Travelling is officially back, and judging from our Instagram feeds, Japan has got to be one of the top destinations for Singaporeans since its borders opened late last year — which means you’ve probably got an upcoming trip too. If you’re planning on travelling to Osaka, and its nearby cities, here’s a handy guide for the best things to do and places to stay, made easy with online travel brand, Expedia.
The highly-convenient platform is a haven if you’re a serial booker, that is, you like to make advanced bookings on hotels, travel services, activities and more way beforehand, in order to have a stress-free time while on your actual trip. Download the Expedia app and sign up as a member, and you’ll even get access to Expedia Rewards, where you may enjoy Member Prices such as savings worth 10% or more on select hotels, and other benefits. The app even has a cool feature that allows you to opt in to price tracking and receive notifications if the price of your selected flight goes up or down, helping you to better plan when to book.
Ahead, we’ve picked some of the best recommendations, for your ultimate convenience of course.
THINGS TO DO
1. Osaka Amazing Pass
If you’ll be in Osaka for a day or two, then the Osaka Amazing Pass is a must-get, simply because you’re entitled to great savings and includes entry to some of the most popular attractions around town!
The list of iconic landmarks is extensive, and includes the historical Osaka Castle, its museum and the surrounding gardens; the Osaka Tennoji Zoo; several of the city’s museums such as the National Museum of Art, Osaka; and the sprawling Nagai Botanical Gardens that’s filled with beautiful blooms. You might also want to ride a giant ferris wheel, or go on a cruise on the famous Tombori River.
On top of that, the Osaka Amazing pass also gives unlimited use of the Osaka subway, tramway, and bus network within those 1 or 2 days that the pass is activated, along with a guidebook and coupons for special offers and discounts at shops and restaurants in Osaka.
More information on the Osaka Amazing Pass here.
2. Osaka Walking Tours & Food Tours
For an authentic way to make your way around Osaka, and experience that iconic Dotonbori canal and street like a local, you can always do a walking tour. Cover the best parts of Osaka in 3 hours, while walking through nostalgic areas with a local guide, and getting to indulge in Kushikatsu, a local delicacy of fried skewers. A picture at the Glico Running Man sign, albeit a little touristy, is definitely a highlight!
$70/adult. More information on the Osaka Walking Tour here.
If you’re more of a foodie and would love to deep-dive into more local delights, opt for this Osaka Dotonbori Daytime Food Tour by Arigato Japan, which explores back alleys and small local shops — 4 in total! — along with a drink and traditional Japanese dessert. Being with a local guide takes a lot of the guesswork out of your day, especially with limited stomach space, while you get to eat like a local in a region known for being ‘Japan’s Kitchen’.
The 3-hour tour starts with a walk through the busy Dotonbori thoroughfares, before a detour to some lesser-known but amazing hidden finds, including a Michelin-rated street food stop that serves hot and piping Takoyaki, a place where you get to sample Kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), before settling down for lunch at an Izakaya where you can eat to your heart’s content. Having these places planned ahead of time also means you’ll save time on queuing!
$198/adult. More information on the Osaka Dotonbori Daytime Food Tour here.
3. Universal Studios Japan
Travelling with overactive kids, or perhaps you’re an adult with a wild imagination? A fun day out at Universal Studios Japan is sure to be as exciting as it can possibly get, and is a major reason why people travel to Osaka.
The world-class theme park is home to everything from thrilling roller coasters to dizzying teacup rides, and plays host to unique themed worlds such as Jurassic Park, Minion Park, and two of their most popular attractions, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the newly-opened Super Nintendo World. Anime fans would also appreciate the annual Universal Cool Japan event, running now till the start of July, which debuts rides from JUJUTSU KAISEN and SPY X FAMILY.
Pro tip: be sure to stay in a hotel as close to the theme park as possible (see our recommendation below), especially if you intend to cover Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Entering the park early will make it easier for you to enjoy them, since there are limited access quotas for these two popular zones.
4. Kimono Rental
Here’s an Instagram-worthy way to explore the city — put on your kimono and clogs, and head out! The kimono rental space at Wafuku Sakura is an experience in itself, as you get to choose from a wide selection of patterns and designs before getting dressed from head-to-toe, complete with your vest, sash, sash band, socks, shoes, and a cute little bag you can tout around.
$44/adult. More information on the Osaka Kimono Rental here.
5. Day trip to Kyoto — A Full Day Bus Tour OR Custom Kyoto Walking Tour
While in Osaka, many people make it a point to spend some time in Kyoto too, since it’s a speedy 15-minutes away via Shinkansen. If you love cultural sights, and just soaking in the slowed-down, zen-like atmosphere of a place, Kyoto, formerly the capital of Japan, has lots of imperial palaces and Shinto shrines that might be up your alley.
You can do a Full Day Bus Tour that conveniently brings one to all the highlights of the town, from the Golden Pavilion or ‘Kinkaku-ji’, one of the most famous UNESCO sites in Japan, to the calming bamboo groves of Arashiyama, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine, known for its 10,000 bright vermillion torii gates. The tour further includes a trip to Nara, where one gets to enter the biggest wooden building on earth, the Todai-ji Temple, while also stopping by Nara Park to feed the world’s most polite deers.
$101/adult. More information on the Kyoto and Nara 1 Day Bus Tour here.
Then again, we do understand if you’d prefer a more unhurried experience while on holiday. If a 1-day bus tour sounds too intimidating for you, try a custom walking tour once you’re in Kyoto, where you get to tailor your itinerary according to your interests. Here, you are paired with a private English-speaking guide for about 8 hours, while a team will assist you on preparing your itinerary and making all necessary bookings beforehand.
You may opt for popular sights such as Kinkaku-ji and Arashiyama, similar to the tour mentioned above, though there are other worthy places to explore when in Kyoto. Top-of-mind locations include the beautiful Kiyomizu-dera, or Pure Water Temple, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a walk through Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district; and Nishiki Market, where you can find street food stores and small restaurants serving authentic Japanese fare.
$432/traveller. More information on the Private & Custom Kyoto Walking Tour here.
WHERE TO STAY
1. At Osaka — near Dōtonbori
Hotel Nikko Osaka
A room with a view, and a modern hotel that’s a stone’s throw away from Osaka’s most famous street. Count us in! This brilliant find features a whole host of rooms, from a Standard Single for solo travellers, Superior Double for couples, all the way to premium rooms and suites if you’re looking for a generous view of Osaka’s cityscape.
What really enticed us though is its prime location. Hotel Nikko Osaka is connected to a nearby shopping centre, and located in the Shinsaibashi neighbourhood, where Shinsaibashi Station is just 2 minutes away. You’ll also be close to Dotonbori canal and street, where the world-famous Glico Sign resides, as well as Hozenji-Yokocho Alley, that’s home to traditional stalls and restaurants.
More information on Hotel Nikko Osaka here.
2. At Universal Studios Japan — less than 0.5km away from the theme park
The Park Front Hotel — Universal Studios Japan
There’s a bit of old-world charm to this 3.5-star hotel, but for the highly-important benefits of spacious rooms and the ultimate convenience if you’re visiting Universal Studios Japan, especially with kids in tow, then The Park Front Hotel is the place to be. It’s as literally-named as possible, but apt considering that it’s just a 2-min walk to USJ, and a 5-min walk from Universal CityWalk Osaka, an entertainment and shopping complex just outside the theme park.
Most of the rooms seem to be big enough for at least 4 people too, which is perfect if you’re bunking in as a family or couple of close friends. Imagine, waking up in the morning and simply walking over to be first in line at the USJ park entrance!
More information on The Park Front Hotel here.
3. At Kyoto — a charming ryokan
Hokkaikan Ohababo — Kyoto
Whether it’s your first time or nth time at Japan, a stay at a charming ryokan is a must! This is an authentic cultural experience that’s a departure from the typical houses we’re used to in Singapore, thanks to the unique architecture of the historical building and its tranquil garden, as well as indoor features such as tatami mats, sliding paper screens, low wooden tables, and futons — you’ll find all these and more at this amazing property in Kyoto.
Hokkaikan Ohanabo is located in Central Kyoto, and just a 5-min walk from Kyoto Station, making it highly attractive if you’re considering a couple of nights in the country’s historic city. The ryokan experience is all about achieving a zen-like respite too, hence you’re welcome to a multi-course kaiseki meal that can be provided on the property, or a relaxing soak at their onsen.
More information on Hokkaikan Ohanabo here.
EXPEDIA REWARDS MEMBERS
With all these advanced bookings one has to make long before the trip, it definitely helps if you can do it all on one platform in order to unlock rewards, and points that bring us more rewards! Expedia is a reliable one-stop shop where you can book everything from flights and hotels to car rentals, holiday packages, as well as attractions and tours, without having to navigate away from the website.
Signing up as a member will allow you access to Expedia Rewards, where you may enjoy Member Prices such as savings worth 10% or more on select hotels. With every eligible flight, hotel, and activity you book, you also collect Trip Elements, which bring you towards the next Expedia Rewards tier that unlocks new perks at each level.
The Expedia Rewards tiers are as follows:
- BLUE — Gain immediate access to savings: an extra 10% or more on select hotels, plus earn points on eligible bookings, and get double points* when booking on the app.
- SILVER — Collect 10 Trip Elements in a year to reach Silver. You’ll earn 2 points for every S$1 you spend on eligible bookings and may enjoy a perk, like free breakfast or spa credits where available at VIP Access™ properties.
- GOLD — Collect 25 Trip Elements in a year to make it to Gold. You’ll earn 3 points for every S$1 you spend on eligible bookings, and may enjoy late checkout and free room upgrades when available at VIP Access™ properties.
Be an Expedia Rewards member here.
*Bonus point offers are calculated on the base points earned for an eligible booking only and are not calculated on any bonus points earned for being Silver or Gold members, or otherwise.
To plan your next trip, visit Expedia.com.sg.
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