Osaka — Day 2 of a 5-Day Trip in Japan’s Kansai Region
Day 2 was focused on Osaka. We got a 1-Day Osaka Amazing Pass for 2800yen each ($37 CAD) — I’ll call it OAP to avoid repeating it so often. They also offer a 2-Day option for 3600 yen ($47 CAD). We were planning on heading to Kyoto for the next two days so we settled for the 1-Day pass. The OAP includes unlimited Osaka Metro and Osaka bus rides and admissions to many attractions. The 1-Day Pass also offers additional access to the Hankyu, Hanshin, Keihan, Kintetsu, and Nankai Railways. You can save a lot of money if you take advantage of it! All the attractions we visited on Day 2 are included in the OAP.
Our first stop for the day was the Osaka Castle. The castle is now a museum documenting its history. The city landscape can be viewed from the top floor. The view was nice, but difficult to appreciate through the metal fencing.
The gardens around Osaka Castle were well kept and beautiful. We headed to Nishomaru Garden, west of the Castle.
You can get a pretty nice photo of Osaka Castle in the background from Nishomaru Garden (shown in the cover photo of this blog). The garden is much quieter and less populated, perhaps due to the 200 yen (~$3 CAD) entrance fee (included in OAP!). We visited the Osaka Castle Yagura on the way to the garden. Yagura consists of 2 turrets — Tamon-yagura and Sengan-yagura — and a gunpowder storehouse, Ensho-gura. This attraction is included in the OAP, but not really worth the cost of visit otherwise.
Our next destination was the Umeda Sky Building. After taking the elevator up to the ticket booth, we ascended a portal-like escalator to the Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor. There is both an indoor and outdoor viewing area. The air was crisp and refreshing as we took in the Osaka sights.
I was hungry and wanted ‘yakiniku’ (Japanese BBQ). We headed to Yakiniku Hakuundai at the Grand Front Osaka mall, about a 6 minute walk. The mall is enormous with at least four floors full of restaurants. If you are not craving yakiniku, you would definitely have your pick of an alternative. The marbling on the beef looked great and it melted in my mouth. The meal came with a few side dishes — rice, bone soup, vegetables (kimchi, daikon, bean sprouts, and seaweed).
After lunch, we took the train to Tempozan Harbour Village. The area features a variety of attractions including the smallest mountain in Japan! We headed to the Santa Maria Osaka Bay Cruise, but it departed just as we got there. Note: They have a day cruise running every hour and one evening cruise. Your OAP only allows you to go to one of the two. We checked the time for the next available departure, and headed to the ferris wheel. I snapped a photo of the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyuken for its interesting design, but we did not go in.
We flashed our OAP at the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel entrance, and were asked if we wanted a normal cabin or a glass floor cabin. We did not want to wait the 30 minutes for the latter (we wanted to get as much done before the next Santa Maria sailing) and opted for a normal cabin. We boarded almost right away. With a max height of 113m, the view from the top of the ferris wheel offered a stunning view of the bay and the city.
Once we reached the base again, we headed back to the Santa Maria for the 4pm cruise. The Santa Maria is named and modelled after the ship Columbus sailed on during his discovery of the new world. The cruise lasted an hour and sailed around the bay. Due to our late sailing, we got to enjoy the sunset on the cruise.
Osaka Bay Santa Maria Day Cruise
We were a bit hungry and stopped by Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho, a small food theme park in the Tempozan Market Place modelled to look like Osaka in the 1960s. We bought mitarashi dango and yakisoba from the theme park and shared a milk tea bubble tea from the Tempozan Marketplace food court. I had been wanting to try mitarashi dango the whole trip. It was tasty — grilled mochi balls dipped in a sugary soy sauce on a skewer.
This helped to temporarily satisfy our hunger. Our next stop for the night was Dotonbori, known for its extravagant signage and street food. Before heading to Dotonbori, we had one more stop in the Tempozan area — Mt. Tenpo! Mt.Tenpo is the smallest mountain in Japan with an elevation of 4.53m (the square in the photo). Is that even considered a mountain????
We enjoyed the early night view of the Tempozan Village as we headed to the train station .
Upon arriving in Dotonbori, we tried to get tickets to the Tombori River Jazz Boat, but they were all sold out of OAP seats. Instead, we decided on the Tombori River Cruise (no jazz band). Note: This is another item where you can only get tickets to one of the two attractions. The jazz option sells out pretty early, so it is best to get them as soon as you can. We boarded the boat and cruised along Dotonbori canal — passing the Dotonbori streets and the bright Glico Man sign.
After the cruise, we joined the Japan Night Walk tour and walked through the streets of Dotonbori. One of the stops on the tour is the Hozenji Temple, found at the end of Hozenji Yokocho. How interesting it was to find a temple in the middle of such a busy district!
The night walking tour was the last item on our OAP agenda. We were ready to sample the street food in Dotonbori. Dotonbori is a principal tourist destination in Osaka — due to the food and illuminated street boards. Here’s a photo of Glico Man, a well-known Osaka landmark.
Now, the street food in Dotonbori! We started by visiting a tempura restaurant (not really a street food, but the night tour guide suggested it) — Ichimizen. We ordered their soba noodles in a hot broth topped with tempura. The portion was big and it is one of the cheaper tempura options in the area. Next was Osaka Ohsho, recognizable by the giant plate of gyoza hanging on the building. We ordered the gyoza and chicken karaage. The gyoza was crunchy and tasty! For dessert, we shared a strawberry banana crepe from Dotonbori Crepe. So sweet and delicious!
We sat on the bench outside Dotonbori Crepe to enjoy our dessert and opened the can of Suntory (grape-flavoured) we picked up from a nearby convenience store. Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel.
Note: The OAP ended up saving us a lot of money. We spent an equivalent of 7400yen on attractions each and probably another 1000yen on the metro. The 1-Day OAP was 2800yen per person, that is over 5600yen in savings per person!
Complete Day 2 Itinerary
Travel times may vary and do not include walking distances to and from train stations. Check Google Maps for most accurate travel details.
8:00am: Head to the nearest train station to pick up the 1-day or 2-day OAP. Grab breakfast at a convenience store or other. Visit Osaka Castle (opens at 9:00am). Explore the castle grounds and head over to Nishomaru Garden and Yagura.
11:00am: Head to the Umeda Sky Building (4 minute train from Tanimachiyonchome Station to Hommachi Station, transfer for another 4 minute train from Hommachi Station to Umeda Station).
12:00pm: Grab lunch at one of the many restaurants in Grand Front Osaka (4 minute walk).
1:00pm: Head to Tempozan Harbour Village (4 minute train from Umeda Station to Hommachi Station, transfer for another 10 minute train from Hommachi Station to Osakako Station). Visit the many attractions at Tempozan Harbour Village — Santa Maria Bay Cruise, Legoland Discovery Centre, Tempozan Ferris Wheel, Kaiyuken Aquarium, Mt. Tenpo, etc.)
5:00pm: Head to the Dotonbori (11 minute train from Osakako Station to Hommachi Station, transfer for another 3 minute train from Hommachi Station to Namba Station). Take the Tombori River Cruise and join the Night Walking Tour.
7:00pm: Walk along the Dotonbori Canal and visit the stores. Sample the various street food items in Dotonbori.
16-Day Japan Itinerary
Click “Download” below for an excel version of my 16-Day Japan Itinerary. Feel free to use the excel file as a planning template for your own trip in Japan!