With the recent busyness of my graduate schoolwork, position change, and adjusting to life as a family of three, it’s been some time since we traveled outside of Korea. During our recent Thanksgiving break, we had a long weekend and decided to check out nearby Osaka, Japan.
We left for the airport right after school and flew on Peach Airlines, a knee jammed, but efficient discount carrier from Incheon (ICN) to Kansai International Airport (KIX). Peach offers great prices for airline tickets across Asia, but charges for the extras (meals, checked luggage, seat preference, etc.). If flying Peach, it’s worth noting you need to print your ticket QR code ahead of time or face the unexpected Ryan-Air –ish fees.
We arrived late on Thursday at KIX, so we took the Airport Express train to Namba station. Between the airport and Namba, the Airport Express takes about 1 hour and costs 920 JPY (approx. 8 USD). We arrived too late to take the Limited Express Rapi:t train, which takes around 30 minutes and costs 1,430 JPY (approx. 13 USD). We arrived at Namba station and after stops at a couple of convenience stores, located our AirBnB nearby. (You can find timetables for both express trains here.)
On Friday, we stopped by Nippombashi and Namba stations to try and find the tourist friendly Kansai One Cards, but they were sold out. Instead, we purchased ICOCA transit cards and made our way to Osaka Castle.
We enjoyed exploring the castle and its grounds. Aside from the crowded inside and top of the central castle building, the grounds were quiet.
The top story of the central castle building had a great view of the city and surrounding mountains. The outside of the building is beautiful, accented by gold and surrounded by maple trees.
We took a couple of hours walking around the castle walls and giant moats. There’s an option to take one of these traditional looking boats through the moat, but we decided to take in the view from land.
Later on Friday, we headed towards the Dotonbori area. This part of Osaka is super crowded as it a hot spot for tourists, shopping, and food. There are several iconic and unique signs on the outside of stores and restaurants.
One of the most recognizable signs is the Glico Running Man by the Ezaki Glico confectionary. According to Rough Guides, the sign is over 70 years old and the area around the sign is a popular gathering spot following sporting victories.
We slurped Ramen for dinner. Surprisingly, few places in Osaka take credit cards, so we exchanged cash so we could place our order in the vending machine outside the restaurant.
I had Miso noodles with Pork. It was rather salty and so delicious!
Later that night, Leah and Emi were tired, so we went back to settle them in for the night. After bedtime routines, I went on the hunt for a good sushi restaurant. I have seen several pictures and videos of conveyor belt sushi restaurants and wanted to give one a try. I headed back towards the Dotonbori area and came across Dotonbori Akaoni, a Michelin endorsed Takoyaki (たこ焼き) street food booth.
Takoyaki is basically a fried dough ball with a small octopus inside. I stumbled upon this literal hole in the wall. I ordered the basic takoyaki with spicy sauce for 500 JPY (about 4.5 USD). It was slightly chewy and had a spicy burn that didn’t quite settle in until a few minutes after.
My hunt for sushi continued by walking through Dotonbori, which proved to be more challenging than during the day. The evening crowds were thick and lively during the dinner rush.
I found Genrokuzushi (Dotonbori), a touristy, but cheap sushi joint. However, the line went about 15 meters beyond the restaurant’s doors, and after not moving in line for 20 minutes, I moved on.
I eventually came to Chojiro in one of the side alleys.
It was fairly affordable and the best quality sushi I’ve had so far. I enjoyed sitting at the conveyor belt and seeing the sushi being made right on the other side of the counter.
My favorite was the avocado tuna. It was so fresh! Another favorite was the Wasabi Tuna. The wasabi was so spicy, it felt like my nostrils were turning inside out!
I loved it so much I brought Leah and Emine back the next night. They gave us our own private room with a sliding door! Either we looked fancy, or it was because of our lively 9-month-old baby (likely the latter). All three of us were exhausted, but enjoyed the fresh sushi (just rice for Emi) followed by matcha ice cream. We ordered with the restaurant’s automated ordering system on an iPad.
Although we only got a small glimpse, we loved the time we spent in Osaka on Friday. We spent most of the day Saturday in Kyoto before our meal at Chojiro. More on our time in Kyoto soon!