Time to get less tourist-y and more local with quaint city of Osaka. I am not sure if it was because of the timing of my trip there but Osaka had a lot fewer tourists than anywhere else in Japan. A 30-minute train ride from Kyoto, it is conveniently located for a stopover. I would recommend 1 to 1.5 days to cover the city. However, in all honesty, if you are working with a crazy time crunch and absolutely need to optimize, skipping Osaka for more time in Tokyo or Kyoto is a viable option.
You can get around to the main sights with the tram / bus or even the train. As most public transport directions were written in Japanese, we needed to ask for some help every now and then to find the right bus or train. Overall, it wasn’t too hard to figure things out. I have listed out the places I visited in order of priority:
Namba is Osaka’s party district. There is a night market here where people go to shop for all kinds of things – clothes, electronics, etc. There are several restaurants, bars and street-food vendors in this area. The place was bustling with people (on a weekday night!) and most of them seemed to be in their 20s and 30s. The entire area is brightly lit and situated around a little stream with a walkway on either side. I would recommend coming here later in the night for the full effect of the lights and people!
As mentioned above, Osaka is one of the less crowded cities in Japan and attracts fewer tourists. Visitors at the temple were at a bare minimum, when I went, and the whole area provided a very calm and peaceful atmosphere. The temple is one of the oldest in Japan and had a beautiful mural depicting the life of Buddha, inside the building (no photography allowed here). There is a small ‘Secret Garden’ at the back of the temple which makes for a perfect lazy stroll or for some alone time and quite introspection.
Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine
Just like the Shitennoji Temple, the Sumiyoshi Grand Shine was very peaceful and quite. This makes for some great photo opportunities, as you do not have to struggle to get people out of you frame! Again, I visited the shrine on a random weekday afternoon. As one of the oldest shrines in Japan, it is very well preserved. The shrine generally sees an influx of people visiting right after New Year, worth making a note!
Osaka Bay Area / Tempozan Harbor Village
The Osaka Bay Area is great for a good walk on a warm day. There is a giant Ferris wheel by the bay and an adjacent shopping center. I didn’t try the wheel, but I’m sure it provides a nice view of the city. The shopping center is not exactly a shopping destination, but the food court is definitely worth a visit. Built to represent a small old time village with dingy alleys and small restaurants, it covers about half of one floor. It was a nice experience to eat here and also, the food was delicious!
I went around sunset and the view over the bay was absolutely gorgeous. I have to be a little honest here though, while the experience was great, it was extremely time consuming. The Bay area is a good 45 min from the city, walking from the station to the actual shopping center takes another 20-25 min. Overall, the lack of a crowd, and the effort of the journey to get there didn’t really seem like it was worth it. I felt a little let down for the first time. For those who have the time, I’ll say make the effort and don’t go in with expectations as high as mine!
I know I sound a little passive-aggressive in that last point, but I don’t know how else to describe it! Please feel free to leave a comment in case of any questions 🙂