I’m literally obsessed with Japan and first fell in love with this diverse country when I travelled to Tokyo with work several years ago. I was lucky enough to visit Tokyo on several occasions and have been desperate to explore some more of this incredible place.
Recently the airline I work for started a new route to Osaka and as soon as it launched I started requesting the trip straight away, and was lucky enough to get one on my roster the month we started the route there.
Osaka is Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo, and is Japan’s former capital from years ago, today it is an economic powerhouse. Osaka is a great base to explore other areas of Japan such at the cultural hub of Kyoto and other areas of interest such as Nara, Kobe and Hiroshima.
On my first trip to Osaka I decided to take my husband along on the trip with me as I had quite a decent amount of time on my layover. Osaka seems to be a booming tourist hub at the moment, I never really have heard many people visiting Osaka and now I seem to see a huge travel trend emerging with lots of influencers and bloggers visiting this exciting city.
Sights & Activities
Dotonbori is Osaka’s entertainment centre with its lively atmosphere and bright neon lights, it’s the main tourist hotspot in Osaka and full to the brim with restaurants, bars and shops. It sits on the Dotonbori Canal which is where it gets its name from. It is one of the most colourful areas in Osaka and shouldn’t be missed when visiting the Kansai region.
Osaka Castle is one of Japans most famous landmarks and was built back in 1583 and was created to unify Japan under Toyotomi rule and was the largest castle of its time. Over the centuries the castle has been destroyed in wars and rebuilt and restored over the years and today is modern on the inside, but on the outside still has much of its original charm even after restoration.
The castle houses a museum all about the castle and it’s history and has lots of Japanese antiques and artefacts. The castle grounds are free to roam around but there is a small fee to enter inside the castle which was JPY600 per person which is about £5 per adult. There are amazing views at the top of the castle, and it is well worth the small entrance fee. The castle is also surrounded by beautiful gardens and cherry blossom trees, we were lucky enough to catch the end of Sakura which normally takes place in early April.
Food & Beverage
We stumbled across Gyoza Oh while wandering the crazy busy streets of Dotonbori. My husband and myself are both vegetarian and massively struggled finding Japanese vegetarian food, and we both love Gyozas but struggled finding non meat versions anywhere, when we found Gyoza Oh we were both buzzing to discover that they had vegetarian Gyozas as well as severing up several other vegetarian dishes.
This small casual restaurant is a must as it also has English menus available, so you actually have an insight into what your ordering which can be a struggle in Japan what with a language barrier. This place is a great find and the food is delicious and the service was warm and welcoming! When visiting not only order the Gyozas but try the edamame and burdock fries.
Ramen Kiou is located not to far from Osaka Castle. We went there for lunch and this super casual tiny restaurant does not disappoint and cooks up delicious ramen, and even offers a vegetarian tomato and cheese ramen which was tasty but also very messy so I was offered a bib. This place seemed really popular with locals which is always a good sign, and is a great spot for a quick lunch.
Tachinomi Bars are small relaxed bars and are great places to pop into for a quick drink and to escape the madness of the busy streets. Tachinomi bars are all over Japan and translate to stand up bars and offer a whole range of sake tipples and drinks and some food or snacks. Some of the bars do have limited seating even though they are known as stand up bars. We visited one which I believe was called Tachinomi Bar Dragon.
Transport & Getting Around
Osaka covers a huge area and the best way to get around this huge city is by its excellent public transport, the trains and the underground systems are easy to use and the stations have English maps which helps with navigating your way around this huge city.
If your vegetarian or just prefer a plant based diet, then the biggest bit of advice would be to do some research before leaving your accommodation and decide where to eat beforehand. My husband and I really struggled finding vegetarian food and wasted lots of time traipsing around many restaurants asking if they had anything vegetarian.
Try downloading the Happy Cow app and there is also an Osaka Vegetarian Guide to help. If you can also take a small translation card or find it in a guide book take the translation for vegetarian food, as there is a language barrier. So if you have this you can show waiters and waitresses so they can assist you with choosing vegetarian options.