For the third (and final) leg of our Japan trip, we based ourselves in Osaka, Japan’s third biggest city – technically Yokohama is the second biggest, even though it seems like it is just a part of greater Tokyo. Although we had five nights here, most of our days were spend doing day trips to nearby areas including Kyoto, Himeji, Hiroshima and Nara.
Shinkansens arriving in Osaka don’t actually arrive at Osaka Station, rather they stop at Shin-Osaka, which is one metro stop away. Our Air BnB was located a few minutes walk from Tsukamoto, which was also one stop from Osaka Station (but on a different line). It was a very cool spot; the area had a real village feel about it. It also helped that it was our cheapest Air BnB as well as our nicest – so it was a good note to finish on.
Our favourite areas (especially by night) were the Dotomburi and Amerika-Mura areas, located at the end of the Namba line and considered to be a part of South Osaka. They were super lively, colourful and fun; filled with bright lights, delicious smells and of course, stacks of people. Running parallel to the river is a strip of restaurants, street food and convenience stores. Above the restaurants there are giant models of the type of food that is sold below, for example crabs, puffer-fish, gyoza and octopus. There were loads of vendors cooking and selling takoyaki (octopus balls), Kobe beef and okonomiyaki for very low prices, making it a great opportunity to try some authentic Japanese food.
Running perpendicular to the river is Ebisu-bashi-suji Arcade, an enormously long market/shopping mall with all kinds of clothing shops, shoe stores, food, souvenirs – you name it! It is covered too so was an ideal spot to be at when it rained. There is loud pop music blasting through the speakers, which definitely adds to the atmosphere. If you are feeling peckish, grab a mini chocolate cheese tart from Pablo – it was so rich and gooey and delicious 😊, I definitely could have eaten more! Stopping for photos on the Ebisu-bashi bridge is basically a must – it is your classic Japanese photo with a bunch of neon lit billboards in the background.
Nearby, Amerika-Mura has much more of a grunge feel to it – lots of tattoo parlours, punky stores and coffee shops – the whole area reminded me a bit of the Cuba Street area in Wellington. It even had its own Manners/Dixon concrete park, known over there as Triangle Park. Amerika-Mura is where most of the city’s bars and nightlife resides.
We decided to go up the Uemeda Sky Building to give us our panoramic views of the city. Accessible from the Osaka Station, past the Grand Osaka which had some very cool shops, we paid ¥1000 each to go up the observation deck. We just missed sunset, but we watched the city transform as the light changed from dusk to darkness. It is possible to go up on to the rooftop; one of the few opportunities to see a city up high without glass barriers impairing your vision. The way down begins with a clear glass elevator, which I didn’t find as scary as it sounds, although it is still quite fun!
Last but not least, a visit to Osaka is not complete without a visit to the city palace, Osaka-jo. The grounds are free to wander. Not only are they expansive, they are pretty beautiful too. To enter the castle is ¥600, but we got close enough to the castle itself that we were happy enough to not actually enter the building itself. Instead, after walking the perimeter of the castle, we made our way to a French bakery called Gout, where we had the most delicious lunch of bakery goods. It required real self-restraint to not keep going back for more.
It was sad to say goodbye to Osaka, not just because it was a cool place, but it also marked the end of our time in Japan. An incredible country to visit, with so many fond memories made.