Text: Chris Andre
A short but happy and memorable trip, that’s what Osaka promises to those young at heart
Those who have been to Osaka and Tokyo know that these two are basically apples and oranges. How Osaka shyly reveals its happy playgrounds as you saunter along from one destination to another is completely different from the experience of swimming against hordes of tired workers in Tokyo rushing for the subways. In fact, it’s so distinct that the moment you leave Osaka, you’d instantly realize you would never mind going back again and— looking at how simple but fulfilling life the residents enjoy—even dare to imagine “what if ” you get a chance to live there. Yet before all that happens, here’s a possible start to a joyful journey.
The Japanese love going to theme parks. So, before you lose much energy on other destinations, put the only Universal Studio in japan as a priority. Queue up from 8AM; get ready to pay more for the Harry Potter ride, as it’s the only one (no Disneylands have it), and it’s certainly worth the hassle. Tip: Never come to a theme park in Japan during weekends or holidays; you’d be queuing to death.
Freshen yourself up after a day on public arcades and rides by immersing at a gigantic hot-spring theme park. Here is where you could brush up on your onsen etiquette as well as learning how the Japanese are totally obsessed with hygiene and interiors. In the eight-story building, each facility houses its own design style, from the ancient Roman Jacuzzi to the Finnish bath to the local wooden saunas.
After basically two theme parks, you might as well end your day at a very festive shopping destination. Shinsaibashi is Osaka’s number-one shopping center, offering all things you can think of. When hunger kicks in, next-door Dotonbori has rows and rows of great street foods and ramen kiosks. The goal is not to find the best shop or the finest restaurant, but to really try one thing after another since, well among others, Osaka’s cheaper than Tokyo.
4. Osaka Castle (Morning)
While in Osaka, take your time in appreciating each and every moment. The Osaka Castle, for instance, has a beautiful moat surrounding it and the backyard area where some food stalls reside is nice for a quiet sit in the morning—or a selfie. The castle itself has elevators that may have you shell out for more. Take the stairs. Enjoy your tour and no need to rush to the top floor, as by then you’ll probably be thinking of going elsewhere.
Who doesn’t love Japanese ramen? A free entrance to the museum is just one of the perks. As you explore this unique spot in the Ikeda district, you’ll sooner or later fall in love with Mr. Ando who not only created the first instant noodle but also founded Nissin and the cup noodles. Tip: Try to make your own instant noodle there! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
6. Namba Yasaka-Jinja (Afternoon)
If you want to have a unique selfie in Osaka, this temple will help you stand out in the crowd. This Shinto shrine has a staggering monster-like face and mouth in which the altar can be found. Little details like wooden prayer slabs on the side, however, may look similar to those at the many temples in Kyoto.
7. Kuromon Ichiba Market (Before Sunset to Evening)
How about fresh Japanese seafood for dinner? Come down right at the end of the day (before closing at 6PM) and you can hone your bargaining skill. Fret not, there’s a number of hole-in-the-walls around the area that serve delicious but humble dinners. Again, the goal isn’t to sample the finest or most popular in Osaka, but to soak in the ambience, appreciate the chef and the dishes. You can walk to some bars next door to call it a day and close the 48-hour trip with a toast among new friends.
Originally published in 3S Magazine (Sampoerna Strategic Square) edition, July-December 2019.