Osaka in Japan defies the notion that big places with millions of residents is chaotic and lawless. Osaka is blessed with dumbfounding infrastructures, well-edited edited shops, stylish hostels and astonishingly spotless streets! Adding up to its allure are the utterly helpful and disciplined Japanese. Here’s a travel guide blog to help you plan your trip to Osaka.
WHERE IS OSAKA?
Osaka, the erstwhile capital of Japan is a prefecture situated in the Kansai region on Hunsho Island. It is sandwiched by Kyoto on the north, Nara on the east and Wakayama on the south. Osaka is largely known as the economic powerhouse of Kansai region. Its capital is Osaka City.
APPLYING FOR A JAPAN TOURIST VISA FOR FILIPINOS
For years I dreaded visiting Japan, because I heard it was expensive, and I feared that my visa will be denied. So even if I’ve been offered roundtrip tickets to Japan twice, I was not ready to use it, until recently, when I received another invite to visit Osaka. This time, I did not want to let it slip away again, so I finally applied for a Japan visa.
The Japanese embassy no longer entertains visa applications. You have to go through an accredited agency processing Japan visa. You can find the list here.
JAPAN TOURIST VISA REQUIREMENTS
Please submit all application form and other documents for visa application in A4, long or short size.
Validity of within 6 months from return day. Must have at least 2 blank pages left in the passport.
2. DULY ACCOMPLISHED VISA APPLICATION FORM (download here)
Must have no omissions on the application forms.
3. PHOTO (1 Copy of 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background) Please attach only a clear photo.
4. BIRTH CERTIFICATE (NSO issued valid within (1)year.)
5. MARRIAGE CONTRACT (if married only) . Must be PSA (formerly NSO) issued and valid within (1)year.
(Submission of NSO certificate is waived with submission of OLD USED JAPAN VISA.)
Applicants holding (old or valid) passports with used Japan Visa will be exempted from submitting of marriage contract.
In case of non-record. You must submit certificate of non-record together with the one from local civil registrar.
6. JAPAN ITINERARY (Prepared by the applicant or the travel agency.)
7. BANK BALANCE CERTIFICATE Required if applicant is shouldering traveling expenses.
8. INCOME TAX RETURN (Form 2316 or 1701) Original and (1) photocopy.
9. GUARANTEE LETTER (only for sponsored visit)
If a person other than applicant will shoulder the travel expenses, please be sure to submit a guarantee letter and passport or any proof of identification from guarantor. Please submit a guarantee letter using the example/format provided by the embassy.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT OSAKA?
Osaka is a year-round destination, you will not run out of reasons to visit regardless of the season. But since most travelers going to Osaka also wants to visit the nearby Kyoto and Nara, it best to visit during October to November for autumn (colorful foliage) and March to May for spring (cherry blossoms).
HOW TO GET TO OSAKA, JAPAN FROM MANILA
Cebu Pacific http://cebupacificair.com , the largest airline in the Philippines, flies between Manila and Osaka five times weekly, with lowest year-round fares starting from PHP 6,399. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as from Cebu to Tokyo (Narita). Book its trademark lowest fares now through http://bit.ly/CEBOsakaflights or (+632)7020888, or follow its Facebook or Twitter pages for the latest seat sales.
HOW TO GET TO OSAKA CITY FROM KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
I like using my JR West Railway Pass when traveling by train around Osaka. You can use this to take the train directly from Kansai Airport to Osaka and Kyoto. Kansai Airport to Shin Osaka takes about 50 minutes, then transfer to Osaka Station is approximately 3 minutes. You can also take the train direct to Osaka (Umeda) for 1 hour 10 minutes. (See the JR West Pass price table under the Getting Around Osaka section below).
You can ride a direct train to Namba Station in downtown Osaka. It’s a 38 minute ride aboard a retro-future train and you can reserve a seat. You can purchase it here for PHP 491 only : Click here to purchase the Kansai Airport-Namba train ticket Just pick up your ticket upon landing at Kansai Airport or at JR Namba Station.
Taking a cab to Osaka City center is really pricey. Imagine the flag down is JPY 650 (PHP 301) and Kansai Airport is really far from the city center.
GETTING AROUND OSAKA
To help you in getting around the city, refer to Google Maps. For riding trains, check out Hperdia.com to help you decide which train to ride and where to get off.
Osaka City is actually divided into two areas: Kita (North) and Minami (South). Kita is the heart of transportation with big train terminals such as Osaka Osaka Station and Shin-Osaka Station. Take note that Osaka Station is also called Umeda Station. Technically, Osaka Station is a name for JR Lines and Umeda Station is a name for private lines (Hankyu Line and Hanshin Line) and subways, but just remember that they’re just the same.
Thankfully, Minami area is not really that far from the Kita. It will take you only 10 minutes to get to Namba Station from Umeda Station by a subway line (Mido-Suji Line). One way fare is JPY 240 (PHP 116).
JR WEST PASS
If you have a JR West Pass, the JR Osaka Loop Line runs in a loop around Osaka. It stops at Umeda and Tennoji and Osaka Castle. Additionally, Namba and Universal Studios Japan are also connected to the Loop Line.
If you don’t want to purchase the JR West Railway Pass, short train rides usually costs JPY 200 (PHP 93) to JPY 360 (PHP 167) per ride. So really, you can save a lot by purchasing a JR West Pass especially if you are traveling between Osaka and Tokyo, you can purchase the 7 day JR Hokuriko Arch Pass, CLICK HERE FOR THE JR HOKURIKU ARCH PASS. With this ticket, you can travel between Osaka and Tokyo, travel between Japan’s historical cities, including Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto and 7 consecutive days of unlimited train rides including Tokyo to Kanazawa Shinkansen. Once you purchase through that link, you can just pick up your train pass at the JR Station in Japan including Narita and Haneda Airport JR Stations, Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Osaka Kansai Airport, Osaka Station, Kyoto Station and many more
|JR West Rail Pass||Price||Price|
|Product Name||Validity||Purchasing Abroad||Purchasing in Japan|
|Kansai Area Pass||1 day||JPY 2,200||JPY 2,300|
|Kansai Area Pass||2 day||JPY 4,300||JPY 4,500|
|Kansai Area Pass||3 day||JPY 5,300||JPY 5,500|
|Kansai Area Pass||4 day||JPY 6,300||JPY 6,500|
*Rates based on JPY 1 – PHP 0.42
OSAKA UNLIMITED PASS
If you opt to travel around Osaka by bus, you can purchase an Osaka Unlimited Pass (JPY 850 /PHP 394 for adults and JPY 430/PHP 200 for kids) which comes with a little booklet containing helpful route suggestions, coupons and other details about the sites. But do note that transit may take up your time. The one-day pass offers unlimited use of trains (excluding JR trains) such as Hankyu Line, Kintetsu Line and buses in Osaka City and neighboring areas. Interestingly, you can get a free admission to 24 popular sightseeing facilities as well as discounts at some more locations. Tip: If you plan to visit the Floating Observatory in Umeda which has an entrance fee of JPY 700, you can save by purchasing this ticket. However, the two-day pass is restricted to subway and city bus lines only. If you plan to take the train to from Osaka to other nearby cities, get an extended version of Osaka Unlimited 1 Day Pass for JPY 2,000 (PHP 928) or two-day pass for JPY 2,700 (PHP 1,253). If you don’t want to buy the unlimited pass, one way bus fare in Osaka usually costs JPY 250 (PHP 116).
Taking a cab in Osaka City is pricey. Flag down is JPY 650 (PHP 301).
MONEY EXCHANGE IN OSAKA
As soon as we landed at Kansai International Airport, we exchanged our money near the arrival area. Otherwise, you can just withdraw from the ATMs at the airport or around the city. Withdrawal fee is JPY 600 (PHP 300). Make sure to inform your bank that you will be traveling to Japan so you won’t have a problem withdrawing overseas.
INTERNET IN OSAKA
Having internet while traveling around Japan is important. Most likely you will be using the train in getting around which is fast, reliable but is quite complex. Google Maps and Hperdia.com will be your travel buddy. Google Maps can help you track your location and how far you are from your destination, I’ve been using this during my bus trips. Meanwhile, Hyperdia.com can help you decide which train to ride, where to get off and how much you need to pay for the train ride.
When arriving at Kansai International Airport, you can rent a Wi-Fi router at the arrival section for about JPY 900 (PHP 419/ USD 8.63) per day (they only accept credit cards). However, because it is in-demand, they usually run out. So to avoid the hassle of looking for a Wi-Fi router, I highly recommend you rent a Flytpack Wi-Fi router in the Philippines before flying to Japan. You can read the instructions on renting Flytpack router here. You can pay using credit card or deposit the payment at the bank. And it only costs PHP 240 per day, way cheaper than renting a router in Osaka. The connection is really fast too since they have a local network partner in Japan.
WHAT TO DO IN OSAKA FOR FIRST TIMERS
VISIT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN (USJ)
One of Osaka’s most-visited attractions is Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and it’s easy to understand why. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with its flagship attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a crowd-drawer. You can see here the impressive Hogwarts castle recreation. Don’t miss the butter beer at Hogsmeade and the nearby Hogswart Express Photo Op. Catch the Universal Re-Boom party at noon which features Universal Studios Japan Character such as the Minions and Hello Kitty, among others. For adrenaline junkies, try the Flying Dinosaur, it’s so much fun but not as scary as it looks! Since The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man bagged the first World’s Best Dark Ride award for 7 consecutive years by Today’s Magazine, do ride it! It’s an amazing and immersive experience. Be wary though that resale of tickets is strictly prohibited. Resale ticket are not accepted in the Park. Universal Studios tickets can be purchased online, you can check the price and buy it here: Click here to check the price and purchase the Universal Studios Ticket Japan Ticket
One Day Studio Pass for adults is JPY 7,400 (PHP 3,434) and costs JPY 4,980 (PHP 2,310) for children. If you want to avoid the long queue, purchase the Universal Express Pass here: Click here to check the price and purchase the Universal Studios Express Pass.
FOOD TRIP IN OSAKA
Osaka is dubbed as the “Nation’s Kitchen”, the culinary capital of Japan, so yes, do not go home without trying its local dishes. Some of the traditional food includes takoyaki (octopus bits inside fried dumplings), okonomiyaki (fried cabbage cakes that lookes like omelette), kushikatsu (skewers with different deep fried food such as meat, shrimp, cheese and vegetables) and battera (a block type sushi with mackerel).
If you really want to experience the food culture in Osaka, head to Dotonburi just right across Shinshaibashi. This place is oozing with restaurants as well illuminated signboards. You know you are in Dotonburi when you see the iconic Glico Man. This giant billboard was originally installed near Ebusu-bashi Bridge in 1935. It’s a symbol for Ezaki Glico, a confectionary based in Osaka known for their caramel candy and Pocky pretzel snacks. Average costs of meals in Osaka is JPY 800-1,500 (PHP 373 – PHP 699 / USD 7.7 – USD 14.39)
We had a really tasty marutoku ramen (JPY 700) on our first night in Osaka at Morutoku near Fukushima Station. Also try eating at teppanyaki (grilling on a plate) restaurants where you eat at the counter while the chef prepares the food in front of you and serves it immediately.
We also got to try the famous Omi Beef, one of the best beef in Japan, along with Kobe Beef and Matsusaka Beef, at Yasu-shi in Shiga prefecture, about 30 minutes away from Kyoto. It’s really a must-try when in Japan! We dined at a restaurant called Jiku Kappo Sara where they have a special set of Omi Beef Steak that comes with Omi beef steak, sushi, sashimi, tempura, Omi-rice and miso soup for JPY 4, 600 (PHP 2,143 /USD 44) or you can order their middle set meals for JPY 3,900 (PH 1,817) without the sushi and sashimi.
Osaka is a shopping haven, whether you are looking for upscale designer stores or discount retail shops, you will find it here. Umeda in the North and Namba in the south are two of its largest shopping districts. And in between is Shinsaibashi Suji, walking distance from Namba station, the most popular and one of the oldest shopping destinations in Osaka. Be prepared though because the moment you walk into Shinsaibashi-Dotonburi area, just a 5 minute walk from Namba Station, you will meet a massive swirl of humanity. Nearby you can also find Amerikamura (American Village), dubbed as the mecca of youth fashion. This is where you’ll find small, inexpensive boutiques standing shoulder to shoulder selling mostly imported and hipster clothes targeting the youth.
SEE OSAKA CASTLE
Castles are symbols of power, and although they are believed to have originated in Europe, you can find equally impressive castles in Japan. Osaka Castle is one of the country’s most beautiful castles, it is a prototypical Japanese castle, featuring many elements associated with feudal Japanese castle architecture. It is said to have played a key part in uniting Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama era. Osaka Castle is flocked by tourists during spring because it is fringed by 600 cherry trees. To get here, you can alight at the Osakajōkōen Station on the JR West Osaka Loop Line.
ENJOY THE VIEW AT UMEDA SKY BUILDING
One of the tallest skyscrapers in Osaka is Umeda Sky Building, a two 40-story building connected by a bridge and two escalators (said to be the highest in the world). The building is accessible via Umeda Station. On top of it is the Floating Deck, an observation deck which offers a scenic view of Osaka skyline. It is open from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Entrance fee is JPY 700 (PHP 324) for adults, Kids (4 years olld and older) are charged JPY 200 (Php 92) and Elementary school students JPY 500 (PHP 231).
WHERE TO EAT IN OSAKA
Since Osaka is dubbed as the culinary capital of Japan, trying the food here is a must. And the best place to do just that is at Dotonburi, a mere 5 minute walk from Namba Station. The main road and small streets here are fringed with all types of eateries.
Crowned by the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower, the Shinsekai district is another haven for foodies, created after the World War II (1912), modeled after New York and Paris. Here you’ll find some of the best kushikatsu shops in Osaka.
Osaka Station and Grand Front Osaka has a wealth of restaurants to choose from, but if you find it quite hygienic, head to Kitashinchi district, the entertainment capital of Osaka, just 10 minutes by foot south of Osaka Station.
If you’re looking for a ramen place, I highly recommend Marutoku near Fukushima Station, order marutoku ramen.
Average costs of meals in Osaka is JPY 800-1,500 (PHP 373 – PHP 699 / USD 7.7 – USD 14.39). If you are on a tight budget, you can try the bento and sushi meals sold at local supermarkets, visit at night around 7:00 PM or when they are about to close because they are tagged with discounts for as low as 50% off! Meals would usually cost about JPY 279 – JPY 799 (PHP 130 – PHP 373 / USD 2.7- USD 7.7). Otherwise, you can settle for microwaveable meals at convenience stores like Lawson and Family Mart. But then again, you are in Japan, so I highly recommend you splurge on food once in a while.
WHERE TO STAY IN OSAKA
HIGH-END OSAKA HOTELS
Holiday Inn OSAKA NAMBA
5-15 Souemon-cho,Chuo-ku, Namba, Osaka, Japan
CHECK HERE FOR DISCOUNTED ROOM RATES
We stayed at Righa Royal Hotel in Osaka.
Righa Royal Hotel
5-3-68 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward, Osaka,
MID-RANGE OSAKA HOTELS
FP 3 Bedroom Apartment near Namba SB2
2-3-24 Minamihorie Nishi-ku, Namba, Osaka, Japan
CHECK HERE FOR DISCOUNTED ROOM RATES
BUDGET OSAKA HOTELS
HST2 1 Room Apartment near Shinsaibashi
1-22 Shimmachi, Nishi-ku, Namba, Osaka, Japan
CHECK ROOM RATES HERE
Nice Collection Buyer House
2-13-10 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan
Eco Cube Shinsaibashi
2-9-4 Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-Ku, Namba, Osaka, Japan
CHECK PROMO ROOM RATES HERE
If you wish to find cheaper rooms, there are hostels offering dormitory rooms for a slow as PHP 600-PHP 1,000. But if you are not comfortable staying in a dormitory, there are single to twin-sharing rooms for as low as Php 1,500. I suggest you check the address in Google Maps before booking to see if it’s near the subway or the main tourist attractions. Otherwise, you can leave your luggage at the Osaka Station lockers. I recommend finding a hotel near Shinsaibashi Station or Osaka Station.
BUDGET FOR OSAKA JAPAN TRIP
Budget for Osaka trip is tricky as it will depend on how you spend on food and accommodation. Japan is expensive, but it is manageable. While our trip to Japan was sponsored, I extended 4 more days to be able to explore more of Kyoto and Nara. And I spent roughly JPY 30,000 (PHP 13, 952) including accommodation, food, JR Pass to the airport from Kyoto, train rides and bus ride and temple entrance fees in 4 days. So for about JPY 8,000 (PHP 3,721) per day you can have a decent accommodation plus 3 meals a day in Osaka, of course that does not include yet the train rides, tour and temple fees. So roughly JPY 14,000 (PHP 6,531) per day will be safe.
SAMPLE BUDGET FOR OSAKA TRIP
|JPY 5,300 (PHP 2,459)||3-Day JR West Rail Pass|
|JPY 7,400 (PHP 3,432)||Universal Studios Japan entrance fee|
|JPY 3,000 (PHP 1,392)||JPY 1000 (Php 464) per meal, 3 x for Day 1|
|JPY 3,000 (PHP 1,392)||JPY 1000 (Php 464) per meal, 3x for Day 2|
|JPY 270 (PHP 125)||Small bottle of mineral water is JPY 90 (PHP 42) 3x daily|
|JPY 6,000 (PHP 2,783)||2 night room (JPY 3,000 per day twin-sharing) two people|
|JPY 700 (PHP 325)||Umeda Sky Building entrance fee|
|JPY 600 (PHP 279)||Osaka Castle entrance fee|
|JPY 1,550 (PHP 720)||Flytpack Rental (Php 240 per day x 3 days)|
|JPY 24, 220 (PHP 12,628)||TOTAL|
*Rate based on JPY 1 – PHP 0.42
* Airfare + Visa fee not included.
OSAKA SAMPLE ITINERARY
|01:00 PM||Check-in at NAIA Terminal 3|
|03:05 PM||Depart for Osaka via 5J 828|
|07:55 PM||Arrive in Osaka. Take the train to JR Osaka Station and shuttle to hotel|
|09:30 AM||Depart for Universal Studious Japan
Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Wand magic, HP and Forbidden Journey)
|12:00 PM||Lunch at the Three Broomsticks
Universal Re-boom Party and Market
|05:00 PM||Early dinner at Finnegan’s Bar and Grill|
|06:00 PM||Street Zombie
Japanese Horror Area
Death Eater Attacker
|07:30 PM||Depart or hotel|
|10:00 AM||Depart for Osaka Castle
|01:00 PM||Depart for Umeda Sky Building|
|02:00 PM||Tempozan Ferris Wheel|
|03:00 PM||Shop at Shinsaibashi Suji and Amerikamura|
|07:00 PM||Dinner at Dotonbori|
|08:00 PM||Depart for hotel|
|Depart for Kyoto or Nara or Fly home|