Engaging and colourful, the port city of Osaka in southern Japan provides a totally different experience to Tokyo.
A gastronomic haven, considered the world’s greatest food city by some, Osaka is the perfect place for a quick stopover or as your first stop to the best of what southern Japan can offer, including snow! Best of all, with Jetstar increasing the number of flights between Australia and Osaka on the Boeing Dreamliner, now is the perfect time to find a flight and plan your adventure!
Best of all, with Jetstar increasing the number of flights between Australia and Osaka on the Boeing Dreamliner, now is the perfect time to find a flight and plan your adventure!
Unfortunately, I had just shy of 72 hours in Osaka, so what did I do?
What to do with 72 Hours in Osaka, Japan
I asked everyone I encountered what I should do with my 72 hours in Osaka, and everyone gave me the same answer: EAT! Osaka is food obsessed and it’s easy to see why once you hit the streets and begin tasting.
Takoyaki (octopus dumplings), Kushi Katsu (deep fried pork – above) and – my personal favourite – Okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancake filled with seafood, pork or kimchi) are just a few of the local favourites. I’m also a big fan of the Japanese-style fried chicken whose name I’ve forgotten but was so crispy and delicious. The perfect thing after you have had a few cheeky drinks with friends.
For a full list of what you must eat in Osaka, check out this great post!
Head to Universal Studios Japan
Osaka is home to Universal Studios Japan (USJ)! If you’ve ever talked to me, you’ll know I’m a theme park lover having visited quite a few around the world, including Universal Studios Orlando a few years back.
The highlight had to be visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There’s something truly special about the atmosphere they’ve created in Hogsmeade and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4k3D is one of the best 3D rides I’ve ever been on!
The other highlights were the brand new Jurassic Park The Flying Dinosaur ride, which opened this year, and Hollywood Dream – The Ride and seeing Minions galore running around the park!
If roller coasters aren’t really your thing, there’s plenty of tamer rides to experience, shows to see throughout the day, and worlds to explore. There’s also the Universal RE-BOOOOOOOORN Parade celebrating USJ’s 15th anniversary!
If really want to see Halloween done right, visit USJ during October to experience their Halloween Horror Night. At sunsets, zombies will emerge and Death Eaters and special performances will take over Hogsmeade. Best of all, many of the guests visiting the park will dress u!
Best of all, many of the cities hotels provide free shuttles to USJ so be sure to ask when you book!
TOP TIP: Be sure to buy a Universal Express Pass. Depending on which pass you choose, you can ‘skip the queue’ of three, four or seven popular attractions! Trust me, the lines are loooong on the most popular attractions so it’s well worth spending the extra money to know you definitely have a seat on the ride!
Coming soon: How to Conquer Universal Studios Japan in Just One Day
Umeda Sky Building
It’s one of the most striking buildings on the Osaka skyline with its curious design. The round floating garden observation deck provides 360° views of the city, and on a good day as far away as Awaji Island, if you venture up the 173-metre tall building to the observation platform connecting the two towers on the 39th floor.
If you are feeling peckish on your descent you’ll find a Japanese food court designed as a Japanese street from the early Showa period. This street is also said to house the best Okonomiyaki Kiji in Osaka!
For another sky high view of Osaka, visit Abeno Harukas, Japan’s tallest skyscraper. Inside is the HARUKAS300 Observatory or get sky high views from your bed with a stay at Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel.
You can’t leave Osaka without visiting Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most famous landmarks.
Built in the 16th Century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended the castle to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule. In its history, the Castle has been destroyed twice, once when it was struck by lightning and burnt down, and miraculously survived the city-wide air raids during World War I.
Today, the Castle and surrounding Nishinomaru Garden are two kilometres of green space in an otherwise bustling city. The Castle houses a museum and the gardens are one of the most popular spots to visit during cherry blossom season which takes place in early April.
The Instant Ramen Museum
Did you know that Osaka is the birthplace of instant noodles? The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is a quirky museum honouring this invention invented in an Osaka backyard and showcases the story and history, as well as hundreds of different types of instant noodles, to the world!
Inside you’ll find plenty of workshops, interactive displays and even have the opportunity to create your own ‘My Cup Noodles’ to take home! There’s also a hands-on Chicken Ramen class for school aged children.
Asahi Beer Factory
For something a little more adult, be sure to visit the Asahi Beer Factory! Asahi was founded in Osaka in 1889 but it wasn’t until 1987 when it produced Asahi Super Dry, a crisp dry beer with a taste reminiscent of some German beers, that it really rose to fame.
Today, guests are welcome to come and take the free 75-minute factory tour to discover the history, see the brewing process and maybe even have a tasting or two of freshly brewed Asahi Dark and/or Asahi Super Dry. Don’t worry, Asahi Apple Juice or soft drink is provided for children and the responsible drivers of the group.
Top tip: Be sure to book the English speaking tours in advance because they do sell out! Also, if you are travelling around Japan consider visiting one of the Nikka Whisky factories for a tour!
Visit an Owl Cafe
Japan is well known for their quirky cafes. From toilet cafes to robot restaurants, whether cats, dogs or reptiles are more your style, and even a… fishing restaurant?! Japan has a cafe to suit everyone’s tastes.
If you haven’t been able to curb your Harry Potter fangirl or boy, consider making your trip to Osaka a little more magical with a visit to one of the cities Owl Cafes. Get up close with Hedwig’s cousins – that’s the snowy owl in the Harry Potter books, tiny scop owls and dozens of other breeds.
I want to write another post about my experience at one of Osaka’s owl cafes, including the ethics, in the next week or two, so watch this space!
Coming soon: A Visit to Osaka’s Owl Cafe!
Flights: Currently, the only direct flight from Australia to Osaka is via Cairns on Jetstar. There are a number of connecting options through China, Taiwan, or Japan’s capital Tokyo. I chose to fly Cathay Pacific via. Hong Kong.
Getting from the airport to the city:
I’d been told by my friends that I’d be able to get a hotel shuttle to my accommodation in the heart of Osaka from Kansai International Airport (KIX). That’s not quite correct. Most hotels will offer transfers to/from Osaka Station, in the heart of downtown. To get there from the airport, you need to take the JR (train).
The JR takes around 50 minutes and costs ¥1,190 (around AU$15).
Accommodation: Three accommodation options I’d recommend in Osaka are the Ritz-Carlton Osaka, Hotel Nikko Osaka, or the Best Western Hotel Fino Osaka Shinsaibashi.
If you want to stay on the doorstep to Universal Studios Japan, I’d recommend The Park Front Hotel which recently celebrated their first anniversary and offers three levels of comfort, perfect for every budget! Many hotels offer free shuttle services to and from Universal Studios Japan, so be sure to ask!
Explore Osaka like a local by choosing a homestay or Airbnb. To save $40 on your first airbnb stay, sign up here.
Stay connected: Japan overwhelms me so whenever I visit I make sure I rent a MiFi (Pocket WiFi) to stay safe, heading the right direction on public transport, contact friends through What’s App, and be able to update social media!
You can rent a device at Kansai International Airport but to save the hassle, order a few weeks in advance and pick it up at the airport. Best of all, it comes with a return box that you can pop in any mailbox or leave at the front desk of your hotel.
I rented my device from Global Advanced Communications. I got the standard 75 Mbps model for ¥990 per day which was fast and perfect at Universal Studios and providing WiFi to my laptop at a cafe.