Known for: Osaka Castle Great music + dance Local authentic street food Friendly locals Modern architecture
Osaka is such an interesting city we visited it twice. The first time we stayed at a super cool backpackers called Casa Macondo which is owned by a lovely guy from Colombia called Oscar.
One thing I learnt in Osaka is that there is no real word for vegetarian. I found the best phrases to say are “no nikku!” (no meat), “no dashi!” (no fish extract) and “yasai only” (vegetables only).
WHAT TO DO
1. Stay at Casa Macondo and visit the junk shop run by the old man down the road. It looks like someone’s old garage from the outside, but we ended up finding some incredible old gems: film cameras, groovy hats, pottery, nic-nacs, art and more.
2. Walk across the river via one of the many bridges at night.
3. Check out Tsutenkaku tower at night. It’s a little bizarre and old, but great for people watching and you might even find yourself strolling through the fascinating red light district on the way home.
4. Watch the street performers dance in the Umeda Station. The train station is equipped with mirrors on each wall so performers can practice their routines.
5. Visit Osaka Castle
Travel tip: Walk 100m around the back and there will be no tourists in sight. Great place for a picnic.
6. Go for early morning walks and you’ll see some cool sights! We found a petting zoo in a local school, the rush of betting hour at the local TAB and a group of women wearing crazy headdresses.
7. Visit the wacky supermarkets. It’s hard to believe this neon fantasy is a chain store.
8. Hang out at Arcadio bar (which is also Casa Macondo hostel) and chat to the locals and other travellers.
Travel tip: The best way to get to Osaka from Tokyo is via the Shinkansen bullet train. It’ll cost around $100, but is really worth it.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Macondo is run by the nicest and friendliest host you’ll meet, Oscar – along with his team of great staff. What is so appealing about the hostel is how passionate Oscar is about running it, he wants travellers and artists to come and feel at home and warmly welcomed.
🇯🇵 In Osaka we stayed in this awesome backpackers Casa Macondo 🎒 but after trying to figure out what we liked about it so much, we came to the conclusion it was the people. If you like staying up late chatting to other travellers and locals, I'll put up some info about the groovy little place on my blog soon 👍🏼 #OliviaRoundOsaka // 📷: @psychedelicpanther
The hostel is adorned with the most exquisite artwork. Oscar has commissioned local artists to paint the walls with lively, beautiful murals and the bar downstairs Arcadio has a groovy lit up table top and paintings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who is the inspiration and muse behind the decor). There are many references to his novel 100 Days Of Solitude, including an uplifting trail of butterflies leading guests up the stairway to upstairs rooms.
The location is minutes walk from downtown Osaka and a block away from the coolest old junk store. Not only are there great things nearby, you can even enjoy a delicious enchilada and beer while locals and regulars trickle in, bringing with them stories and a genuine interest in you and your culture.
We made so many friends and had so much fun that it was hard to say goodbye.
WHERE TO EAT
Arcadio: You might as well eat where you stay, right? Located on the first floor of Casa Macondo, the chef cooks the most delicious mexican/south american fusion food which can all be made vegetarian on request. I was a happy girl when I was served a plate of burritos with avocado and fresh salad! Round the corner is also a cheap omlette place for breakfast with free coffee.
Girasole Ricco: VPN Association Certified Neapolitan pizza! This place was a good recommendation by our friend Misa. We had the mushroom and olive pizza, a classic margherita and the pesto pasta with green beans. Highly recommend.
Camp Curry: Possibly the best find of the trip. Camp is a chain which makes veggie curries (you can add meat if desired). Vegetables include a hearty serving of broccoli, capsicum, beans, onion, eggplant, root veggies, tomato and mushrooms. Comes with rice and you can choose your level of spice too. Cost: 900 yen (around $10NZD)
Sushi shop in Eski Marche: We found salmon + avo sushi! Finally a flavour we could both eat and it was from the food court in the Osaka train station. Delicious, fresh and cheap.
Travel tip: This brand of muesli is great to travel round with. All you need to do is buy a banana and yoghurt fresh.
WHAT TO WEAR
My go-to outfit was a summer dress from my favourite American store, Madewell which I paired with a cheap thin merino sweater.
Sneakers are a must as you will be doing a lot of walking up cobbled stairs and mountainous paths.
I found this great pair of UV polaroid sunglasses in the Auckland airport for $30NZ, love love love them!
During travel I wore loose fitting pants with boots and a cashmere sweater.
🇯🇵 Casa Macondo ~ the best decor I've seen in a hostel yet! Brightly coloured, full of incredible art, there's nothing same-same or boring about this place. The best part is that the people are just as warm as that bright yellow door! It was sad to say goodbye! 💛 #OliviaRoundOsaka // 📷: @psychedelicpanther
This is also my new travel pack for those of you who are interested in what I take when I travel. It’s a 55L Kathmandu Kilimanjaro canvas pack which doubles as a carry bag. I love the fact that it doesn’t look too bulky, but can fit all the essentials I need.
My advice would be to take the time to really explore Osaka. See the sights, but walk to them. Along the way you’ll find the hidden gems like we did. Prepare yourself for the touristy areas and embrace them. Marvel at the incredible way in which they organise the unruly tourists who spill out like krill at feeding time across the pavement… Also remember that while you’re laughing at the funny tourists, you are one. Respect the locals and give them the time of day. Drink sake with them, share a “kannpai” and smile lots. Then you’ll fall in love with the culture of Osaka.
Next up, Kyoto!