Sunday, November 17, 2013

Travel to Japan : OSAKA (Castle, Dotonbori, Bay Area, Umeda)

Two clear sunny days in Osaka! Beyond happy!

Landed at Kansai International Airport around 8.30 in the morning, I decided to take a bath at KIX Airport Lounge (terminal 1, 2nd floor, north side). I paid 500 yen for the shower room and an extra 420 yen for a towel. The staff gave me a coin for using the shower room and they rented the hairdryer for free. They have 5 shower rooms with a dressing room inside. The water in the shower room flowed for 15 mins, but I allowed to use the dressing room and powder corner as long as I need. It was a great place to freshen up after spend a night on the plane.

I still had some business to be done before went to the train station. I took a quick visit to the post office (terminal 1, 2nd floor, south side) to pick up a mobile wifi that I rented from Japan Wireless. After that, I went to the tourist information booth (terminal 1, 1st floor, center) and bought Osaka Unlimited Pass (2 days, 2,700 yen). What did I get from this pass? A lot. Not only unlimited use for Osaka subway (exclude JR trains), but also coupons to enter lots of attractions in Osaka for free! What kind of attractions? Osaka Castle, Tempozan Ferris Wheel, Umeda Sky Building Observatory Garden, HEP Five Ferris Wheel, Santa Maria Cruise Ship, and so on. Super great value!

subway ticket, guide book, and coupons (p)
Since I couldn't use my Osaka Pass to ride JR trains, I still had to buy the ICOCA card at JR ticket office inside Kansai Airport station. I chose to buy ICOCA+Haruka roundtrip package for 4,000 yen. I used ICOCA card to ride the JR Train and Haruka for the airport express train. I managed to reach Fukushima JR Station with a quick transit on Tennoji JR Station, about an hour journey from Kansai Airport Station.

wasn't it obvious if I choose Hello Kitty? (p)

Kansai Airport Station (p)

I stayed in J-Hoppers Osaka which located just 5 minutes away from Fukushima JR Station. I haven't asked for some help yet, but a very nice japanese man willingly showed me the way to the hostel. Strangely, a random grandma who's riding a bike also gave my friend a pack of KitKat along the way. We're so moved by their kindness :')

J-Hoppers neighborhood, near Fukushima JR Station (p)

Ayaka, J-Hoppers' staff, cheerfully welcomed us and gave us a little bit early check in to our room (yeay!). Since my group consisted of 6 people, I booked for 1 double room and 2 twin rooms (3,000 yen/person/night). Our rooms located on the same floor, the 4th floor. J-Hoppers doesn't have an elevator and the stairs are quite steep. Since I only stayed for a night, I decided to keep my big luggage in a storage room. It's almost 1 pm, so my friends and I decided to grab a lunch in the neighborhood and rushed to Osaka Castle. 

Our first meal in Japan and we chose... Yoshinoya. Classy and convenience. I had a bowl of curry with potatoes, carrots, and rice for 330 yen. I never worried about buying a drink while eating because just like in Korea, all restaurants provide refillable drinks (ocha/water) to their customers for free :)

We had arrived at Osaka Jo JR Station around 2 pm and went through the garden for about 30 minutes walk before reached Osaka Castle. We didn't mind to walk since the weather was so nice and the garden was undoubtedly beautiful.

Panorama shot on our way to Osaka Castle (p)

Osaka Castle (admission: 600 yen)

yummy mango ice cream! (300 yen)

Group shot day 1 (p)

The sun almost set when we left the castle. Our next destination? The hippiest area in town: Dotonbori!
We took the subway and get off at Namba Station. 

The area is well known for dining place. You also can find the famous 'Running Glico Man' LED billboard in this area. Attached with Dotonbori, you can go walk along at Shinsaibashi shopping arcade. You can find almost everything here. Near Dotonbori, there's an area called Amerikamura. A friend of mine said Amerikamura is Osaka's Harajuku because of their similarities. Unfortunately, I couldn't find this area easily and my friends didn't look excited to visit it, so we decided to go back, grabbed a dinner, then called it a night. On our way back to Dotonbori we accidentally found the main road of Amerikamura though, but we didn't have a time to pay a visit.

Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade entrance (p)
It was almost Halloween when we went to Dotonbori. We spotted lots of people in their costumes. Too bad I was too scared to take some pictures of them :( 

On the next day, we had our breakfast at McDonalds in Fukushima and I couldn't help but notice that the seating layout was specially designed for individual use. What a big difference.

Our plan for that day was exploring Osaka Bay Area then went to Umeda for the Floating Observatory Garden at Umeda Sky Building. The sky was so bright and clear along with pretty cool weather. We couldn't ask for more :)

Tempozan Ferris Wheel (admission: 700 yen) 

Santa Maria Cruise Ship (admission: 1,600 yen)

Japanese kids: cuteness overload

Group shot day 2! (p)

On our way back to Osakako station, just a across the street from Tempozan Ferris Wheel, we saw a little cafe called "Kuma Cafe". There's a big big teddy bear on its patio that drowned our attention (Kuma means bear in japanese). In the end my friends decided to try its matcha latte. I'm not a big fan of matcha, so I preferred to have a hot of cafe latte instead.

those lotus biscuits are so yummy! judge by a caramel maniac like me (p)
I didn't take many shot at night since my camera has very low quality to snap a night shot. Our last attraction destination in Osaka was Floating Garden Observatory in Umeda Sky Building (admission: 700 yen). You can see the view of Osaka City from the open observatory deck, 173 meters off the ground. The see-through elevator and escalator enough to make me shivered. I'm a acrophobia (fear of heights), that's why I didn't ride the ferris wheel even though I have the coupon to ride it for free :3

To close the night we chose to walk from Umeda Sky Building to J-Hoppers (10-15 mins walk). We found a curry restaurant called Coco Curry along the way and it's now become our fav curry place!

Big plate of chicken cutlet curry and chicken salad to share!  (p)
Late that night, we rode the Willer Express night bus to go to Tokyo from Willer Express Bus Terminal in Umeda Sky Building. In my opinion, using the night bus is good deal if you want to save more money. Not only you just have to pay about 1/3 amount of Shinkansen fare but also save accommodation expense for one night. It's a win-win solution for budget traveler like me. But be aware that you might experienced a sore body on the next day, since you have to sleep in sitting position for a very long journey (about 9 hours from Osaka to Tokyo). 

We're ready for Tokyo! (p)
We're getting around in Osaka using JR train & subway. Click here to download the map. Even though there were times when we felt unsure to choose the right platform in JR train station, there's always a helpful station officer around that would assist foreigners like us. I'm impressed with Osaka's hospitality :)

We used the ICOCA card to ride JR trains and our Osaka Unlimited Pass for subway. Here's the details of our train & subway journey in Osaka:

Day 1
1) From Kansai Airpot to J-Hoppers: take JR Haruka Limited Express train from Kansai Airport Station, get off at Tennoji JR station, transfer to JR Osaka Loop Line and get off at Fukushima JR Station. 
2) From Fukushima to Osaka Castle: take JR Osaka Loop Line train from Fukushima JR Station and get off at Osakajokoen Station.
3) From Osaka Castle to Dotonbori: take Subway Chuo Line (green line) from Tanimachi 4-chome Station to Hommachi Station, transfer to Subway Midosuji Line (red line) and get off at Namba Station.
4) From Dotonbori to J-Hoppers: take Subway Misoduji Line (red line) from Namba Station, get off at Umeda Station, transfer to JR Osaka Station (Loop Line), get off at Fukushima JR Station.

Day 2
1) From J-Hoppers to Osaka Bay Area: take JR Osaka Loop Line train from Fukushima JR Station, get off at Bentencho Station, transfer to Subway Chuo Line (green line) and get off at Osakako Station.
2) From Osaka Bay Area to Umeda: take Subway Chuo Line (green line) from Osakako Station, get off at Hommachi Station, transfer to Midosuji Line (red line) and get off at Umeda Station. 
There's a pedestrian underpass behind Yodobashi building that will get you to Umeda Sky Building. 

grab both maps from Japan Guide
I started making a v-log for my journey. It's my first attempt and the result wasn't that great but I'll learn more in the future!

Sayonara Osaka! :)

(p) pictures courtesy of Purti :)


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