Here is another installment in our “Cheap Travel” series, but this time we are headed to Osaka! Osaka is known to most Japanese people as a bit of a party town, where fun consists of a lot of eating and drinking. So let’s get started!
Dotonbori is the most famous tourist attraction in Osaka, and with all the food you can find there, it makes complete sense. Dotonbori is an area that runs along the Dotonbori canal, hence the name, in the Namba District of Osaka. The main portion is located between the Dotonboribashi Bridge and the Nipponbashi Bridge.
So why all the fuss? Well, checkout the food and cool signage you can find there:
And there are many more signs to see. But the best part is that walking around this area and taking pictures is absolutely free! Of course, if you want to try some of the delicious food that each one of these businesses has, it will cost you a little bit of money, but some items–like takoyaki–only cost about 100-200 yen!
The most famous sign to see in this area is the “Glico Man” sign:
This sign was originally installed in 1935, and has of course been revamped over the years. It is an advertisement for Glico Candy, but has become a popular meeting point for Japanese people and tourists alike. If you stop-by here you will see many people posing in the traditional “Glico Man”-style, with arms raised in victory.
You can get to this area via the Midosuji Line from Umeda Station for only about 230 yen ($2.12 US Dollars). Pretty cheap.
Shinsaibashi is located right next to Dotonbori, and it is Osaka’s main shopping area. You will find many, many stores here, and can find anything from clothes, to books, to fancy chocolates, and anime. This is a great place to people-watch and just walk around enjoying all of the sights and sounds. And you guessed it, walking around and taking pictures is free!
Another must-see in Osaka is Osaka Castle, which has a giant park-area in front of it. During sakura season in March, the trees lining the front of the castle make it look like a scene out of an anime. If you want to see another 600 cherry blossom trees, then head towards the Nishinomaru Garden on the western side of the castle, though it will cost you an extremely reasonable 200 yen ($1.84 US Dollars).
The admission to visit the castle itself is also cheap, costing only 600 yen ($5.53 US Dollars). Of course, hanging around the front park is free and you get great views of the castle.
Pro-tip, there are food stands in the area around the castle, so make sure to grab some amazing food at very cheap prices, like okonomiyaki!
To get to Osaka Castle you can get the JR Osaka Loop Line to the Osakajokoen station, which will cost about 160 yen ($1.50 US Dollars).
Tower of the Sun
The Tower of the Sun is the large building/sculpture located in the Expo Commemoration Park in the Suita District of Osaka, Japan. This astonishing and mesmerizing piece of art was created by Taro Okamoto for Expo ’70, Asia’s first world’s fair.
The building actually has three faces: the large moon face in the center, representing the present; the gold face at the top, representing the future; and the face on the back, representing the past.
It only costs about 250 yen ($2.30 US Dollars) to get into the park with the Tower of the Sun, but of course there is many more things to see in the full park area. So it is a really good deal. Another great thing about this park, and most parks in Japan, is that you can always just bring a backpack with snacks and food—and tons of people do this during sakura season.
Getting here takes about 45 minutes via train, but the total cost is only about 620 yen ($5.71 US Dollars). This is total worth an in-person view of this amazing piece of art.
Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, and it is the most famous shrine in Osaka. People in Osaka believe that this shrine has protected them over the years from hardships, and over 2.5 Million people visit it during the New Year Hatsumode. If you want to learn more about Hatsumode, checkout our previous post: Hatsumode! The First Shrine Visit Of The New Year!
As with other shrines, walking around and experiencing Sumiyoshi Taisha is free! Also, you can easily get here by taking the Nankai Main Line from Namba Station to Sumiyoshi Taisha Station, which only costs 210 yen ($2 US Dollars).
Pro-tip, near the back right-hand side you will see an additional area with a stone fence. This is called the Gosho-gozen, and there is a myth that says the Empress Jingu was looking for a place to build the shrine when she saw three herons sitting in a cedar tree here. And that is how she decided to build the shrine at this location.
Inside the stone fence you will find tons of small rocks, and they will have three different symbols on them: 五、大、カ。They will bring you strength, wisdom, happiness, fortune, and longevity. If you find all three, then you can make one “wish” come true, and when it does, you can bring them back to this location so that the next person can get their wish. Not bad for a free shrine visit!
Shinsekai (“New World”) is another district where you can also enjoy looking at some more cool signs, grab a bite to eat, or get something to drink. This area was created in 1912, and was partially modeled on New York and Paris.
Though many people caution that this area can be viewed as the “closest thing to a dangerous neighborhood” in Osaka, I have not had any issues when traveling here. Though there are certain areas you should be aware of, there are many great business and eateries here too, so I do think you should try and visit.
One of the things to definitely see while in Shinsekai is the Tsutenkaku Tower (“Tower Reaching Heaven”). The tower has an observation deck, if you want to spend a little bit of money for a ticket, but I really just like to see the neon lights at night. And taking pictures is free, haha.
And while you are in this area, you have to checkout some kushikatsu places to grab some good fried food. Fun fact, it is said that Kushikatsu was invented in Shinsekai.
Kushikatsu is basically a dish of deep-fried meat and vegetables, and it is delicious! And CHEAP! One kushikatsu skewer usually runs about 50-100 yen, depending on the restaurant.
I really enjoy going to the smaller kushikatsu restaurants, but one of the more popular locations is the easily recognizable Kushikatsu Daruma. Just look for the friendly guy below, as this is their “mascot”.
Once you get a bite to eat, make sure to checkout all of the other cool signage for some great pictures and free entertainment. Here are some of the few you can see:
Umeda Sky Building
Umeda Sky Building is one of the most stunning buildings in Osaka, and consists of two 40-story towers (173 meters) in the Kita district of Osaka. As you can see from the picture, to get to the very top of the building you need to ride a long escalator that allows you to look down.
Once you get to the top, you will find the Floating Gardens, as well as the “Love Lock” wall. This is an area where couples go to place a lock with their names on it on a fence, which is meant to show that their love will last for a long time. It’s sort of a newer tradition, but still a cute way of showing your love.
Looking at the Umeda Sky Building is free, but if you want to ride up to the floating gardens, it will set you back 1,500 yen ($14 US Dollars). This isn’t really “cheap”, which is why I left this site towards the end. You can get to Umeda Sky Building by taking a short 10-15 minute walk from Osaka Station.
AND SO MUCH MORE
And yes, there are many more things to see and do cheaply in Osaka, but I’d like to let you find some of the things on your own! But feel free to let me know if you want to know more about any of the above sites, or any other Osaka site that is not listed.
See you soon!