We go to a brand new city or foreign land with a heavy reminder digging at the back of our heads – it has to be as perfect as it could possibly get, both in your present and in your photographs. Often times, we fly away with our luggage weighted down by the burden of our expectations, but it’s a wonderful thing to revel in the pressure and rush our travel brings, as both feelings are a sign of great things to come. When you finally get there, you forget about your list of plans, and it becomes the one of the best moments to just simply allow yourself to get lost in a new place.
That’s how it is with Japan – you know for a fact that it is beautiful, you’ve heard it all through snippets of conversations and online forums, and you’ve also had a taste of it with our endless love for Japanese cuisine. But it’s a different story meeting her in person: you see her quirks, the cracks in her seamless image, and you get to know her more deeply in the best of ways. Osaka, Japan is beautiful in all her sunlit laid-back glory, reminiscent of her busier counter-part, Tokyo. And who wouldn’t want to share her beauty with the world? Everywhere you look, it’s a picturesque place!
Now I purposely made it general because there are a lot of places in Osaka, but I wanted to start this off with the basics: the city itself. It is a humble comparison to Tokyo, and it’s a highly recommendable place to visit if it’s your first time flying to Japan. The sheer size alone is enough to keep you entertained for days, but it isn’t as intense as Tokyo where you can easily lose your way. It proudly presents itself as the Kitchen of Japan where good food is served everywhere, and it’s true! The only possible thing that could leave a bad taste in your mouth are the rates and expenses, but that’s entirely up to you on how you’d make the most of it. Take the time to explore the city before going into famous landmarks. Treat her like how you would a first date – take things slow and get comfortable before diving into her depths.
2. KUROMON ICHIBA MARKET in NIPPONBASHI, OSAKA
In this place, you’ll be able to understand the essence of Japanese cuisine and taste firsthand how food is at the heart of the city. Osaka is well-known to be the “Kitchen of Japan” as in every district, streets are lined with an obscene amount of food choices. One of its distinct features are its markets, which is a long strip of shopping lane where you can find everything: kitchen items, tax-free goods, cosmetics, and the most important part of all is its endless streak of delectable, freshly-made food.
There are grocery stores inside the market district as well as stalls of street food filled with the ff: meat (including Kobe beef), fresh sushi, sashimi on a stick, fried tempura and vegetables, crabs, lobsters, and so much more. People who appreciate food porn in their feed would go crazy in this place, because there’s just an insane array of choices, and all of them look appetizingly photogenic!
3. TOEI KYOTO STUDIO PARK in KYOTO, JAPAN
There is an entrance fee of 2,200 yen which is equivalent to 1,300 pesos, but it’s worth it especially if it means being able to walk the same streets where more than 200 period films have been made. You can rent a kimono and immerse yourself in their richly historic culture, or you can watch a ninja show and/or be trained the proper way of being a samurai! Either way, you won’t run out of things to do in this park because it provides the perfect balance of entertainment that makes for an impressive throwback!
4. DAITOKUJI TEMPLE in KITA WARD, KYOTO
There are a lot of temples scattered around Kyoto, each unique in their own humbling presence. But Daitokuji Temple is a large walled complex comprising of about two dozen sub-temples. It is one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens and experience its culture.
5. OSAKA CASTLE in CHUO WARD, OSAKA
The castle grounds is surrounded by massive gates, impressive stone walls and moats. Japan’s ability to maintain their elaborate history is truly admirable, and this is just one of the famous landmarks that are worth your time when you visit Japan. But the castle isn’t the only main attraction – there is a garden that covers about two square kilometers with about 600 cherry trees, green space and multi-purpose arena, and it is one of Osaka’s most popular spot during the cherry blossom season.
If you want to enter the main castle, it has an entrance fee of 600 yen, which isn’t a bad price considering that there are 5 floors, and you get to witness a breathtaking view of the city from the top floor. The good thing about this place is that most of the castle grounds is free – you can spend your afternoon here just walking around, or even relax at the park in front of the main castle where food stalls are placed so you can eat and admire the magnificent view.
6. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS in OSAKA, JAPAN
USJ is like your manic pixie dream girl – she is an explosion of bright pastel hues and its love at first sight. Be careful, because as you go further in your exploration, you will soon realize that it is easy to get lost in her maze. Each turn of the block feels like you are entering a place that echoes different periods of time. But it would be a privilege to get lost in her and discover the quirks to her personality – from Italian restaurants to 50’s diners, and hello-kitty to snoopy, and walking a little deeper you’ll see her darker side that embodies a whole factory of Chucky’s horror maze.
For the people who love to go in matching outfits with their significant other or squad, then you’re in luck! People go crazy with their ideas here, and it’s been a long-time trend to go with your friends in identical or complementary clothing. From minions to angels and the likes, people here complete the energetic and colorful vibe of USJ.
7. WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER in UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, JAPAN
This place deserves a different spot on our top lists simply because it’s an entirely different world from USJ. Next to the snoopy village, you’ll see a growing amount of trees all lined up to lead a hidden path. Follow the dirt road and soon enough, the shrieks of laughter fades, and pop music is replaced with the rustling of the leaves and the sound of frogs croaking. After a while, you’ll spot Ron Weasley’s car slammed onto a tree, and you’ll know you’re almost there.
8. DOTONBORI in NAMBA, OSAKA
Dotonbori is one of the most dynamic and eccentric spots in the city of Namba, Osaka. The streets are livened up by noon with endless crowds, but the best time to visit is during nightfall where neon lights fill the whole street. It runs alongside a canal where the sidewalk is lined up with shops, game arcades and food stalls that echoes the same sense of delight you feel when you’re in a Japanese market. You see the same insane amount of food choices, but it’s different in its vibrant, urban atmosphere that just screams pop culture.
9. BAMBOO FOREST in KYOTO, JAPAN
The bamboo forest is a one of a kind landmark in Kyoto that is just magnificent to see. It’s a long, winding trail alongside a picturesque view of the green poles reaching towards the sky. Looking up, you’ll see it sheltering you with its ornate canopy, and it’s a good place to go to when you want to take a break from temples in Kyoto. Bamboo is deeply integrated in the daily lives of the Japanese people – from the creation of bamboo baskets, cups, chopsticks and many more, but seeing it in all of its full glory is a humbling yet inspiring experience.
10. DEN-DEN TOWN
Den-Den Town is a quirky little place near Dotonbori. It is said to be an “otaku’s haven” because of its impressive collection of electronics, anime and manga shops. It is also where you can find animate stores that is 5-storeys high. Since it’s just a few minutes away from Dotonbori, it is easily accessible when you want to check out amusing toys just for the heck of it – after all, you’re in Japan, and it’s best to just embrace their unconventionality and enjoy it to the fullest.
(credits to our intern for the beautiful photos)