Having not known much about Osaka when I visited on a day trip a few years ago, I knew I had to come back one day and spend a little bit more time here. The first time I came I checked out the Umeda Sky Building (A futuristic building with an impressive observatory) and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (One of the best aquariums in the world). Both are great places to visit but to experience the best of the food and nightlife culture in Osaka you need to head to Namba for at least a couple of nights.
We recommend staying in Namba as you have easy access to the rest of the city thanks to the well connected subway stations. Namba offers great shopping and restaurants and you can get around easily by walking. Places like the river in Dotonbori, the shopping street Shinsaibashi and the over 170 year old Kuromon Ichiba Market.
If you’ve ever watched Blade Runner you’ve likely wanted to visit one of the metropolises of Asia to see the inspiration behind that films iconic art direction.
Osaka majorly delivers on that front and boasts some incredible architecture and cityscapes. In this regard it’s a photographers paradise and the most fun we had in this city was just walking around at night bathing underneath the electric neon glow.
The lights and neon signs around Dotonbori are surely some of the city’s best, and there is a great sense of energy in the air at all times of the day. At night, however, the neon glow paints the river and transforms the area into something else.
We stayed in an Airbnb a short short walk away from the east end of the river, and it was easy to walk to wherever we needed to get to.
Osaka is a foodies heaven and Namba is a touristy yet accessible part of the city to try all sorts of street foods. You will find plenty of street food vendors selling the ultra popular local dish Takoyaki (Octopus balls grilled in batter), often with massive queues attached to them at all times of the day. Watching the chefs make the balls themselves is part of the fun, and makes the wait a little more bearable.
Kushiage is another popular food to try here. Kushiage is essentially deep fried meats and vegetables served on a stick. Its that simple. You’ll have a shared container with dipping sauce, but be warned, do not double dip! Your enjoyment will be come down to perfecting your sauce dipping technique.
You’ll have to be prepared to arrive early at any of the popular restaurants or expect to queue for a long time. We arrived at the Michelin starred Ajinoya for lunch at 11:45am and waited over an hour to try their okonomiyaki. It was totally worth it, but you don’t want to spend all your precious time in Osaka waiting in a line!
When it comes to food in Osaka (and Japan in general) you will likely leave feeling like you have barely scratched the surface. Our 2 days here were enough for just a little taste and to learn that Osaka takes their food very seriously! This article from Migrationology is a great reference if you want to dig deeper into the food culture of Osaka.
Osaka is Japans second most populated city and is extremely well connected to the rest of the country. Most people arrive here by the Shinkansen in Shin-Osaka JR Station if its not their first stop, otherwise Osaka International Airport if they are flying into Osaka. Check out the the Wikitravel page for a comprehensive list of options.
We travelled to Takayama after Osaka by train, which involved a couple of changes on the way and took close to 4 hours. If you are heading towards the Japan Alps you can get to Kanazawa quicker as the Shinkansen links directly to the city.
Kyoto can be reached in 15 minutes by Shinkansen, Hiroshima in 2 and a half hours and Tokyo in under 3 hours. All incredible cities to visit and surely ones that are already on your list if you’re a first time traveller to Japan.
Port Barton is a charming town to visit. The calmness and understated beauty of the area make it a great stop off point on the way to the more hectic destinations of Palawan, such as El Nido or Coron.