Saturday, 31 January 2015

What to do and eat in Osaka, and staying in Hotel Monterey Osaka

Osaka is a great place to stay if you intend to make day trips to other interesting cities in the area. We stayed in Osaka for 5 days and made 3 day trips to Kyoto, Nara, and Nagoya using our JR Pass. If you do not intend to visit the other cities, you would probably be done with Osaka in 2 days. There are stuff to see and do, but just not as much as Tokyo.

Hotel Monterey Osaka

Staying in Hotel Monterey Osaka was good. Location was perfect, being a short walking distance from the Sakurabashi exit of Osaka station. Osaka station is your gateway to the Umeda area, dotted with large departmental stores and interesting little streets. 

However, it takes a lot of work if you are heading to the Sakurabashi exit because there are no escalators, and you have to lug your luggage down flights of stairs to reach the exit. Upon reaching the Sakurabashi exit, cross the road and walk through Umesan Kouji (梅三小路). You will reach Hearton Hotel first, and Hotel Monterey Osaka is the next hotel on your left. 

Hotel Monterey Osaka is decorated in European fashion, complete with vintage lifts and a chapel.

The room is small and the closet is smaller, which was the reason why we draped our coats on the chair. But the bed was comfortable and clean.

What to do in Osaka

Shop at Umeda (Osaka Station): There is Yodobashi with many floors of electronic items before a few floors of small boutiques. There are the usual Hankyu, Hanshin, Daimaru and Isetan. There is so HEP Five with cute little boutiques and a large ferris wheel. Take the ferris wheel if you have the time! It offers a fantastic view of the Umeda area for 500 yen (approximately SGD 5). 

Walk around Dotonburi (Namba Station): Dotonburi is the Osaka highlight for me. Bustling streets filled with loads of street food, interesting little shops, and of course, Glico man, and the large crab sign! I was very happy to be at Dotonburi, walking along the streets with the colorful neon signs, braving the gusts of cold winter winds from the canal, with hot takoyaki and okonomiyaki in my belly.

Shop at Shinsaibashi, Namba: Shinsaibashi is right next to Dotonburi and is a long covered street with boutiques on both sides. The crowd is crazy, so be prepared to squeeze if you intend to drop by. I like shopping in Shinsaibashi because I generally prefer to shop in little streets as compared to departmental stores. The central heating in departmental stores in winter makes me very very sleepy

Visit Osaka Castle (Osakajokoen Station): You have to pay to enter the Osaka Castle, but you don't have to pay to walk around the park surrounding the castle and enjoy the beautiful architecture from outside. The Osaka Castle is beautiful in the day against a bright blue sky, but it is incredible at night when it lights up against a darkening sky. It poured shortly after I took this shot and being caught in the rain in winter is one sad and cold experience. My brother and I were busy navigating and trying to find our way to the nearest station, and thankfully my parents were so patient despite shivering in the cold. My brother was also shaking because it poured while he was devouring a soft serve (hahaha!). I was, perhaps, the only one who could still move my hands, but my phone decided to hang right at the moment. Good job, Note 4. 

Shop at Namba Parks, Namba City: Namba Parks has the usual high street fashion while Namba City has the little shops which I fancy. Not high on my list, but definitely something to do if you are in Namba and love shopping. 

What to eat in Osaka

For what it lacks in things to do, Osaka is a foodie heaven. I love the food in Osaka! 

Eat okonomiayki at Mizuno, Dotonburi: We arrived at about 4:30 pm for our dinner just so we could avoid the queue, and even then, we were the third in line. When we were done with our meal and exited the restaurant at about 6 pm, there was a long snaking queue outside. Lesson learnt: Either come at odd hours, or be prepared to queue.

But all is worth it because the okonomiyaki here is too damn awesome. They prepare the okonomiyaki at the table so you smell just like the okonomiykai you are going to feast on. We ordered 4 of the top 5 items to share and it was really so good. Crispy on the inside, but extremely soft inside. Okonomiyaki goes well with beer so we had a mug each. Ahhhh happiness.

1-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0071, Japan

Eat takoyaki: We did our research and tried the popular ones, but we also tried the tourists trap ones. Frankly, I could not tell the difference. So I would say, just go for whichever takoyaki you see around Dotonburi. They are definitely better than the ones in Singapore. 

Eat Ichiran ramen at Umeda: Inside Higashi-dori Shotengai, which is a street filled with restaurants and pachinko outlets, Ichiran Umeda is like any other Ichiran you find in Japan. Thin ramen noodles in thick pork broth. I would not say it is woah fantastic, but it is definitely hearty comfort food. 

3-13 Doyamacho Kita-ku Osaka-shi Osaka-fu 530-00

Eat pancakes at Butter: This is a bit off the beaten path, and not something most tourists would eat in Osaka. My brother's friend recommended Butter in Umeda, and we went for brunch one morning. Heads up, not the easiest place to find despite using Google Maps and excessive navigation. However, the pancakes were so fluffy that I was immediately glad we came! Butter is located under the train tracks so you would feel the constant vibrations from the trains which added an interesting touch to the place. 

530-0012 大阪市北区芝田1-6-6(阪急梅田駅高架下)

I would go back to Osaka for the food!

For cherry blossom viewing in Osaka, visit here.

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