When we returned from the tropical, remote island Ishigaki back onto Honshu mainland and landed in Osaka, it felt like checking back in with reality. Grey concrete as far as we could see while on a train from KIX Airport (which is actually quite a distance away from Osaka) while we waited in anticipation to reach this Japanese metropolis, which we hadn’t explored yet. We chose Osaka as our starting point for our roadtrip for the remaining 2.5 weeks of our summer holiday, as it’s in a central location.
We were so immersed in island life on Ishigaki that we hadn’t even researched what there is to do in Osaka. The only thing we arranged was our hotel – The Lively Honmachi – that serves free flow beer every day for one hour. With our European backgrounds, we imagined that there would be a long queue with hotel guests eager to get as much free booze as they could, but in Japan that’s just not the case. There were only two or three other guests each night asking politely for a free beer while lounging in the elegant hotel bar. There we were, sitting in said bar, researching and making plans for a two-day itinerary in Osaka followed by a car round trip around Shikoku.
If you’re passing through Osaka on a business or weekend trip and are like us, unsure what to do, then these are our recommendations of our favourite things to do in Osaka…
… if you love craft beer
The craft beer scene in Japan is rapidly growing and it often feels like in Yokohama we’re right in the center of it! After some Osaka style okonomiyaki for dinner and taking photos of the bustling Dotonbori shopping and entertainment district, we stumbled upon this little standing bar called umineko （うみねこ ). Fun atmosphere and the staff start a conversation with and amongst all their customers while having a great selection of Japanese craft beer on tap.
… if you love culture & history
Head over to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living to experience walking through Osaka’s historic neighbourhoods – indoors! The museum is housed in an office block and I highly recommend picking up an audio guide that will guide you through each house and street explaining what the special architectural features and living conditions were at that time. Another cool special effect: as you walk through the museum, the lights change from day to night time. Once you’re done in the museum, you can walk through the classic Japanese shopping arcade right next to it to enjoy some Osakan food delicacies like octopus balls or shaved matcha ice.
And then obviously there’s Osaka Castle, which is definitely worth a visit. The castle grounds are huge and you can spend a few hours there seeing the castle from different angles while walking on tree lined paths.
…if you love artsy neighbourhoods
If you’re into vintage clothes, ateliers and funky coffee shops, head over to Nakazakicho! This area definitely took us by surprise and there are plenty of interesting backstreets to explore and take photos.
… if you love street photography
If you’re looking for a street photography spot that takes you back to the 1920s, head over to Shinsekai for a nostalgic shopping district with Osakan bistros and retro game parlours! Wherever you turn, there’s a good photo opportunity of edgy people, unique Japanese architecture and unusual venues.
… if you love shopping
We ended our day filled with arts & culture and street photography; in the Chayamachi / Osaka-Umeda district. We didn’t plan on going shopping, but after having spotted the 9-storeyed Loft department store and then discovering so many other of our favourite brands just next door, we couldn’t resist! If I was to recommend just one store in Japan, it would be Loft. You can buy anything there from cute stationary to music instruments, Pikachu themed household items and anything else you can think of.
What’s your favourite corner of Osaka?