Monday, January 17, 2011

Backpacking Japan: From Tokyo to Osaka
We took the eight-hour overnight bus from Tokyo Station to Osaka Station on Willer Express .  Do check out their site for details, the bus stop is about two blocks away from Tokyo Station.  It's a bus stop, not a station.  There's no visible sign on the bus stop, some ladies in apron will be there 30 minutes before boarding to check the manifest.  The bus ride costs at least 4,700 yen.  The seats were fairly comfortable with head cover like the one on the right.  We left Tokyo at midnight and arrived Osaka past 8 in the morning.  We found ourselves in the middle of racewalking locals, apparently, it was the subway rush hour.  So we decided to have breakfast in a cafe til the crowd was lesser.

Around Osaka, we took the two-day unlimited pass for 2,700 yen which comes with a guide book.  It's an unlimited subway pass with free vouchers to selected attractions.  We took advantage of the free entrance to HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel and Sta. Maria Ferry around the bay area.  For more information, check out

Tip:  When changing lines, the size of the white intersecting dots or lines on the subway map somehow depicts the distance between two lines.  Little did we know that when the intersecting dot appeared longer like a rectangle (see example: Yotsobashi and Shinsaibashi intersection below), it took us 15 minutes walk to get to the next line.  In that case, you might opt to change lines on the next stop where you need not walk too far to change lines.

We checked-in U-en Guesthouse in Osaka.  It's about 10 minutes walk from the subway station, with a convenience store nearby, a few restaurants blocks away but generally nothing much to see in the neighborhood.  On tatami mats, 3 to 4 persons will share a room for 2,400-3,100 yen per person. Bathroom is common and small, the rooms and the place in general is quite cramped and smells fishy.  I do not highly recommend the place.

Osaka's two major city center are Minami (South) around Namba Station and Kita (North) around Umeda Station.

  • Minami (South), around Namba Station

There's a good selection of restaurants in Namba Subway Station.  Here, we had a good serving of ramen, Gyu-nabe and Sukiyaki on different occasions.

Namba is the city's famous shopping and entertainment district but we already emptied our pockets in Tokyo.

Instead, we found ourselves sitting over a cup of coffee in UCC.  Except for words "cold" and "hot", their menu didn't have any english in it.  How do you say frappuccino or mocha or cappuccino in Japanese?  I didn't have that on my list!  You can't tell by the few pictures on the menu either. What a dilemma, so we made a wild guess and made a good one, it's nothing like the ones served here, I've never tasted coffee that great!

  • Kita, around Umeda Station

While some friends opted to go shopping, we went up Hep Five Ferris Wheel for Osaka city view.  The view was so so but it was cool to be able to plug in your ipod on the ferris wheel!  We also would have wanted to see the Umeda Sky Building but dismayed by the thought that it will take another 30 minute walk to get there.

  • Bay Area
Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan)
Hours: 10:00 to 20:00 (entry until 19:00)
Admission: 3400 yen
Kiayukan's feature attraction is a massive tank that holds 5,400 tons of water, making it one of the world's largest tanks.  I've been to the aquariums of San Francisco, Bangkok, and Singapore, but nothing compares to the collection of different pelagics although they may not be much in numbers (per specie).  I'm a diver but it was my first to see such huge manta ray, sunfish (bola-bola) and tiger shark.  All the different species of shark was there including three whale sharks!  Twas worth the visit.

  • Onsen

  • National Museum of Art
After missing out on one of the famous landmark of Osaka, Umeda Sky Building (Floating Garden Observatory) as featured on our flight with Cebu Pacific's smile magazine, we went for a quick look at the facade of the National Museum of Art knowing it's closed on Mondays.

Because of it's design, the National Museum of Art is dubbed as if an alien landed in the middle of the city.

  •  Kansai Airport
    After seeing the Megastructure feature of National Geographic about Kansai Airport, it appears to be an interesting one to be in.  Although it's interior are plain and simple, and generally outdated (my expectation was too high).  If you're looking for Royce and those flavored KitKats like cherry blossom, wasabe and green tea, you can find them at the airport's duty free shops.
    flavored KitKat

    Depending on your budget and time, there are a couple of options to take from Osaka City Center to Kansai Airport.  However, taking a Taxi is not recommended since the airport is located 50kms away and would costs about 14,000 yen. Our tour director opted for:
    Nankai Airport Express
    About 900 yen, 45 minutes to Namba
    Departures every 30 minutes
    It is the cheaper but slower alternative to the Rap:t trains.  These stop more frequently and can become crowded during rush hours.  It wasn't rush hour, so we were totally fine with it.  Some friends who flew out earlier in the day during rush hour, swear that it was really crowded and warned that even before the door opens, one should hold on to your luggage and rush in, the doors close immediately with no warning.  He literally had to dive into door when it was closing unexpectedly.

    For more information about access to Kansai Airport, check out or

    For more information going around Osaka, sidetrip to Kyoto and Nara, check this out.

    Backpacking Japan for 10 days was exhausting, yet was an experience to beat! :)


    jing said...

    Hi! Thanks for your helpful posts on Japan.

    I was considering a Willer Bus Pass since it's a much cheaper option than a Rail Pass. Were you able to sleep through the ride? How was it the day you arrived? Did you feel more exhausted?

    freeze said...

    hi jing, the willer overnight bus was quite comfortable. I'm a light sleeper so overnight buses aren't exactly for me.

    If budget is a concern and you can easily sleep anywhere, I recommend that you opt for these overnight buses. It saves you the cost of hotel and also travel time.

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