Forty-eight hours to explore Japan’s second largest city seemed like an extremely daunting feat.
But, during that short time frame, I found myself to be unexpectedly calm while trying to tackle all of what Osaka has to offer. Maybe, I was subconsciously trying to mirror the calm disposition of the Japanese?
Osaka is an extremely manageable city. The metro system is fast and efficient, tourists attractions are easily accessible, and the city’s different neighbourhoods are simple to navigate by foot or bike.
Here are some of my favourite things I saw, did, and (of course) ate, during my brief, two-day Osaka adventure.
I stumbled upon this area while pursuing the scent of fried food. Fried food seems to be a common denominator whenever I experience something really awesome in Asia.
I didn’t think it was physically possible to have so much action packed into such a small area, until I walked through the entrance of Shinsekai.
Shinsekai’s highly animated streets and passageways are lined with fragrant restaurants, ringing pachinko halls, and colourful shops overflowing with all sorts of knick knacks. Every single building bursts with character. Literally. Giant characters, including scared blowfish, beaming Buddhas, and angry Japanese chefs, burst out from the facades of buildings.
The intensely saturated colours of all the signs, the competing sounds of restaurant hosts trying to persuade me that their shrimp tempura reins supreme on the block, and, trying to avoid getting struck across the head by the hordes of waving selfie sticks, left me feeling dizzy. But, I couldn’t help but also feel extremely energized and excited by all of the madness around me.
Tired of dodging all of the selfie sticks?!
Head UP the The Tsutenkaku Tower (¥600). Soak up the awesome view of Shinsekai (and beyond!) from the 5th floor observation deck.
From the observation deck, I spotted an ice cream stand.
(I’m always scanning my surroundings for the nearest ice cream vendor.)
I got a generous scoop of sesame ice cream (¥200), sandwiched between two, crispy wafer shells made of mochi (a Japanese rice cake). Never in my life have I tasted an ice cream I didn’t like, and this one definitely didn’t break this impressive streak. Maybe if I had tried the pork knuckle ice cream in Taipei, this would no longer be the case.
HOW TO GET THERE:
OH! Okonomiyaki. Where have you been my whole life?! My very first meal in Japan did not disappoint.
Okonomiyaki Chitose is renown in Osaka for its heavenly okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake made with an egg mixture, similar to an omelette. It comes loaded with a range of ingredients including vegetables, meats, and seafood.
The one I absolutely inhaled at Okonomiyaki Chitose, consisted of cabbage, grated yam, thick pork belly, shrimp, squid, green onion, and ooey, gooey cheese.
I can’t put into words how deeply in love I fell with this Japanese dish. I often suffer from vivid dreams of me sitting inside the small, cozy restaurant, devouring one okonomiyaki after the next.
HOW TO GET THERE:
When people say Japan is a wild place, I’m pretty sure they’re referring to Dotonbori.
This bustling district of Osaka left me speechless for once in my life. There was SO much going on here that I had no idea where to look – flashy, neon lights that left me temporarily blinded; mechanical signs and characters moving on every building; crowds of people lining up for the endless options of street food and restaurants; and, a countless number of ringing entertainment venues.
My friend and I accidentally entered one of the stranger venues along the strip. Who knew we would be spending our Saturday night fishing?
Thank goodness we saw this sign. If we hadn’t, we may have really upset the staff at the “fishing pand.”
Yes. At this strange establishment, Arcabuz, you can fish to your heart’s content! Unfortunately, you can’t take your catches home and fry them up. But, you can choose from an assortment of prizes, if you catch enough fish!
HOW TO GET THERE:
Would a trip to Japan even be complete without visiting a karaoke bar?
No! Despite having zero musical talents, it was absolutely imperative that my friend and I visited one of the country’s singing watering holes.
Osaka’s neighbourhoods are overflowing with karaoke bars. There are even entire streets dedicated to the craft itself. My friend and I stumbled upon one of these streets merely a few hours into our strange Japanese adventure. Lucky us!
We squeezed ourselves into the tiny bar and found two bar stools sandwiched between two, elderly Japanese men. Achieving celebrity status instantaneously is easy when you are the only two foreigners in the bar!
We were showered with free Asahi and miscellaneous Japanese bar foods, including takoyaki (dumpling-like balls stuffed with octopus) and… pig intestines. Thinking that the pig intestines were sautéed mushrooms, I dug right in. The elderly man beside us burst into laughter, said “pig” and dramatically motioned to his stomach. I have never felt so betrayed and nauseated in my entire life.
I managed to swallow the last of the chunk of pig intestine that was sitting in my mouth, by drowning my tastebuds with gulps of beer. Once I had cleared my throat, it was our turn to demonstrate our lack of vocal talents.
You can never go wrong with Waka Waka by Shakira. Never. This is also true because it was one of the four English songs available. I may be tone deaf, but my eyesight is pretty good (unless you ask me to differentiate between pig intestine and sautéed mushrooms – then we’re in trouble), and the crowd was loving it. I don’t think they understood a single word except for “Africa!,” which they chimed in every time it popped up in the lyrics.
Osaka Castle and Park
If you are like me and have a very rational fear of birds, be warned! Enter this attraction at your own risk!
Osaka Castle Park has an unfathomable amount of crows lingering throughout its perimeters. But, if you can muster enough courage to face the flocks of crows terrorizing its pathways, you won’t be disappointed.
The reward for a brave journey? The chance to admire Osaka Castle and all of its beauty.
This impressive landmark sits in the middle of Osaka Castle Park, surrounded by bridges, flowing moats, and, I repeat, crows. Head to the top of the castle (¥600) for an awesome view of the park!
HOW TO GET THERE:
In the birthplace of instant noodles, I tried my very first bowl of real ramen. The moment I slurped down my first spoonful of the bowl of steaming, rich broth, I vowed to never eat Mr. Noodle again. Since this day, I have developed a severe ramen addiction that can’t be tamed.
Many of Osaka’s restaurants allow you to completely customize your bowl of ramen. Everything from the ingredients, to the level of spice, salt, and starch.
It’s impossible to visit Osaka without finding yourself lost in a maze of flashy, noisy arcade games. Whether it be a tiny arcade, hidden in a narrow passageway, or a mega arcade that towers over all the buildings surrounding it – you can’t miss a Japanese arcade experience.
I still can’t decide what was more intense – the games, or the people’s faces while playing the games. There is an extreme level of focus that can be felt throughout these gaming establishments.
I was unfamiliar with most of the arcade games, except for Dance Dance Revolution (which was borderline terrifying to watch – all that concentration!).
Trying to determine the rules of some of these games was probably the most daunting task of my entire forty-eight hours in Osaka.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO, SEE, OR EAT IN OSAKA?
Liked the post? Pin it!