Was it an airplane or a time machine? Those were my thoughts when lading in Osaka, Japan. It was like travelling through time. After a long flight, I found myself in a country where every corner you turn leads to a new dimension, it reveals secrets of a society that seems to live in the past, present and future all at the same time.
First stop – The present – Osaka
Osaka is the city of the present, where the contrasts between old and new are in harmonious balance. The different rivers that cross the city make Osaka a great place to live. With pleasant walks and trendy little bars scattered along the O-river banks, you will find many things to do.
While walking around the city, you are immediately seduced by a thousand scents of succulent and tasty dishes. Osaka, in fact, is renowned for its famous street food. In lively kiosks along the side of the roads, tireless and friendly cooks prepare all sorts of sweet and savoury delicatessens. The preparation speed and the beautiful decoration of the plates will leave you amazed. Don’t miss out the Takoyaki, small balls of batter with octopus filling which the name “grilled octopus” comes from, and the Okonomiyaki, savoury pancakes filled with meat and vegetables.
In the centre of the city stands the impressive Osaka castle. Initially built in 1583, it was rebuilt several times due to wars and fires. Its peculiarity is that if you see it from far away it looks like it’s floating on the moat water that surrounds it. When night falls, the atmosphere becomes even more magical as the castle lights up with a thousand colours.
Are you curious to see what happens in the network of small hidden alleys of this busy metropolis? Then the Nakazakicho district is what you’re looking for. With a slightly hipster flavour, this district is characterised by small shops and bars where home made, recycled and vintage are the street’s vibes. The Salon de AManTo and the cafe Arabiq are a perfect example.
Osaka, Japan – practical info
Always cash in your pocket
Even if it looks like a modern country, cash is still the major way of payment in Japan. There are very few places where you can pay with credit card, so you better have cash in your pocket. Several ATMs are available in supermarkets and subway stations.
Walking around the city without getting lost
Since most of the signs are in Japanese and rarely translated into English, portable wi-fi is highly recommended. These handy little devices are available to rent from several online companies or you can pick one up directly from the airport upon arrival. You can choose the rental time and the pick-up/drop-off location according to your needs. The service is a bit expensive but I assure you that you won’t regret it.
How to move around Osaka, Japan | trains and subway
Osaka by subway
The best form of transport in Osaka is the subway. In Japan though there are many different subway companies. So if you are planning to buy a daily ticket you may be limited to the subway lines of the company that you purchased your ticket from. The best solution for this is to buy a prepaid card (IC Card) at any subway station and charge it with cash. In this way you can freely move around without having to buy a different ticket every time. A deposit must be paid when you purchase the card and it will be refunded upon return. Do not underestimate this possibility because I can assure you that buying a ticket in several stations is not that simple: some of them have signs only written in Japanese. The fare depends on the travelled distance, so if you buy a single ticket, check the fare of the route first. If you are not sure about the fare don’t worry, you can pay the difference before leaving the exit of the subway’s station.
For foreigners only, there is the possibility to purchase a pass (JRPass) that allows for unlimited used of the Japan Railway company (JR) trains and subways. The service is convenient especially if you intend to use high-speed trains to visit different cities. The pass can only be purchased outside of Japan, so if you want to choose this solution, be prepared.