which was a candy caramel. It was advertised as an energy-boosting product as it contained glycogen (made form oysters) and they claimed that one candy caramel would give you enough energy to run 300 metres!
My third day trip from Osaka took me to the city of Himeji. This was quite a relaxing and slow-paced day. I didn’t try to squeeze in tonnes of sightseeing and decided to just visit the stunning Himeji Castle, and picturesque Koko-en Gardens just nearby. Read more about ‘How to spend a day in Himeji’ in my blog post here.
Another interesting day trip from Osaka was to the port town of Kobe. Ravaged by the ‘Great Hanshin-Awaji’ Earthquake in 1995, Kobe shows no sign of this terrible event aside from the memorial by the port. Which just shows the Japanese resilience and ingenuity in the face of adversity. You can enjoy the surrounding port area, including the Kobe Tower, and china town. Travel a little further by train within Kobe and you’ll be able to visit the magnificent Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, or visit the Hakutsuru Brewery and learn all about how sake is made! If you have the luggage space take some sake home with you from their shop! Read more about ‘How to spend a day in Kobe’ in my blog post here.
Last but by no means least, my favourite day trip of them all, Naoshima Island, also dubbed ‘Art Island’. This trip took me a little further away from Osaka via train and ferry but it was totally worth it to spend time on the beautiful picturesque island and enjoy all of the sculptures and art installations it had to offer. My all-time favourite part of this day trip was getting to see the famous ‘Yellow Pumpkin’ by Yayoi Kusama. Read more about ‘How to spend a day in Naoshima’ in my blog post here.
I left my last day as a chill day in between moves to my next fast train and hostel. However, if you still wanted to do some more sightseeing then you could visit the Minoo National Park, Hozenji Temple, and Shitennoji Temple, which was the first Buddhist temple in Japan!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how to spend 7 days in Osaka, and I’ve given you some inspiration and ideas for your own trip. If you have any queries or questions please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
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