The Ultimate Osaka Travel Guide
Table of Contents
The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the most visited countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2016, an estimate of 24 million tourists visited Japan, outnumbering tourists of nearby Asian countries like Singapore, Macau, and South Korea in the same year.
Osaka is one of the most visited cities, next to tourist hotspots Tokyo and Kyoto. As the second largest metropolitan area in the entire country and the third largest in terms of area, tourists can expect lively, neon-light streets at night, large shopping areas, delicious food, and hundreds of Instagrammable sights.
This Osaka Travel Guide aims to provide a useful and easy to follow list of attractions to visit, where to stay, places to eat, hotel and hostel recommendations, and other DIY traveler tips for first-time visitors to Osaka, Japan.
How to Apply for Japan Tourist Visa for Filipino Travelers
There are several types of visas when entering Japan, and as a tourist, you will need to apply for tourist visa. First-time visitors of Japan will be granted the single entry visa (maximum 15 days).
The following are the requirements for applying for such visa:
- Passport – Your passport should have at least two blank pages left and should be valid for at least six more months. If your passport is set to expire in less than six months, it would be best to renew it first.
- Accomplished application form – The form is downloadable from the Japanese Embassy website. (download it here)
- Itinerary – The embassy will request a copy of your tour itinerary during your stay in the country. This could either be prepared by a travel agency or by yourself.
- Bank Balance Certificate – This should not be 3 months older than the date of the visa application. This serves as proof that you can afford to travel to and from Japan. Having around Php 100,000 for more than half a year is enough proof.
- Income Tax Return, certificate of employment, and other related documents– These are proof that you have reason to go back to the Philippines i.e., for work. Presenting a document that shows an approved leave of absence (if applicable) is also recommended.
- Birth certificate, marriage certificate, and passport photo – This is for identification purposes. Prepare the original and photocopies of the documents. Also make sure that the photo complies with the guidelines, which is posted at the Japanese Embassy website.
Those who are applying for Japanese tourist visa do not have to make a personal appearance in the Embassy. The country allows accredited travel agencies to do the processing. Just prepare all the requirements and consult with your selected travel agency, and they will handle the rest.
How to get to Osaka from Manila
Some airlines fly directly from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) to Kansai International Airport (KIX). Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines offer afternoon flights daily from MNL to KIX. Jetstar, on the other hand, offers early morning flights on selected days. Connecting flights via Taipei are also available.
How to Get to Osaka from Kansai International Airport
KIX is about 40 kilometers from central Osaka. There are many ways to get to the city from the airport:
- By train. There are about four major rail services from the airport. These are: Osaka Station, Tennoji Station, Shin-Osaka Station, and Nankai Namba Station. The train is the fastest way to get to move around, ranging from as short as 35 minutes to an hour for at least ¥1,060. Just make sure to choose which train to ride, as they spring out in different parts of Osaka.
- By bus. Conveniently, most bus lines offer a direct ride from KIX to Osaka Station for ¥1,550, but takes slightly longer than train. Other bus lines also stop at Osaka destinations like Universal Studios Japan.
- By taxi. Even locals would not recommend riding a taxi as they are very expensive. It can reportedly cost one up to ¥20,000 including bridge toll fees and other added expenses, but on the bright side, it can travel as fast—or even faster—than buses.
- Car rental. There are car rental counters at the Aeroplaza Section in the airport. This is highly recommended as the cars can be used within the entire span of your stay, but you will need to present a valid international driver’s license for such.
Best time to Visit Osaka, Japan
The humid subtropical climate of Osaka makes any month a good one to visit. Generally, however, visiting Osaka in the fall season from late September to November and towards the winter season from December to January can make your trip easier, especially in terms of temperature, transportation, and moving around. The fall and winter seasons are the coolest and driest times of the year, with January being the coldest.
Best Places to Stay in Osaka
Osaka has several hostels and hotels that are within your budget’s reach. The former has become increasingly common. Here are two hostels and two hotels in Osaka with the best prices and ratings:
- Osaka Guesthouse Nest
Location: 2-4-14 Terada-cho, Tennoji-ku, Osaka city
Price: Php 910 via Agoda.com
Clean and airy rooms, spacious lounge, a kitchen complete with everything you need to prepare meals, including several sets of clean showers are what make Osaka Guesthouse your home away from home.
- Osaka Hana Hostel
Location: 1 Chome-8-4 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0086, Japan
Price: Php 819 via Agoda.com
This budget hostel comes with ample-sized dorm beds with curtains, as well as facilities like private locker, small personal table, hangers, and bed light. Other rooms offer a futon instead of a bunk bed.
- Swissotel Nankai Osaka
Location: 5 Chome-1-60 Nanba, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0076, Japan
Price: Php 11,047 via Agoda.com
Located right in the middle of Namba, one of Osaka’s shopping and entertainment districts. Each room is equipped with high-speed Internet access, hairdryer, mini bar and coffee and tea maker, telephone, as well as amenities like pajamas, slippers, and hairdryer.
- Cross Hotel Osaka
Location: 2 Chome-5-15 Shinsaibashisuji, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0085, Japan
Price: Php 6,968 via Agoda.com
The budget-friendly room rates of Cross Hotel Osaka entitles guests to a spacious bathroom and toilet, Japanese tea set and minibar, and amenities like shampoo and conditioners, hairbrush and razor, alarm clock, and pajamas.
For a complete list of hotels and hostels available in Osaka, Japan, you can check out the discounted at Agoda.com.
Getting Around Osaka
- JR Kansai Area Pass – This is exclusively offered to foreign tourists. This pass gives full access to selected JR trains and buses for 1 to 4 days within stay. Purchasing one from the Internet is slightly cheaper compared to purchasing it in Japan.
- Prepaid Icoca/Pasmo/Suica Card – Another prepaid card that can be used when getting around Osaka is Icoca. This is available especially in the Kansai region, but similar cards like Pasma and Suica are also usable in the area.
- Subways or Trains – Osaka is a large city but it is efficiently covered by nine subway lines. Locals would recommend using the Midosuji Line and Chuo Line, which form a cross across the city.
- Buses – Icoca cards also work for buses, but passengers can also pay the flat rate ¥210 to board the buses.
Get your JR Pass here:
- 2 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass (KIX Pick Up) (Buy Online)
- 3 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass (KIX Pick Up) (Buy Online)
- 4 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass (KIX Pick Up) (Book Online)
Where to Find Currency Exchange in Osaka
- Dotonbori – There are a lot of money changers in this Dotonbori, the largest and most active nightlife hub in Osaka. Two of these are Tourex Currency Exchange and Samurai Exchange.
- Osaka Station City – Aside from being accessible to most rail and subway line services, this large shopping complex also has at least five money changers on different floors. There is Travelex, SMBC Foreign Currency Exchange Corner, Mizuho Foreign Currency Shop, and two branches of World Currency Shop.
- Most tourist destinations in Osaka – Tourist hotspots like Osaka Castle and Shinsaibashisuji have automated money exchanger machines. The machines accept leading world currencies USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, KRW, CNY, HKD, TWD, SGD, MYR, THB, and IDR.
Internet Access in Osaka
Having an access to the Internet in Japan may prove to be very useful for tourists. The Internet speed in Osaka averages at 17.96 Mbps download and 15.30 Mbps upload speed. Tourists can purchase a SIM card from the airport, rent a smartphone with Internet access, or connect to their chosen hotel or hostel Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you may bring your own WiFi like Smart Travel WiFi for convenience’s sake.
Things to Do in Osaka
- Dotonbori – Dotonbori is an absolute must-see. The entire area is filled with restaurants, various shops, and the huge amount of neon light signage is similar to New York Time Square. Try out some takoyaki, octopus dumplings, shabu shabu, or local delicacies like pufferfish. Get into one of the local comedy clubs, and hop on a boat cruise on the Dotonbori Canal.
- Osaka Castle – Built in 1583, Osaka Castle is an internationally famous tourist destination, and the free admission makes it even more famous. Aside from the great sights, drop by the Osaka Castle Museum (which has an entrance fee of ¥600 per individual), which has exhibits, as well as an observation deck.
- Tsutenkaku Tower and Shinsekai – If Taiwan has Taipei 101, Osaka has Tsutenkaku, which literally translates to “tower that reaches the heavens”. The colossal structure is 103 meters high and the observation deck is at 91 m. Shinsekai, the surrounding area that houses the tower, is an entertainment district that has several restaurants, shops, and Billiken statues.
- Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – With over 15 aquariums showcasing the marine life of the different oceanic regions in the world, it is no wonder why Osaka Aquarium is such a famous tourist destination. Aside from this, they also offer interactive exhibits or close encounters with marine animals like penguins, sea lions, capybara, and river otters, among others.
- Universal Studios Japan – Frequently shortened to USJ, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t miss visiting this massive theme park. If you are a Potterhead, come to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which starkly recreates places in the book series like Ollivander’s Wand Shop and the Hogsmeade Wizard Village. Also See: 10 Ways (Plus One) to Enjoy Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan
What to Eat in Osaka
- Pizza from Kuma Kafe – Kuma Kafe is one of the most visited restaurants in Osaka. In fact, it is ranked first in TripAdvisor. There are many offered food, but their hand made pizza, which comes in an array of flavors and sizes, are the most ordered bunch.
- Okonomiyaki from Okonomiyaki Chitose – Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese dish that is literally a pancake with ingredients and toppings of your choice. This restaurant in Osaka serves the best okonomiyaki in the area. They also serve fried noodles and other local dishes.
- Matsusaka Beef from Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M – Prepare yourself for Matsusakagyu’s steaks. If you haven’t tried the beautifully marbled Wagyu beef of Japan yet, this is the place to go.
Also See: Pablo Classic Cheese Tarts in Osaka
Best Places to Shop in Osaka
- Kita District – If Dotonbori is the busiest part of Osaka at night, Kita takes the spotlight in the morning. The district is s a shopper’s paradise. The Tenjimbashi-suji Shopping Street is one place that people commonly go to, as the 2.6-kilometer arcade offers anything ranging from souvenir shops to aesthetic cafés. Also in the district is a 106-meter high Ferris wheel, the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, and parks.
- Shinsaibashisuji Shopping Street – This street has been around since the Edo Period (1603 to 1868), so there is no reason to leave this out of your itinerary. If you are a huge fan of Japanese culture, you can get your very own kimono and traditional footwear here for the best prices.
- Tennoji Area – Having seven malls is not the only reason why Tennoji is one of the best places to shop in Osaka. There are many fun places to visit here as well, like Abeno Harukas skyscraper and Shitennoji Temple.
Osaka Travel Tips
- Bringing along your own WiFi is the best option for communication, especially if you are a tourist. Smart Travel WiFi offers international roaming data packages for as low as Php 390 per day and with up to 42 Mbps LTE speeds. This is offered not only in Japan, but also in most countries as well.
- Visit Osaka on the last week of March to April if you want to catch Cherry Blossom Season in Osaka.
- Yukata, gadgets and electronics, popular culture merchandise, and sweets are the best souvenirs to take home. Remember that they are considerably cheap in Japan and they make good remembrances. Just make sure to consume perishable souvenirs ASAP!