OSAKA

Been procrastinating on this post because I lost all my iPhone photos from Osaka and since it was rainy, we didn’t take many pics on our DSLR 😦 But I have to squeeze this in before our next trip so here we go…hope you guys still find this helpful!

Osaka was sadly our last stop of our Asia trip. We only stayed 3 nights/2 days here which we thought it was enough. However if you plan to go to Kobe, Nara or any nearby cities for day trips, this is a good hub. Plus, you can fly in and out of Kansai Airport.

Getting here from Kyoto
The Special Rapid Train on the JR Kyoto line will get you from Kyoto Station to Osaka Station in 30mins for 560 yen. It runs pretty often like every 10-15mins. Make sure you get off at Osaka Station, not Shin-Osaka! Just like all the other main stations in Kyoto and Tokyo, Osaka Station is also filled with food and shopping.

Stay
We had some SPG points so decided to stay at the The Westin. The Westin is on the other side of the train tracks so they provide free shuttles from Osaka Station to the hotel but it was still a hassle to get to rest of the city. We recommend staying on the side of Osaka Station (like InterContinental) or near Namba area if you like more busy areas, it’s like the Time Square of Osaka.

Food
Okonomiyaki Kiji

Came here after we dropped off our luggage. Turns out they are one of the best and oldest okonomiyaki restaurants in Osaka! They have a location in the basement of the Umeda Sky Building which is next to the Westin. The place is super cozy and hole-in-the-wall even though it’s in this ultra modern building. We sat at the bar and watched them make it there on the spot. Osaka is known for okonomiyaki and takoyaki so a must-try!

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Cafe Gram
I forgot to cover this in the Kyoto post but they have locations in Osaka too. They make the FLUFFIEST pancakes here. It’s like you’re eating clouds. Kyoto location only served them during three time slots a day so go early to wait!

Kuromon Market
Another market just like Nishiki and Tsukiji with similar food vendors. One thing that we didn’t see at other markets is the tuna jaw. Since I lost my photos, here are some pics to look at 🙂 It looks like a huge bone but it actually has a decent amount of meat on it.

Nakanoshima Fishing Port
Even though we have already been to many fish markets on this trip, I was excited for this one because you can BBQ what you buy there or have the kitchen prep any fish you buy into sashimi. The seafood at this port is seasonal and comes from all over Japan every morning so everything is alive. The weather was great when we went and we had tons of fun cooking our finds at the market! I would skip the sashimi bowls here but the seafood for the grill was so fresh (esp the scallop and snow crab legs)!

To get here, we took the #88 bus from Osaka Station to 川口一丁目 (7 stops) and then walked about 3mins to the port. It took about 25mins from Osaka Station. It is a trek out of the city but a fun experience that we haven’t done yet during this trip!

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Rikuro Cheesecake
Japanese cheesecake is light, fluffy, and jiggly! Very different from the American/Italian version. Rikuro is only located in Osaka but there are a lot of copycats so beware! It was around $6 for the whole cake and I pretty much ate the whole cake myself 🙂 Again, lost my photos for this too so see how it gets made here.

Kamoshi Ramen

We haven’t had any traditional ramen on this trip so decided to save that for our last dinner. So glad we got this before we left Japan – the broth and noodles were amazing! This is walking distance from the Westin with a super cute interior.

Jinen Sushi
This place actually received a lot of good reviews from bloggers and on a lot of sushi lists for Osaka but we didn’t love it. There was a 30-40min wait when we went around 8pm. A lot of items where sold out by then and the sushi was sloppy. They are known for their unagi sushi with a slice of solid butter and everyone around us was telling us to get it but that sounded gross to us and we didn’t want to clog our arteries even more on this trip :p

Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M

We had to do beef one more time before we left so I booked this yakiniku place just to check yakiniku off the list. It’s located in this cute little alley called Hozenji Yokocho. We had a hard time finding the place but we just asked around since it’s a pretty well-known restaurant. We tried an assortment of beef  and it was good but it didn’t wow us like it did at Otsuka Steak in Kyoto. Their garlic rice was unbelievable though and great service!
Tip: when making the reservation, say it’s for a special occasion to get a surprise at the end 😉

Shopping

I can spend hours at a Japanese drugstore! I saved all the drugstore shopping for Osaka so we didn’t have to lug everything in Tokyo/Kyoto. The popular stores are Matsumoto Kiyoshi and Daikoku but you see these drugstores everywhere. You can get tax free at these stores so make sure you bring your passport!

Tokyu Hands is also a great stop for arts + crafts, souvenirs, stationary – basically anything you can think of! They have locations in all major cities.

Orange Street is also a neat area with local designer shops and cafes. I was like a kid in a candy store at Asoko store – tons of cute stuff under $5!

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Other things to check out:
Nara deer park – we didn’t make it out to the park due to rain but wanted to check it out.

TRAVEL TIPS
Hyperdia app: it has a 30 day free trial period so you can download it right before your trip. You can look up train schedules for JR, Shinkansen, etc.
Transportation to Kansai airport: most hotels have shuttles going to the airport so ask the concierge ahead of time to buy your tickets for specific shuttle times. During high travel seasons, they do sell out.
Food reviews: you can find some places with reviews on Yelp but the locals use tabelog.com and the locals are very strict with their ratings! It’s very rare to see a 5 star and 3-3.5 star rating is already pretty good so keep that in mind. It’s mostly in Japanese but the ratings and pictures are still helpful and you can use Google Translate.
Need extra luggage space?: I heard this little tip from a well-traveled friend and it saved me! We bought so much stuff that we couldn’t fit everything in our 3 luggages. So I asked concierge for a cardboard box and tape (this must be really common because they have them stocked up behind the counter) and checked the box in on our flight. Just make sure it’s under 50lbs. Customs did question what we had in the box when we landed in SF – I just had clothes, cookies and tea but the officer asked if I had noodles…so I guess don’t pack noodles to be safe? Next time, I’ll probably write what’s inside on the outside of the box to avoid security opening it up.
Data plan/wifi: been getting lots of questions on our Asia trip and I realized I forgot to put tips on wifi! So it’s updated now under the Tokyo post.

Hope everyone enjoyed reading about our Asia trip! We can’t wait to go back and explore some more!

b+d

p.s. if you have any questions, let me know and I’ll add it to the tips!

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