I recently spent some time in Japan with a friend, and during that time I stayed in Osaka for a week. A week isn’t enough time to see everything but we did our best! It was during late march so the cherry blossoms hadn’t quite come out yet, but that didn’t make it less beautiful. The week I spent here is definitely one to remember.
DAY 1 – Shopping!
The day after we arrived and we didn’t feel like doing anything too hectic so we spent the day shopping. After meeting at Starbucks and filling ourselves with coffee we found Tokyu Hands, a department store I could spend days exploring. It had a whole floor dedicated to stationary! I was in love.
We later arrived at Shinsaibashi- Suji, a huge undercover shopping area. The perfect place for gifts, souvenirs, and Hello Kitty stores. We stopped at an Okonomiyaki restaurant, it was delicious and definitely a must if you ever visit Japan. Afterward, we ran into a food truck selling green tea falavoured ice-cream in melon bread! It’s like shortbread but with a bread texture.. so good.
DAY 2 – Temples in Kyoto
Had an early start to the day to meet a friend of ours who lives in the Osaka area. We took a train to Kyoto, the trip costs about ¥800, and took a bus to see Kinkaku-Ji (The Golden Temple). And it’s called this for a reason! The gold colour is super bright and gorgeous.
We ate udon for lunch, which is thick wheat noodles in soup, similar to ramen but a little bit different. Just like with ramen, I struggled to eat the noodles with chopsticks (something I need to work on!). I also tried mochi for the first time and omg… I can’t get enough. Mine was filled with red bean paste, which sounds nasty but it’s actually very sweet!
In the afternoon we went into town and hired kimonos to wear, and the ladies there were kind enough to help us put them on. They were surprisingly warm as they have layers and layers of fabric! In our kimonos, we walked around a part of Kyoto with many shrines and temples. I rang the bells and prayed at the main shrine, got my Omikuji (luck fortune), and I bought myself a “Safe Travels” good luck charm. It was amazing to have the opportunity to be so immersed in their culture and it’s something I will always remember!
For dinner, we found a cozy traditional restaurant where I tried Takoyaki, and I was a bit skeptical at first because it’s a ball shaped food made with minced octopus. But I was pleasantly surprised! That said, it’s definitely not for everyone.
DAY 3 – Nara
After meeting at Starbucks again we took the train to Nara Park, famous for deer wondering around freely throughout the park and surrounding streets. This was my first time seeing deer in person (Australia doesn’t have them) so I was keen! You can buy crackers to feed them for ¥150 and they go nuts for them.
We made our way further into the park to see Kōfuku-Ji and checked out the buddha inside and took some selfies with the tall Hōryū-Ji. While eating Karaage chicken we rode on a rickshaw around the park and arrived at Tōsai-Ji . The buddha inside is HUGE, flanked by two golden buddhas, and surrounded by incense and candles.
On the way home I shared my crackers with some kids and I managed to take a selfie with one deer, which is actually hard to do because they won’t stand still! Then I refused to give one deer more crackers because she was being a little pig, so she decided to bite my butt when I turned away! A nearby group of American tourists found it amusing.
Just before getting to my hostel I ate Katsudon for dinner. Katsudon is definitely one of my favourite dishes in Japan, I can’t get enough of it and I highly recommend anyone to try it!
DAY 4 – Kaiyukan
Quinoa wrap for breakfast because I love quinoa don’t judge me. Took the train to see Kaiyukan, the Osaka Aquarium. It was absolutely gorgeous there and the variety of species was incredible. Dolphins, seals, penguins, and even whale sharks! When you first walk in you go through a fish tank tunnel, and on the other side you start your walk down into 8 floors of underwater adventure!
Looking through the window, you’ll see a ferris wheel nearby. Well, we decided to go for a ride. We weren’t disappointed, you can see the aquarium from above and Universal Studios too. The sky itself looked gorgeous with the sun rays dancing through the clouds. A nice conclusion to the day.
DAY 5 – Osaka Castle
Finally got to sleep in today! But I had to get up eventually to see the very famous Osaka Castle. The name isn’t exaggerated, it’s a castle! A gorgeous one too. Standing at 58m and donned with pastel mint coloured rooves and gold trim. We made it to the top after climbing its many stairs to see the view from the top and take some rad selfies.
On the way back to the hotel we enjoyed katsudon (again, because I’m obsessed) and green tea ice cream. We decided to take it easy for the rest of the day because we had a couple of busy days ahead of us.
DAY 6 – Universal Studios
If you’re visiting Universal Studios in Japan, I recommend dedicating a whole day to spend there. Even two days if you can because there is so much to do! The same goes for Disneyland in Tokyo (but that’s for another post).
As we got off the train at Universal-City Station we arrived in a colourful street of hotels, restuarants, and shops. We walked through and arrived at the main gate, and as you go through, the Universal Studios spinning globe is on your right.
We started our adventure on the Hollywood Dream rollercoaster ride and we decided to eat afterwards (as a precaution). I had my heart set on pizza, which we found at Pizzeria in the New York section. Next, we headed to Amity Village for the Jaws ride. Although I knew it was all fake, I was still terrified, and I’m usually the brave one!
The highlight of the day was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Being the Potterhead I am, I wanted to go there first but it’s so popular you have to get a ticket that only allows you to access the area at a specific time (these are free and you only need your park ticketto get them). While we waited my friend and I got drawn as anime characters near the main entrance, it was adorable!
We finally arrived in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the wait was so worth it. It has Hogsmeade, Hagrids house/The Forbbiden Forest, and Hogwarts Castle. It honestly feels like you’re transported to another world. And I finally got to try Butterbeer! A beverage from the HP universe, and one you can’t get anywhere else because the recipe is top secret. Which makes it even more special in my opinion. (The warm butterbeer was my favourite).
As it was starting to get dark (because I spent a loooong time in Hogwarts) we made our way to the Jurassic Park ride. This ride was a lot of fun and I wasn’t prepared to get so wet! So we were freezing our arses off for the rest of the day and on the way home. So worth it.
DAY 7 – Bamboo Forest + Onsen
First thing in the morning we headed for Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest, located west of Kyoto. It was absolutely gorgeous, seeing the tall bamboo swaying in the wind and hearing the crack when they bump into each other was wonderful. It takes 1-2 hours to get there from Osaka so the trip costs about ¥1,300 but seeing the forest itself is free and it’s not too far from the station. It’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area.
There are many onsens in Japan, you can find them in a lot of places. But I had my heart set on Kinosaki, a town full of different onsens for different purposes. Kinosaki is about 2 hours northwest of where we were and when we got there the sun was already setting. Unfortunately, because it was so late we could only go to the closest onsen to make it on the last train home that night. If I was to do it again I would have stayed the night but I wasn’t traveling alone this time. Anyway, we still got to stay at the onsen for a good hour and a half. This was my first time in an onsen and it was so cool! Being totally nude in front of strangers was daunting, but if you’re going to Japan you should experience the culture for what it is. This one had a nice bath on the roof and omg… the warm water, the sunset on an overcast sky, and the nice cool breeze, I didn’t want to leave.