Osaka, Kyoto & Mino-o
Recently, I ventured to Japan on a short holiday. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do and see. All that was left now was to book my flights and accommodation.
Flights: £200 return Qingdao - Osaka Kansai Airport Accommodation: 220 yen per night - 4 nights (shared dorm)
Accommodation: Osaka Guesthouse SUN
The guesthouse allows you to arrive after the check-in time as long as you check-in the following morning. Be sure to inform them of your arrival time in advance. The location of the guesthouse was smack bang in the centre of downtown Osaka. I was able to walk everywhere.
Getting from the airport to the guesthouse
I took the JR Namba train which costs 920 yen and takes approximately 50 minutes (there are other faster options but I didn’t know at the time). From Namba station it is a 5-10 minute walk to the gueshouse (I took a taxi because it was midnight and I had no clue where I was going).
Day 1: Exploring Osaka
My friend gave me the contact of her friend who lives out in Osaka so we met up on the Friday morning at Takashimaya department store. After some quick introductions he was more than happy to show me around. Firstly, we walked around the shopping areas, showing me some great places for second hand electronics and much more. Later we walked by Toshimoto Kogyo which is a famous animation where we stopped for some pictures. Close by we stopped at a street vendor in Dotonbori so I could try some local food called Takoyaki. They are balls of goodness for 450 yen (a portion of 8). I only managed 5.
Before we knew it lunch time was upon us and what better place to stumble across than an Indian restaurant with a special offer. 800 yen for chicken curry, chicken tikka pieces, salad, naan bread and a drink. Demolished!
There is no better way to relax after a good meal than a bit of people watching so we found a nice spot in the shade and did just that. After a much needed rest we headed to Utsubo Koen Park.
Utsubo Koen Park
The park is within walking distance from the down town area. We constantly stopped to look in shops and take pictures of interesting things along the way. I think if you walked without these stops it would take about 15 minutes or less. On entering the park I first noticed how clean and well-kept it was. The grass was so green as if it were artificial. It had a small area with a fountain with some children happily playing in the water. We wandered around for a while then moved onto the tennis, football and basketball courts. It was nice to see young children actively playing outdoors rather than being held up indoors with their computer games.
As the sun began to set we parted ways. I decided to walk around the area by the guest house and managed to catch the sun just setting over the river. It truly was a spectacular sight and a lovely way to end my first day in Osaka.
Day 2: Kyoto day trip
My friend had arrived late the previous night and we planned to go exploring the following morning. We were up early and on our way to the subway station. The total cost to Kyoto was about 600 yen each but with some transfers. Luckily all the staff plus a lot of the locals can speak English so you can always ask for directions.
Note: The ticket machines are quite tricky. You need to know the price of the journey before you can buy the correct ticket. That is something I wish they could include on a sign (unless I just missed it).
We made it to Kyoto with no problems. Once we had arrived at the station we quickly asked an attendant which bus would take us to Toji Temple. Minutes later we were in line waiting for the bus. It only cost 230 yen and took less than 10 minutes to arrive.
Looking at the entrance, the temple didn’t seem to look like much but once you fully enter the grounds and walk a little you can appreciate it’s peaceful, tranquil atmosphere with beautifully designed temples and carefully planted trees and plants. We stopped numerous times to soak up the sun whilst looking at some truly wonderful architecture with so many huge trees towering above us offering just enough shade to make the walk around that little bit more pleasant.
Note: To visit the Pagoda you must pay 600 yen to enter.
After much walking and picture taking it was time for a refreshment. We found a locally owned coffee shop just in time before the heavens opened. From the window you could see both foreigners and locals frantically looking for shelter.
We decided what better way to spend the afternoon away from the rain, than to visit the Aquarium. So off we went as it wasn’t far away.
Note: Entrance Fee - 2000 yen per person (adult).
I was pleasantly surprised by the large variety of marine life, the high quality dolphin show (included with the entrance fee), the available information and even delicious, cheap snacks. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits from the youngest of children to the elderly.
Although we didn’t spend much time exploring I can honestly say that it is a very clean and peaceful area. The locals are friendly and helpful. The buildings are very well-kept. The local shops have a very ancient feel to them with the old trinkets, traditional antiques and vintage items. We quickly learnt that the bus system was very organised making it easy for us to return to the subway/rail station.
Back in down town Osaka
Hungry and desperately trying to find a restaurant to eat dinner at was not as easy as we had anticipated. Yes there were many restaurants. Yes they had English speakers with English menus. Yes we were trying to find a place. The Japanese are much more patient than those of us from the Western world. Locals will happily wait in a line for more than an hour just to eat in their chosen restaurant. We made the sensible choice of buying some street food to hold us over till we found a suitable place. Finally, we found a place that looked very promising as it was full apart from two seats which quickly became our seats. We were about to experience Sushi & Grill Souya restaurant.
Sushi & Grill Souya
In short the food was amazing but tiny portions considering the price. The Jim Bean with Ginger Ale drink helped keep our spirits high during this quite poor experience. The service was shocking minus one member of staff who had his hands full the entire time. I would suggest avoiding this restaurant.
After leaving the restaurant hungry having withdrawals from the Jim Bean with Ginger Ale we went to the nearest 7/11 to buy dumplings, a wrap and alcohol. We took it back to the guest house expecting to eat, drink and pass out early. We were wrong!
Whilst consuming our 7/11 goods we got to talking to two guys who were pre-gaming for their night out on the town. Of course we were convinced to join them and hours later the four of us were stopping on the street to ask for advice on which club to go to. Also we offered to wear their promotion signs for them. These PR guys directly took us to a club. We were offered free drinks and shots, watched dancers perform, laughed and danced ourselves silly before looking for a more western style bar or club. We stumbled into a bar full of happy and intoxicated people dancing the night away. We tried some dangerous looking drinks including lots of flames, convinced our new male friend to let a local guy bondage wrap him in rope and enjoy our evening. Dragging ourselves home just before the sun was due to come up.
Day 3: Mino-o Waterfall & Osaka Castle
Another early start with little sleep the night before. Subway to Mino-o is about 400 yen per person with some transfers along the way. Waking up at 8am was not easy but we had a whole planned and a lack of sleep was not going to stand in our way. Moving a bit slow we were on our way, coffee in hand and breakfast on the go. It took approximately one hour to arrive at Mino-o station.
Arriving in Mini-o I noticed how small and quaint the town was with predominantly elderly people residing there. After a few directions from a local we set off on our quest to the Waterfall which was a 45 minute walk. The walk itself was such a pleasant surprise. Over-hanging trees, flowers, a stream, bridges, temples, residential areas, young and happy children playing, pet dogs getting their daily exercise etc. It was a little crowded at the waterfall but people let you get your picture, even assisting in taking the picture for you.
Walking back down was much faster. We joked about retiring there as its the perfect little town and making that walk to the waterfall weekly would be great exercise. Back at the station we headed to Osaka Castle and Park.
On arrival you are treated to local performers, street food for miles and a pleasant stroll up to the castles main entrance.
First impression. Wow! The castle is well preserved in every way. The surroundings are clean and full of colourful trees and flowers. I couldn’t help but stare at the gold detailed design on the castles exterior. With the sun shining upon it, it looked so royal and out of this world.
Museum Entrance Fee: 600yen p/p
The Museum is worth a visit, full of intimidating looking suits of amor, clothing made of pure gold, a lot of information about the royal members and so much more. Take the stairs to the top of the castle and soak up the view.
As the sun began to set we headed out to try some local street food which consisted of BBQ skewers and ice cream for dessert. The sugar rush from the ice cream gave us just enough energy to get back to the hostel. About 40 minutes travel time to arrive back.
After a rest and a long shower we braved the restaurant scene once more and this time we were not disappointed. Amazing staff, the most delicious and generous portions of food, indulged in way too much plum wine and ended the evening with a nice chat with the waitress.
Perfect way to cap off the trip!