Our adventure at the “Land of the rising sun” wouldn’t be complete without a magical journey to Hogwarts. Located in Osaka, yes, muggles, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has a branch in Asia, at the third largest city of Japan and known as the “nation’s kitchen” is without question the best place to fill in your Japanese food cravings. Exploring Osaka with a limited time, we muggles, made sure to eat, play and eat again.
Check out our First time guide in Kyoto if you’re up to discovering the ancient capital and cultural heart of Japan. Follow our first 3 days itinerary in Kyoto as we continue our Japan travel exploring Osaka.
We arrived in Namba Station in Osaka, exhausted with our last day in Kyoto, with our handful of luggage while standing almost the entire rush hour train ride. Booked a decent priced apartment in Nipponbashi near Dotonbori. Surprisingly cheaper than Kyoto. It’s a self-check in apartment, so we had an awkward moment going up the building and unlocking our room. What’s great about our apartment is it’s in the heart of Den Den Town, a major shopping destination for anime and manga junkie. There are heaps of interesting sights and shops to check out, including maids cafe, manga and otaku-related goods, Osaka Gundam store, cosplayers on the streets and naughty multi-level adult toy stores. Wow. It never sleeps.
First Day – Den Den Town, Dotonbori, Owl Cafe, Osaka Castle
Den Den Town, Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi
As we stepped out of our Osaka apartment early in the morning, the streets of Den Den Town or Nipponbashi is rising up slowly to a busy day too. Our agenda for the day is exploring Osaka and wander where our feet will take us until we exhaust all our energy. It’s the best way to burn out all the calories we are taking in with this trip plus we get to have beautiful memories while having fun. Did I tell you that while I ate a lot on this trip, I actually lost weight? Must be all the steps I earned. Reason I love Japan.
Dotonbori is the place to be when in Osaka. I don’t know with you, but I think it’s a piece of heaven on earth. I mean, just how many food places are there to try, I’m already salivating just thinking of them food: yakiniku, ramen, sushi, takoyaki, tempura, tonkatsu and so on. Don’t even start me with desserts. I can literally spend an entire day here, eating and shopping. Don’t forget to visit Don Quijote discount store within Dotonbori that’s open 24-hours. Fill all your maximum luggage allowance with cosmetics and Japan goodies, you’ll never regret. Best buy: KitKat Chocolatory!
Walking around Dotonbori, we cross the shopping street to Shinsaibashi. and found Sunset Owl Cafe. You know muggle borns easily falls to this trickery. In search for Hedwig, we decided to check out the cafe.
When in Osaka, it’s hard to missed Osaka Castle when it stands majestically in the midst of the urban cityscape. A five-storey building that showcases subtle intricate patterns and traditional Japanese architecture surrounded by lush gardens and stone walls that dates back to 450 years.
It requires a bit of work going up the steep path to the castle. Our reward for making it to the top:
There’s a magnet that connects me and food. Went back to Dotonbori for Yakiniku dinner time with our relatives and new friends in Osaka. As the night falls, lanterns, eye-catching store signs, as far as the eye can see, lit up the endless street with evening breeze blending in with the unique smell of Japanese gastronomical delights.
Special Thanks to my cousin & fam for the mouthwatering dinner.
I realized how chaotic it was for Japan, taking a toll of being a world-class major tourist destination. I have never seen so many tourists and locals co-existing in one place, and this happens every single day, round the clock.
In shock, I was concerned how locals around the area deals with the massive influx of tourists. I mean when you cross the street or the bridge, you can’t even see the road anymore, you just go with the flow, to where people push you. And Tokyo had it worse.
I can only hope that too much tourism won’t harm Japan’s culture and environment in the future.
Second Day – Universal Studios Osaka
Some hostels offer pocket wifi for a fee to keep your social media circle updated while exploring Osaka. We realized our apartment has one and it’s for free. Too bad we were checking out early so we only got to use it on our first day. Since it’s a self-check out apartment, before heading out to Universal Studios, we left our luggages at the Coin lockers (*Awesome Japanese Invention ever*) conveniently located at the same building where we will be taking a night bus to Tokyo. And off we go to our Hogwarts adventure in full battle gear.
Reading how packed Universal Studios Osaka during weekends and holidays, we timed our visit on a weekday. Fail. The expectations vs. reality is real at one of the most overcrowded places in Japan.
We arrived in style via Hogwarts Express using platform 9 3/4. I reckon this cutie was actually a chocolate frog before.
Welcome to Hogwarts, Wizards wannabees… You must be warned, the portraits are talking and conversing in Japanese. Everything is dubbed in Japanese, but no worries, you will still have the time of your life at the Forbidden Journey.
Where have all the muggles gone? Everyone seemed to be going bananas with the minions.
Although there are way too many visitors here compared to the other theme parks we’ve been to, surprisingly, getting photos with the Universal Studios Characters like Princess Fiona and Shrek, Woody Woodpecker, The Minions, Sesame Street Friends, Hello Kitty, Charlie and more were manageable.
The Minion Park is my fave despite the crowd. The long queue to the ride and attractions are so worth it. We should have gone here first if I’ve forecasted how bonkers the crowd goes on as the day ends.
We got an Express Ticket Pass for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Minion Mayhem and that was the best thing we did. We saved time by skipping the long queues for these two blockbuster attraction.
Of course, we tried out the Butterbeer at Hogsmeade.
As the day comes to an end, the breathtaking sunset sends us off with a beautiful hues of blue, pink, purple and orange. Exploring Osaka has been fun, full of memories and happy tummies.
Osaka to Tokyo by Bus
While doing our Osaka itinerary, I considered a lot of option including taking a flight and a Haruka or bullet train going to Tokyo, but that means to pay for around 130 USD per person for a 3.5 hours ride plus an extra night on our accommodation. I can easily trade that for food or shopping money.
Found out that the most practical solution is to get on a night bus to Tokyo and spend only the same amount for the fare of 2 pax. We first discovered the wonders of night bus trips in Vietnam, and love the experience. So we were ready to try it in Japan. Shortly before midnight, our night bus was cruising to Shinjuku Station. It’s an 8-hours trip and we were able to sleep in a comfortable reclining seats, with privacy curtains.
Ok, not, blame it on the vendees in every corner which sold coffee in all varieties that I over indulge that day, I was half-asleep the whole time. Maybe I was excited? Coz we will be heading straight to Fuji Shibazakura Flower Festival by morning. And I can’t wait to tell you about our Tokyo adventures next.