Hello and welcome back to my new blog series where I painstakingly investigate and map out my future travels to Japan – my spiritual home. Just to recap, and for those new to this sereis, at some point in the near future travel restrictions will be lifted. Once again we can take to the skies and travel to fulfil our personal bucket lists of travel and experiences. For me, that bucket list is pretty much overflowing with destinations and experiences throughout Japan. This series is to help me map out what I can achieve when the world is back to normal and I am able to travel. The two are not necessarily linked – I don’t intend to show up at the airport the day restrictions are lifted.
In this article, I am going to take the time to explore Osaka. Osaka is a megacity located in the Kansai region of Honshu, Japan. It is the second or third largest city in Japan and one of the biggest cities in the world – it will never beat Tokyo though. I travelled to the Kansai region back in 2016 and you can read about some of those adventures here, here and here. Of course, those articles are accompanied by lots of my photos from those days. I was there during September and I remember just how hot and humid Osaka was at that time of year. I visited Osaka at the start and end of my trip as I flew into and out of that city. The time in between was spent mostly in Kyoto and a day in Hiroshima – but that is for another blog.
In total, I only spent three days in Osaka but I got to see some amazing sites and experience some wonderful places. In a nutshell, while in Osaka I spent the first day walking the city streets shooting some street photography. I visited interesting stores and got some gift shopping done early. I walked through the restaurant district of Dotombori Stree although regret not exploring this area more – perhaps next time. That night I visited Den Den Town – an electronic geeks dream come true. Video game stores, anime, manga and excessive use of neons and bright lights. I spent the next day visiting the impressive Osaka Castle and the Osaka Museum of History that is located in a high-rise building – so very Japanese. It was a great day but Osaka is so immense that I felt like I missed a lot of the best tourist and street spots.
One the final day of my Japan 2016 trip I returned to Osaka from Kyoto late morning. I took a couple of trains out to the port area to visit a massive shopping district that included a giant Ferris wheel and aquarium. It was a good relaxing way to spend a final day of travel but in some ways, I regret heading out that way. We have similar areas like this in Melbourne and Sydney that are very tourist-focused. Instead, I wish that I had explored the inner city more and taken another tour of Dotombori street with its street food, restaurants and wonderful street signs.
So looking to the future, the question must be asked if I would return to Osaka? Of course, I would, but I would probably do it differently. I would spend more time exploring the city and some of the great street culture scenes like Dotombori Street, Den Den Town and the huge market arcade that is Shinsaibashi-suji. All around that area is interesting street scenes with side streets and alleys packed with charm. I would not head back to the port area shopping district and I would not let a travel agent book my accommodation in such a bad location again. Granted it was only my second time in Japan and I had a travel agent book everything. Since then I book my own travel by thoroughly researching locations to ensure that I can access great areas on foot or by train.
Osaka is an amazing city that is sprawling and certainly deserves more than a couple of a days to explore. The city itself is split into two distinct areas – Umeda or Kita area to the north and Shinsaibashi or the Minami area to the south. Each area has a set of great things to see and do that are clustered tight within those areas. But of course, there are also areas of interest outside of those busy central clusters. Fortunately, Osaka has a great train network that makes getting around easy once you get the hang of the system. There are a lot of museums to visit if that’s your thing as well as some great shopping districts. Osaka is well known for its food culture so there is plenty to explore and experience in that respect.
If I were to return to Osaka, then I would probably need a few more days with a much better game-plan. I think last time I saw the destination as an entry and exit point and didn’t plan enough to see and do. One of the great things about Osaka is that it makes a great base-camp for the Kansai region. Kansai is home to some great destinations such as Kobe, Himeji, Hikone and Nara – all locations I am yet to visit. And, as I demonstrated in 2016, the culturally rich area of Kyoto is only a fast train away. I will cover Kyoto in much more detail in a separate blog in this series. Also, I will cover more of the Kansai region in a separate piece once I have done some more investigation. In this initial series of Mapping Out Japan 20??, I won’t go into finite planning until I know where I want to travel to. Once I have a more robust travel plan then I can flesh it out.
Is Osaka high on my list of Japan destinations? Not so much but let me explain. Osaka is a big city and as I mentioned would take a number of days for a satisfactory exploration. I have already visited a lot of the main areas of interest to me – I just wish I had explored them more thoroughly while I was there. I am not so sure I want to spend that much travel time to once again explore this massive city. There are so many more destinations around the Kansai region that I would want to see. Places that I have not been to before. So the next stop on this blog series will be to explore Kansai and see what it has to offer this solo-traveller. Instantly Nara and Kobe call to me as places that I definately want to see at some stage. So once again Osaka may just be an entry and exit point into and out of Japan thanks to the international airport.
Thanks for sticking with me as I muddle through my past experiences to piece together potential new ones. If you have any thoughts or own experiences with Osaka or the Kansai region then please comment below. Happy trables…one day.