“There’s not much to do in Osaka” and with that statement from mum, I, like any child no matter the age, was out to prove her wrong.
After navigating the train station to just get to the train platform, a mission in itself, the first port of call was Tempozan Harbour Village.
Tempozan Harbour Village
Having studied marine science I love visiting aquariums in new countries to an idea of the local marine life, that and the fish markets so this was the ultimate aim for the day, but first it was to see Osaka from above and from sea (or port).
We purchased a 2-day Osaka Amazing Pass, which includes a bunch of activities, sights, discounts and train travel for 2 days. Depending on what you are planning will depend whether this pass is worth the Yen, but it does entice you to do some activities that you probably wouldn’t otherwise pay for.
Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
At 112.5 m tall this is one of the biggest ferris wheels in the world, with see-through gondolas, it give a view across Osaka and it’s harbour for miles on a clear day.
Cruise Ship Santa Maria
This is a bit kitschy, the boat is a replica of the Santa Maria tha Columbus sailed to the New World, but the cruise offers some great views of the working harbour, the aquarium and the Harbour Village. It also gives you a new appreciation for the traffic control in Japan with multiple storey bridges.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
This was high on my to do list, mainly to see whale sharks, but also I just love visiting aquariums. The Japanese plan everything to be streamlined and this aquarium is no exception, you catch a long escalator up four storeys, then walk in a single direction down through the various aquariums (some the entire height of the aquarium). Once you realise this you can find some quieter views away from the crowds (this is particularly true for the tank housing the whale sharks).
I was staying in the Umeda district which is more the business side of town, which I discovered after the first day. There’s plenty of shopping nearby, but not as many businesses aimed at tourists, but don’t let this sway your mind in regards to staying here, it’s easy to access all the tourist areas from the Umeda Station, and if like me you like being more “local” when travelling this would suit you.
South of the Okawa River, and near the Osaka Castle, we based ourselves in and around the cherry blossoms of the Chuo Ward for most of the day. first thing on the to do list this morning was queuing (very Japanese thing to do) for a cruise along the river to see the sakura lined rivers edge, before taking the walk towards Osaka Castle, then enjoying hanami.
For me the views of Osaka Castle from the river and the short walk up the hill were by far more memorable than those of the Castle once I was within the grounds. The Osaka Pass does allow entry into the museum and other parts of the Castle, but I could not be bothered dealing with the crowds.
Hanami, to the Japanese is big during sakura (cherry blossom) season, with blue tarps lining the grounds under any blooming cherry tree. They come with a picnic to enjoy a long lunch enjoying the sun, blossoms, food, drink and company. It really is one of the traditions I could adapt.
Unfortunately, there were parts of Osaka that I did not get to explore on this visit, like Dontonbori, but it just means I’ll make sure I’ll go back.