If there is one place that my family will want to go to over and over again, that would be Japan. Whats not to like? The food, the people, the stunning scenery, the culture….everything!
But before even planning….lets start with your travel requirements. Filipino passport holders need a visa. It is relatively easy to get a visa for Japan. Applying for that visa must be done through an authorized travel agent. You can visit here for info. We’ve never encountered any problem when applying. The first 2 times we applied, we were given single entry visas. On our 3rd time, we were given 3 year visas! 3rd times a charm!
So, the first 2 times the hubs and I went to Japan were for a business trip. His. I was saling-pusa slash navigator. While he was doing his job, I was out discovering Japan…hehehehehe. Anyway, back in 2009 and 2011 were our first trips. We landed in Osaka and headed to Hiroshima on both occasions. It was then that we realized that visiting Japan was something that we wanted our kids to experience. So in 2011, I said that we would be back after 2 years with the kids in tow. Lucky for us, the Japanese government started loosening up on tourists so getting visas for everyone was easy!
Our first trip to Japan with the kids was in Osaka. The kids are culture vultures like me so taking them around was not something I had to force them into. But, it goes without saying, that “fun activities” were part of the itinerary.
Upon arriving in Osaka, the first thing to decide on is how to get to the city. We always stay in the Shinsaibashi area so taking the train from the airport is our usual go to method. Travel via train to Shinsaibashi takes around 45 minutes.
Where did we stay?
We always stay in the Namba area of Osaka because of Shinsaibashi which is the main shopping area in Osaka. The Dotonburi eating area is also here so it makes for really good food finds. We’ve tried several hotels already. With the hubs we stayed at Cross Hotel and Chisun Hotel Shinsaibashi. These are small boutique hotels. Pretty good location as both are within a 5-10 minute walk to the Shinsaibashi and Dotonburi. The subway is just as far so anywhere is accessible.
When we had the kids come with us, we opted to stay at Swissotel Nankai because the Namba Nankai subway station is just in the basement which makes traveling so much easier.
Travelling around Osaka…as well as most of Japan…is done by train. They have a very efficient train and subway system. With several rail lines intersecting one another, it gets a bit tricky. So my way of getting around this is by using the Hyperdia website that shows timetables and fares for the train network of Japan. This site shows all the local lines as well as the Shinkansen (bullet train) schedules. This doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten lost. We have. Many times. Mostly due to language translation problems. But having advanced knowledge of where to go, what to ride, how much to pay can somehow alleviate the fear of going around a place that doesn’t speak your language.
The trick to riding the trains in Japan is knowing how much your fare will be. The ticket vending machines at the station does not vend tickets according to location. It vends out specific priced tickets. For instance, you want to go to Umeda from Namba….you have to know how much that will cost and buy a ticket worth that much. Then you find out what platform your train will be stopping and any subsequent transfer trains. The bigger stations in Osaka usually have English speaking Info Booths so best to ask there in case you can’t figure out what to do. I’m big on doing this. We’ve also encountered several helpful strangers who pop out of nowhere and offer to help….and practice their English.
Next….In and around Osaka.