Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Osaka: a 2-days itinerary with an Osaka Amazing Pass

       Osaka is one of the most important port city in Japan and since that it is the cheapest city to fly into from South East Asia countries via AirAsia, I am not surprised by the fact that there are more Malaysians in Osaka than in Tokyo. In fact, in certain touristy places, I nearly thought I was back in Malaysia (I am not exaggerating). The point is, Osaka is on the rise (if not already on top of the list) to be the top 1 vacation hot spot among Malaysians, so let’s talk Osaka!
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary

       Recently, I’ve been to the Kansai area for 9 days with my family. We’ve spent 3 days in Osaka and used an Osaka Amazing Pass for 2 days. In this post, I’ll share my exact itinerary and how to fully utilize the Pass. Here goes nothing!

Here is a Video if you are lazy to read though everything (*wink*):

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      We bought our Osaka Amazing Pass on KKday website and had them sent to our home in Penang. I am sure you’ve heard some great things about the pass… but in case you haven’t, here are all the reasons why you should invest in an Osaka Amazing Pass during your trip. Not only it is cost-effective, you plan your journey ahead with the help of a highly informative Osaka guidebook that comes with your pass.
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary

       I've used KKday to book tours a few times now, their service is highly recommended. It is one of my favorite Facebook page for travel inspiration!

Day 1:Shinsekai and Osaka Region

From Namba station, get on the Sennichimae line (pink), change at Nippombashi Station and take the Sakaisuji Line to Ebisucho Station.

8:30 am Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku Tower 

       Shinsekai is an infamous neighborhood regarded as the seediest place in Japan. To break this stigma, we decided to visit the area first and set the record straight.
       Shinsekai can be directly translated into "new world”. However, the district is far from being new. Developed before the war, Shinsekai has been around for decades, except that it was much neglected before the recent years. Back in 1912, the neighborhood was constructed with New York and Paris as the model. The symbol of Shinsekai, the Tsutenkaku Tower that stands 103 meters high in the center of town, was an attempt to recreate the Paris Eiffel Tower before it eventually developed its unique identity.
Shinsekai
       With an Osaka Amazing Pass, you’ll be granted free entry into the main observatory at a height of 91 meters. You can also get 300 yen off if you are visiting the newly (2015) open-air deck (Viewing Paradise).
Tsutenkaku Tower
       Strolling in Shinsekai in the morning is an absolutely refreshing experience. Although the most part of Shinsekai only come alive at night, you can really take your time, beat the crowd and skip the lines in the morning. You might notice golden statues of a baby with a mischievous smile everywhere, that is “Billiken”, a charm doll created by an American in Kansas, which later became the god of good fortune in the area. Legend says that if you stroke the Billiken’s foot, you’ll receive a divine favor from him.
Osaka Billiken

10:00 am Have some Kushikatsu!

       Before you go, do your growling stomach a favor by having brunch in a Kushikatsu restaurant. Most of these restaurants are open 24 hours, so there is really no such thing as being too early or too late! Kushikatsu is one of Osaka specialties: a variety of meat, seafood, vegetables or even fruits battered, deep fried and served on skewers.
Kushikatsu restaurant
       On top of that, there is a fun way of eating these skewers in Shinsekai: You should never ever double dip your kushikatsu in the sauce… those who do are considered rude. If you need more sauce, scoop some onto the cabbage (refillable) and pour onto your kushikatsu.
Kushikatsu
Kushikatsu
Now it’s time to bid farewell to Shinsekai. Get onto the Sakaisuji subway (Red line) at Ebisucho, change at Sakaisuji Hommachi Station to the Chuo line (green). Road it 3 stops to Osakako station.

11:00 pm Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

       Walking down the street from Osakako station, the first thing you notice will be the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, but let’s leave that for sunset. As for now, we’ll head straight to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the largest public aquariums in the world. The aquarium is organized into 15 zones and boost 8 floors of fish tanks representing different habitats around the Pacific Rim. it is recommended to first visit the "Japan forest" at the top floor and spiral your way down passing through the many marine habitats until you reach the “Pacific Ocean” where you can meet the stars of the aquarium— a pair of gigantic whale sharks. Although 2300 yen for a ticket might sound steep, it’ll be well worth it if you’ve always wondered about life under the deep blue sea. Not to mention that the Osaka Amazing Pass gives you 100 yen off the normal price.
Kaiyukan
source 
Kaiyukan
source 
    Also, you need to return to Kaiyukan after dark for the impressive illumination! 2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Kaiyukan
Kaiyukan illumination

2:00 pm Santa Maria Cruise Ship 

       Now head to the Kaiyukan west wharf to find the boarding pier. The Santa Maria cruise ship is modeled after the sailing ship in which Columbus discovered America (the New World), and it is 2 times larger than the original! The tour (departs hourly) takes you on a voyage around the Osaka bay area in 45 minutes… Be warned that you could bump into some pirates onboard, but for sure, kids will love this course!
Santa Maria Cruise Ship
source

3:30 Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel 

       A trip to Tempozan Harbor Village wouldn't be complete without a ride on the Ferris Wheel. We waited longer to ride the see-trough gondolas, but I personally felt that it was a bit of a let down as the glass under our feet wasn’t as clear as I’d imagined. Anyhow, the incredible view over Osaka bay is exciting enough! So, I’d say if the line is not too crazily long, try a see-through gondola. But if it's too long of a queue, don’t sweat it, you are not missing out too much!
Tempozan Harbor Village
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Tempozan see-through Gondola
Tempozan ferris wheel

5:00 pm Dinner at the Tempozan Market Place 

       A lot of visitors skip the marketplace because they fail to see the gem hidden in a seemingly modern shopping mall. Just next to the food court selling American fast food, Surprise!!! you can find a door that will teleport you into the 1960's. “Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho” (The gastronomy alley) is the go-to place for food hunting. Walking down those retro streets, you’ll find rows and rows of specialties shops selling mouth-watering  takoyaki octopus dumplings, ikayaki grilled squid, teriyaki chicken skewers, kushikatsu, dango rice dumpling and many more!
Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Tempozan Market

6:30 pm Captain Line 

       Especially if you are visiting the Universal Studios Japan and Tempozan Harbour Village in a single day, the Captain Line cruise comes in handy… other than that, nothing too outstanding. A round trip, takes around 30 minutes, normally cost 1300 Yen. We did not have time to visit USJ on this trip but we did take advantage of the complimentary cruise trip provided with our Osaka Amazing Pass.
       On our way back, we braved the wind to spend the entire journey back on the 2nd floor open deck. One interesting feature of the Captain Line is that members of the staff operating the cruise service, including all boat crews, are women, which is rare in Japan.
Captain Line Osaka
Osaka Universal studio
Tempozan cruise

7:30 pm Osaka Prefectural Government Sakishima Building Observatory (Cosmo Tower) 

       We weren’t ready to call it a day yet so we went back to Osaka Station, boarded a subway on the Chuo Line, Change in Cosmosquare Station for the Nanko Port Town Line and got off 1 station after it, the Trade Center-mae Station.
       From the 55th floor observatory, we enjoyed identifying different landmarks of Osaka, as well as the ever-changing illumination on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel.
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Cosmo Tower
Cosmo Tower
Cosmo Tower

9:00 pm an Onsen Experience please! 

       Thinking “the night is still young”? Congratulations, you’ve got the right attitude, because an amazing onsen experience is just a tram ride away! Hop onto the New Tram from the Trade Center Mae Station and arrive at Suminoekoen station.
       The Suminoe Spa is one of the 2 onsens included in the Osaka Amazing Pass, and in my humble opinion, the best. Unlike other onsens, this one has 6 spas on the premise targeting different parts of our body. I highly recommend going in the evening so that you can have the best night sleep right after the relaxing experience. Don’t worry about arriving too late, this place opens until 2 am, so as long as you arrive before 1 am, you’ll be able to get in. Remember to bring your own towels if you don’t wish to pay for one (or you’ll have to rent one from the spa). Also, don’t forget your onsen ethics!

12:00 pm Bed Time

       I once asked a Japanese friend: How long do you normally visit an onsen? and the answer is….. (drum rolls) as long as you want! But in our case, we have to ensure that we sleep before the clock strikes twelve, or we’ll turn into zombies (no kidding, this ain’t no Cinderella story, kids! ) Feel free to stay until 2 am! However, be warned that the public transport will stop working after 12 am ( Please check the schedule again to be sure)!
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
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Day 2: Castle, Museums and City Lights

From Namba Station, ride the subway on the Sennichimae Line, change at
Tanimachi 9-Chome Station to the Tanimachi Line and arrive at Tanimachi 4-Chome Station. Today, we are time-traveling into the good old Osaka (then called Naniwa)!

9.00 am Osaka Castle 

       We’ve heard about the appalling crowd at the Osaka Castle, so we decided to beat the crowd by arriving 10 minutes to operating hours. However, apparently great minds think alike, there were already tons of tourists at the site when we arrived.
       Besides the fact that it is Japan’s most significant landmark, the castle is a must visit as it houses an informative museum dedicated to the construction of the castle and the previous owners of the site. The staff advised us to tour from the highest floor down and so we did. Overlooking the city of Osaka from the top floor makes us felt like the ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi. If merely feeling it is not enough, you can even transform into a Sengoku period warlord or a princess on the 4th floor, with a fee.
Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
2 days osaka itinerary
Osaka Castle

10.30am Osaka-jo Gozabune Boat 

       The Golden Wasens (Osaka-jo Gozabune Boats) are replicas created by referring to the ruler Hideyoshi’s Ho-Oh-Maru boat on one of the ancient paintings. It is one of the newer attractions started since 2015 in commemoration of the 400th year since the Siege of Osaka!
       To secure your seat on the boat, I recommend registering as early as possible because this ride is extremely popular, and you can easily tell why… I mean, who doesn’t want to feel like a Japanese noble sitting on a shining golden boat right? They even provided stylish Japanese hats, spot on!
       We boarded the boat at the west side of the Gokuraku Bridge. Our guide (also the boat captain) toured us around the inner moat of Osaka Castle telling us interesting facts about the castle, inside and out. We were informed that the boat was constructed and painted this way (all gold) due to the fact that Hideyoshi loved gold deeply. The tour only last 20 minutes.
Osaka Castle
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Osaka-jo Gozabune Boats
Osaka-jo Gozabune Boats
Osaka-jo Gozabune Boats

11.30 am Nishinomaru Garden 

       After visiting the castle and the rest of the castle ground, Nishinomaru Garden is a nice place to stroll, relax and try to digest all the information you just adsorbed from the museum. It is a huge lawn with 600 cherry blossom trees, hence you can imagine the magnificent view during spring when all flowers are at their best! Naturally, it is one of the Osaka’s favorite hanami spot. Admission is 200 yen during other seasons and 350 yen during cherry blossom season. it is fully covered by the Osaka Amazing Pass.
Nishinomaru Garden
Nishinomaru Garden
Nishinomaru Garden

12.00pm Osaka Museum of History 

       Then, walk back to the Tanimachi 4-chrome Station to visit the Museum of History just next to it. Some of the most impressive features of this museum are the true-size restoration of the Naniwa Palace of the Nara period and some nostalgia-inducing retro streets of the early Showa Period.
       Apart from that, the view of the Osaka Castle from the tops floors was pretty amazing. During our visit, we saw some kids on school’s field trip ran around collecting stamps and completing tasks… so we joined them on the quest… (why not, it’s fun!)
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Osaka Museum of History
Osaka Museum of History
Osaka Museum of History

2.30pm Osaka Suijyo Bus Aqua-Liner 

       The port of the Aquiliner was now out of the way. It was closer to the Golden Wasen but then we decided to backtrack to enjoy the garden and museums. So, we took the Chuo subway (Green line) to the Morinomiya Station and then change to a JR loop train to Osakajokoen Station. Well, not too bad, all these transiting only took us 16 minutes.
       We took the short cruise to Yodoyabashi Pier, enjoyed the view of Nakanoshima Island and then took a subway on Midosuji Line to Umeda Station.
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Osaka Suijyo Bus Aqua-Liner
Osaka Suijyo Bus Aqua-Liner

4.00pm Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory 

       If you think the Umeda Sky Building is just a stone throw away, if not just next to the Umeda station itself, you got it all wrong. I was fooled as well. Luckily, the Japanese understand the difficulty so they printed a map for that. For first-timers, you might still get lost with that map on hand, so in the next post, I’ll let you know exactly HOW does one get to the Umeda Sky Building, without getting lost.
       After 25 minutes trying to find the place, we made it at 4 pm, which was about 30 minutes to sunset during early winter. When we went through the see-through escalator, we were enchanted… I never loved a city that much, the architecture in Japan was simply too mind-blowing!
Umeda Sky Building Observatory
Umeda Sky Building Observatory
Umeda Sky Building Observatory
Umeda Sky Building Observatory
Umeda Sky Building Observatory

5.30pm HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel 

       Now that we knew about the underground pedestrian's shortcut, Umeda area became fairly easy to navigate. We went back to Osaka Station (just beside Umeda Station) and took our second Ferris Wheel ride in Osaka, this time is to gaze upon the beautiful skyline of Umeda! Every landmark were easily identified with the clues drawn inside each gondola. However, be warned that it will be quite a long wait to get into one...
HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel

6.40pm Umeda Joypolis Wild River 

       I think most tourists skip this ride, we nearly did too. However, we gave it a second thought and think well, it’s in the same building, who knows this might be fun! The queue at this ride was incomparable to the one at the Ferris Wheel. We got in within 10 minutes. It is a safe, mom-approved way to have some fun and a pint of adrenaline but if you are used to 90-degree roller coaster kinda stuff, you’ll find it boring. I am way past my roller-coasting age, so I find this “lame ride” visually exciting. and as for my mum, that was the “best ride ever”.
*** No photography allowed during the ride.

7.30pm Dotombori 

       From Umeda Station, take the Midosuji Line (Red) to reach Namba Station. Dotombori is by far the most razzle-dazzle touristy neighborhood in Osaka, and there is where you can find the Glico man! But first thing first, you need to go exchange tickets for the Tombori River Cruise before anything else… and then go order your favorite takoyaki, take a selfie with Mr. Glico, shop some cosmetics,  sit around doing nothing, whatever!
Dotombori
Glico Man
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Dotombori

8.30 pm Tombori River Cruise 

       The boarding point is located in front of the Don Quixote discount store just by the Tazaemon Bridge. You need to be there 10 minutes before the ride. This 20-minute cruise will bring you down the Dotombori river, passing through the bustle of Minami area and the 9 bridges over the river. It is a fun way to get to know downtown… plus, the boat will make a quick stop in front Glico man for a photo session.
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary
Tombori River Cruise
Dotomburi

9.00 pm Onsen again!

       Last night in Osaka? Don’t feel obligated to sleep! Your Osaka Amazing pass is not yet past due. If you are feeling determined, feel free to board the Sakaisuji Sunway (red line) to Tenjinbashisuji 6-chome station and visit Naniwa Hot Spring. Again, remember to be back before 12!
Here you go! The itinerary that put your Osaka Amazing Pass into full use! If you are still in doubt, here is a table to help you with the math!
2 days Osaka amazing pass itinerary

Bonus: Where to stay in Osaka? 

       In my opinion, staying around Namba is like having the whole Osaka at your doorstep. Our accommodation is only a less-than-1-minute walk to the station, so it's really convenient. I highly recommend that area, but unfortunately, not my Airbnb. This is why.
       If you are ever in Namba searching for a suitable place to stay, there are some (If you have better recommendations, let me know!):
Mid Price: Hotel 88
Luxurious: Swissotel

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Thank You for Reading! 
This post is made possible by KKday Malaysia

As always, it is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience.

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