When Japan finally announced the opening of the border, the first thing I did is to book a return ticket to the country. Just in time for an autumn experience in Osaka. Arriving at the very quiet and almost deserted Kansai International Airport early morning, the process is straight forward.
Some pre-planning is required whereby international tourists are required to pre-fill “Fast Track” in MySOS apps (pre 1 Nov 2022) or Visit Japan Web. Get ready documents in soft copies (pdf did not work for me, but jpeg worked) to be uploaded, including passport main page & vaccination certificate (or Covid test certificates). For added security, printing out vaccination certificate (or testing certificate), return flight ticket, hotel booking & travel insurance (if any) will be helpful. These were not requested during immigration check in Japan but before boarding the flight, the airline check-in counter did request to see a return flight ticket. The approval process for MySOS is quite fast, less than 15 minutes. The android application automatically turns green upon complete submission of all information & documents. Approval is given ~ 15 minutes later whereby the status turns blue. At the airport, with the blue status in MySOS, follow the “blue track” whereby signs are well posted at the airport.
Muse #1 There were many counters opened to assist travelers through the blue track, before immigration. I would say there seems to be more personnel available to check the blue fast track than visitors! 😀
Transport in Osaka is efficient and aplenty as expected in Japan, but pretty confusing for a first-timer. There is the metro or subway servicing the main Osaka city. There is Japan Rail, the main train company servicing many routes used by the shinkansen. There are also many different train companies servicing various lines into and out of Osaka cities, including Hanshin, Hankyu, Nankai, Keihan & Kintetsu which operates under different ticketing systems. The IC Prepaid card (or ICOCA) is a life-saver as it is accepted in all of these different rail companies with different ticketing systems.
Muse #2 The metro is quite empty on weekend mornings, but surprisingly not as packed as expected during peak commuting time.
Otherwise, a bit more research is required to find the best tickets for best values. Some of the day passes are really value-for-money if you visit more than 1 or 2 places in a day. I find the Osaka metro day pass to be indispensable (JPY800 for weekday, JPY600 for weekend or public holidays). Some of the 1-day or 2-day passes to nearby areas such as Kyoto, Kobe or even Nara are great value. The only drawback is you have to use the same train lines, which may not get to the same train station.
Walkabout Using Amazing Osaka Pass
Taking the 2-day Amazing Osaka Pass, it is a great way to take a walkabout in Osaka city. The pass covers unlimited access to the metro, bus and tram lines in Osaka (excluding the monorail lines) and free access to many interesting attractions in the city. What better way to make great use of this pass for best value. Get a good pair of walking shoes, taking in the cool breeze during the autumn days and walk through to enjoy these free attractions.
I covered the attractions by areas within Osaka, starting with Umeda area – starting with the very red HEP 5 ferris wheel, and walking to Umeda Sky-building Kuchu-tein. Fabulous views from both attractions, especially from the Sky Building. The Sky Building is a little deserted on a weekday, but it is nice to visit the outdoor rooftop observatory before having a coffee indoor to absorb the city views. At the rooftop observatory, there is an interesting area for lovers to put in their locks as proof of love. You can even pre-order the lock with engraved names to put in there. I actually saw many young local couples going up to put their love-locks.
Muse #3 I have not taken a ferris wheel for a while, but took 2 within 2 days because they came free with the pass. 😀 Always great views from above the ferris wheel.
Muse #4 As the pass came with free entrance to an onsen spa, I took the chance to “brave” it for a Japanese onsen spa. It was surprisingly great and relaxing. It does help that the others in there are not self-conscious and happily going on their own ways. The onsen is very interesting with different temperatures in different tubs, lay-down spa, outdoor open-air bath, sauna. It was a slightly cold day, and lying inside a tub with hot water is really relaxing with the cold breeze outside. Even refreshing when once a while you come up to take a breather for the cold breeze before jumping into the “hot spring” water in a peaceful Japanese garden to fully immerse yourself. Really a great reliever for muscle-pain accumulated through the walkabouts.
Next in line is the Osaka Bay areas, a stop at the Osakako metro station for another Tempozan ferris wheel ride. Osaka Bay areas is where Universal Studio and the Osaka Aquarium are. You can easily spend a day at Universal Studio. Osaka Aquarium is pretty popular with school day-trips.
Namba area has a lot to offer – lots of food, lights, city river cruises, shopping too. The Dotonbori area is pretty deserted in early morning, but really comes alive later, especially in the evening. The crowd especially on weekends and holidays can be a little overwhelming.
Muse #5 The river cruise is surprisingly beautiful after dark. All the different colours of neons reflected on the clear water.
Tennoji area has beautiful parks and gardens to explore. On top of being a great shopping area. Explore the Tennoji Park, Ten-shiba and finally take a stop at Shinsekai to grab some great food along the alleys.
Osaka Castle is quite an area to cover. Going up the 8 floors brings beautiful views (and breeze too). The castle is surrounded by a moat, and the autumn colours reflect beautifully on the clear water.