The last stop on my Japan itinerary is Osaka with a day trip to Nara. We didn’t expect much of Osaka to be completely honest, the feedback we got from most people before we went was that there wasn’t much to do. Sometimes though, you have to experience things for yourself to make your own opinion, and we actually very much enjoyed our time in the Osaka area!
Brace yourself! This post is a long one but I just couldn’t select the pictures! I was so happy with most of them I wanted to share them all!
Day 1 – Osaka Castle and Osaka city centre
We arrived in Osaka from Hiroshima mid-morning and dropped our luggage in one of the station’s lockers as it was a little too early to check-in at our Airbnb. Once our luggage stored in a safe place, we headed to the top of the station for an unspoiled view of the Umeda building.
After a quick lunch, we then headed to Osaka castle. A beautiful monument from the 16th century, which (fun fact), like many other Japanese landmarks, burnt and was rebuilt a couple of times.
The grounds of the castle are absolutely beautiful too and very much worth visiting.
Make sure to take a moment to reflect at Hōkoku Shrine and relax in the sun in the plum grove.
After an afternoon of contemplation, we headed to our Airbnb to check-in and out to explore Osaka city centre. One thing we didn’t expect is how lively and busy Osaka is. If you are looking to go out and have some fun, Dotonbori is definitely the place!
That is where you will also find the famous Glico Man.
We explored the area for a while and took a little bit of time to appreciate the rather creative shop signs before finding a place for dinner. I highly recommend Tsurugyu where we had the some of the best wagyu beef we ever had!
Not sure where to stay in Osaka? Here are some suggestions.
Day 2 – Nara
A day trip to Nara is a must on any Japan first-timer’s itinerary! The place is absolutely gorgeous and will give you a welcome break from the city. There are two ways to fit Nara on your itinerary, you can either go from Osaka (about 45 minutes on the train) or from Kyoto (about 35 minutes on the express train).
On our arrival in Nara, we were greeted by greedy furry friends, like on Miyajima island, deer made Nara very much their home.
We decided to visit Nara by doing a big loop around the park, entering next to the prefectural building where we saw the last signs of the Cherry Blossom.
We then headed to Nandaimon gate, the very impressive gate to Tōdai-Ji shrine. The pictures don’t do it justice and the structure is truly gigantic in real life.
We then headed toward Tōdai-Ji main building.
The place was extremely busy and a lot of Japanese people were wearing their beautiful traditional outfits in honour of the Golden Week.
Inside Tōdai-Ji you will find the giant Buddha, which is, well… giant!
Take a little moment to watch people pray, draw and follow various traditions.
Once outside Tōdai-Ji, we headed toward the west of the park to quieter alleyways where we visited various shrines before stopping for a picnic.
As I mentioned in previous posts, we missed Japan Cherry Blossom by ten days. What we didn’t miss on the other hand is wisteria season, and there is no better place than Kasuga Taisha to see it.
A purple ceiling surrounded by the brightest red walls.
We then headed back toward the station with a last swing to the tall, dark and handsome pagoda.
Oh! One last tip before you go! Make sure to head to the top of Nara’s prefectural office for unspoiled panoramic views of the park!
We ran into a few last furry friends bending to say goodbye (you read that right, deer in Japan have learned to bend like humans) before heading back to Osaka for the night.