Oct 25, 2019

Osaka Family Travel Guide: Our 5-Day Itineary

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There's something about Japan that makes it so endearing, isn't it? It has that irresistible mix of culture and modernity, amazing food, natural wonders and fun theme parks. On top of it all, it is a country that is clean and safe... which can only mean one thing: it is perfect for a family adventure.


And of all the major cities in Japan like Tokyo, Sapporo and Kyoto, Osaka can sometimes be overlooked. I last visited Osaka even before when I was married so I can probably be forgiven for forgetting how much Osaka can actually be - espeically after spending 6 days and 5 nights in Osaka with the family!


Our trip was made in collaboration with Klook, which in case you didn't know, is the world-leading travel activities and services booking platform by allowing travellers a seamless way to book attractions, tours, local transportation, best foods and must-eats, and unique experiences around the world on its website and app. In other words, convenience and no-queuing-needed FTW!

We landed in Kansai Airport, Osaka in the late afternoon and the first thing we did was to pick up our Osaka Amazing Pass which gave us unlimited use of the Osaka subway, tramway, and bus network plus FREE entry to more than 50(!) of Osaka's top tourist attractions like the Osaka Castle, Osaka Zoo, Nagai Botanical Gardens, and even LEGOLAND Discovery Center Osaka! You can choose either the 1-Day or 2-Day pass.


Klook is currently the cheapest place to buy the Osaka Amazing Pass. Not only that, it is also extremely convenient to pick up or passes at the airport. All I had to do was to locate the HIS counter 1F next to the Northern Exit in the Arrival Hall, show my e-booking via the Kllok app in my phone and it was done in less than 5 minutes.


I pity the monkies who thought they had all the time in the world to play a game of Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch. 😂


We also booked the ICOCA IC Card through Klook, which is an all-in-one travel tap card for JR West trains, subway, private railway, and buses in the Kansai area, much like own EZ-Link card. It comes pre-loaded with JPY1,500 and can be easily topped up at any ICOCA IC Card train stations. Pretty convenient card to have especially since our Osaka Amazing Pass will only be valid for 2 days so we relied on this card for transport during the remaining days in Osaka.


And with that, we were ready to start our Osaka trip proper!


OSAKA DAY 1

For our accommodation, we stayed at the stupendous Karaksa Hotel Osaka Namba which is located a 5-min walk away from the Shisaibashi Shopping Street and Dotonbori food haven, and a 15-min walk away from the main Namba station so it was extremely accessible.


The rooms were clean and functional but what the monkies particularly loved was the snack bar at the hotel will be opened daily to guests where we had a free flow of drinks, hot beverages and instant soups from the vending machine! There is even a soft drink mixer machine which the monkies absolutely adored. I wonder why.

Anyway, since it was close to 6pm by the time we checked into the hotel, there was only one thing on our minds - FOOD! And there was no better way to kick-start our Osaka holiday than a seafood meal at Isomaru Suisan Bar.


Isomaru Suisan Bar opens 24 hours, 7 days a week and is extremely popular not only with tourists but also the locals. Steeping inside, the wifey was smittened with the restaurant's whimsical and vibrant interior, which features paper lanterns, wooden panels and colorful illustrations on the walls.


Really felt like a bustling place... AND IT IS. Because there was long queue outside the restaurant when we arrived. Fortunately, I already pre-booked our dinner slot through Klook (you can choose your dining time at the point of booking) and we were shown to our table immediately, by-passing the queue. 😄


We had the Standard Set which consisted of fresh sashimi, crab miso, cuttlefish, seafood skewers, fresh scallops and clams.





The seafood was so fresh and good, and I thought it was extremely worth it. Just take a look at our table and you will understand why we were so stuffed.


Well, Ale could resist finishing everything!


After dinner, we then walked off the calories at the bustling Shinsaibashi shopping street before heading back to the hotel.



OSAKA DAY 2

Cup Noodles Museum Ikeda


Orginally, this wasn't in our itinerary but after I found out about this place, I knew I had to bring the monkies to the Cup Noodles Museum Ikeda for a visit... especially since they are such fans of cup noodles. 😅

In case you didn't know, Ikeda, Osaka is the birthplace of instant noodles. In 1958, the world's first instant noodle product, "Chicken Ramen," originated in a shed of the house of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles and the founder of Nissin Food.


In honour of him - and also to celebrate the impact of cup noodles on the entire world, the museum was established in 1999 to introduce the history of instant noodles and convey the significance of innovation and discovery in the stages of invention.


Entry to the museum is FREE and we were taken on a journey through the Instant Noodles Tunnel where it chowcases the various range of instant noodles and how a single product grew into a global dietary culture... including the very first Chicken Ramen packaging.


But the highlight for the monkies must surely be the chance to make their very own customised Cup Noodle ramen at the My CUPNOODLES Factory.


For 500yen, you can purchase one empty cup which you can design the packaging, select the soup, and pick out a few ingredients to go into it before the staff seal it for you.





They even provide a large bubble wrap for your completed cup noodle! Ah, the thoughtfulness of the Japanese.


If you have time in Osaka, I definitely recommend visiting the museum and bringing back your very own cup noodle as a souvenir!


Umeda Sky Building


After the Cup Noodles Museum, it was time to put our Osaka Amazing Pass to work and the first place we visited was Umeda Sky Building which consists of two towers that are connected by the "Floating Garden Observatory" on the 39th floor.


Access to the Observatory is free of course, thanks to our Osaka Amazing Pass and the view on the 39th floor was astounding.


We enjoyed an unobstructed 360-degree view of Osaka and yes, we couldn't leave without snapping a few photos.



Osaka Castle


Let me just put it this way: no trip to Osaka is complete without a stop at the Osaka Castle.

Founded some 400 years ago,the castle is regarded as the second "great unifier" of political factions in Japan and is one of the most famous castles in Japan.

The inside of the castle is essentially a modern museum where weapons, armors, and folklife items and artifacts from those days are on display. Head to the topmost 8th floor for a view of the castle's surroundings.


Osaka Castle was not too bad but I think the hot weather really sapped our energy. It was 34 degrees when we were there in September!


Illusion Museum

Luckily for us, we discovered the Illusion Museum which was in the building just beside the castle.


Entry to the Illusion Museum was included in the Pass (yay!) and it was air-conditioned! 😁

The exhibits within the musuem are similar to those found at Trickeye Museum at RWS, but on a smaller scale and occupying a smaller area.



Nonetheless, the monkies still had a great time as you can probably tell.


Tombori River Cruise


Our final use of the Osaka Amazing Pass was for the Tombori River Cruise, a 20-minute mini-cruise along the Dotonbori waterway.


Along the way, we were treated to some of Naniwa’s most well-known sights. TIP: Try to time your cruise during the evening time so that you can catch the gorgeous sunset from the boat!


You know, I don't usually like city or discount passes when we travel because we tend to like to take things easy at our own pace. That said, the Osaka Amazing Pass ended up being extremely useful for us as we got to cover some of the most popular Osaka attractions in one day!

The total entrance fee of the attractions we exceeded far exceeded the cost of one Osaka Amazing Pass, and it included FREE subway and bus transport too! Need more convincing? The Pass includes free entry to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Osaka too (which we didn't visit) and its admission price is about S$30 per person. The price of a 1-Day Osaka Amazing Pass from Klook? S$35. Super worth it, I say!


Sakuya Lumina Night Walk

But wait, our Day 2 was not done yet.


Sakuya Lumina Night Walk is a night walk (duh) experience blending enchanting sound and light into Osaka Castle Park. It is much like the Rainforest Lumina at the Singapore Zoo but only bigger and more colourful!



The Osaka Castle grounds converts to dreamy whimsical landscape against a symphony of light and sound when night falls, and consists of a easy walk with various interactive light and sound installations dotting the trail.



And to up the fun factor, there are plenty of interactive installations that the monkies thoroughly enjoyed.


Okay okay, me too. 🤣

You can pre-book tickets through Klook HERE.

OSAKA DAY 3

Day Trip to Nara

A Nara day trip is perfect for everyone staying in Osaka because this cute small town is famous for one thing.

DEER. Lots and lots of them!


See what I mean?


I suppose the deers in Nara aren't exactly the best kept secret because the deer are exactly why people will tell you that a day trip to Nara from Osaka is a must.

And they are absolutely right.

There's something magical about Nara, thanks to its plenty temples, shrines and beautiful gardens.

Of course, its claim to fame is the cute deer which roam the streets - the entire stretch of Nara Park from downtown Nara up to the hills. The deer are free to pet and take selfies with, and you can even purchase crackers (10 for 150yen) to befriend them. But do note that some can get very persistent and I've seen some poking their noses into pockets! And please, they are seen as sacred messengers of the gods so don't smack them ok? 😅



Before coming to Nara, I had the impression that the famed deer are in some kind of enclosure within a park but that is not the case at all - the deer are walking around the town freely, some even along the patways beside the main road... and they are not shy of people at all.


Yes, your chances of snagging plenty of photos with a deer... or even getting photobombed by a deer here is about 100%. 😁


There are plenty of old shrines to visit in Nara but let's face it, if you are travelling with kids like we were, the deer are always only going to be the main attraction in their eyes. That said, you should at least visit one shrine in Nara and that honour goes to the Tōdai-ji Temple.


This famed temple was once the world’s largest wooden building and is one of Japan’s most famous temples. Founded in 745 by the Emperor Shomu, the vast temple at Todaiji was constructed as a symbol of imperial power, and took over 15 years to complete at great expense.


One of the main highlight is the temple’s main hall, also known as the Big Buddha’s Hall which houses Japan’s largest Buddha bronze statues, at 15 metres tall!


A definite must-see if you are in Nara. Entrance fee is 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for school children.

We then spent the rest of the day in Nara playing with the deer and just plain chilling.


Or if you prefer, you can even buy deer poop!!! Actually, they are just peanuts covered in chocolate. LOL.


Getting to Nara
We arrived in Nara from Osaka via the JR Kanjo-Yamatoji Line which departs from JR Osaka Station in 50 minutes. It was extremely convenient thanks to our JR West Kansai Pass that we had got from Klook. From JR Nara Station, it's a 20-min walk to Todai-ji Temple where you can see the deer along the way. If you prefer not to walk, there is the bus (210yen for adults & 110yen for kids).

If you are thinking of getting the JR Pass, there are 5 different JR passes available for the Kansai region: 1 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass; 2 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass; 3 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass; 4 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass and the 5 Day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass. The 1 - 4 Day passes can also be used on the Kyoto city subway and Keihan line in addition to the JR line.

The JR West Kansai Pass is good for travelling to cities like Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama, Shiga, Tsuruga and Iga-Ueno. So all you need to do is to decide how many days of the pass you should get. Being in possession of the JR West Rail Pass also allows you to travel on JR-run train in each city for without any additional charge including the Kansai Airport Express Haruka train so this is definitely the easiest and fastest way to explore Kansai region and an essential travel pass for Japan!

Dotonburi

Experiencing some of Osaka’s best attractions will not be complete without tasting its food, street food to be more specific. And there is no other place to find delicious street food than at Dotonburi.

But first, let's take mandatory photo in front of the famed Glico man signboard. Complete with the pose of course!


As you already know, Dotonbori is famous for its eye-catching signage and billboards - there's a giant pufferfish, an octopus, and the famed Kani Douraku crab.


Osaka’s obsession with food is often summed up with the expression “kuidaore” which is often interpreted to mean “eat till you drop”! In fact, Dotonbori is said to be the best place in Osaka to experience this kuidaore-style extreme love of food. And whatever you do (or eat), you must definitely savour takoyaki which was invented in Osaka!


OSAKA DAY 4

Universal Studios Japan


Now this certainly needs no introduction at all. And it's definitely a MUST-VISIT if you are holidaying in Osaka with the kids.


Universal Studios Japan is a theme park with rides, attractions and performances based on world famous movies, and animations. From the 3D action ride at Minions Park to the exhilarating Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, be prepared to have one whole day of fun!!!




And you know how much fun we had when the camera caught us doing this.


Go ahead and laugh. 😂 I think the different expressions on each of our faces perfectly sum up our day at Universal Studios Japan - shocked, exhilarated & thrilled. 😆

The Flying Dinosaur is a hanging roller-coaster ride that sits riders lying face down and the loops... oh my 天, I can't even describe the feeling. I can only say this is the MOST thrilling ride I've ever taken in my life (even though I did close my eyes during certain parts LOL). And to think I didn't even like roller-coasters before I had kids.


If you have younger kids, I would strongly recommend heading to Universal Wonderland which is home to Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street. There are enough rides here to keep them occupied for more than half a day, and a good portion of them are indoors!




I will be sharing a separate post on Universal Studios Japan so do keep a lookout for it. All you need to know for now is the queues at the entrance ticket counters are insane so it definitely makes sense to purchase your tickets beforehand. I simply flashed my e-ticket on my phone purchased via Klook and we were in! We also had the Express 4 pass which gave us faster access to 4 of the more popular rides. Rides like The Flying Dinosaur had a queue time of 90 minutes so I would totally recommend it.


OSAKA DAY 5

Osaka Ninja Workshop


When we first arrived at the location, the wifey remarked, "People go Japan to wear Kimono but I come Japan to become a Ninja." And that was how I ended up with a blade at my neck. 😂😂😂


In all honesty, going to a Ninja workshop in Osaka was probably the furthest thing on my mind and I got to admit, it is just one of those things you think is going to be lame.

But after learning how to walk stealthily like a Ninja, wield a katana, shoot a dart through a blowpipe and throw a shuriken, I have to say all of us had a wonderful time. Yes, including the two notoriously-difficult-to-please teens. AND THAT'S SAYING A LOT!








Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan


If you've heard of Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan before, it’s probably because of the huge whale shark.


One of Japan’s most spectacular world- renowned aquariums, Kaiyukan is home to over 15 large tanks, each recreating a specific region of the Pacific Rim, taking visitors on a virtual tour of the Pacific Ocean. And yes, the aquarium is huge!



What's interesting about the aquarium is its layout - we started at the top on level 8 and made our way down through the exhibits in a circular motion. And at the center of the spiral is the aquarium’s largest tank with many smaller tanks around its perimeter. The main tank is 9 metres deep and is where we spent more than just a few minutes transfixed on the many fishes and sharks.




In addition, there is a wide variety of other animals like seals, sealions, penguins, crustaceans, amphibians and even a touch pool where kids can gently touch rays and small sharks.



Great place to spend half a day there... and if you want, you can spend the other half of the day at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center located just next door! Again, remember to pre-book your tickets online through Klook to save time on queuing.

Samurai Cafe Show


If you are looking for something different to do in Osaka, then Samurai Cafe will be it. It's tough to explain exactly what the show is about - there isn't any need to understand Japanese as the skits are predominantly slapstick humour and requires a huge dose of audience participation.


But man, the show is SUPER FUNNY. I'm not kidding when I say I laughed until I cried. I seriously cannot remember the last time I laughed so much... especially since someone is able to lift me up during one of the segments! 😂😂😂


I have never laughed so much. The wifey has never laughed so much. The monkies have never laughed so much.

So you can probably guess we absolutely recommend this show. 😆


And that concludes our wonderful time in Osaka. I think we did well to fit as much activities we could into the 5 days we had in Osaka but as with most trips, I have a nagging feeling that there is so much more of the city to explore.


Oh, and I have to give a final shout-out to this little buddy here - our pocket WiFi device from Klook. At a rental price of $2.90 per day, I think it is one of the cheapest travel WiFi device rental around! It allows up to 5 devices to be connected and covers the whole of Japan. For an additional small fee, you can even arrange it to be delivered to you one day before departure and it will be picked up from you one day after you arrive back in Singapore! Visit HERE for more information.


All in all, a great trip with the family thanks to Klook. As usual, Klook's hassle-free e-tickets allowed us to skip the queues at every single attraction we visited. Booking through its website was seamless and fast. With open-dated tickets (like Universal Studios Japan) and a best-price guarantee, why not try booking through Klook for your next holiday? 😀


Just in case you need the Osaka attractions links again:

Isomaru Suisan
Osaka Amazing Pass
ICOCA IC Card
Sakuya Lumina Night Walk:
JR West Kansai Pass
USJ 1-day Pass
USJ Express 4 Pass
Ninja Workshop
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Samurai Cafe
4G WiFi for Japan


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