We landed at Kansai International airport at 22.45 meaning we missed the last trains into Osaka. If you can, make sure you can get in before this time, as it’s a lot harder finding your way to your hotel without the subway.
We ended up getting a bus into Namba, which took about 45 minutes. The only option you then have is a taxi, which is similar in price to the UK. Checking into our hotel at about 1.45am was not an ideal way to start our adventure.We stayed at Hotel Chuo, which is a 1 minute walk from exit 3 of Dobutsuen-Mae Station (red line) and a 5 minute walk to the JR line (Shin-Imamiya Station). Checking in, we were told we had two single rooms rather than the double we thought we had booked. At such a late time and with no other rooms available it was a case of whatever!!
The next morning as usual we woke fairly early, ready for our day in Osaka. With only one day to see as much as possible. Our first destination was to be Shitennoji Temple, which was a 15-minute walk away. However on our way (after a stop for breakfast) we noticed everyone going to the Zoo. Now, I’m not the greatest fan of zoos as I prefer animals to be roaming free (not in the city mind you!!) but the entrance fees were only $5 and Aida hadn’t seen many of the animals they had here. By now the sun was out and although it was still 10am it was hot. The animals on show as usual where all in cages far too small for them but they didn’t seem as distraught as some places you see in SE Asia. A good two hours was spent walking around, seeing polar bears, a wide range of monkeys, lions, hippo’s, tigers and various reptiles.
A quick bite to eat in Family Mart convenience store and we set off on the 5 minute walk to Shitennoji Temple. Now living in Asia for so long I have seen 1000’s of temples and all are very impressive. This was worth the visit and some good photos were taken especially with the cloud formations (Aida loves clouds!).
Next on our itinerary was Osaka Castle. Usually we like to walk to places but the Castle was a little too far away for that. This meant our first visit to the subway. Now each subway is like a shopping mall so finding your way around is not easy. We soon found out that asking the guards was nothing like the experience you get in KL. In KL, the customer service is minimal at best, in Japan they will assist as much as possible from taking you to the machine, helping you with the choices and then showing you to the gate. Most of the time they speak some English so rather than wonder around aimlessly, seek assistance. Once we arrived at the station for the Castle, we noticed lots of young students all in traditional dress. It seems there was a large festival happening and all these schools/colleges/groups had prepared some excellent choreographed performances, which we could have watched for ours.
By now my flip-flops where rubbing like mad (another tip: wear suitable footwear). These were my new one’s so didn’t realize they would be like this. The walk to the castle takes about 10 minutes and once although you can see it in the distance, when you get close you see the true splendor on offer. We didn’t go up the castle as there was a large queue and it was close to closing time. The beauty of the castle can be seen from the bottom looking up rather than from the top looking down. It is about $7 entry so well worth doing if you have the time.
We then headed off to Osaka station to change our JR Pass voucher to a card. Depending on how long you are staying in Japan and what you tend to do dictates whether you need a JR Pass or not. The pass we got was quite expensive, just less than $300 for 7 days validity, however when you price up a ticket from Osaka to Tokyo you will see it is well worth getting. To get the voucher you need to buy this prior to your visit to Japan. Just Google ‘JR pass’ and many options will come up. I actually ordered ours from the UK and they were sent via FedEx within a week. The transfer was simple as well. The guard spoke perfect English and within 5 minutes we had our JR rail card valid from the following day. We had a little walk around Osaka station and then headed home to freshen up before the evening. Again the Japanese hospitality came to the fore as when we were about to buy tickets for the trip back, a woman came over and gave us her 2 all day tickets as she wouldn’t require them anymore.
After a quick shower we headed to Namba, which is the lively district of Osaka. Set on the Dotombori River there are all the neon lights, which you expect to see in Japan, restaurants, shops, etc, line the streets or you can even take a river cruise. Aida managed to find time after eating, to shop and picked up a bargain in Berksha. After a long day, we headed back to pack and get ready for our 9.40am train to Tokyo.