In an ideal world we would have taken the Shinkansen down to Osaka, but it was pretty much out our price range so we flew with Jetstar for about one 5th of the price at 4,780 Yen (although we probably could have taken the world famous bullet train as we had misjudged the distance to Tokyo airport and completely missed our flight). There is the highly recommended Willard Express bus company that you can plan many routes through Japan with and apparently very comfortable, as you would expect from the ridiculously efficient Kanji.
The flight was only an hour long from Narita airport to Kansai International and has a JR metro system that will take you to the centre of Osaka and it is well worth the trip. It’s a beautiful city despite the amount of bombs that were dropped on it and the castle, Osaka castle, has been restored to its a former glory, yet again, so that you can wander round and see for free (600 Yen to go up the tower) but even just walking around the grounds, seeing the cherry blossom gardens, locals practising their Falconry and marvelling at the aesthetics of the place.
Osaka castle was built in 1583 originally but has been bombed and destroyed on several occasions (most recently during the second world war) but has been restored by the city of Osaka and its people. It is located in the Chuo-Ku district which is easily accessible by metro (Tanimachi 4-chrome) or bus.
We wandered around the bright light, hustle and bustle city centre, Dotonbori, and spent a good bit of time exploring and plucking up the courage to try some of the delicacies that hung/screamed for its life from the windows and still moved on the plates. Everywhere you looked it was just people everywhere, it almost seemed as if there was more bodies here than in Tokyo but it adds to the atmosphere in this charming city built over the Yodo River.
We strolled round the old shrines and temples at Shitenno-ji that were unfortunately being repaired (isn’t it always the same when you visit a place that repair works are going on when your there) but was still pretty awesome to be fair.
You can spend hours just walking around this city visiting all the temples and monuments and reading up about the days of the samurai and ancient times in the land of the rising sun.
After hours of scouring the web for an authentic (within price range) sushi house we found that Harukoma had the best reviews so we decided to try it. It is very well hidden down a side street off the main road south of the Tenjinbashisuji 6-chrome tube station, you cannot actually tell if this is the correct place unless you speak Japanese. There was already a small que starting and it was only 4pm so we decided to join it and were given a small piece of paper and pencil for our orders. It was basically one in one out as was a tiny little traditional sushi house that will take about 12 people comfortably…not the 18 or so that were crammed in but who cares….as the food was awesome. It’s the kind of food that makes you realise how bad the crap you buy in the supermarket really is, all made fresh in front of you and you don’t even care about the close proximity you are at with the locals on the bar stools taking elbows and chopsticks in the eye as you eat fresh Unagi like it was your last meal. This place is worth the trip to Osaka alone let alone how good it is spending time in the city.
The famous iconic Tsutenkaku tower dominates the skyline from all around the city and the unmistakeable Hitachi glow that comes off the radio tower draws you to it. It’s a nice area with a bright colourful district called Shinsekai, that’s packed full of shops and restaurants that will entertain you for hours.
A lot of the time spent was with Megan hunting for Shiba Inus to steal and try to smuggle home. The famous Japanese Spitz was proving elusive but we managed to bump into an old timer who was partially blind, which we would have to hope the border security officer was as he was almost the same weight as me and bright orange…was a beautiful dog though.
Osaka is a must when in Japan (pretty much everywhere and everything is here) but we loved it and would definitely come back.
Not too be missed
Useful phrases:Arigatou (Thank You) Yoroshiku (Please do your best to help me) Naihon Daiskee (I love Japan) Konnichiwa (Hello)
Free stuff to do: Visit Osaka Castle Park. Make sure to go and see the wonders Nestled along the Neyagawa River. Whilst here it may cost to go to the top of the building its totally free to marvel the Castle and Cherry Blossom Gardens from the bottom. The Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the oldest Shinto Shrines not only Osaka, but in all of Japan. Or just geek out and put on good walking shoes and walk around the weird and amazing streets of Osakatry not to die at the Shinsekai which is a quirky area of Osaka that is home to the mighty Tsutenkaku Tower.Be forewarned however that Shinsekai is considered one of the more shady neighbourhoods in Osaka, so do not wander alonego with a large group and you should be fine. You will never be bored in Osaka!!