I’m not really sure how to introduce Osaka. It’s a big city known for amazing food and being a busy, hectic place haha. In terms of things to see and do there isn’t much culture here, it’s more a mecca for businesses, executives and suits. With that though comes ‘the future’ and a lot of the architecture is modern, futuristic and unfathomed by my little mind. There are floating walkways above the giant roads that I think are genius and it felt like the making of a utopia. Every toilet had a ‘music’ option to play some tunes whilst you tinkle and drown out the noise. All the people walked very much in unison as if they were cars themselves. It’s a city for the grown-up robot in all of us.
We stayed at an airbnb which was awesome. It was great having a place we could do some laundry, relax watching crazy Japanese TV shows and just plonk out lazily. It was cool getting to see an actual apartment as well and just how concise they are with storage/using up every possible bit of space.
Our first stop was Osaka Castle and probably the most famous landmark in the city. The castle is surrounded by an impressive grounds and gardens which makes it a great place to spend an hour or two and have a picnic. We saw many people on runs doing loops around the area. The tower itself of the castle isn’t the original and is actually the third generation. The original was destroyed in a fire and then the second was struck by lightning and set a blaze. The fact that it’s a rebuilt did ruin the charm of it for me but I guess everything is being rebooted these days – new Ghostbusters, new Star Wars, so why not a rebuilt castle? A highlight was getting matcha ice-cream and the green colours matching for the above photo haha, that’s the dork in me.
From there we wanted some fun and headed downtown to HEP Five in the Umeda area. It is a giant shopping mall with an arcade inside but the main highlight is the giant ferris wheel poking out the top. I love a good ride and it was a pretty reasonable price so we went for it. The view isn’t the most exciting as Osaka is pretty commercial/done-up and the buildings are generic skyscrapers. I just liked ascending into the sky and getting the extra-height as we were already on top of a building. Each pod had speakers so you could plug in your own music and we ended up listening to TLC – Waterfalls haha.
Nearby is the Umeda Sky Building which features the floating garden. It’s two buildings that are connected by a bridge that you can walk out on and see the view of the city. I’d say it’s a very recognisable building as it looks like a tetris piece. It fits perfectly downtown as everything is built up and large. Nearby to there for lunch we went to MOS Burger which I’m not proud of but glad I experienced it. It’s essentially the Japanese McDonald’s and a very popular chain we saw multiple times. I got the standard burger and it was beef with some crazy tomato sauce thing and an abundance of mayonnaise. They also had teriyaki options, rice buns and different Japanese twists if you want something a little kooky. For the price you can’t really complain and honestly it wasn’t that bad for a speedy snack.
At night we headed to Namba and Dotonbori Street. It’s kind of the party/commercial street with restaurants, shops, lights, entertainment galore. I snapped these photos on my phone so sorry they aren’t the best. For dinner we got okonomiyaki at Mizuno (a tiny, fancy restaurant) and we waited around an hour to get in. I’m not normally a patient person but this was definitely worth the wait. Osaka is known for its’ okonomiyaki, which is a grilled pancake/egg/noodle/cabbage dish with anything inside it. Here they grilled it up right in front of you and the customisation was unreal – whatever sauce, filling, toppings you want! Below you can see a seafood one and a vegetable one smothered in seaweed, mayonnaise and the special sauce. The texture turns crispy and it’s so dreamy to eat. After dinner we went to check out Glico Man who is the famous billboard of the area. The area he’s in is like a mini times square and this is also the area that bars and clubs start to pop up if you want a little boogie.
As Osaka is known for food we decided to take part in a cooking class. We did this the following night with a company called Eat Osaka. The booking process was super easy and we met up at a landmark downtown and all walked together to the studio. We did the Osaka Street Food course which included making yakitori, udon noodles in broth and chopstick okonomiyaki. There were six of us and then our teacher Arisa who was patient, funny and really sweet. The whole evening took around three hours including eating at the end and some tea with cookies after. I am by no means a chef and honestly sucked at certain parts but the experience was a lot of fun and we had a really interactive group. The food itself was amazing and I’ll be sure to attempt to make it myself soon (wish me luck). Throughout the course Arisa took photos of us and sent us them the next day which was really nice as a souvenir.
I think Osaka is a must-see but you don’t need a ton of time here. Something I’d suggest would be to make Kyoto your base and then do a day trip here as it’s only half an hour away. Other places to check out would be Universal Studios as apparently it’s awesome. We skipped it as we went to Disney in Tokyo but it’s an idea if you want to fill another day!