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Doing Osaka In One Day

With comments in bold parenthesis by Dave

Osaka Castle

With only 1 day in Osaka and struck by jet lag, Dave and I started the day early around 8am. What also rushed us out the door of Gareth’s, our couchsurfer’s, apartment was that the place was stifling and after an unbearably hot nights’ sleep on mats laid across the kitchen floor I was itching for some fresh air (think Hell’s kitchen).

Once outside, with a heavy sigh and the pressure of my backpack digging into my shoulders I realized that this whole 2-year backpacking plan would be a lot harder than I anticipated, however, my excitement for exploring my first Japanese city overrode this.

Lockers in Japan

One of the great things we’ve discovered about Japan is the convenience of lockers at train stations. If only visiting a city for a day just throw your bags into a locker and be on your way.

TIP: The lockers range from 100-600 JPY and are good for 24 hours. The 500 yen locker fit both our 65L and 38L backpack.

Osaka Castle Japan

Osaka Castle

With the backpacks off our shoulders we were free to explore our first sight – Osaka Castle. This is the landmark fortress of the city and dates back to 1597 when Toyotami built the castle to outdo the Azuchi Castle (headquarters of Oda Nobunaga), though it fell to Tokugawa by 1615. Over the years the castle passed through different hands and withstood both fire and warfare. In 1997 the latest restoration was complete and the main tower stands tall and magnificent over Osaka. Though more of a museum than a castle, this sight is well worth an hour of your day and from the top you can see a panoramic view of the city. If time permits stroll through the surrounding grounds to admire the other structures and scenery.

Water Fountain on Osaka Castle Grounds

TIP: Ask for a city map at the admissions counter of Osaka Castle

Our Japanese Friend

Stroll Through Namba Center

When leaving the castle watch out for eager Japanese locals looking to interact with Westerners (I promise they don’t bite). As we walked through the gate a man on a bicycle rushed over to us with a grin from ear to ear, excited over spotting us. After multiple handshakes, have a good days, and a few photos he was on his way and we were flattered to be so warmly regarded (as well as checking our pockets for belongings).

Namba Area Osaka

From the castle, head over to Namba for lunch, either on the subway or by walking. To cut costs (the metro ride would have cost us 270 JPY each) we chose to walk, which took a little over an hour and took us through the business district in Osaka. In search of the “Big Step” department store, which Lonely Planet claims serves delicious Okonomiyaki, we weaved in and out of the little alley ways nearing Namba station. With our stomaches growling and no hope of finding the exact address due to the lack of street signs in Japan, I made the executive decision to just wander into a little soup shop (are you sure I didn’t make that decision?). After peering through the window and spotting a handful of Japanese I assumed it must not be a tourist trap.

Ramen Pork Noodle Soup for lunch in Osaka_

The chef, who was the sole worker in the shop, spoke no english whatsoever. Add a menu completely in Japanese (no pictures) and you have two stumped travelers. The prices were recognizable so we decided to throw caution to the wind and select two reasonably priced, unknown, “dishes”. A 500 JPY and 400 JPY item could be lunch?

First item, dumplings – success!

Second item, an Asahi beer – failure…(I think Vicky ordered this one)

TIP: When all else fails point to what your neighbor is eating

This gauranteed us a bowl of hot steaming ramen pork noodle soup!

We both agreed that the dumplings were the most tender ones we had ever tasted and continued to loudly slurp the soup until not a drop was left. A delicious first lunch in Japan and we walked out confident.

Dotonbori Street in Osaka

A block later we hit the famous Dotonbori street – packed with food establishments and more lights than the Vegas strip. A great budget lunch option. We went back later that night to sample the Takoyaki – an Osakan specialty, which you will see sold every 30 feet across the length of Dotonbori street.

Takoyaki for dinner in Osaka

TIP: Look out for a large line — this is a good indicator you’ve found the right Takoyaki vendor.

Shitenno-ji Temple

Fueled with energy from lunch we continued our walking tour across Osaka and headed to the Shitenno-ji Temple – constructed in 583AD by Prince Shotuku and the oldest officially administered temple in all of Japan. Unfortunately, as is the case with many temples in Japan, this one was rebuilt recently — as recent as 1963 (downer). Due to some wrong turns we got lost and didn’t get to the temple until near closing time so we just walked around the grounds (double downer). The temple tower is impressive to say the least and well worth a visit. If time permits continue walking around the area as there are many other smaller temples and shrines close by.


Horikoshi Shrine by Tennoji, Osaka Shrine by Tennoji Osaka

As the day came to a close, we headed back to Namba station to take the Kinetsu train to Nara where we would meet our 2nd couchsurfer – a young Japanese photographer.

We had a great first day in Japan and would highly recommend everything we saw in Osaka. With only 1 day there we were not able to see everything but by walking around we got a great feel for the city and only regret missing out on the Kita District (Umeda area) and the red Ferris Wheel on the roof of the HEP FIVE building, which is supposed to make for quite a ride. As Japan’s 3rd largest city Osaka portrays a scene of modernity amid historically significant temples, castles and shrines.

TIP: We recommend spending 1 day in Osaka (at most 2)


Osaka Castle

Time: Open 9-5

Cost: 600 Yen (combination ticket available for Osaka Castle and Osaka History Museum)

Metro Stop: Osakajokoen Station on the JR West Osaka Loop Line or the Morinomiya on the Chuo (Green) line


Shitenno-ji Temple

Time: Open 9-430

Cost: 300 JPY, gardens 200 JPY

Metro Stop: Tennoji Station


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15 Responses to Doing Osaka In One Day

  1. Great article. Looks like you guys are having a great time in Japan! Loving all the tips that you’re including in the posts, very useful! p.s that friendly Japanese guy is hillarious!

    Aiman September 20, 2012 at 8:41 AM Reply
    • Thanks! When we do our monthly country wrap up for Japan we will summarize all the tips and include some more things like a complete cost breakdown.

      Dave and Vicky September 20, 2012 at 5:57 PM Reply
  2. What a great first day! We were only in town for 2.5 days and it was a great introduction to the city. We had to pop over to the Osaka Aquarium, which is why we spent a little more time there. Little guy had just spent 2 weeks in China with me while I worked. He deserved a little fun. Plus it is one of the top aquariums in the world so we were super excited to check it out. Still one of the best we have been to!

    Can’t wait to see what else you eat on your travels. Okonomiyaki was one of our favorite treats in Japan, but it sure was more expensive in Kyoto. But there is a GREAT shop across the street from the Westin in Kyoto. Check it out if you can! The salmon in tea was amazing. Yakisoba was great too!

    Keryn @ walkingon travels September 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM Reply
    • Aquarium would have been very cool as well. Vicky has been photographing everything we eat. I can’t really tell one thing from another but it all tastes really good. Surprisingly, we still haven’t had sushi yet – waiting for Tokyo.

      Dave and Vicky September 20, 2012 at 5:58 PM Reply
      • I think we had sushi once or twice while in Japan. There is SO much to eat! Don’t forget about the sweets too!

        Keryn @ walkingon travels September 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM Reply
        • Yes, we NEED to try more sweets. All we’ve had is ice cream, once. We’ve somewhat cut it out as part of keeping our spending low in Japan (I don’t want to guarantee anything, but I think you’ll be very surprised with how little we’ve managed to spend thus far in Japan when we do our country wrap up…). Still, you have to draw the line to make sure you are not over economizing the experience!

          Dave and Vicky September 20, 2012 at 6:13 PM Reply
  3. My mouth is watering at the sight of the noodle soup and dumplings. Oishi!

    Bethaney - Flashpacker Family September 20, 2012 at 8:51 PM Reply
  4. Seems like such an intimidating place to cover in one day. The temples would be my favorite part.

    Scott - Quirky Travel Guy September 21, 2012 at 1:23 PM Reply
  5. We spent 2 days in Osaka and enjoyed every minute of it! Such a bustling crazy place – will be interesting to see what you guys think of Tokyo compared to it (personally, we much preferred Osaka). And it’s a shame you didn’t get to see the aquarium because it has really earned its “best in the world” status. I love an aquarium and have been to my fair share and it really is a spectacular one.

    Also, I had to laugh at your lunch adventures, since Tony & I were in a similar boat a few times too! I would recommend learning the “kanji” for the numbers because I can guarantee that if you go off the beaten trail when it comes to food, you will wind up in places where the prices are NOT listed in a format you are used to. This was stressful for us the first 1.5 weeks of our time in Japan and then we finally manned up and learned to read Japanese numbers and then although we may have still wondered about what we would be getting, we never had to worry about prices again!

    Oh, and don’t bother waiting for Tokyo to eat sushi. Seriously, some of the best we had was in Hiroshima. You will get good sushi all over Japan! Tokyo has a lot of great food, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily “THE” place to get sushi (Tsukiji Fish Market or no! And if you read our post on TFM, you know we have very mixed feelings about the place).

    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) September 22, 2012 at 7:32 PM Reply
    • Aquarium would have been really sweet – we just didn’t have much of a plan for Osaka I think. Shame our CS host didn’t mention it.

      Honestly we haven’t been to a single place that didn’t have the yen in the “normal” format, even places without an English menu and where waiters don’t speak English at all. I doubt Tokyo will be a problem so we might be home free (not that learning it would have been that bad, but there’s enough stuff for us to do).

      As for Sushi, I’ve made it clear to Vicky that I won’t be partaking. I just don’t value it at that price and for that wait, but that’s where we differ. Maybe your comment will knock some sense into her!

      Dave September 23, 2012 at 4:53 AM Reply
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  9. Gosh, the blatant and typical white prejudice in this post is sickening. Japanese people are not your animals to gawk at/accuse of pickpocketing and other typical nonsense. I’m sure they were glad to see the backs of you.

    K. May 16, 2015 at 8:12 PM Reply

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