My personal choice in Japan.
My second destination is already well-known to me and, if you read my blog notes before, majority of my previous articles were written here, based on Osaka knowledge.
So, it is clearly cheating from me to write a blog now. Doesn’t matter – I believe you can always discover something new if you really looking for it.
The reason why I called Osaka my personal choice is it is the place where you can experience everything you need in Japan if you really looking for it.
First of all, looking at the city from gorgeous and unique architecture design of the Umeda Sky Garden, you will clearly see that the city is very modern and reminds you a bit of a Tokyo. When you walk down from the view point and start looking around the city centre, you realise how many international places around – another similarity with Tokyo. There is one huge difference, I would say one advantage over Tokyo, the Osaka city was not built crowded and touristic. The city obviously attracts millions of tourists a year, however, it is not trying to attract them with its touristic look like Tokyo does. This is what makes this place unique to me and my experience.
Throwing back to those long 7 years ago when I arrived to Osaka for a couple of months of summer holidays. That time I didn’t enter to Japanese school so was by myself and I needed to make some friends.
I went to Starbucks (yes, before Australia I thought it was really cool place to be lol) and found a brochure with international meet ups. My English was weak but good enough to understand what’s written there regarding type of events, dates, locations and other important details. I carried that brochure everywhere like my passport.
My International meet up journey started when I walked it to meet and greet at one Irish pub in Shinsaibashi. No-one checked my ID when I came to the bar and ordered Asahi. I sat down next to the international group – Canadian and American guys and one Japanese girl. They started talk to me. Found may first friends!
Interesting to say that Ai (that amazing Japanese girl is in Melbourne now doing her own business in massage and beauty industry). We managed to catch in Melbourne last year – amazing that we both ended up in Australia.
Those international friends took me on board and introduced me to meet up organisers. They took me to bike tours to Kobe and Kyoto. They got me to volunteer to international parties where I was given wristbands at the entrance. Then they were sneaking a VIP wristband to me so I could enter a party being 17 year old. Considering over age is 20 in Japan, I wouldn’t clearly experience incredible parties walking out the venue at sunrise time!
Anyways, the bottom line, Osaka was, is and will always be international hub in Japan but more inclusive than gigantic Tokyo. Going to Irish, English or international cafes pubs to find out where they meet up – I still believe that trip was my very best one because of that.
Osaka is a bit cleaner – again, due to its size. It is easier to navigate around the city, the metro lines are more structured. Due to the fact that I have been there so many times, I can easily give you an overview of some of the areas to visit in Osaka. I went for a run the other morning and can say that outdoor walk/run is the best way to discover hidden shops and fascinating areas. Many beautiful stores are literally condensed in the city to fit more.
FASHION – I have already mentioned Shinsaibashi. This area of Osaka is famous for its shopping lines (“leave all your money in Shinsaibashi”), great dining and places for parties and night life.
Shinsaibashi never sleeps. You can shop there from 10-11:00am until late night. I could see how some people were buying new party dresses, got changed in them and went straight to night clubs and pubs to keep going.
Shinsaibashi has everything from Japanese local brands to world famous outlets; from modern styles to luxury brands. There is a big shopping mall in the heart of Shinsaibashi called Daimaru. Daimaru is like Bondi Junction Westfield – this is how good it is!
Another thing to mention is better not to plan a day trip to Osaka if you plan to see some of the Osaka’s attractions. You need to spend the whole decent day to appreciate the fashion and go through stylish outlets in Shinsaibashi. If you are aiming for fashionista title, it is a big lie to say you will get enough fashion inspiration for a couple of hours in Shinsaibashi. You need at least one full day. Then head to an Irish pub at the end of the day to share your fashion knowledge with other Internationals. If you discuss it with Japanese, it might be even more different though as they have different vision in fashion.
FITNESS – Osaka has encouraged me to use the stairs over elevators or escalators. There are a lot of walks and transfers from one metro line to another. Go for stairs! Also, due to lesser crowds, it is much nicer and better to run outdoor in Osaka. My only recommendation is try to do it before 7:20am – 1) the sun goes up and it is super humid at this time of the year (summer is even worse); 2) people are start heading to work. You may notice that many people have to travel intercity so all the metros and shinkansens are packed from early mornings.
Just given a small overview of the 1-day Osaka itinerary so you can cover “different aspects of Japan”.
- Start with the Umeda Sky Garden. This place is open at 9:30am. Normally, nothing is open in Japan till 10-11:00am – they are not morning people at all (what a shame!). It will also give you nice natural morning light to overlook the whole city and start the day right. If you are into history, there is the illustrated museum inside the Sky Garden;
- Head to the Osaka Castle – this is one of my favourite castles in Japan (still consider Akita has better ones but anyways). I love it because there are a lot of small gardens and temples around the castle to explore. When you get to the Castle, head up to the 8th Floor and start exploring from top to the bottom;
- Head to Dotonbori river area taking Namba station 16th exit. It is very nice and beautiful there. You can also take the tour of the river cruising around crabs and octopuses on surrounded buildings;
- After the river, time for get decent lunch – sushi is the go for me (Japanese Diet by Angie). There is an amazing sushi restaurant with English menu with freshest raw fish. You don’t need even worry to order anything, the plates are passing through you with whatever you like! The restaurant is located on that big crab street opposite direction to Dotonbori gates on the Starbucks side (right).
- Also, try their popular Takoyaki that are everywhere on that street. They are very filling and made with true Japanese traditions;
- Then jump to Shinsaibashi shops and get lost there!
- End of at a nice Irish pub to relax as you might burn your legs after Shinsaibashi walks. Get some refreshments (I would still suggest NOT to order food in pubs and eat before – all these fish and chips and burgers you can eat everywhere; real Japanese food only made by Japanese).