We used our 7 Day JR Pass to take the train on the Osaka Loop Line from Shin-Osaka Station to Osaka Namba Station. We walked to the busiest street in Osaka- Dontoburi. Be sure to visit Dotonburi both during the day and night as each possess its own crowds and feels. If you want to experience the juiciness and tenderness of premium beef like Kobe beef, there is a restaurant tucked into the alleys of Dontoburi that serves Matsusaka steak. We wandered around the Black Gate Market(Kuromon Ichiba) and Ebisubashi Shopping street, played some arcade games in Taito Game Station(ubiquitous in cities around Japan) afterwards and ended our night back in Dontoburi.
Even though we only spent a day here, this itinerary reads more like something you would do on Day 2 of your visit–this is mainly because we have already been to Osaka once before and visited the obvious attractions such as Osaka Castle and didn’t feel the need to do it again. On the other hand, we enjoyed Dotonbori so much the first time we were here that we had to come back again!
See & Do
- Osaka Namba Station & OCAT Building: This is the main JR terminal for the Namba area of Osaka–the trip here via JR is somewhat roundabout but it’s a good way to save a few bucks if you have a JR pass. We ran into the annual OCAT Dance Competition and watched a few of the competitors practice their well choreographed moves–meticulous attention to detail is a noticeably recurring theme for most visitors to Japan. Rating: 4/5
- Love Hotels: Walking to Dotonbori from the Namba station will lead you through the Love Hotel area of Osaka. There are some delightfully odd themed hotels, i.e. Roman themed, Miyazaki Themed, etc. We saw a Ferrari parked at a hotel with its license plate blocked–obviously someone rich and powerful, though I doubt the efficacy of blocking the license plate. I mean, how many Ferraris could there possibly be in Osaka? Rating: 5/5
- Kuromon Ichiba: The Black Gate Market–mainly popular with Chinese tourists and the elderly, it seems. Famous for its soy sauce, live Fugu fish, and expensive fruits (¥780 for a mango? Seriously). We got here a little later in the day so it was somewhat quiet. Perhaps visiting earlier in the morning would entail a few more people roaming the streets. Rating: 4/5
- Ebisubashi Shopping Street: A small covered street with plenty of shops all around that connects the Dotonbori area with the more “downtown” area–definitely a lot more active than the Black Gate Market at this time of day. Plenty of places to grab dessert and other snacks. Rating: 4/5
- Taito Game Station: The first of many arcade visits on our trip–arcades in Japan mostly seem to follow a similar style: A 4-7 story building where the first floor has all the crane games, and as you continue going up you will go through a few floors with kids games, multiplayer card games, music/beat games, and occasionally fighting games. It seems that online multiplayer games have become a huge focus of arcades these days since the last time we were here–we tried a few different games and discovered the rhythm game Jubeat here (Jukebeat in the US), a game that we would play many more times before heading home to the US (where we then found the game available for the iPad and continued playing!). ¥100 for each game. Rating: 4/5
- Dontonburi: Probably the most famous street in Osaka, filled to the brim with small restaurants serving the Osakan specialties of Takoyaki (Octopus Dumpling) and Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake/pizza). We took the requisite tourist picture of ourselves in front of the Glico running man and the canals, then aimlessly wandered the streets for a while. Rating: 5/5
Eat & Drink
- Matsusaka Beef BBQ: Matsusaka beef is one of the premium beef cuts available in Japan–considered even better than the internationally famous Kobe Beef. It’s extremely expensive, so we went in for the ¥2500 lunch special which included premium cuts of beef, sauce, rice, and a salad. Throw a beer in there for another ¥600 and you have a great deal for a once in a lifetime meal. Lunch specials in Japan are pretty great, and make sure you take full advantage of them if you’re a tourist–I’m pretty sure dinner here would have required us to hand over some sort of collateral to our bank before we could afford it, all for the same exact food. Rating: 5/5
- Kinryu Ramen: Roadside ramen vendor of which there are several all around Osaka (possibly all around Japan?). We popped a few coins into the ordering machine, grabbed a bowl and slurped it down in a matter of minutes. Note: The chefs cook the meat for precisely 38 minutes, not one minute more or less. Around ¥600 for a bowl of ramen depends on the number of toppings you add. Rating: 4/5
- Grilled Crabs outside Kani Doraku: Ate some grilled crabs on Dotonbori while wearing the crab crown. No fishy taste to the seafood around here, it’s super-fresh. Walking while eating is considered a bit rude, though I don’t know how much people really care in Osaka/Dotonbori. Still, do as the locals do: find some shade nearby and enjoy your food while standing, and dispose of it when done. Otherwise you risk holding garbage and leftover fish for hours as you’ll never find another garbage can again. Ever. Around ¥800 for a pack two huge crab legs. Rating: 3/5
- Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki from CREO-RU: This restaurant has a very interesting pen ordering system where you tap the item you want on the menu and the wait staff will bring it out. We couldn’t really figure it out on our own at first, but after being shown how it works we were able to order Takoyaki (Octopus Dumplings- ¥800 for 12 of them), Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), and a few draft beers. The takoyaki here is the best I’ve had so far and a nice bonus is the view of the canal. Annoyingly enough, half of the patrons here are smoking, so you get a some free burned tobacco seasoning for your food–something we had to get used to throughout our Japan travels. Rating: 4/5
- Shin Osaka Washington Hotel Plaza: We weren’t expecting too much from this little business hotel near the Shin-Osaka train station, but it turned out to be a pretty convenient base for our trips out to Summer Sonic and the Namba District. It isn’t quite in the heart of the action, but there was definitely a lot of value in being near Shin-Osaka station. The room itself was a bit small as is normal for Japanese hotels, but extremely clean and comfortable, and there is a convenience store next door as well as a bunch of 24 hour restaurants just a few minutes walk away. $276 for two nights. Rating: 5/5