Where I Went in Japan

My journey-slash-vacation took me to three cities in Japan: Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. Here I talk about the museums, temples, parks, and other tourist attractions on my itinerary. I’ve also included their business hours and how much admission costs, but keep in mind that you might be eligible for certain discounts, or you might get a better deal from a package.

I highly recommend taking the train around Japan. It’s quick, convenient, easy to learn, and much cheaper than taking taxis or using ride hailing apps.

Osaka

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

10:00am – 8:00pm
¥2,300 regular admission
¥2,000 senior citizen
¥1,200 kids 7-15
¥600 kids 4-6
free for kids 3 and under

Standing eight floors high, Kaiyukan is one of the biggest aquariums in the world. It houses all kinds of aquatic animals and some land animals, too. For the best experience, head over there early in the day, especially if you’re going on a weekend. I took the train (Get on the Osaka Metro Chuo Line and alight at the Osakako Station) and got there about 15 minutes before opening. I was allowed to buy my ticket and enter the aquarium even though it wasn’t quite 10:00 yet.

Aquariums are a high-key happy place for me, so I like to go at a leisurely pace. Don’t forget to stop at the interactive area and get up close and personal with some sting rays and sharks – but wash your hands first! Book your tickets ahead of time here.

Kuchu Teien Observatory

9:30am – 10:30pm
¥1,500 regular admission
¥700 kids 4-12
free for kids 3 and under

The Kuchu Teien Observatory offers sweeping views of Osaka from a dizzying height of 173 meters or 39 floors. Brace yourself for the elevator ride to the top. It’s a lot faster than your average elevator. On the 39th floor you will also find some installation art, a cafe, a gift shop, and a small gallery where you can learn more about the history and architecture of the Umeda Sky Building. If you’re taking the train, the nearest drop-offs are the JR Osaka Station and the Umeda Station on the Osaka Metro Midosuji Line or the Hankyu Railway. See the observatory and more attractions with the Osaka Amazing Pass.

Osaka Castle Park

24 hours
no admission fee

Osaka Castle Tower (Museum)

9:00am – 5:00pm
¥600

Osaka Castle Park is a lovely place to bring a packed lunch and dine al fresco. I bought mine from a nearby convenience store. The park is closest to the Tanimachi Yonchome Station, accessible via the Tanimachi and Chuo Lines. If you’re ready for a leg workout, head up to the castle. The Ōsakajō was built in 1583 and has been impressively preserved. Instead of housing royalty, it now serves as a museum, showcasing paintings, scale models, and statues from Osaka’s past. There is also a series of dioramas that combines traditional materials with holograms to tell stories about Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s rise to power. See the Osaka Castle Museum and more attractions with the Osaka Amazing Pass.

Dotonbori

24 hours
no admission fee

If you go to just one place in Osaka, make it Dotonbori. The nearest Japan Rail point is the JR Namba Station on the Yamatoji Line, and for the Osaka Metro, it’s the Namba Station on the Midosuji Line. It’s a lively, colorful place where you can find a huge variety of street food from takoyaki (octopus ball) to yakiniku (barbecued/grilled meat) as well as sit-down restaurants, theaters, and shops. You’ll see larger-than-life three-dimensional signs in the form of puffer fish, crab, and other indicators of what they serve inside. Get ready to “kuidaore” – that is, eat ’til you drop (or go broke)!

Tenjinbashi-suji

10:00am – 9:00pm
no admission fee

Tenjinbashi-suji is the longest shopping street in Japan at 2.6 kilometers – that’s the length of almost three subway stations. You’d be hard pressed to think up something that isn’t for sale somewhere along this street. There are books, souvenirs, collectibles, clothes (both traditional and casual wear), fresh fruits and vegetables, medicine, and even electronics. I didn’t buy much, but what I loved about Tenjinbashi-suji is that most of the shops are local family-owned businesses. You can take the JR Osaka Loop Line there and alight at Temma Station, or take the Osaka Metro Saikisuji Line and alight at either Ogimachi Station, Tenjimbashisuji 6-chome Station, or Minami-morimachi Station.

Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha

24 hours
no admission fee

One of the most recognizable destinations in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, known for its long rows of bright orange torii gates. Inari is the Shinto god of rice whose messengers are believed to be foxes. This is why you’ll find many fox statues in the area. The trail up Mount Inari is not for the faint of heart. It can take up to three hours to get to the peak and back. I made it just past the halfway point before the summer heat got to me and I decided to head back down and rest. To get to Fushimi Inari Shrine, take the JR Nara Line to the JR Inari Station.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

24 hours
no admission fee

Arashiyama is a great place to relax and reconnect with nature. You can take a peaceful walk through the Bamboo Grove for free. The path is wide enough to accommodate people on foot as well as cyclists. If you prefer to take a bike, you can rent one near the train stations. Reach Arashiyama by train on the JR Sagano Line and get down at Saga-Arashiyama Station, or take the Hankyu Railway Hankyu Main Line and get down at Hankyu Arashiyama Station. Depending on where you’re staying, it may be more convenient to take the Kyoto City Bus 28 to the Arashiyama-Tanryjui-mae stop. Alternatively, skip the bus and make it a scenic railway ride. Book your tickets here.

Kyoto Station

5:30am – 11:00pm

  • Some shops and restaurants have different hours

The Kyoto Station is a massive, futuristic building where many journeys around Kyoto start. Inside you can find the thirteen-floor Isetan department store which sells clothes, jewelry, and souvenirs. It also has a restaurant section, Eat Paradise, on the 11th floor, and more food choices on the two basement floors. And that isn’t all the dining Kyoto Station has to offer. Get your ramen fill at Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street) where eight different restaurants sell a regional variety of ramen. Take your time checking out your options, and if you can’t choose one place, plan a trip back to try some more.

Nara

Nara Park

24 hours
no admission fee
¥300 per pack of biscuits for deer

Nara Park is a popular day trip destination for tourists staying in Osaka and Kyoto. The Miyakoji rapid train and local trains stop at the JR Nara Station, which is about a 20-minute walk from Nara Park. If you take the Kintetsu Railway to Kintetsu Nara Station instead, you’ll only have to walk for five minutes. All trains are accessible from Kyoto Station.

Photographed are just three of the 1,000 or so deer that live in Nara Park. They roam freely and will be happy to accept biscuits (sold at various stalls around the park) straight from your hand. The deer are not shy, and if they know you have biscuits, they will follow you and try to take some. Don’t be alarmed. They might nip at your shirt or bag, but they are not dangerous. In fact, many of them will bow politely when they first approach you.

While there is no entrance fee for Nara Park, you may have to pay to see inside some of the temples. The Eastern Golden Hall and Central Golden Hall of Kofukuji (pictured above) cost ¥300 and ¥500 respectively to enter. The Kasuga Taisha is also worth visiting while you’re in Nara, and is free to enter.

Read more about my Japan trip in my beauty and skin care haul, food gallery, and tips for cutting down on expenses, and see more photos and videos on Instagram.

6 thoughts on “Where I Went in Japan

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