It is highly recommended to purchase the Osaka Amazing Pass as it offers great value for money and we visited a lot of free attractions that come with the pass. We bought the Osaka pass from the Visitor Information Centre at 1st floor, Nankai Namba Station (1 day pass: 2300 yen; 2 days pass: 3000 yen).
With the Osaka pass, you can get unlimited rides on subway trains and buses, free access to 28 facilities and special discounts for tourist attractions, restaurants and shops! It is quite a good deal if the attractions are what you have in mind to visit, provided you can plan your visits in that 1 or 2 days within the pass validity. Information on where to buy the pass is here.
Do note that the Namba station includes the Nankai Namba station, JR Namba station and Kintetsu’s Osaka Namba station as there are many railway operators in Japan. Furthermore, the Midosuji, Yotsubashi and Sennichimae subway lines also stop at their respective Namba stations. The Midosuji subway line connects Shin-Osaka, Osaka and Umeda stations directly to Namba Station (we use this subway line quite often).
Dotonbori Hotel2-3-25 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0071, Japan
We thoroughly enjoyed staying in this hotel, which provide great service and loads of freebies to their guests. From Kansai Airport, we took the Nankai Railway and alight at Namba station. The hotel is located close to Namba station, Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi. Female guests will receive a complimentary bag of beauty essentials and guests will also receive a set of key chains featuring the 4 unique statues of their front facade (the hotel has informed me that they had run out of the key chains after I posted my review). The lobby also has free beverages from vending machine, massage chair and computers with printers for use. There is also free IDD calls to any country for the first 5 mins.
They even invited a sushi master to demonstrate for us in the hotel lobby and we had fresh sashimi complimentary from the hotel after that! One special mention is the piece of bamboo they place inside each room so that guests can step on it to massage their aching feet after all the walking! I went to the lobby to enquire and bought a new piece for only SGD$12! Some of the reception staff are Chinese so we had no problem communicating in mandarin. For all the great service and perks we receive, we are more than willing to overlook the extremely small room size (difficult to open your luggage fully) and tiny toilet. The hotel provides a good map with directions on their website here.
1. Tempozan Ferris Wheel1-1-10 Kaigandori, Minatoku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 552-0022, Japan. Free with the Osaka pass.
It is a 5 mins walk from Exit 1, Osakako station on the Chuo subway line and you can see the ferris wheel from afar. We don’t see the point of waiting longer for a transparent gondola and went ahead with a normal one. The panoramic view of the Osaka bay area was amazing! Each ride takes 15 mins.
2. Santa Maria Cruise
Santa Maria is a replica of the Christopher Columbus’s sailing ship and has been reproduced to be twice as large as the original one. We boarded Santa Maria from the platform of Kaiyukan Aquarium west wharf. The cruise offers a beautiful view of Osaka Bay area and the best part was that it is free with the Osaka pass! Note that it does not operate during December.
3. Kaiyukan AquariumLocated in the same area as the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. Admission fee: 2300 yen and you get 100 yen discount with the Osaka pass. Open from 10 am to 8 pm (last entry at 7 pm).
We were enthralled by the energetic otters, majestic whale sharks, mantle rays, cute penguins and giant spider crabs in this sprawling 8 floors of marine wonders. The aquarium can be very crowded during weekends and fortunately, we visited near closing time and it was quite a breeze looking at the fascinating displays. However, if you have already been to good aquariums in other cities, you can skip this attraction as the entrance fee is not cheap.
4. Shinsaibashi Shopping Street & DotonboriShinsaibashi shopping street is just 2 mins ride from Namba to Shinsaibashi station by subway Midosuji line. The Dotonbori area is a 5 mins walk from Namba station and is near Shinsaibashi.
We queued for the famous Pablo cheesecake in Shinsaibashi and loved it! Crispy crust on the outside and soft cheese on the inside that simply melts in your mouth.
If you walked the entire length of Shinsaibashi (covered shopping arcade), you will reach Dotonbori – a town with a canal that is a must visit in Osaka. The famous Glico Running Man and Kani Doraku Crab neon signs are found here and lots of other neon signboards make this place very fascinating to explore. There are many nice bars, restaurants, drug stores, fashion boutiques (including big brands like H&M, Zara, etc) and souvenir shops to explore in this entire area.
Our only pet peeve was that most of the shops closed quite early at 8 pm (except restaurants, bars & souvenir shops) and it can get quite boring at night especially when we are so used to bustling metropolis like Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul. To entertain ourselves, we visited the game arcades to play the UFO catcher almost every night. We really relish the experience and first class service from the polite Japanese staff. They cheered us on and helped us rearrange the toys in the cabinet so that we can pick it up easily and even whistle and congratulate us heartily when we managed to catch the toy! They would immediately give us a bag and bowed! We would not receive such excellent service back home!
5. Osaka Castle1-1 Osakajo, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan. Exit 9 of Tanimachi 4-chrome subway station or Exit 1, Morinomiya subway station or Exit 1, Osaka Business Park station. Closest JR station is the Osakajokoen station (JR Loop Line). Admission fee: 600 yen (free with Osaka pass). Opens from 9 am to 5 pm.
The Morinomiya station exit will lead you directly to the Osaka Castle Park. The castle is located in the Osaka Castle Park and the gardens surrounding the castle is especially beautiful to behold during the Sakura season.
The castle is magnificent with its glided gold and green roof and surrounded by a large moat. There are lots of artefacts, exhibits and replicas on display with interesting historical information that will engage any historical buffs. The entire Osaka Castle complex has been designated to be a special national historical site.
6. Spa World3-4-24 Ebisu-higashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 556-0002, Japan. Exit 5 of Doubutsuenmae station of the Midosuji line or get off at JR Shinimamiya station, near the East exit. Admission fee: 2700 yen on weekdays & 3000 yen on weekends for adults (900 yen with Osaka pass). Overnight stay tickets are also available. Open 24/7 all year round.
A trip to Japan would not be complete without onsen (hot springs). There are sauna, onsen, jacuzzis at Spa World and also public pools, slides and playing area on the 8th floor where you need to wear your swimming attire. Upon paying the entrance fee, we were given a bracelet which is used to purchase food and services inside the facility. At the locker room (segregated areas for men and women), you need to remove all clothing and from there you need to be comfortable in your own skin as you would be walking around stark naked, albeit with a small towel to cover up as you move around the different areas. It is recommended to shower first at the shower area with the shampoo and soap provided before entering the onsen and never go into the onsen with your towel on, as it is considered impolite in Japan. The small towel should be left by the edge of the water as well.
The “salt sauna” was a nice experience as my skin felt so soft and smooth after the salt exfoliation and do take a sitting pad outside the sauna room before entering. The month that I went happen to be the European zone for the women’s floor (alternate with Asian zone at the men’s floor). I also tried their spa (pay with the wrist band first) just to pamper myself and felt most rejuvenated after more than 2 hours of spa and onsen in all kinds of pools with proclaimed health benefits. It can be quite unnerving to be walking around naked but I realised that the Japanese don’t really look at you and everyone is just minding their own business. For more information, visit their website here.
7. Tennoji Zoo1-108 Chausuyamacho, Tennojiku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 543-0063, Japan. Exit 1 of Doubutsuenmae station. Admission fee: 500 yen (free with Osaka pass). Close at 5 pm.
We came here because it is free with the Osaka pass and we love to visit zoos from different countries. However, the experience was not what we expected as the zoo was small, not well maintained and the enclosures were cramped and filthy. The animals do not look like they were a happy lot. Nevertheless, we spent a long time looking at the red pandas running frantically around in their enclosures. This average zoo is only worth visiting if you have lots of free time.
8. Umeda Sky Building or Floating Garden1-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 531-0076, Japan. 10-15 mins walk from Osaka station (JR West) and Umeda stations of Hankyu and subway Midosuji line. Admission fee: 700 yen (free with osaka pass), opens 10-10 pm.
The open air viewing platform on the 40th floor offers a great view of Osaka and lovers can buy a padlock and seal their commitments at the Lumi deck, reminiscent of N Seoul tower but less impressive. The entrance ticket can be purchased at the 39th floor.
The basement of the building has a replica of an old Japanese street of the early Showa period and we bought delicious pudding-like muachi there (cannot be kept too long). By the way, there is no garden in this “floating garden”.
9. Hep 5 ferris wheel5-15 Kakudacho, Kita-ku, Hep Five Mall, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Walk from subway Umeda station of Midosuji line or JR Osaka station. Admission fee: 500 yen (free with Osaka pass), opens 11 am to 1045 pm.
I know it’s another ferris wheel during the same trip but I just love to ride in them even though I have acrophobia. Situated at the 7th floor of Hep 5 shopping centre, this stylish, bright red ferris wheel is really outstanding from afar. As it was raining, we couldn’t really see far outside. It would be a good idea to take the ride only if you are tired from all the shopping or you happen to buy the Osaka pass and have some free time to spare. We went to a cafe in Hep 5 and tried to order one ice cream sundae (we are trying to save money!) and the waitress politely told us that we cannot sit inside if we didn’t order at least 2 items for 2 persons.
10. Mount Rokko & Kobe Harbourland
From Sannomiya Station, take the Hankyu Kobe Line to Rokko Station (7 minutes, 190 yen), and take bus number 16 (10 mins ride) to the base station of the Rokko Cablecar (it is a long & steep railway). Bus 16 can also be boarded at JR Rokkomichi Station (15 minutes) or Hanshin Mikage Station (25 minutes) and costs 210 yen from any of the three stations. The cablecar ride up Mount Rokko costs 590 yen one way or 1000 yen for a round trip (10 mins).
This is the highlight of our trip where we get to enjoy panoramic views of Kobe, Osaka and the port in between, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It feels great to breathe in fresh mountain air and visit the various tourist attractions and souvenir shops at the mountain away from the crowds. The attractions in Mount Rokko includes the Rokko Garden Terrace, botanical garden, a music box museum, golf course, a pasture with sheeps and beautiful flowers, a handful of restaurants, shops and an observation deck.
A circular bus line (running in clockwise direction only) connects these attractions with Rokko Cablecar to Central Kobe and the Rokko Arima Ropeway to Arima Onsen.
We ended the night with a lovely stroll around the beautiful Kobe Harbourland.
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