After my solo stint in Tokyo, I used my JR pass to board the Shinkansen, also known as the Bullet Train, and made my way to Osaka. The bullet train was a very smooth, comfortable and fast ride. One of the train conductors even helped me with my bags, which I appreciated very much. I now understand the big deal with Japan’s bullet trains. It did not feel like your everyday regional train. It’s a remarkable piece of mechanics and engineering.
I immediately fell in love with Osaka. Maybe it was because it was less intense compared to Tokyo, I don’t know. But it had more of a relaxed vibe to it. I had four days to myself in Osaka so I did my best to jam-pack as much sightseeing as possible. What made it a breeze was the Osaka Loop Line. This train line literally circles the city, stopping at all the major train stations. I was able to use my JR Pass on the Osaka Loop Line so an extra ticket was not necessary. You have to appreciate the time, the work and the minds of people who produced a beyond superb railway system. In this blog post, I mainly focus on the highlights of my time in Osaka.
Day 1 – Arrival/Dōtonbori
I arrived in Osaka at around 4pm on a Sunday and stayed in a district called Namba. This was convenient because I was walking distance from Dōtonbori. The area is buzzing with people, shops and food along the Dōtonbori canal. This is also where the famous Glico Man billboard is illuminating by Ebisu Bridge.
Day 2 – Umeda Building & Osaka Castle
The architecture in Japan, both past and present, are remarkable. Japan is very well-known around the world for being innovative and forward-thinking. This is evident in the Umeda Building, a glorious building that features The Floating Garden and aerial escalators. I am a sucker for observation decks, so I was eager to check this one out. It did not disappoint. When I looked out at the stunning city skyline, I fell in love with Osaka.
After a beautiful morning spent on Umeda Building, I walked back to Osaka Station and headed to Osaka Castle. Just, WOW! Osaka Castle is an iconic, historic and absolutely beautiful landmark, attracting both tourists and locals. It is surrounded by lovely gardens and the museum inside the castle exhibits a range of historical artifacts, documentaries and educational resources. Naturally, I made my way to the top of the castle to see another breathtaking view of Osaka.
Day 3 – Universal Studios
I was trying to avoid amusements parks during this trip. I managed to avoid Tokyo Disney, despite my love for Disney movies. But my best friend highly recommended Universal Studios so I gave it a go. All I will say is this – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!!
OMG Hogwarts! (Yes, I am a massive Harry Potter geek. I drank Butterbeer!)
Day 4 – Nara
An old colleague of mine suggested Nara when I asked him for advice on Japan, so I decided to organise a little day trip. Nara is about an hour away from Osaka by train (I used my handy dandy JR Pass!). It is the land of wandering deer, and they are not kidding. I thought it was the stray deer here and there but there are literally deer everywhere. They are quite tame because in Nara, deer are considered Messengers of the Gods, known as Sika deer. So I am telling you this now, don’t be scared, just be prepared! Some of the most significant temples and shrines in Japan’s history are located in Nara, most notably, the Todai-ji temple and the Kasuga-taisha shrine.
I highly recommend visiting Nara if you are travelling to Japan, especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and explore a calmer, more tranquil location. Nara Park, which houses many of the temples and shrines, is grand and gorgeous. There is a lot of ground to cover and I did see cars and tour buses but I prefer to walk so I was on foot the whole time. However, you can explore using any mode you wish. After all that exploring though, you’re going to want to eat, and Higashimuki Shopping Street is definitely the way to go! It’s a whole street filled with delicious eateries and little shops and is conveniently situated behind Nara station. It was the perfect place to stop and rest before heading back to Osaka.
Keep a lookout for the third and final part of my Japan trip, which will be posted next week!