We recently spent 10 days in Japan, and figuring out what we were going to do (when there is SO much to see!) was a huge struggle for us. After much deliberation, we decided to spend 4 days in Tokyo and 5 days in Osaka. While this was the best trip EVER, and we crammed our days full, we've since realized we need to return to Japan soon - because there's so much we still have yet to do! During our journey, we fell in love with Tokyo, Osaka, and nearby Kyoto. Today we’re going to share a few reasons why Osaka is a perfect spot to have as a home base while you explore Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and beyond.
Osaka is known as “The Nation’s Kitchen”, so food will be a big part of your time here. The name originally came from Osaka being the mecca for the rice trade and other produce. Eventually that reputation grew as tons of great restaurants and local delicacies are scattered throughout the city. Our favorite was Matsusaka beef at Matsuzakgyu Yakiniku M, Sushi at Ginza Kyubey, and green tea ice cream at the Osaka castle (a MUST!!). There is also an INCREDIBLE variety of street food, so walk everywhere to burn off some calories. A local favorite is Takoyaki (octopus ball), but it was a little too much for us. Bobby tried, but couldn’t handle it… which isn’t normal because he’s eaten some weird stuff.
Shinsaibashi-Dotonbori Area – A crazy part of Osaka where you’ll want to spend a good chunk of time. Shinsaibashi for shopping, and Dotonbori for eating. Shinsaibashi is an enclosed shopping mall, different from what we think of in the states. It is a large strip of shops spanning more than half-a-mile! Here you’ll find retail, luxury, boutiques, and street vendors. It is a great shopping area where you could spend a ton of money but also score some bargains. We were there over New Years, which is a bummer because many of the best stores were closed. I guess we have to go back? Nearby Dotonbori is essentially the capitol of the “Nation’s Kitchen”. Incredible food. Looking back on it, we realize we should’ve spent more time here eating, and probably walked more too. You’ll know you are entering the Dotonbori area when you see the iconic giant Glico Man (Glico makes Pocky!). Don’t bother with Pocky here, though. Explore street food, ramen, crab, takoyaki (we dare you), and blowfish (we also wimped out on this). Put your walking shoes on, don’t eat too much rice, and enjoy this sensory (and stomach) overload in Osaka.
Trains make day-trips easy – While there is plenty to do, see, and eat in Osaka, there are some incredible towns just a short train trip away from Osaka. We recommend getting the JR Rail Pass so you can hop on the Shinkansen train from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station in 15 minutes! We did this trip multiple times and most of the time didn’t even sit down. We just stood by the doors and watched the scenery during the quick trip. Kyoto is a beautiful city full of shrines, temples, and gardens, and is full of tradition including kabuki, geisha dancing, and picturesque onsens. Other day trips that we want to do during our next trip (we were obsessed with Kyoto and didn’t go anywhere else) would be Hiroshima (85 minutes via shinkansen), Kobe (14 minutes), and Nara (30 minutes). Aside from day-trips, we used our JR Rail Pass to get between Tokyo and Osaka as well! It’s so easy… can we please get some trains like this in CA!?!
So depending on how much you love food (we’re biased), we would recommend having Osaka as either a short stop (2-3 days) or as a hub as you explore this area of Japan. There is so much to see, and you’ll probably love it wherever you end up. Get your train pass, stretch your stomach, and embrace YOLO with all the cuisine and experiences you can have in Osaka!