After spending eight days in Tokyo and Kyoto, we were off to Osaka, our last stop in Japan. The vibe of Osaka is much different from Tokyo. It felt like things were a little less clean and organized and people moved at a faster pace. However, Osaka has its own charm especially when it comes to the older part of the city, Minami, and the city’s commitment to street food. Some people overlook Osaka when visiting Japan, but it’s an easy add-on to the end of your trip. You may ask yourself if is one day in Osaka enough? I don’t think one day anywhere is really enough, but if you are strapped for time, here’s how to spend one day in Osaka, Japan.
Getting to Osaka
We took the train from Kyoto early in the morning and dropped our bags at the InterContinental Osaka. The hotel is located in Kita (also known as Umeda), one of Osaka’s two downtown areas. It is Osaka’s main business center, packed with hotels, restaurants, and shopping. It is also where Osaka Station is located if you are arriving by train. If you have time, check out the rooftop observatory at the Umeda Sky Building.
Visiting Osaka Castle
We took the subway from Umeda Station towards Osaka Castle. The subways were noticeably more crowded than in Tokyo, but we managed to find our way. We stopped at a French bakery called Gout for a quick lunch. Don’t let the spelling throw you off, it’s pronounced “goo”!
We then walked for about ten minutes to Osaka Castle. The castle was first built in 1583. It was destroyed in 1615, rebuilt in the 1620s, and destroyed again in 1665 when it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The castle that is seen today is a reconstruction built in the 1930s. Inside you can check out a museum of the castle’s history. Even if you don’t go inside, it’s worth walking around the castle grounds.
Free Walking Tour of Minami, Osaka
With just one day in Osaka, we had to prioritize, and a free walking tour is a great way to do that. We headed to Minami, Osaka’s second downtown for the free walking tour. Minami contains two neighborhoods, Shinsaibashi and Namba. This is where you want to go for shopping, food, entertainment, and a night out. The tour started at Dotonbori, Osaka’s main tourist destination. It’s famous for its canal and the Glico sign. There are plenty of food stalls in this area so look out for one of Osaka’s main treats, takoyaki (octopus balls).
Other highlights included Kuromon Market and the neighborhood of Shinsekai. Shinsekai is a strange place that is modeled after both New York and Paris. It also was home to an amusement park, Luna Park, that’s been shut down since 1923.
While sightseeing in Osaka isn’t comparable to cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, the tour was really great for learning about the cultural aspects of the city. I especially enjoyed hearing about some of the differences between Tokyo and Osaka. For example, people in Tokyo stand on the left side of the escalator while people in Osaka stand on the right. Talk about confusing!
A Three Michelin Star Meal at Hajime
After the walking tour, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up before our dinner at Hajime. Hajime is a three Michelin star restaurant served a multi-course meal using nature as the theme. The highlight was Planet Earth, or Chikyu, which is made of over 110 different vegetables, grains, and herbs. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures except for the spun sugar ball which was made special for our honeymoon.
We also were given a bouquet of flowers and a jar of tea flavored jam as part of our honeymoon celebration. I was so pissed when my jam got taken at the Singapore airport since I didn’t check my bag! Hajime was extremely expensive, especially after adding wine pairings. If you can spring it, it’s worth it for a special occasion.
I’m glad we had a chance to spend some time in Osaka although it was brief. The walking tour provided a good overview of the Minami area, but I would have liked to spend more time walking around and trying out more of the street food. While a little grittier than Tokyo, Osaka is definitely worth a visit if you have time. If you consider yourself a foodie, you certainly won’t be disappointed with your one day in Osaka.