Discovering Japan | Osaka Travel Diary

osaka travelDiscovering Japan | Osaka Travel Diary

This year’s Japan trip included a few days in the land of takoyaki, comedians and awesome old ladies. Yes, Osaka was new ground for me. I’d visited the city ever so briefly 5 or so years ago, but had never fully discovered the city. I was eager to see if the people were as friendly as my friends claimed, and whether the food really was some of the best in Japan.

Osaka Travel: Where to Visit

I already had a few ideas of where I wanted to visit whilst we were in Osaka, but we also made some time to catch-up with friends. As someone who only experienced Osaka properly (and trust me, we went for it) this year, I feel like I can give you a few hints and tips on where to visit, and what to do:

  • Wander Around Osaka Castle – I’m not saying you should go inside and do the whole tourist thing. No. Check it out from the gardens (it’s beautiful), then spend your time eating ice cream – try matcha or kinako – and people watching. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the groups who hang out with their pets – on a good day this may include dogs in costumes, birds of prey and owls. Yep.
  • Go See The Running Man – Glico’s running man sign is a famous tourist spot for the Japanese when visiting Osaka. Situated in Dotonbori, the running man has been towering over Ebisubashi (ebisu bridge) since the 1930s. It’s a popular spot to take photos – whilst impersonating the sign – and there’s plenty of cool shops and food stalls to check out nearby.
  • Try Some Takoyaki at Wanaka – Takoyaki (battered balls filled with octopus) is the dish of Osaka. You’ll find this popular dish all across Japan, but it originally comes from Osaka. Wanaka is one of the best in Osaka with a variety of flavours, and prices ranging from £2-£4. Try the Ooiri Set for a taster.
  • Visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – This walk around aquarium is one of the largest in the world, and includes a large variety of sea animals. The venue is laid out with 18 areas that represent various countries and regions across the world, with the corresponding sea life.
  • See Osaka from the Sky – Umeda Sky building may look like a rather impressive office tower, but it’s actually full of restaurants, arcades and a viewing platform. The view from the top is impressive, especially at night.

So there you have it, my Osaka Travel Diary. Feel free to leave your tips for others, and let me know your favourite things to do in Osaka.
See more posts: Japan Travel Diary

osaka travel osaka travelosaka travel osaka travel osaka travel osaka travel osaka travel osaka travel

Kyoto Shrines and Temples | Japan Travel Diary

kyoto shrines and templesKyoto Shrines and Temples | Japan Travel Diary

Before our trip to Japan we decided to purchase the JR Pass, so that we could travel around the country a little. Kyoto was definitely on our list of places to visit again, as on our first visit we hadn’t been able to appreciate the city as much as we would have liked to. Naturally I made a mental note of all the shrines and temples I wanted to visit, because when you’re in Kyoto that’s what you do…

What makes Kyoto Shrines and Temples special?

Kyoto’s shrines and temples are pretty special to me. There is a certain air of tranquility and calm surrounding Kyoto, and I think this even translates through to their tourist locations. There is so much beauty to take in around this region, and I don’t think I will ever bore of it.

Which Kyoto Shrines and Temples should you visit?

Check out some of my picks, several of which feature in the photos in this post:

  • Fushimi Inari – You may recognise this famous shrines red gates from movies such as Memoirs of a Geisha. Climb to the top of the mountain, and brag about it after.
  • Kiyomizu-dera – Featuring the famous ‘floating platform’ and a waterfall that supposedly grants wishes.
  • Kinkaku0ji/Rokuon-ji – The ‘Golden Pavilion’ is known worldwide for it’s beautiful golden exterior. Check out the amazing reflection in the nearby lake, and stroll through the garden.
  • Ryoan-ji – A must-see for any zen garden fans!
  • Saiho-ji – This is actually on my list of temples to visit. This natural beauty has a difficult entry procedure, but it sure looks like it’s worth it!

This is just a small list of temples and shrines to visit in Kyoto. However I would also recommend just wandering around Kyoto, because you will come across tons of smaller shrines/temples that are just as wonderful.

Check out the rest of my Japan Travel Diaries here.

kyoto shrines and temples kyoto shrines and temples kyoto shrines and temples kyoto shrines and temples kyoto shrines and templeskyoto shrines and templeskyoto shrines and temples kyoto shrines and templeskyoto shrines and temples

Floresta Doughnuts | Japan Travel Diary

floresta doughnutsFloresta Doughnuts | Stores across Japan | Website

You’ve probably seen them on social media. Cute, colourful doughnuts shaped like animals. This delightful doughnut store has been open since 2002. Ever since the first store opened in Nara, this company has stood out from other famous outlets. Say hello to Floresta Nature Doughnuts.

What makes Floresta Doughnuts so natural?

Floresta means forest in Portuguese. This natural theme flows through to their handmade (in-store) doughnuts, which are made with organic ingredients, and little to no additives. The store also tries to keep waste to a minimum, making sure their impact on the environment is as small as possible. In fact the company are so transparent about these things, that you can find the basic ingredients list for their doughnuts on their website. No preservatives are used, so every doughnut is made fresh, daily. The company – which was started by a husband and wife – strives to bring healthier, tasty options to people. A guilt-free doughnut, that you can feel comfortable giving to your children…or for yourself.

But how do they taste?

Very good indeed. You might think that being “natural” and aiming for a healthier doughnut would take away the indulgence. Nope! These are just as delicious as any other doughnut you’ll try, maybe even more so. Floresta still fry their doughnuts, but they don’t taste heavy or greasy. The doughnut itself is relatively light, and the glazes (I tried matcha, of course) make for a subtle sweet contrast.

Which doughnut should you go for?

I would suggest trying a couple – one of their classic ‘nature’ doughnuts, and one of their ‘animal doughnuts’. The nature doughnuts are plain, whereas the animal ones come with a glaze (and sometimes nuts). Prices start at 130円 (around £0.83). The doughnuts may be cheap, but the taste isn’t.

Floresta make their doughnuts fresh, on a daily basis. As they don’t use preservatives, they prefer to make small batches, so make sure you get to a store relatively early. You wouldn’t want to miss out! I would suggest stopping by one of their cafes and relaxing with a coffee. It’s the perfect spot to while away the time.

You can find out more about Floresta Doughnuts here (non-Japanese speakers can use the Google translate version).

floresta doughnuts floresta doughnuts floresta doughnuts floresta doughnuts floresta doughnuts floresta doughnuts

24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

24 hours in tokyo24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

Yes, the frequently asked question “What do I do with 24 hours in Tokyo?”. Ok let’s be realistic, unless you’re on a stopover, you’re unlikely to only have one day in this exciting city. However, it can be difficult to decide where to visit, what to eat etc. So when faced with the task I like to think of all the places I would visit if I only had a short period of time in a city.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Harajuku

As cliche as it is, it wouldn’t be worth stopping by Harajuku without a walk down Takeshita Dori (take the metro exit of the same name). Grab some cute stationary from Daiso, pick up some vintage designer goods in the back streets, try one of the famous crepes for breakfast, and just generally basque in the atmosphere. It’s fun and it’s fast.

For those who prefer something more chilled, Meiji Jingu is just behind the Omotesando Exit of Harajuku station. It’s one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and is well worth a visit. Located in a small woodland, it’s hard to tell whether you’re still in bustling Tokyo or not. If you hang around for a while, you may even see a traditional Japanese wedding taking place.

From Harajuku you can walk/hop on a train to…

24 Hours in Tokyo: Shibuya

Famous for it’s giant crossing, you really should try and get to high ground just to witness it. Even if that means stopping by Starbucks for one of their limited edition Japanese drinks. Afterwards, head to 109 for some retail therapy before checking out “Basketball St” and one of the various arcades. You must do purikura (Japanese photo booth)!

Stop by Nabe-zo for lunch, and all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu (hotpot with thinly sliced meat). I’d suggest the sukiyaki and collagen soups. The staff here are helpful, and the meat is in abundance, so don’t be shy about asking for more. They’ll even replace your soups…if you can manage to finish them that is.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Asakusa

Asakusa is a haven for traditional Japan. Head through the large red gates of Senso-ji, and walk amongst the market stalls. Buy some Amazake (a sweet alcoholic drink made from rice), a side of Senbei (traditional rice crackers), and maybe a mask of your favourite childhood character. The souvenirs here are great for taking home to family. The shrine itself is beautiful, and the grounds ditto. Take your time here and find your inner Buddhist.

If you’re a stationary fan, make time to visit Kakimori for handmade, Japanese stationary. Afterwards, take a walk down Kappabashi-dori, a street famous for kitchenware and plastic food models. Pick up a bacon bookmark, or a pancake keychain etc.

Finally, go for dinner at Sometaro. This Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) restaurant has been around since the 1930s, and it hasn’t changed much since. The friendly staff speak English, and can offer an English menu also. They’ll even show you how to prepare this must-try dish yourself. Truth be told all of the fillings here are delicious, but pork and seafood are great go-tos.

Of course there’s plenty more to do in Tokyo! Keep an eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.
I’d also suggest checking out Alice’s Tokyo Travel Guides and Park and Cube’s 3 Days in Tokyo.

24 hours in tokyo 24 hours in tokyo 24 hours in tokyo 24 hours in tokyo 24 hours in tokyo 24 hours in tokyo 24 hours in tokyo