February 25, 2019: Last updated. Here is our latest, most comprehensive OSAKA TRAVEL GUIDE BLOG with sample Osaka itinerary for 4-5 days, list of things to do, hotel recommendations, list of expenses, and other useful travel tips!
We were about to approach the platform when we noticed a woman running after us. At first, we didn’t think it was us she was chasing, but she stopped and talked to us. She couldn’t speak English, but we recognized just one word, ticket. Apparently, we left our tickets by the entrance. We thanked the woman profusely, who responded with, “It’s okay.” Her smile never faded.
We were at Kansai Airport Train Station, and it was our first time in Japan. Barely an hour in Japan and we already witnessed firsthand the hospitality and helpfulness of the people of Kansai. It wasn’t the last time. In the seven times we have visited the city over the past few years, we have met locals who would go out of their way to help: a shopkeeper who left her store to accompany us to the start of a walking trail, a food vendor who brought us to the bus stop, a passerby who helped when he saw I couldn’t understand the writings on a vendo.
Osaka doesn’t have the breathtaking landscapes and spectacular sights that other destinations in Japan are known for, but it has the warmth and kindness of its people. And that’s always something to return to. That and the food. Oh yes, the food.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Osaka is the third largest city in Japan in terms of population, next only to Tokyo and Yokohama. But because Yokohama is part of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, Osaka is widely regarded as Japan’s “second city.” It is the capital of Osaka Prefecture which — together with Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo (Kobe) and a few others — is part of Kansai Region.
Osaka has something to offer to almost any type of traveler. For tourists seeking family-friendly fun, one of the most popular attractions is Universal Studios Japan, which is one of the most visited theme parks in the world. Historic and cultural landmarks also dot its tourism map, including the enormous Osaka Castle and Shitennoji. For the shopaholic, there’s always the Dotonbori-Shinsaibashi area.
Osaka is also a great base if you want to explore other parts of Kansai Region. From here, you can easily travel to other cities within the region including Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara. If you want to go farther, you’ll find plenty of transportation options that can take you to Himeji, Hiroshima, and Tottori. There are also buses that can connect you straight to Tokyo.
Other info you need to know:
- Language: Japanese (Nihongo). The majority of the locals seldom speak English, but most of the signs and other tourist promotional materials have English translations.
- Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY, ¥). JPY 1000 is around PHP 470, SGD 12.21, USD 9, EUR 8 (as of February 2019).
- Money Exchange. There are a lot of money changers throughout Osaka and Kyoto, but save yourself the trouble and just exchange currencies before your trip. SANRY’S has good rates. You can also withdraw from ATMs when you’re there, but they’re pretty hard to find. Most of the ATMs we saw didn’t accept international cards.
- Modes of payment: Most establishments prefer cash payment, but many of them also accept credit card transactions.
- Electricity Info: 100V. Type A sockets. Plugs have two flat pins. Type B is sometimes used but not that common.
BEST TIME TO VISIT OSAKA
When is the best time to visit Osaka? Early April for the cherry blossoms and mid to late November for the autumn foliage.
Kansai enjoys a temperate climate with strong seasonal variations. Spring and autumn are perfect if you’re after fantastic views. During spring (specifically last week of March to first week of April), cherry blossoms adorn the otherwise plain green canopies.
Autumn (specifically mid- to late November) is ideal because the crowd begins to thin and the prices drop. It’s also interesting as the foliage turns fiery orange and red. Temperature is also pleasant and comfortable for sightseeing.
If budget is a concern, look away from peak season: late March to August, especially the following dates:
- Golden Week (April 29 – May 5)
- Obon Festival (August 13–15)
- Cherry Blossoms Season (Late March-Early April)
These dates bring the biggest crowds and steepest prices.
HOW TO GET A JAPAN VISA
If you’re from the Philippines, we created three dedicated posts for the visa application process.
- How to Apply for TOURIST Japan Visa
- How to Apply for a Visa for VISITING FRIENDS or RELATIVES
- How to Apply for a MULTIPLE Entry Japan Visa
- Japan Visa Frequently Asked Questions
HOW TO GET TO OSAKA
Kansai International Airport (KIX) is the primary gateway to Osaka and the rest of Kansai Region. A lot of airlines fly from Manila to Kansai Airport. If you book way in advance, you’ll get the best deals from Cebu Pacific Air. CEB flies to Osaka five times a week. Their lowest year-round fare is at P6399, which is a great deal already.
You can also wait for a SEAT SALE! For one of our trips, I was able to score a roundtrip Cebu Pacific ticket from their P20 SALE. The base fare per leg was only P20, but including all the taxes, I only paid PHP 5984 for the roundtrip ticket (PHP 2992 per way). That includes a prepaid baggage allowance of 20 Kg. Not bad. Not bad at all.
WHERE TO STAY IN OSAKA
I highly recommend staying in Namba district or Umeda district because they are in central, most convenient and most accessible locations.
- Namba. Staying in Namba means Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi are within walking distance. There are also direct trains from the airport to Namba Station, which means you won’t be transferring multiple times with heavy luggage in tow. The area is also bursting with restaurants, food stalls, markets, shops, and convenience stores. When you stay in Namba, you’re at the very center of all the action.
- Umeda. Also centrally located. Both Osaka Station and Umeda Station, two of the biggest and most connected stations in Kansai, are located in Umeda district. These stations are usually the starting points of trains going to other cities including Kyoto and Kobe. If your itinerary includes destinations outside Osaka, Umeda is a good base.
Top Capsule Hotels
- First Cabin Midousuji-Namba. Check Rates & Availability.
- Y’s Cabin Osaka Namba. Check Rates & Availability.
- Capsule Hotel ASTIL Dotonbori. Check Rates & Availability.
Top Hotels and Apartments Under $85
- HOTEL ASIATO. Check Rates & Availability.
- Hotel Kelly. Check Rates & Availability.
- Nissin Namba Inn. Check Rates & Availability.
HOW TO GET FROM KANSAI AIRPORT TO OSAKA CITY CENTER
Kansai Airport is almost an hour from downtown Osaka, so make sure you take that into consideration when building your Osaka itinerary. Fortunately, there are plenty of transportation options that you can take to reach the city center.
There are two railway operators ferrying passengers from the airport to Osaka city center: JR and Nankai. If your hotel is in Namba, take Nankai, which has a direct line to it. If your hotel is in Umeda area (near Osaka Station or Umeda Station), take JR instead.
There are also airport buses that can take you directly to these two districts! See the details below.
Kansai Airport to Namba by Train
Kansai Airport is directly connected to Namba by Nankai trains. The train terminals are on the second floor of the building next to the Arrival Hall. Just take the escalator and use the bridge to get to the other side.
There are two main types of Nankai trains running from the airport:
- NANKAI AIRPORT EXPRESS
This is the regular train. It looks like your regular subway train. It is cheaper but slower. You can’t reserve seats on this train. Just hop in and find a spot.
Travel time: 45 minutes
- NANKAI LIMITED EXPRESS RAPI:T (Rapit)
This is the premier train. It’s the deep blue train that looks like it came from the future. LOL. It’s a little bit faster than the Airport Express, but much more comfortable. If you want to make sure you’re seated comfortably throughout the journey, book this train.
Travel time: 38 minutes
Fare: ¥920 + ¥510 seat fee
If you decide to go with the Limited Express Rapi:t, you can reserve a seat via Klook. Here’s how to use it:
- Book a ticket with Klook. Reserve a ticket here
- When the transaction is complete, you will be emailed a mobile voucher. You can print it out or save it on your phone.
- On the day of your trip, upon arrival at Kansai Airport, find the HIS Counter at the Arrival Hall. There is usually a small KLOOK logo displayed in front of the counter. Show your mobile voucher to the staff. You will be given a physical voucher.
- Proceed to the Train Station (in the other building), find the Nankai Ticketing Counter, and exchange your voucher with the actual train ticket. Do it at least 30 minutes before your schedule.
- Enter the Nankai train station using the ticket.
Kansai Airport to Namba by Bus
You can take the bus to Osaka City Air Terminal (OCAT), which is located in the Namba area. Note that the first bus leaves Terminal 1 at 6:10am, last train at 10:40pm.
Travel time is about 1 hour, but varies depending on the traffic conditions.
- At the Arrival Hall, approach the counter for AIRPORT BUS to OCAT.
- Purchase a ticket to OCAT. Fare: ¥1050. They will need your passport so make sure you have it ready. You will be given both the ticket (white) and a receipt (green).
- Proceed to Departure Platform 11 (or whatever platform number you’re told).
- Wait for the bus at the platform. If you have big bags, the staff will take them and tag them. You will be given a slip that you’ll need to claim your bags upon arrival at OCAT so don’t lose them.
- Board the bus when it arrives. The driver will check your ticket. Find your seat number and get comfy. The travel time is around 1 hour, depending on traffic.
- Alight at OCAT.
That’s it! You’re at OCAT. From here you can walk to your hotel.
If your departure time is beyond 10:40pm, you can take the Nankai midnight bus which is scheduled to leave Terminal 1 at 2:54am, 3:54am, and 4:54am.
Kansai Airport to Umeda (Osaka Station) by Train
If your hotel is in the Umeda district, you can take the JR Kansai Airport Express, which will take you directly to Osaka Station (which is located in Umeda).
From the airport’s Arrival Hall, travel on foot to the train terminals on the second floor of the adjacent building. Just take the escalator and use the bridge to get to the other side. The JR Station is just next to the Nankai Station. Make sure you enter the right gate.
- JR KANSAI AIRPORT EXPRESS
This is a regular train. No need to reserve a seat. Just board the train and look for an empty seat.
Travel time: 62-65 minutes
If your hotel is close to Osaka Station, you can just walk. If your hotel is along a subway line, you can walk to Umeda Subway Station and take the subway to the closest subway station to your hotel.
Kansai Airport to Umeda (Osaka Station) by Bus
If your hotel is located near Osaka Station, you can take the Airport Limousine Bus, which will have three stops around Osaka Station. Two of these stops are hotels, but you don’t need to be staying in these hotels to take the bus. You just need to figure out which of these is the closest to your hotel. Here are the stops:
- Hotel New Hankyu Osaka
- Herbis Osaka
- Hilton Osaka (only 4 trips per day)
All buses will stop at Hotel New Hankyu Osaka and Herbis Osaka, but only a few will stop at Hilton Osaka.
Travel time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes, which can vary depending on traffic.
- At the Arrival Hall, approach the counter for AIRPORT BUS to OSAKA STATION or UMEDA.
- Purchase a ticket. Fare: ¥1550. They will need your passport so make sure you have it ready.
- Proceed to Departure Platform 5 (or whatever platform number you’re told).
- Wait for the bus at the platform. If you have big bags, the staff will take them and tag them and store them in the luggage compartment below. You will be given a slip that you’ll need to claim your bags after disembarking so don’t lose them.
- Board the bus when it arrives. The driver will check your ticket. Find your seat number. The travel time is around 85 minutes.
- Alight at Hotel New Hankyu or Herbis Osaka.
From here you can walk to your hotel.
POCKET WIFI & LOCAL SIM IN OSAKA
Pocket Wifi Rental
You will find wi-fi rental booths at the Arrival Area of Kansai Airport. Rates are usually between JPY 800-900 per day. However, they are very in demand so there might not be any more available if you arrive in the late afternoon or evening. Some establishments accept only credit card transactions.
If you really want to make sure you get a mobile wifi, you can reserve one in advance via Klook for only PhP 389 per day for unlimited 4G access. That’s a lot cheaper than those you will find at Kansai airport. The best part, if you’re a group, you can connect multiple devices hassle-free. You can then split the cost with your friends. You can pick up the device at the airport. No deposit is required.
If you opt with a 4G Data SIM, you can choose between two packages: unlimited 4G data for 8 days (around ¥3360) and 3GB data for 8 days (around ¥2160). If you’re a heavy data user, best to go with the Unlimited Plan. You can pick up the SIM card at Kansai Airport.
HOW TO GET AROUND OSAKA
The easiest way to get around Osaka is by train or subway.
Osaka is linked to the rest of the island by an expensive (and expensive) train system. In theory, traveling around is easy and hassle-free. In practice, however, it is difficult. Besides the language barrier, these train lines are as complicated and challenging as your previous relationship. You might think you’re on the right side of the right platform at the right station, but there’s still a chance that you board the wrong train and in some cases the wrong car. Some trains even split into half at one point, and they choo choo in separate directions.
But thank heavens for the Internet. So here’s a tip. If you own a smartphone or a tablet, do yourself a favor and get connected to the Internet!
You will need access to Hyperdia, a web-based search engine that would tell you train schedules and routes instantly. Just make sure you know the closest train station to your destination and let Hyperdia do the rest. Here’s more info: How to Use Hyperdia
If you want to score some savings, you can use any of the train passes available. Just pick one that best matches your Osaka itinerary.
We have a more detailed post about the passes here: KANSAI PASSES: WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?
For more details, keep on reading. I explained each pass below.
Osaka Amazing Pass
If you’re sightseeing around Osaka, we strongly recommend this!
The all-inclusive Osaka sightseeing pass, available in 1-day and 2-day versions! It gives the holder unlimited use of the subway, tramway, and bus systems in Osaka. It also gives FREE access to certain attractions including the following:
- Osaka Castle Main Tower
- Umeda Building’s Floating Garden Observatory
- HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel
- Natural Hot Spring Naniwa no Yu
- Tombori River Cruise
- Dotombori Tour
You can reserve one via Klook. However, know that there are two types on Klook, depending on where you wish to pick it up. Make sure you book the one that is more convenient for you.
✅ If you want to pick up the pass at Kansai Airport, RESERVE HERE.
✅ If you want to pick it up at Kuromon Market in Namba, RESERVE HERE.
JR West Kansai Rail Pass
This pass offers unlimited rail and bus rides to and in many cities in Kansai Region including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara. You can also use this to travel from Kansai Airport to Osaka or Kyoto and back. Available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-day validity variants.
Note that this pass is only accepted on JR Trains. This won’t work on Nankai lines or subway lines.
Do you need this pass?
- If you plan on staying within Osaka and not visiting other cities, this is not for you. Get the Amazing Osaka Pass instead.
- If you plan to visit Kyoto, Nara, Kobe or other cities in Kansai, this could be great for you.
IMPORTANT! Best to purchase this pass ONLINE. This pass is meant for foreign nationals traveling as a temporary visitor (tourist) in Japan. Thankfully, there’s Klook. You can book below:
How does it work? How do you use it? Oh, easy, easy.
- Book a ticket with Klook.
- When the transaction is complete, you will be emailed a mobile voucher. You can print it out or save it on your phone.
- On the day of your trip, upon arrival at Kansai Airport, find the HIS Counter at the Arrival Hall. There is usually a small KLOOK logo displayed in front of the counter. Show your mobile voucher to the staff. You will be given a physical voucher.
- You don’t have to use it immediately. The count will begin on the day you first use it. For example, if you purchase a 2-day pass and you claim it on Monday, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it on Monday and Tuesday. You may choose to use it any day before expiration. If you use it for the first time on Thursday, you can use it on that day and Friday.
- When you use it for the first time, approach the staff at the counter at any of the station and he will stamp the final date you may use the pass.
- For succeeding uses, simply show the stamp on the pass at the staff at every JR station.
You can use it together with Osaka Amazing Pass too! On my last trip, I used an Osaka Amazing Pass when roaming within the city and then used my JR Kansai Pass on days when I traveled to Kyoto and Kobe.
Kansai Thru Pass
Offers unlimited rail and bus rides in many cities in Kansai Region including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara. You can also use this to travel from Kansai Airport to Osaka or Kyoto. JR Lines are not covered, though.
Available in 2- and 3-day validity variants. Unlike the JR West Kansai Pass, the Kansai Thru Pass doesn’t require consecutive days, making it much more flexible.
So which is better: Kansai Thru Pass or JR West Kansai Pass? Only you can answer that because it depends on your Osaka itinerary. If most of your stops are along JR lines, then the latter makes more sense. But if your destinations are far apart and closer to non-JR lines, then get the Kansai Thru Pass. Also consider your schedule. Kansai Thru Pass’s “non-consecutive” feature will allow you to maximize it better.
The ICOCA Card isn’t a pass. It’s a prepaid IC card. It’s sort of Kansai’s version of Tokyo’s SUICA or PASMO Card.
When you use an ICOCA card, you still pay for every trip. (Again, it’s NOT a pass.) You can also use it to snag some discounts, but the real convenience is that you don’t need to get a ticket each time you’re using the train. You just need to quickly hover the card over the reader and you’re through. It functions like an MRT stored-value ticket (because that’s exactly what it is, a stored-value ticket).
You can also use it not just on trains but also on buses, lockers, vending machines, and even convenience stores. Yep, lockers. The ICOCA card works on lockers at train stations!
Although ICOCA is a product of JR West and is the primary IC card for Kansai and Chugoku region, you can use it in other places in Japan that has an IC card reader: in Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, or even as far as Sapporo. However, you can’t use it to travel between regions. The entry station and exit station both have to be within the same region. Yes, you can use it WITHIN Osaka. Yes, you can use it to travel from Osaka to Kyoto or Nara. BUT you CAN’T use it to travel from Osaka to Tokyo or Osaka to Nagoya, because Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya are not in the same region.
To get one, you just need to approach one of the ICOCA machines at the station. There’s no use for me to enumerate the steps here because it’s so easy. Just choose ENGLISH on the welcome screen and follow the instructions.
But if you want a discount, you can get an ICOCA card from Klook, which is already preloaded with ¥1500 + the deposit of ¥500. You can get the deposit when you return the card.
JR Pass (Nationwide)
If you’re visiting Osaka, Nara and Kyoto ONLY, you don’t need a JR Pass. It’s only for those who will make multiple long-distance journeys. If you’re staying within the Kansai Region, get a JR KANSAI RAIL PASS INSTEAD.
When is it wise to purchase a JR Pass? If you’re visiting multiple cities in Japan and you’re staying for at least 7 days. If your Osaka itinerary is more like that, purchase a pass before your trip. Klook offers the cheapest JR Passes available. If you live in the Philippines, the pass will be delivered to you in 7 days.
THINGS TO DO IN OSAKA
Universal Studios Japan
Nearest Station: Universal City Station (JR Yumesaki/Sakurajima Line)
As you already know, it’s a movie theme park that could bring a lot of fun to kids and adults alike. USJ is the first US branch in Asia, but it has been given a new life when they opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
The problem with USJ is that it can get a bit too crowded especially on weekends. You can waste over an hour falling in line for just one attraction. If you want to get the most out of your time, an Express Pass is recommended. It costs extra, but it is worth it, in my experience. Express Passes sometimes sell out especially during peak season so it’s best to reserve online.
Are there DISCOUNTED TICKETS?
YES! Klook sells so-called 1.5 Day Pass. Basically, this pass will allow you to visit Universal Studios Japan at 3pm on Day 1 and then you can still use it for the entire day the following day. This gives you enough time to try more rides and enjoy more of the park.
WHERE TO BUY TICKETS
Book online! Here are the links to where you can get tickets:
Osaka Castle Park
Built in the 1500s by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and opened to the public in 1931, it is now a museum that showcases the rich and intricate history of Osaka and the life of Hideyoshi. A view deck perched on top of the castle offers a refreshing vista of the surrounding park and city.
The castle grounds, which is transformed into a public park, is worthy of exploring. Locals and foreigners alike enjoy the drastic changing of colors every turn of the season.
Tanimachiyonchome (4-chome) Station (Tanimachi Subway Line, Chuo Subway Line)
Osakajokoen (JR Loop Line)
9am-4:30pm from November to February
9am-9pm during Cherry blossoms season
9am-5pm the rest of the year
More info: Osaka Castle
The place to be for shopaholics and food lovers! This shopping-and-dining hotspot in Namba is a maze of countless restaurants and stores! Located in Namba, one of Osaka’s two major downtowns, it is known for its colorful lights and over-the-top store signages like the Kani (Crab), pufferfish, Asahi beer, and of course, the iconic Glico Man. Aside from the restaurants, Dotonbori is also peppered with bars and street food stalls. Get your share of sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, ramen, crab, takoyaki, kobe beef kebab, and fugu. You can also hop onto a boat and cruise down the river.
Nearest Station: Namba Station
More info here: Dotonbori
HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel
HEP FIVE is a shopping complex that targets mostly the younger market. It houses dozens of stores, but it is most famous for its 106-meter bright red Ferris Wheel that enable a marvelous view of the surrounding Umeda district. You can also see Osaka Harbor from here.
Nearest Station: Umeda (HS01)
Admission Fee: ¥600
Hours open: 11:00am to 10:45pm
Abeno Harukas (Harukas 300)
Standing at 300m, Abeno Hakuras in Osaka’s Tennoji district is Japan’s tallest building and third tallest man-made structure (next only to Tokyo SkyTree and Tokyo Tower). Its observation deck called Harukas 300 is the second highest observation deck in the country, perched on the 58th to 60th floor, and is open to the public!
Osaka-Abenobashi Station, JR Tennoji Station
Daily from 9:00am to 10:00pm.
Last entry is at 9:30pm.
Junior High/High School: ¥1200
You can buy at the entrance to Harukas 300, which is located on the 16th floor of the building.
You can also buy online via Klook to score a discount!
Kuromon Ichiba Market
Open: Daily, 9am-6pm
How to get there: Closest stations are Nippombashi and Namba
For over 190 years, Kuromon Market has been known as Osaka’s kitchen for its almost endless array of gastronomic options, ranging from rare fruits to mouth-watering seafoods that you can eat or have prepared on the spot. Compared to other markets I have visited in Japan, Kuromon is actually a bit pricier, but the experience make up for it. They sell items in small servings, which allows visitors to get a taste of a wide variety of products, something that a regular restaurant can’t give you. There’s just so much to see and taste here. If you want to try Kobe beef but not flush enough to afford a proper cut, you can get hold of small slices here. Even the deadly fugu (pufferfish) is sold in one of the corners.
Built in the 6th century by Prince Shotoku, Shitenno-ji Temple is Japan’s oldest state-constructed temple. Although most structures were repeatedly reconstructed after being burned several times, the original design and details were followed and retained with every rebuilding.
The outer temple ground complex is free for all, but there are three places that requires entrance fees: Chushin Garan (inner temple complex), the Treasure House, and the Gokurakujodo Garden.
Nearest Station: Shitennoji-mae-Yuhigaoka Station (Tanimachi Subway Line)
Open Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm
Admission Fee: 300 yen
Umeda Sky Building
Towering at 173 meters in height, the Umeda Sky Building is quite an imposing sight on the Umeda skyline. The structure is composed of two 40-story towers, linked by the Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor.
To get to the Sky Walk (open-roof observation deck), from the third floor of the East Tower, take the elevator to 35th floor, where the escalator connecting the two towers can be found. The escalator will then take you to the West Tower’s 39th floor. Purchase the ticket and proceed to the Sky Walk.
Nearest Station: Osaka and Umeda Stations
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm
Admission Fee: 1000 yen
DIY TOURS OUTSIDE OSAKA
Osaka is a great base for travelers who plan on exploring other parts of Kansai Region. From Osaka, you can easily travel to Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, and even as far as Tottori and Hiroshima.
Here are some detailed DIY day tour itineraries that you may follow.
- KYOTO DAY TRIP ITINERARY from Osaka
- KOBE DAY TRIP ITINERARY from Osaka
- MIE OVERNIGHT ITINERARY from Osaka
For more destinations that you can visit from Osaka, check out this post with information on how to get there by taking public transportation.
Read it here: PLACES TO VISIT NEAR OSAKA
ORGANIZED DAY TOURS FROM OSAKA
This section wasn’t in the original version of this guide because we often advocate DIY Travel, but we’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries from people who will be traveling with kids or seniors (parents). Here are some tours that Klook has tested and is offering.
Kyoto Day Tour from Osaka
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Kinkaku-ji and its gardens
- Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of orange tori gates
- Traditional Japanese meal for lunch (optional)
- Tour bus transportation to and from Osaka (Meet up with guide at assigned location, usually at Hearton Hotel Nishi Umeda)
- English-speaking guide
Nara Afternoon Tour from Osaka
- Nara Park and meet the famous deer
- Todai-ji Temple
- Kasuga Taisha Shrine
- Nara Nagomikan, the largest souvenir shop in Nara
- Hotel pick up (hotel drop-off not included. Tour ends at Osaka Namba Station, near Dotonbori)
- English speaking guide
- Admission fees
WHERE TO EAT IN OSAKA
Osaka is considered the culinary capital of Japan, boasting several signature dishes including okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Because of its location, its food and culture in general have influences from adjacent prefectures. Shabu-shabu, for example, is always attributed with the city but actually originated in Tottori. Kobe beef is also available at countless restaurants in Osaka, but the beef is supplied by its neighbor. It’s also one of biggest port cities, ensuring a steady supply of ocean bounty and products from other parts of the country.
We created a separate post dedicated to the best cheap restaurants in Osaka. You can find that here: OSAKA CHEAP RESTAURANTS.
SAMPLE OSAKA ITINERARY
In a perfect world, I would exhaust all the 15 days I was allowed. But you know, this world has shortcomings, much like my wallet.
Below is a sample 4-day 4-night itinerary which involves spending 2 nights in Osaka and another 2 nights in Kyoto.
To better understand the Kyoto leg of this itinerary, read this first: KYOTO TRAVEL GUIDE.
It assumes the following:
- You’re taking Cebu Pacific flight scheduled to arrive in Osaka at 8:10pm.
- IMPORTANT! In this case, make sure that the first thing you do after going through Immigration and picking up your bags is to head straight to the HIS Office to collect the passes and/or mobile wifi that you booked with Klook because it closes at 10pm.
- You have an Osaka Amazing Pass, from hereon shall be referred to as OA Pass (¥2500), to save some yen. Having the Osaka Amazing Pass will waive the entrance fees to some of the attractions and unlimited access to the subway. It costs ¥2500 if you book with Klook. RESERVE HERE
- You have a 2-Day Kansai Thru Pass for the last 2 days. This will give you unlimited access to non-JR lines including Hankyu Lines which can take you to Arashiyama and Gion in Kyoto and Kintetsu Lines which can take you to Nara. It also covers your airport transfer on your last day. RESERVE HERE!
- You DON’T need a JR Pass or Kansai Pass for this itinerary. The OA Pass for the Osaka leg and Hankyu Pass for Kyoto are enough. Using the JR Pass will cost much more.
- You’re staying in a capsule hotel in Namba, like Capsule Hotel ASTIL Dotonbori or Y’s Cabin Osaka Namba (¥3250 per night).
- You’re skipping breakfast. It’s healthy (according to intermittent fasting advocates, hehe) and you’re poor!
Please take note that the times and costs indicated here are just estimates. For the exact train schedule, check Hyperdia. Make the necessary adjustments to match your schedule and preferences.
08:10pm – Arrival at Kansai Airport
09:10pm – Collect Klook passes at Arrival Hall
09:54pm – Board Nankai Airport Express to Namba, ¥920
10:30pm – Check-in at the hotel
Day 1: OSAKA
07:00am – Wake up call
08:30am – Subway to Tanimachiyonchome Station (Osaka Castle), FREE (OA Pass)
09:00am – Osaka Castle, FREE (OA Pass)
12:00nn – Subway to Nakatsu Station (Ramen Yashichi), FREE (OA Pass)
12:30nn – Lunch at Ramen Yashichi, ¥730
02:30pm – Subway to from Nakatsu to Umeda, FREE (OA Pass)
03:00pm – Umeda Sky Building Observatory, FREE (OA Pass)
04:30pm – Subway from Umeda to Namba, FREE (OA Pass)
05:00pm – Walk around Dotonbori
06:00pm – Japan Night Walk Tour, FREE (OA Pass)
08:00pm – Dinner at Tokisushi or Menya Jorouku Ramen, ¥1200
09:00pm – Back to hotel, sleep
Day 2: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
05:00am – Wake up call
06:00am – Subway to Tamagawa Station, ¥230
07:00am – Breakfast at Endo Sushi, ¥1242
09:00am – Train from Noda Station to Universal City, ¥160
09:15am – Universal Studios Japan, ¥7900 + ¥1500 lunch
08:00pm – Train to Osaka-Namba Station, ¥360
09:00pm – Dinner, ¥1000
Day 3: KYOTO
07:00am – Wake up call
08:00am – Subway to Umeda Station, FREE (KT Pass)
08:30am – Hankyu train to Arashiyama, FREE (KT Pass)
09:30am – Explore Arashiyama, Tenryuji Fee: ¥500
12:00pm – Train to Kawaramachi Station, FREE (KT Pass)
12:30pm – Lunch at Butaya ton Ichi Teramachi, ¥1200
01:30pm – Walk to Gion District
02:00pm – Yasaka Shrine, FREE
03:00pm – Walk to Higashiyama District
04:00pm – Kiyomizu-dera Temple, ¥400
06:00pm – Walk to Kiyomizu-michi Bus Stop
06:30pm – Bus 207 to Shijo Kawaramachi Bus Stop, ¥230
07:30pm – Hankyu Train to Umeda Station, FREE (KT Pass)
08:30pm – Subway to Namba Station, FREE (KT Pass)
09:00pm – Dinner, ¥1000
Day 4: NARA, DEPARTURE
06:30am – Check out, walk to Osaka-Namba Station
07:30am – Store luggage in locker, ¥700
08:06am – Train to Kintetsu-Nara Station, FREE (KT Pass)
09:00am – Explore 2 temples, entrance fee budget: ¥1300
12:00nn – Lunch, ¥1000
01:30pm – Nara Park
02:30pm – Kintetsu Train to Osaka-Namba, FREE (KT Pass)
04:00pm – Nankai Train to Airport, FREE (KT Pass)
05:30pm – Check in
08:30pm – Flight out
If you follow this Osaka itinerary, prepare to shell out around ¥43,000 (USD 387, PHP20,500, SGD 525) per person including possible miscellaneous expenses like bottled water and some snacks but excluding airfare, visa fee, and travel taxes. Please add some allowance to cover anything we might have missed.
Universal Studios Japan eats up the biggest chunk of the budget. You can save a lot by skipping it if it’s not your priority anyway. A fantastic alternative is to just stay in Osaka and visit other attractions within the city. You can buy a 2-day Osaka Amazing Pass instead. This way, the cost goes down to only ¥36,000 (USD 440, SGD 324, PHP17,000) per person excluding airfare, visa fee, and travel tax.
Another way to further reduce the cost is by limiting your food budget to only ¥500 per lunch/dinner. Convenience stores and supermarkets offer cheap meals for much lower. But you’re in Japan! It would be such a shame to visit Osaka and not eat out!
You can also find an early morning flight so you can save one hotel night.
This itinerary may also be too dense for you. It was for me, haha. In fact, I skipped a few of these because my legs were this close to falling off. That’s because I’m old and lazy. Again, that’s me.
For more sample itineraries, check out: OSAKA-KYOTO SAMPLE ITINERARIES
MORE TIPS FOR THE POOR TRAVELER
Here are more tips to help make your trip go smoothly.
- Lockers. In major stations in Osaka and Kyoto, you’ll find them in many corners. There are two types: electronic and coin lockers. Electronic lockers require an ICOCA card to work, which will serve as the key. If you use your ICOCA card, don’t lose or return the card before you collect your bags. Coin lockers are better choices because you just need to take note of the locker number. Take a photo of your locker details and the surrounding shops so you could easily find them again. Locker rental costs ¥300-¥700 depending on the size.
- Tipping is unusual in Japan. Most restaurants have the cashier stationed by the exit so you pay after your meal, on your way out.
- When in doubt, ask. The people of Osaka and Kyoto are some of the friendliest I have ever met. When we were lost and asked for direction, they went out of their way to help us. Some even walked us to our destination. And when we expressed our gratitude, they would just smile at you as if it was nothing. They really were the nicest!
OUR OSAKA SLAM BOOK
- Best thing about Osaka: Two things: convenience and its people. Osaka is a major tourism hub, so it is well-connected to other cities in Japan by train and by bus. From here, you can easily reach Kyoto, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and even Tokyo! Second, its people. The people of Kansai Region are some of the kindest, most helpful, and most polite I have met.
- Something about Osaka that you don’t like: Expensive accommodations. Sure, there are cheap options out there, but they are still relatively pricey compared to other parts of Japan.
- Most unforgettable moment: As mentioned in this post’s intro, on our first night, we made a mistake and unintentionally left our ticket at the gates. A local ran after us to let us know that we made a mistake and that we must come back to avoid any trouble. Within an hour upon landing in Osaka, I already fell in love with its people.
- Favorite meal. Endo Sushi. I always drop by every time I’m in the city.
- Favorite spot. Osaka Castle Park. Every time I see the Osaka Castle, I am reminded that many of the things I enjoy now were just “distant dreams” when I was younger. I used to just read about Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Japanese history in general, but now I get to return to these historic places over and over again. It still feels unreal to me.
- Biggest surprise. Food! I have something to confess. Prior to my first trip to Japan, I disliked Japanese food. Not really dislike, I just didn’t prefer it. If there was another choice, I would go the other way. But my first trip to Osaka introduced the Japanese cuisine to me. I enjoyed it tremendously and never looked back! I am now a big sucker for Japanese food and I crave it all the time!
- Biggest disappointment. Prices. Hahaha. Japan is an expensive destination, so it’s really no surprise. It just bums me out sometimes that I don’t have much purchasing power here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT OSAKA
Is Osaka safe?
Yes, Osaka is very safe. Sure, it’s not crime-free, but it is one of the safest major cities in the world. The people of Osaka are also very polite, helpful, and kind.
But we would still advice that you keep an eye on your belongings and don’t leave it just anywhere.
What is the tipping policy in Osaka?
Tipping is not practiced in Osaka or Japan in general. If anything, it can be seen as an insult, so we don’t recommend it.
Most restaurants have a counter by the entrance/exit door. To pay, just approach it on the way out.
Is Osaka a better base for travelers than Kyoto?
Well, that depends on your itinerary. If most of the attractions you want to visit are located in Kyoto, by all means, book a hotel in Kyoto. Another great thing about Kyoto is that accommodations are generally cheaper.
But if all things are equal, I would recommend Osaka. It’s closer to the airport, located centrally, and has more transportation options.
How long to stay in Osaka?
If we’re talking about just Osaka City, 2-3 days is enough to see the top attractions. If you’re also visiting Universal Studios, add another day.
If you’re visiting Kyoto, I would recommend adding 2-3 more days, but would be best to just stay in Kyoto for these days.
If you want to see just a glimpse of Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara, then add a day for each. A week is usually a good length to see what Kansai region has to offer.
What is the power socket used in Osaka?
100V. Type A sockets. Plugs have two flat pins. Type B is sometimes used but not that common.
What is the best pass when touring Osaka and Kansai Region?
Okay, this is a little bit complicated. There are a lot of tourist passes available out there. And I mean A LOOOOOT! So it can be extremely confusing.
There is no ULTIMATE PASS, one pass to beat all the other passes. The best pass for you is the one that best fits your itinerary: how long your trip is and what your stops are. Often, the best way to go about it is to use a combination of two or more passes. Osaka Amazing Pass is something I always recommend if your itinerary involves sightseeing around Osaka. But if you’re visiting other cities, here are our suggestions.
- OSAKA ONLY. OSAKA AMAZING PASS.
- OSAKA + KOBE. OSAKA AMAZING PASS + HANSHIN TOURIST PASS.
- OSAKA + KOBE + KYOTO.
– Option 1: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + 2-DAY HANKYU TOURIST PASS, if you’re not going to another city on your last day.
– Option 2: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + 2-DAY KANSAI THRU PASS, if you’re visiting another city on your last day.
- OSAKA + KYOTO.
– Option 1: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + HANKYU TOURIST PASS, if you want to see Arashiyama, Gion District and Kiyomizu-dera.
– Option 2: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + KYOTO-OSAKA SIGHTSEEING PASS, if you want to see Fushimi Inari Shrine, Gion District, and Kiyomizu-dera.
– Option 3: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + KANSAI THRU PASS, if you want to see Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Gion District and Kiyomizu-dera in one day AND you’re visiting another city on your last day.
- OSAKA + KYOTO + NARA.
– Option 1: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + 2-DAY KINTETSU RAIL PASS if Arashiyama is NOT part of your itinerary.
– Option 2: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + 1-DAY KINTETSU RAIL PASS (Nara) + 1-DAY HANKYU TOURIST PASS (Kyoto) if Arashiyama is non-negotiable for you and you’re not visiting another city on your last day.
– Option 3: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + KANSAI THRU PASS if Arashiyama is non-negotiable and you’re visiting Kyoto or Nara on your last day.
- OSAKA + KYOYO + NAGOYA or MIE. OSAKA AMAZING PASS + 5-DAY KINTETSU RAIL PASS.
- OSAKA + MULTIPLE OTHER CITIES IN KANSAI REGION.
– Option 1: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + KANSAI THRU PASS, if you’ll visit the other cities on non-consecutive days and one of them is on the same day you’re going to the airport.
– Option 2: OSAKA AMAZING PASS + JR WEST KANSAI RAIL PASS, if you’ll visit the other cities on consecutive days and one of them is on the same day you’re going to the airport.
- OSAKA + OTHER JAPANESE CITIES OUTSIDE KANSAI REGION. JR NATIONWIDE PASS.
If none of the above apply to you, just get an ICOCA Card or none at all.
You’ll notice that whenever I recommend Kansai Thru Pass or JR West Kansai Rail Pass, there’s always a condition that you’ll be visiting another city on your last day. That’s because it’s the best way to maximize its value. Both these passes cover airport train transfers, which means you’ll get the most savings if you do another day tour outside Osaka on your arrival or departure day.
Anyway, here’s where you can buy these passes.
- Osaka Amazing Pass. Reserve here!
- Hanshin Tourist Pass. Check rates or reserve here!
- Hankyu Tourist Pass. Check rates or reserve here!
- Kintetsu Rail Pass. Reserve or check rates here!
- Kansai Thru Pass. Reserve or check rates here!
- JR West Kansai Rail Pass. 3-Day Pass. Check rates or reserve here!
- JR Pass (Nationwide). Check JR PASS rates here!
This post is co-presented by Cebu Pacific Air.
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