Osaka & Hiroshima, Japan

We initially planned to use Osaka as a convenient home base to sleep and keep our luggage while we explored other parts of the Kansai region, but quickly found ourselves eating our way through the city and enjoying Osaka itself. Recently listed as #15 on the New York Times' list of 52 Places to Go in 2017, Osaka is definitely worth a visit. It is Japan's third largest city and capital of commerce, with a distinctly different personality than Tokyo or Kyoto. The lack of tourists made for an authentic feeling - there are less sites to visit and more time spent getting to know the city and the down-to-earth people who live there. The arcades and markets are where much of the cities energy - and delicious food - come from. Osaka is unofficially known as the food capital of Japan. The phrase kuidaore means "eat til you drop" and is practically the city's motto. Spend time wandering the restaurant halls (we had a delicious meal on the top floor of the train station) and don't be shy about trying anything that appeals to you. 

Side trips... Osaka is a great jumping off point for the region, with Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, Nara, Himeji, Kobe and Kinosaki (and much more) all just a few hours away. 

Kinosaki is the quintessential onsen town. If you make the trip be sure to stay the night in a traditional ryokan to enjoy the full experience. We spent a night in Kinosaki at the lovely Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei before arriving in Osaka. 

Miyajima Island is known for Itsukushima Shrine, the floating shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also regarded as an Island of Gods, Miyajima is located on the picturesque Seto Inland Sea. You'll need to take the train to Miyajimaguchi Station and then a 10 minute ferry ride to the island (both covered by the JR pass if you have it). Arrive early enough to take one of the day's first ferries - you'll be rewarded with less crowds and less people in your photos!

Try... Omakasake. Definitely wasn't my favorite food, but Osaka is famous for these thick, savory pancakes filled with shredded cabbage and meat, seafood, or vegetables.  You've got to try it.

Sleep.... While I typically try to stay away from chain hotels, the Osaka Hilton served our purposes perfectly. Conveniently located across from the train station (which we were using daily), the 35th-floor Windows on the World bar had impressive views, and the gym was a nice break from running in the humidity outside. 


{ Hiroshima: eat & see }

{Osaka: eat & DRINK }

 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum - A very powerful documentation of the atomic bombing.  A somber but important stop for anyone visiting Hiroshima. 

A-bomb Dome - One of the only structures left standing after the atomic bomb was dropped, the A-bomb Dome has become a symbol of peace and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Bakudanya - Desperate for lunch after a long morning of sightseeing, we tracked down this spot we had read about. A hole in the wall with just a few counter seats, I'm so lucky we found this place. Hands down the best noodles we had the entire time we were in Japan, which is definitely saying something. Spicy with plenty of sesame, I couldn't get enough. Also order the fried chicken. Yummmm.








Robatayaki Isaribi - One of those awesome finds via my Lonely Planet guidebook, this izakaya (basically a pub or eatery) is a friendly and fun local spot for dinner. We got there early enough to snag a seats at the semi-circular counter in front of the grill and have our food cooked right in front of us, then served on a long paddle. So much delicious meat, seafood and veggies to chose from, but you'll want to pace yourself. In Japan it is impolite to not finish everything you order.

Shabutei - Shabu shabu is a meal that is cooked in boiling water, also known as hot pot. Each diner has a personal hot pot in front of them where you cook your meal after ordering. We had a mid-level beef (this place is on the pricey side) but it was still fantastic and melted in my mouth. Also could not get enough of the sesame sauce - luckily they weren't shy about giving us more.

Craft Beer Base - Not far from the Umeda station, this bar and bottle shop has a walk in cooler stocked with local and international craft beers. There is a cozy room upstairs with a few tables to enjoy your selection.

Windows on the World - The views from the 35th floor will give you an unobstructed vantage point to just how big Osaka really is. A fun place to come for a drink, but there is a per person table charge and the drinks are expensive. 



{ October 2016 }