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Travel & Food | Osaka, Japan

It has taken me forever to write and publish this post, but here it is! A mini overview of my trip to Japan with the husband! We visited Japan for the first time and stayed from October 28th-November 5th. For our trip, we visited Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. We definitely plan to visit Japan again in the future to go to Tokyo and some other cities, but we did our best to enjoy and explore with the time we had. To keep the blog post from being overbearingly long, I've decided to separate the post by the cities (you can check out my post about Kyoto and Nara by clicking on the links).

Vacation time doesn't come too easily for us -- me being a student and working per diem, and him working full time. Also, we're enjoying our travel with a budget -- a credit card points budget! There's plenty to do in each and every city, and you'll find some minor differences between each as you visit. I'll go through what we did in each city, where we stayed, and some highlights of what we ate.


What we did

  1. See the local sights and lights. We stayed walking distance to many shops and restaurants. We were able to see the iconic running man, enjoy the views of the riverfront, and eat at some of the yummy restaurants!
  2. Nishiki Market Shopping District.A place to visit if you want to do some shopping, eat street foods (the husband and I didn't this time), and explore. There's a shrine at the shopping place too.
  3. Gion District. If you love photography and appreciate older architectural styles, this place is for you! You'll get to see some older residences and building styles. If you're lucky, you may also see a geisha passing by!
  4. Kenninji. One (of the many) shrine that the husband and I visited. We loved the peaceful vibes of the shrine and the garden
  5. Higashi-Honganji Temple. A large temple that the husband and I decided to stop by to visit. It was getting late, so we pretty much just took pictures from right inside the gate and didn't venture any further. The building looked huge from the street and loomed above us as we got closer to and inside the gate.
  6. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation. One of the pharmaceutical companies in Japan. They had a small museum that you can visit for free. Just head on in and talk to the ladies at the front to get in. The museum was small, but showed the history of the company as well as some of the first medications they created. Since my husband is a pharmacist and I'm in nurse practitioner school, it was pretty interesting seeing the medications in their origin and to see what medications this company created and whether or not that medication is still currently being used.
  7. Naniwabashi. An area of Osaka where the buildings were inspired by European architecture. There's also a rose garden (with some roses in bloom, surprisingly!), and sky rise buildings around the garden. This place is great if you want a change of scene or love photography or flowers!
  8. Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. For more photo taking ops and to learn more about the architectural history of buildings in Japan, this is the place to be! The husband and I spoke with one of the volunteers and was able to learn more about how the buildings changed in different periods and how even the differences in the roof can tell a person if the house is owned by the rich. The museum is pretty amazing and well set-up. There is the historical side with pictures on the wall with descriptions, and there's the walk-through section where you literally walk through what is set up to be a town. You'll get to see what the bank, homes, tapestry shops, and more look like "back in the day." You can also rent a kimono there as well.
  9. Animo. Fun, cute, and the perfect place for pet therapy! They have all kinds of animals -- rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, dove, cockatiel, cats, owls, hedgehogs, snakes, and more! It does get a little pricey, as you are charged by time. Also, it costs some money for the food to feed the animals. The main reason I wanted to go was to see the hedgehogs, but they were asleep when I was there. Bummer. In hindsight, this place was fun, but I would skip out and do something else.
  10. Cosmosquare. I was curious what was at the Cosmosquare stop, so the husband and I decided to stop in to see. Upon exiting the train/subway area, you'll see a long pier, a shipping port, and the ocean. The husband and I didn't get to visit Cosmosquare in depth because we went on the last day/final hours before our flight. If you do decide to visit, I added a link for you to explore!

Where we stayed

  1. Holiday Inn (Osaka Namba). Your typical Holiday Inn (like in the states) that is located walking distance to many shops (like Don Quijote aka donki) and restaurants. We stayed here for free our very first night since we had points.
  2. Arietta Hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by this hotel. They provided breakfast (with different types of pastries, local yogurts, juices, and more) every day. The hotel might not be well-known, but definitely a steal in terms of what you get. Your room will be small (at least by American standards), but it will feel homey.

What we ate

  1. Ichiran Ramen. Love ramen and want to enjoy it alone...kinda? Ichiran Ramen is the place for you! I went with my husband and the line was literally out the door! There even had to be dividers because the line had to be sectioned off so that people passing through along the river had space to do so. Once we got through the line, we were seated at individual stalls. Kind of a unique experience if you're used to eating face-to-face with others or in groups because you'll be sitting with your ramen, which is made to order. Yup, just you and that ramen. You won't even get to see the worker either, as they'll lower a cover after they serve your ramen. Talk about complete privacy, right? Although there are dividers between the stalls, just lean your head back and you can see the back of other people's heads, everyone enjoying their ramen. The ramen itself was delish, and we would definitely go back and recommend it if you're looking for a different experience!
  2. Maimon Sushi. Yummy and fresh sushi on a conveyor belt! Each plate is color coded and correlates to a price. I forgot off the top which was the cheapest, but the plates with the black color edge was the most expensive. The green tea is self serve and you can decide how strong you want the green tea (they provide you a jar of the powder and a little scooping spoon). Everything was fresh and delicious, but the husband and I agree that we would be back after we tried other sushi places!
  3. Pablo's Cheesecakes. Have a sweet tooth? Love matcha? Want to try a different kind of cheesecake/cheese tart? If you answered "yes" to any or all of these questions, Pablo's Cheesecakes is a place you must visit! Their cheesecakes are very fluffy (not dense like the NY cheesecake), and you have a choice of flavors and sizes to choose from. The husband and I should have gone for the mini size, since we just ate sushi...a lot of it. But we went for their standard size, and we were stuffed after eating it! We went with the matcha flavored one, which was not too sweet, and we were surprised by the chewiness and fresh taste of the warabi mochi throughout the tart. We're not sure if the warabi mochi is in the mini tarts, but they're there in the large ones!
  4. 上等カレーBR Sakaisuji Hommachi. My first time trying Japanese curry -- ever! And it definitely won't be my last! Although I'm not sure what "very good" Japanese curry would taste like, I would say the curry was solid. It had a lot of spices and a little kick (spiciness) to it that I appreciated. The restaurant was pretty much bar style and got completely full after my husband and I got a seat. There wasn't a line out the door or anything, but perhaps this is a good sign.
  5. Harukoma Honten. Delicious sushi restaurant located in the Tenjinbashi shopping street. This is the place to be for fresh sushi that is reasonably priced! The restaurant did get packed too!
  6. Street Eats -- Dango (Japanese dumpling), Taiyaki (fish-shaped cake with red bean/yam filling), Takoyaki (octopus balls). These were some of the must-try street snacks that the husband and I found as we made our way to different places! If you see a lot of people flocking to a shop, you should too!
  7. 満マル天神橋3丁目店. The husband and I were out late one night, and all of the good restaurants we wanted to go to were closed. This restaurant isn't bad, but it wasn't what we were hoping to add to for our eats in Japan. If there are other places on your list or if you want to try something better, I'd suggest skipping out on this place.
  8. Ippudo Horie. More ramen didn't hurt anyone, right? This ramen place wasn't small like all of the other restaurants the husband and I went to on this trip, but it didn't sit too empty either! Almost every table was full. The food itself was solid, but nothing too memorable among all the ramen places the husband and I went to on this trip.
  9. Mattari-Purin Dotombori. Melt-in-your-mouth pudding-y goodness! The husband and I enjoyed this treat when we got back to our hotel room. It is a must-try if you 1) want to try Japanese style pudding and/or 2) you love flan/custard.
  10. Endo Sushi. THE freshest fish yet, and the restaurant is located near a fish market (how much fresher can the fish get, right?). The restaurant was packed and the line was out the door even though the husband and I got to the restaurant within 30-45 minutes of opening. I highly recommend visiting this restaurant!
  11. Matcha Silk Ice. The husband and I got some matcha silk ice from a small, local shop after eating at Endo Sushi. I didn't get the name of the shop.

In case you were wondering, we flew with Japan Airlines for this trip. Like our first time flying with Korean Air for my very first international trip, it was an equally impressive experience. The only thing I liked just a little more about Korean Air was that they provided slippers (you those house slippers) for their passengers. It made the flight a little more comfortable, being able to take off my shoes and not have to worry/think about germs! The slippers were flimsy but did the job for the flight!

For local transportation, we took the bus or train/subway/railway, or traveled by foot. Although my husband and I ate a lot on this trip, we walked easily just as much and (I would say) burned off what we ate. We did travel by taxi once, but that was to get us from Osaka to Kyoto.

Hope you found some inspiration and unique things to do for your trip to Japan! And stay tuned for part 2 (Kyoto) and part 3 (Nara) of our trip!

- Nicole G.

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