I'm not the kind of traveler who needs to see everything. Honestly, just being in a different country is already exciting! Before leaving I research about things to do and then pick five to maybe visit. Once I'm there I walk around aimlessly, looking for oddities cultural or material, then sit down to sketch if I feel like it. That's my pace. I don't like rushing to places for the sake of saying I went there, even though I didn't really enjoy it.
My visit to Osaka was pretty nice. I was my parents' tour guide, basically, so I got to control the pace even though it's a lot faster than I would have done if I were just there by myself. It's a little funny how my parents travel so differently - my mom would eat everything and go everywhere, while my dad is considerably more chill about it. Fortunately I am in the middle of their spectrum so it worked out!
We were there for five days. Compared to Tokyo, Osaka felt a lot more laid back. Kyoto is even more laid back and dare I say rural compared to the capital, at least! Go here if you like visiting temples, historical spots, and being around nature. In Tokyo it's all about shopping, eating, style, and being on the pulse of things. Osaka is much of the same, except it's relaxed and there are more temples and greenery nearby.
Some quick tips: get a Kansai Thru Pass to save on transpo as it offers unlimited access to trains and buses (except JR ones) for 2 or 3 days. Also have Google Maps and Osaka Rail Map apps on your phone to navigate. And, honey, I know style is important, but Skechers Go Walk shoes ARE THE BEST THINGS EVER. Your feet won't die - so much. Uniqlo Heat Tech shirts are also winners!
So, here are some of the places we visited!
Minoo Park might not be the most popular place for tourists to visit in Osaka, but it was on top of my list. Just 30 minutes by train from the city center, this expansive park features a 33-foot waterfall and an easy walking trail. It's best to see during the height of the fall season, but when we went, the leaves were just starting to turn. Ah well. It's still a beautiful place!
It was quite a walk to get to the waterfalls but it was worth the hike. Just seeing the water refreshed and revived us for the trek down. Go here if you like being around nature and seeing a few traditional buildings. I believe there's also an insect museum by the way side! Don't forget to buy some fried maple leaf, it's really yummy.
Since we spent so much time in Minoo Park, we arrived in Osaka Castle rather late in the day. It was a sight to behold even at night, but we were already too tired to do anything else but take a snap and go home. This is best to visit in the morning when you're still flooded with so much energy - walking to the castle and back to the main road isn't a joke!
The next day we went to Kyoto. We visited Gion, the geisha district, quickly, then headed to Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine is famous for its vermillion tori gates. It's a beautiful place, but it was splitting full of tourists. I'm not kidding. We had to edge our way through the gates as we were hemmed in by people from all sides. Not fun!
What was fun though is the little food street leading up to it if you're coming from Fushimi Inari Station via the Keihan Line. There were dozens of tiny stalls selling yummy Japanese street food! I had steamed crab, sweet soy balls, bacon, and grilled squid, among other things. Sooooo gooood. This was the highlight of Fushimi Inari Taisha for me!
We then went to Arashiyama to see the famous bamboo groves. It was a short walk from the station lang! When we arrived I finally got to see the pretty pathway - it was so amazing to be enveloped by the emerald green light filtering from the bamboo. But then again, there were so many tourists. -_- The place was packed. Fall season, after all, is also tourist season.
We then headed to Dotonbori in Namba for dinner. There are shopping arcades and lots and lots of places to eat. I had ramen and takoyaki, which both did not disappoint. I also got to take a picture of the Glico Man. I don't know why I wanted to, honestly, except that when I think of Osaka I think of this famous billboard.
Did I say the food was great? The takoyaki had a creamy texture with a chunk of octopus inside, with a generous serving of fish flakes and sauce. The ramen was so thick and fatty, I love it! I should've ordered another serving of pork though.
The next day we decided we just wanted to relax and shop. We originally planned to go to Universal Studios but I thought it would just be a waste of our last full day in Japan - we'd be lining up 1-2 hours for rides, and that just sucks! I mean the rides would be what, 5 to 15 minutes each? The tickets would be about P3,500 per person too, so not exactly cheap. It's better to spend that shopping, IMHO.
So first we went to Umeda Sky Building, which was a 15-minute walk from our AirBnB apartment. I honestly didn't expect much from this place. I thought it was just going to be a boring viewing deck, but it blew me away! The architecture and 360-degree view of Osaka were amazing. Seeing the building from below then going up to the viewing area was quite a treat. ^_^
Finally, we went to Shinsaibashi to shop. There was a huge Tokyu Hands there, with eight floors worth of fashion, home, beauty, stationery, and art stuff. I hoarded some art materials! Then we went to the shopping arcade for lunch. There's a huge Daiso store inside and lots of smaller stores where tourists can buy discounted items.
I had curry udon for lunch - at the risk of sounding repetitive, it was so good! I thought the curry broth would be too rich, but it was actually just right. It was thick and tasted like curry but it has a subtle flavor that complemented the noodles and fried meat well.
Wish I took more pictures of Shinsaibashi! I was just too busy shopping that afternoon haha. It's a must-visit if you like affordable finds. ^_^
While in Osaka, I turned on my roaming to easily access Smart's Surf Abroad promo for a P550 flat rate a day. Guys, seriously, it's heaven sent. Our AirBnB host actually provided a wifi device but it loses signal in the mountains and in the subways, so having access to data via Smart's partner network was invaluable. I used the Google Maps and Osaka Rail Map apps heavily (it was my first time in Osaka), which both needed data to function. Signal was super good too! So yup, if you're on Smart, go use roaming with zero hassle and great reliability.
So there you go, my little Osaka travelogue. Hope you enjoyed looking through it! I'll be in Hong Kong this Thursday so stay tuned for my Instagram snaps then! ^_^