Day 1: Osaka
Shinsaibashi, Namba, Dotonburi & Our Cute Airbnb!
Our airport hotel in Korea included free breakfast! We made sure we got up early to go downstairs and have something to eat. They had the regular Western breakfast fixings like cereal, toast, jam, juice, etc. but, of course, they also had Korean food as well! I had kimchi jjigae, rice and a fried egg. Getting back to the airport was fast, but getting through security took a while. Thankfully, we got there with a few minutes to spare before boarding.
Incheon to Osaka was a quick flight, a little over two hours, but they served us a full meal (Again, props to Asiana Airlines.). Getting through immigration and customs in Osaka was a bit of a mess. We were still super jet lagged, so we had a hard time figuring out exactly what they needed on the custom forms. We had to go back and redo them like 4 times, which was our own fault, but we were so tired. It was stressful awkwardly trying to figure out the phone number of the ‘person we were staying with’ since we had an Airbnb, but eventually we figured it out.
We got stopped at customs and they looked through our suitcases. The customs agent asked us if we were bringing any drugs into the country, while showing us a laminated piece of paper with pictures of drugs on it! No, we were not. But they soon realized our suitcases were literally just full of personal items, clothing and makeup products, so we made it through quickly enough.
Before our trip we did some research and found out that the near best exchange rates for USD to Japanese Yen are actually at the Japanese airports themselves, so we converted our cash there. We eventually had to take out more from an ATM, but not until much later in the trip, which I’ll talk about at a later date.
We opted to get 2-week JR rail passes for our trip, which are pricey (about $400 USD, as of this time), but definitely worth the convenience of being able to take almost any JR train without having to buy an actual ticket. You must get your vouchers for the passes before you enter Japan, so make sure to order them about 2-3 weeks before you depart. You can't buy a JR Pass once in Japan! We got ours here. We picked up the actual passes at the station right at the airport. (Lynnette's Note: We used the passes the most in Osaka & Tokyo and very little in Kyoto! You can also take the shinkansen, which can be a huge money and time saver. We did this to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo.)
The JR Haruka express train from Kansai airport to our station in Tennoji took about an hour.
From Tennoji Station, it took some time to orient ourselves and figure out the way to our Airbnb. Luckily, our host’s directions and pictures were very clear. We hadn’t realized yet that GPS on your phone works even if you don’t have WiFi, but we figured that out later.
Also, if you need early check in to your Airbnb, just ask! We asked in advance and the apartment was ready for us when we arrived around 12:30pm, despite the 3pm check-in. Most hosts will say if they offer possible early check-in on the apartment listing.
We love love looovvveedd this Airbnb! The apartment was small, but super cute and, best of all, it had a kotatsu! Honestly, while we were checking out different apartments one of the “must haves” was a kotatsu. Once we were settled, we turned on the heating unit in the kotatsu and we sat under it for a few minutes. It was so cozy that we didn’t want to leave! The apartment came with wifi in the apartment and also a portable pocket wifi, which is the most convenient thing ever! We cannot recommend strongly enough finding a place that provides a pocket wifi or renting one. It made getting around easy, since we had access to our BFF, Google Maps, at all times. There are some free wifi hotspots around, but the convenience of having wifi on your phone anywhere you go is much easier.
Though it was hard to get out from under the kotatsu, we wanted to do some wandering around Osaka before it got too late. We took the train to Namba and walked up to the Shinsaibashi area to do some shopping. The Angelic Pretty store was having a winter sale and Lynnette wanted to go to Aranzi Aronzo. (Lynnette: Where I blew so much money. I've been a huge fan for over 10 years, so while they have other shops in other cities, I had to visit the flagship in Osaka!) We just did a little window shopping and wandered around the area and visited a few cute shrines, too.
It still always amazes me to see all of these small shrines sandwiched in between modern buildings.
We made our way to Dotonburi, which is a super touristy area, but an essential stop if you’ve never been to Osaka before. There were tons of souvenir shops and places to eat but they all had very long lines and it was pretty crowded.
It was hard to decide what we wanted to eat, so it took is way longer than necessary to decide on something. Somehow we ended up in a random mall, where I saw a picture for super fancy looking pancakes and decided I needed to eat pancakes. The waitress told us it would take around 20 to 30 minutes for the pancakes to be made, but boy was it worth the wait!
Quite honestly, the best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life. They were super fluffy, soft and delicious! The ones I had came with a mixed berry jam, granola and vanilla ice cream. Lynnette had a matcha and chocolate one! (Lynnette eats something matcha flavored: part 1.) They were delicious and super satisfying because we were starving at that point.
We did a little more shopping after that, checked out a stationary store, and found a Tower Records so that I could buy the new EXO album. Finally, we were just too worn out and headed back to our Airbnb.
The view from our balcony looking over the park to Shinsekai was amazing!