Osaka, Japan’s ‘second city’, is famed for its street food scene, neon-lit roads and parks packed with beautiful cherry blossom trees. If you haven’t been yet, now’s the perfect time to get it ticked off that ever-expanding bucket list. Why? With the Rugby World Cup hitting Japan in September this year, and Osaka being one of the 12 cities chosen to host games, before you know it the city will be flooded with tourists. Furthermore, getting there has become easier, with British Airways recently launching direct flights to Osaka from London, eliminating the need for lengthy layovers.
Whether you decide to spend a couple of weeks getting to know the ancient temples and art galleries of Osaka, or you combine your visit with the bright lights of Tokyo or the idyllic hot springs of Sapporo, here are the Flexicover team's top tips to help you make the most of Osaka before the rugby-mad crowds arrive.
Planning your trip
Osaka is temperate all year round so there’s no time when visiting is a bad idea, but summer is ideal if you want to experience a heady blast of heat as well as a different culture. August is the hottest month, when temperatures hit a pleasing 33C - warm enough to leave your cardie at the hotel without worry. To get around, Japan's rail network is famously efficient. If you're planning on doing a lot of sightseeing around Osaka it's worth looking into a Regional Pass, which gives all-in transportation to foreign visitors at a reasonable price. For example, a five-day rail and bus pass for the Kansai-Hiroshima area (which includes Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima) is £91.
What to do
Spend a morning exploring Nakanoshima: a narrow sandbank packed with art galleries, museums and parks. Go local for lunch at Kuromon Ichiba Market where vendors flog shellfish and fresh produce as well as souvenirs. Take a lazy afternoon stroll in the charming Nishinomaru Garden or head to the shopping district, Nipponbashi, to explore the country’s famous high-tech stores and manga scene. When evening hits go straight for the glitzy, neon-lit Dotonbori district where there are a plethora of restaurants and shows to choose from. If you have a day spare, or just really love US films, Universal Studios Japan is based here too.
What to see
Most of Osaka’s attractions are in the city centre which means it’s super easy to make the most of your time there. Start at Osaka Castle, a vertiginous fairytale building constructed in eye-catching Japanese style, before taking a stroll in the surrounding park. For a bird’s eye view of the colourful port city, ascend to the observation deck of the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower, before heading to the third century Sumiyoshi-taisha shrine and the first century Shitennoji Temple to soak up some ancient Japanese history. For a quirky tick on your bucket list aim to conquer Mount Tenpo: Japan’s lowest mountain has an elevation level of less than five metres.
Where to stay
For Japanese-style accommodation with all the mod cons try Nono Namba Hotel, located close to Dotonbori and just a short stroll from Kuromon Market. One perk of staying here is the free ramen, served every night. Fancy staying in the lap of five-star luxury? The sumptuous St Regis Osaka is located at the heart of Midosuji, Osaka’s famously beautiful road, putting you in the perfect position for exploring the city. With a luxury spa and a 12th-floor terrace from which to take in the view this is certainly one of Osaka’s most relaxing accommodation options. For a more economical family-friendly choice consider the recently-renovated Art Hotel Osaka Bay. The rooms are stylish, there’s a 24-hour front desk and Bentencho Station is directly accessible making it super easy to traverse the large city.
What to eat
Osaka is known as ‘tenka no daidokoro’ - or ‘the nation’s kitchen’ - so if you’re a bit of a foodie you’re in the right city. Start your gastronomy journey on the streets with a plate of takoyaki, a fried mixture of octopus, batter, ginger, veggies and spices, which is arguably Osaka’s most famous food. Another street food staple is okonomiyaki, which is a savoury pancake made of flour, egg, cabbage and meat. Of course you can’t visit Japan without trying some sushi and in Osaka ehomaki is on the menu. This local sushi roll consists of eel, egg, pickled gourd and mushrooms – one to write home about.
Wherever you plan on heading to on your travels it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.