If you’ve planned a Kansai trip before, you’ve probably come across a lot of articles on travelers experiencing the OKN route.
OKN? What’s that?
Osaka – Kyoto – Nara (OKN I) is one of the most popular travel routes in Japan specifically in Kansai. Amazing food, a dream come true theme park for movie lovers, picturesque temples, and playful herd of deer out & about in a park – what’s not to love about this route, right?
I’ve also seen a lot of Filipino travelers through DIY itineraries and social media amp up the OKN route by taking the:
- OKN-T (Tokyo) route instead so that travelers get to experience Japan Rail’s bullet train and visit the most populous city in Japan,
- the OKNKH (Adding Kobe & Himeji) route for those who want to explore more of Kansai,
- or many more combinations of travel routes that Japan can uniquely offer for any kind of traveler.
In this article, I’ll be sharing a new OKN Japan travel route that you should definitely look into!
You’ll find staple tourist destinations in Osaka, a gastronomic experience in Kobe, and an exciting & worth it destination in Naruto!
To all those who have experienced OKN I & looking for a not really out of beaten path but definitely something new, meet OKN II!
KANSAI (OSAKA-KOBE-NARUTO) TRAVEL & BUDGET GUIDE
Here is the 4 day itinerary during our stay in Kansai, Japan:
Jetstar Flight to Kansai (KIX)
Bus from KIX to Namba OCAT
Yodoyobashi Ona – Mercato Piccolo
7eleven near Hotel 88
Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi
7eleven at OCAT
Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi
7eleven near Hotel 88
Universal Studios Japan
Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi
7eleven near Hotel 88
Kobe Sannomiya Station
Kobe Ishida Steak
Port Liner from Kobe Sannomiya Station to Kobe Airport
Kobe Airport & Ferry Port
Ferry from Kobe Port to Kansai International Airport
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport
Just additional information in case you’ve been curious at some point during your Japan trip researches and readings, because I have! Prior to this recent trip to Japan, my youngest sister asked me what part we were exploring and I told her, Kansai. She asked, Is Kansai near Osaka?
I’ve also asked this before because during my first trip to Japan and learned that we’d be landing in Kansai, I immediately asked myself too if Kansai was near Osaka. You read a lot about regions, cities, towns, and prefectures in Japan and probably think how they differ or what their level in the address scale is.
After reading a few articles (phew! I hope I get this right! HAHAHA!), this is my understanding of all these terms and in comparison to what we understand and normally use in the Philippines.
For Japan, prefecture is a political and administrative jurisdiction while region is a geographical term. For reference:
|Hokkaido (Shiribeshi Subprefecture)||Niseko (Town)|
If you would be comparing it to the Philippines, the Japan regions are basically the same with our regions and prefectures would be the provinces which is the term we use for our political and administrative divisions. For reference:
If I overcomplicated this for you, I’m very sorry! HAHAHAHA! But if you understood and got something out of this, GREAT! HAHAHA! I just wanted to share just in case you’ve been wondering!
For Japan, there’s more to learn because there are also islands to consider and some even have subprefectures! But for basics like when people or in my case, sisters ask questions like the one she did, you would know!
Answering my sister, I told her that Osaka is a part of Kansai. And just in case you’re visiting and telling people you’ll be exploring Osaka and might imply that Kyoto and Nara are parts of Osaka (Pupunta kami sa Osaka! Nandun yung temples ng Kyoto at deer sa Nara!). That’s incorrect! Instead, say you’re exploring Kansai.
CHECK OUT MY OTHER TRIPS TO JAPAN:
- Osaka – Kyoto – Nara
- Nagoya – Takayama – Shirakawago
- Niseko – Sapporo – Otaru
- Magome – Matsumoto – Toyama – Shirakawago – Takayama – Gujo – Kuwana – Nagoya
- Niseko – Sapporo – Asahikawa – Sounkyo – Biei – Furano – Lake Shikotsu
- Okinawa – Zamami
- Best Cherry Blossom Spots in & around Tokyo
Jetstar offers the best flight rates to Kansai! During seat sales, one way fares to Kansai start at ₱2,998. If you’re flying from the Philippines, you’ll be arriving at Kansai International Airport (KIX). This Jetstar route flies up to 2x daily from Manila (NAIA Terminal 1) or 3x weekly from Clark (Clark International Airport).
From KIX, you can explore the best of Kansai:
- Food trip at Dotonbori, Osaka
- Experience high grade meat in Kobe
- Play around photos with a herd of deer at Nara Park
- Get that instagram-worthy photo at the Inari Shrine in Kyoto
- Embark on a rewarding Kumana Kodo pilgrimage route in Wakayama
- Be mesmerized by amazing scenery at Lake Biwa in Shiga
- And many more!
With efficient and convenient railway and bus transportation options in Japan, KIX can be your gateway to other amazing destinations in Japan:
- Nagoya – Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination, Yamazakigawa River during Sakura season
- Tokyo – DisneySea, Tsukiji Fish Market
- Tottori – Sand/Snow Dunes
- Tokushima – Naruto Whirlpools
- Gifu – Takayama, Shirakawago
- And many more!
If you prefer to save time on land travel, Jetstar at KIX is your convenient hub to fly to some of these destinations in Japan! After exploring the best of Kansai and nearby areas, you can fly to destinations like:
- Hokkaido where you can experience the popular Sapporo Snow Festival and stunning Biei Snow Fields
- Okinawa where beach lovers will be mesmerized by infinite hues of blues
- Miyazaki where you’ll feel like you’re in a ‘National Treasure’ movie at the Sun Messe Nichinan – While browsing photos of this place, I can’t stop imagining how amazing this view is at sunrise or sunset!
With convenient bookings, flights, and hubs from the Philippines and KIX, Jetstar makes it easier for us to fly and experience different travel experiences Japan can truly offer!
Sometimes I think that I’ve already experienced the best of Japan but when I spontaneously browse different destinations, I seem to always discover something new! And it always tempts me to experience it!
Think Japan’s all about the BASS? No treble! HAHAHA! Kidding! Think Japan’s all about Osaka & Tokyo? Think again! Browse through all the bullet points I’ve indicated above! Let’s see if you’re not even at least bit curious about experiencing any of it!
Here are some things you should know about #Jetstar2KIX flights:
- There are 2 types of flights operating from the Philippines to KIX – 3K (Jetstar Japan) & GK (Jetstar Asia Airways). The GK flights originate from Singapore connecting in Manila and arriving at KIX & vice versa. If you’re flying this route, don’t be confused when the check-in counters indicate Osaka to Singapore (via Manila). This is where you fall in line. The flight stops at Manila. Just an FYI as I observed a few Filipino passengers confirming if this was the check-in counter for Manila that they should fall in line for. The Manila to KIX flight takes around 3.5 hours and the flight is scheduled in the morning and arrives in Japan at noon. The GK flights to KIX are direct or connecting flights (via Narita, Tokyo) that depart at midnight. I prefer the GK flights as it gives us a full day to explore Japan as compared to the 3K flight where the day is taken up mostly by flights and transits.
- The in-flight menu for 3K flights consists mostly of Asian food while GK flights have straight up Japanese food. If you’ve read our #Hokkaido2018 trip, my mom and I took a GK flight to Tokyo and she loved the Curry Rice. For our recent trip to Japan, my sister and I were booked on 3K flights. We were served Hainanese Chicken Rice & Black Pepper Rice. My sister and I loved the Hainanese rice! So good! The chicken was a bit bland especially if you do not put the provided sauce on it. But the rice was so good! We wanted more of it!
- I’ve said this before in previous articles and I’ll say it again! Jetstar is very STRICT with the 7kg and 2 items only hand carry bags allowed. I noticed that during our flight back to Manila, a man was checking-in 1 luggage and carrying one backpack, 1 full duffel bag, and a very small plastic bag. The Jetstar staff didn’t allow the small plastic bag and obligated the man to open his check-in luggage to put it there as it couldn’t fit inside his 2 other bags. If you have more than 7kg of stuff, avail check-in baggage.
- At the NAIA Terminal during our recent Japan trip, Jetstar distributed bag tags before check-in where you can place your name & addresses. If you don’t have bag tags, use this as this can be useful for unfortunate baggage circumstances.
- If you want a more comfortable flight to KIX, #BeExtraWithExtras! While booking your flight, check out these add-ons that you can avail:
- If you feel that you’ll be purchasing a lot of gifts during your trip, add extra check-in baggage.
- If you want comfortable and convenient seats, avail seating on rows 1, 12, or 13. Aside from more leg room, you also get priority boarding.
- If you get hungry or thirsty easily on flights, avail meals or vouchers as booking this before your actual flight is cheaper than buying in-flight.
- If arriving at KIX, we noticed first hand that the JR Ticket Office can get heavily queued at times. So if you’re in a hurry, you can actually purchase airport train and transportation tickets in-flight! Just check out one of the magazines or booklets provided in the back pocket of the seat in front of you.
- Even though the Philippines to KIX flight is short, add a touch of luxury by purchasing a comfort pack for $10 (₱500+)! Feeling business flight? HAHAHA! YAAAS! Jetstar’s comfort pack includes an inflatable neck support pillow, toothbrush & toothpaste, earplugs, socks, eye mask, and blanket. My sister loved this because the pair of socks she was wearing was bothering her as it kept sliding down so the Jetstar socks saved the day! We also loved the blanket! My sister was wearing short shorts during the flight so she got cold easily. The blanket was a relief! We used the blanket multiple times too during our whole Japan trip – we used it during cold bus and ferry rides. We even used one as a blanket at the beach. My sister found the sides of the inflatable pillow too scratchy on her skin while I found it comfortable as I have thicker skin! HAHAHA! The passengers behind us saw that we inflated the pillows and asked the attendants if they could have one too only to find out that they had to purchase one. Since my sister didn’t like hers, we offered to give it to the passenger behind so that her baby could have a more comfortable sleep.
- The #Jetstar2KIX & #Jetstar2PH/SG departure and arrival gates at KIX require a quick train ride to/from Immigration. If I remember correctly, you’ll alight at stop 1 (arrival) & 3 (departure).
- For gifts, purchase at the duty free stores before the train ride as there are more choices in that area. After the train ride, there’s a small gift shop and a convenience store. When we were there, the convenience store had a long queue. If you missed buying a gift for someone, Jetstar also sells duty free items and merchandise in-flight. While browsing through the catalog, I really liked the Jetstar backpack for kids! So cute! Search for it! But Jetstar, please produce backpacker sizes, please? HAHAHAHA!
Book your #Jetstar2KIX flights at www.jetstar.com!
PASSPORT & VISA CONCERN AT KIX?
Nothing alarming, really! But I just wanted to share this to provide assurance for future arrivals at Kansai International Airport (KIX).
My whole family was granted a multiple entry Japan visa back in 2016. So our visas will be expiring by 2020. More trips to Japan, right? WOOHOO! HAHA! But the passports we used back then were expiring in 2018 so we renewed them. I had mine renewed last December 2017 while my sister had hers renewed last February 2018.
When my mom and I went to Hokkaido last January 2018, I clarified with the Japanese embassy if I can just bring my old passport with the multiple entry visa along with my new passport and that it will be valid for me to pass through immigration and they confirmed this process. My mom and I both did this and the immigration officers didn’t question anything.
But last month (June 2018) at KIX, my sister was told by her assigned immigration officer to have her multiple entry visa transferred to her new passport. This wasn’t the case with my assigned immigration officer. As with my Hokkaido experience, the officer just browsed through both passports and allowed me to enter Japan. No questions and no statements like my sister’s experience. Please note that purpose of our trip was tourism.
My sister did not change her name or relationship status. Nothing changed at all! Her name from the old passport was still the same with the visa and renewed passport. Nevertheless, she was still allowed entry but informed her that during her next trip to Japan that the visa should be transferred to the renewed passport. She wasn’t held up in an office or anything! Her immigration process was around a minute more than mine.
After our trip, I emailed the Japanese Embassy in Manila to clarify. This is the response I received from email@example.com: “We do not transfer visa to current passport. It is your decision if you wish to apply for a new visa with your current passport or present the current passport together with the old passport with valid Japan visa. However, entry to Japan will be upon the assessment of the officer assigned at the airport. Visa is only a primary requirement to enter Japan. She may apply for a new visa following the requirements based on the purpose of the trip. Please take note on the request form for multiple entry visa. Please read carefully information, policies and procedures on visa application for your guidance and compliance.”
I also called up Reli Tours SM Megamall (637-4695) to confirm as this is where we applied for our visas back in 2015 (single entry) & 2016 (multiple entry). I was able to speak with JAJA and she told me that the official rule is that if you have a renewed passport, you just need to bring the old passport with the valid visa. That’s it!
But with the embassy’s response, entry is subject to assessment of the officer. Maybe the immigration officer assigned to my sister preferred the visa to be transferred as it’s more organized that way? Just a hunch?
If this confused you, I’m sorry! I just wanted to share what happened to us at KIX! Just in case this happens to you, clarify with the immigration officer that the embassy in Manila and travel agency where visa was applied advised that the old passport with valid visa can be brought along with the renewed passport.
EXPLORING KANSAI: OKN II
Our recent trip to Japan (June 2018) was extra special for me because not only was it my 7th time to experience & explore Japan but it marked a 3 year gap from my first ever trip to Japan (June 2015). And guess what? Both trips were in Kansai!
Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to book a seat sale from Jetstar for me and my youngest sister – the whole trip was my graduation gift for her. I was very grateful back then. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be able to experience Japan 7 freaking times after that!
I wrote about that first Japan trip on FB which I eventually shared on this blog. That 2015 Osaka-Kyoto-Nara Japan travel experience is one of the most viewed articles on Inspiring Grateful Travels!
I’ve received personal messages thanking me for giving them hope that their Japan dreams would come true because of the budget my sister and I were able to maintain during that trip.
What better way to celebrate that OKN I trip than to level it up with an OKN II trip, right? Back in 2015, I traveled with my youngest sister. This time around, I had the opportunity to bring my middle sister along. Since it was her first time to Kansai, we explored the staple destinations in Osaka. I also wanted to visit Kobe and try its best beef so we added that. And finally – Naruto! PERIOD. More on this amazing destination later!
For this write-up, I did not write our experiences chronologically or based on the scheduled table at the start of this article. The travel experiences shared are according to the specific location.
Here are all the destinations we experienced during our Osaka – Kobe – Naruto, Japan trip:
After passing through immigration and out the arrival gates, we headed to our designated bus stop. For the tickets, we purchased them through an electronic machine near the stop. We were bound from KIX (Terminal 1) to Namba OCAT (Osaka City Air Terminal). We chose this route as it was a more convenient option going to our hotel especially with luggage in hand.
This bus route runs around 2-3 buses per hour so waiting time is not that long. In our case, the bus already arrived as I was buying the tickets from the electronic machine. One way fare costs ¥1,050 (₱498) per person. Roundtrip costs ¥1,850 (₱878) which is valid for 14 consecutive days from the date of first use.
If you choose to take the airport train to Namba, there are 2 options – Nankai Rap:t [35 minutes, ¥1,400 (₱664)] or Nankai Airport Express [45 minutes, ¥1,050 (₱427)].
My sister and I had 2 pieces of bus tickets each – 1 to give to the driver upon entering the bus and the other 1 to show at Namba OCAT as a receipt for our luggage. The bus ride took around 50 minutes. It was a very comfortable transit and the summer city view was a delight.
What I love about Japan is its efficient culture. The bus literally halted up to the last minute/second it indicated on the timetable. Once we disembarked, bus station staff was keen on helping us locate our luggage immediately after we showed our bus receipts. I LOVE JAPAN!
HOTEL 88 SHINSAIBASHI
From OCAT, we followed this walking route to our hotel – Namba OCAT to Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi. The YouTube video may seem like the walk is long or that the hotel is far but it’s really not! The walk was a breeze for us. I laughed a bit because while we were walking it was so surreal to actually be walking the route after watching the YouTube video a few times. I felt like I was in a VR world finally experiencing my research. It was a cool moment!
After getting our luggage, we took the escalator down. We then headed towards the North Gate of OCAT. Please note this. From that escalator down, you’ll immediately find an exit to your left. Don’t take this. Keep moving forward until you reach the north gate.
Upon exiting the gate, you’ll find another escalator down and another one again. After that, pass through the walkalator. Walk a bit more and you’ll find a long escalator up. Walk through the pedestrian with yellow bars and walk towards the Dotonbori sign.
While walking, you’ll find Hotel 88 a few meters away to the right of that Dotonbori sign and VOILA, you’re at the hotel!
If I was only given one word to describe Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi, I would have to choose CLEAN. If there was a hotel contest of being the CLEANEST HOTEL EVER!, I feel that Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi would dominate that contest. Hotel 88 is the definition of how clean hotels SHOULD BE.
When I was searching for hotels in Osaka, Hotel 88 caught my eye because of the good reviews from Filipino travelers on Agoda as most of the time we tend to get blunt especially if we paid a lot of money for something. A common review stood out, the hotel was very clean (even on TripAdvisor and other hotel booking websites).
We booked Hotel 88 via Traveloka as there was a ₱500 discount promo on hotels around Asia. My sister and I stayed for 3 nights and paid ₱7,870 per night. My sister and I analyzed this rate and justified the high price. What do you get out of this rate?
- AGAIN, A VERY CLEAN ROOM. With its modern furnishings, there was no dust in sight! The ambiance of the room is pristine. We always feel fresh! After each tour day, we would come to our room being made up and as clean as how we found it during the first time we entered it. Most of our stuff was also neatly placed on tables or hangers around the room. I don’t know if it was just me but the hotel room felt cleaner each day.
- Namba is a very popular tourist location as the transport options is conveniently accessible and one of the best food meccas is there – DOTONBORI. From Hotel 88, Dotonbori is just a 3-5 minute walk away! The Namba Walk is easily accessible through exits B4 to B6. This leads you to different subway, train, shopping, street food, or mall options. Hotel 88 is situated in one of the best locations especially if you’re a tourist looking to walk the beaten path.
- Accommodating staff! Prior to our trip, I was having problems with one of the buses we needed to take to one of our destinations. The bus’ online website only accepted half width characters for names and I really wanted to book the buses in advance to avail the discount. One of the staff at Hotel 88, Fumio Yamazagi (firstname.lastname@example.org), granted our request to help us with the bus tickets. They bought it for us and we just paid for it during check-in. They also respond to inquiry emails within a few hours. During our trip, when we had questions, they were always so quick to provide visual aids that would help us search for specific places in our itinerary.
- AMENITIES – My sister and I were booked in a Standard Twin Room in the hotel’s annex. We had 2 comfortable beds, 2 pillows each, a toilet room – TOTO brand, a shower room, a desk, luggage surface, mobile phone, cabinet, toiletries (Uminela Shiseido & Saraya Hand Soap – both brands smelled so good. What I liked about the hand soap was that it felt like a cross between soap and lotion, it was so moisturizing!), towels, TV, 2 bottles of complimentary water per day, mini ref, and tea & coffee packets. At the reception lobby, there is a dining area, a pool table, quirky sofas & stuffed animals, and massage chairs. Hotel 88’s interior designs are definitely Instagram worthy! You’ll also find a table full of tourist info pamphlets.
- DRAWBACKS – These are a few drawbacks I feel guests will notice especially paying with that kind of amount.
- Breakfast is not provided but there are free drinks available from 6AM – 12MD. For hot drinks, you can choose from coffee, latte, cappuccino, green tea au lait, and corn potage. For cold drinks, there’s soda, water, coffee, ginger ale, minute maid, coke, and sprite. One of the rules that the hotel has is that the drinks are available for consumption within the dining area only. You’re only allowed to use the mugs and glasses provided. You cannot refill bottles or bring the drinks to your room. You’re allowed to bring food from the outside and eat it there. Since Dotonbori is just a few minutes away, you can purchase a food haul, bring it to the hotel, and eat it there. Plus! No need to buy drinks! I shared this sentiment with Hotel 88 and maybe just allow drinks in the room and they said they’ll look into it as they are always looking for ways to increase guest satisfaction.
- Another possible drawback is that the room is relatively small in size than what you’d probably expect for the price. Having been to Japan quite a few times, rooms in Japan are averagely small in size. But I feel that Hotel 88 wasn’t on that average line, it is a bit higher, because we didn’t feel cramped at all and there was ample space to open our luggage which I usually find as a problem in other accommodations I’ve stayed at in Japan.
- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Here are just some reasons why I think Hotel 88 is conveniently located. And that’s one of the best things!
- 5-10 minute walk away from Namba OCAT
- 1 minute walk away from 7 eleven or Lawson
- 3-5 minute walk away from Dotonbori
- 1 minute walk away from Namba Walk B4 Exit – your gateway to subways, trains, shopping stalls, and food stores
- 10 minute walk away from Namba City
- 15-20 minute walk away from Kuromon Market – Pass through Namba Walk and exit through B29. Once out, turn RIGHT not LEFT! My sister and I were supposed to go to the market but we got lost and somehow ended up in Dotonbori. We walked from B4 to B29 for around 15 minutes. We turned left because I saw an arc from afar which resembled the Kuromon market arc I visited back in 2015. We walked through and it felt unfamiliar. We asked for directions but no one understood us. A person who we thought understood us pointed us somewhere and we ended up in Dotonbori. And just stayed there! HAHAHA!
If you’re interested in staying at Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi, visit hotel88.jp or inquire at email@example.com
OSAKA FOOD TRIP
Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen. For any food lover out there, Osaka is your oyster. And the oyster’s oyster is definitely Dotonbori. During our recent trip to Japan, I was surprisingly more overwhelmed than our trip back in 2015. It seemed like there were more people (we went on a Sunday night!) and more food options!
At every nook and corner, there was probably a Takoyaki stand wherein the staff was wishful that tourists choose their version of the popular street food.
I felt like I was in a crazy NY Times Square movie scene – a throng of people walking in every direction, the smoky smell of grilled food, mascots dancing around, and high rise signs (of course, the popular Glico sign where everyone was converging and trying to find the best angle to take a photo in!) & buildings all around.
For our first night in Kansai, we were supposed to eat at Kuromon Market but due to misdirection, we ended up in Dotonbori and succumbed to its craziness. We also ate at Dotonbori the next night.
Here are the gastronomic options that we tried:
Creo-Yu Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki: ¥1,600 (₱760)
Since we walked for around 30 minutes getting lost in Namba, we preferred to eat indoors. Creo-Yu is one of the most talked about MUST TRY FOODS in Dotonbori. I read about 5-6 articles on Osaka food and all of them pointed out Creo-Yu.
You have the option of ordering outside as they also had stalls cooking Takoyaki & Okonomiyaki. Inside, we were led to a table. We wanted to sit by the window so we could see the river view of Dotonbori but the staff said it was reserved. They provided us with an iPad and informed us that we were required to have 1 order each. We couldn’t share 1 order.
OMG! I now understand why a lot of writers rave about Creo-Yu! That was the BEST takoyaki I’ve ever had! It was indulgent! The smokiness, creaminess, richness, and tastefulness all came together as a gastro explosion in my mouth! BEST EVER, REALLY!
I didn’t like the Okonomiyaki, the texture of the fillings weren’t good and it didn’t come together well as much as the Takoyaki. I’m not sure if it was the flavor that we ordered but yeah, I didn’t like it. I wish we just ordered another flavor of the Takoyaki.
I really recommend the Takoyaki at Creo-Yu! Order the different varieties outside the restaurant! WORTH IT!
Melon Pan Bread with Vanilla Ice Cream: ¥400 (₱190)
Feeling full from the Creo-Yu meal, we felt that there would be no room for dessert! But we had to try the Melon Pan Bread a lot of people were lining up for. You’ll find this dessert truck nearby an outside seating area. It’s light green and it will probably have a line.
We ordered the Melon Pan Bread with Vanilla Ice Cream. There are other ice cream flavors to choose from and you can also choose to order just the bread itself. WOW! That was one freaking delicious sweet bread! The ice cream did compliment the bread very well but having the melon pan bread was already worth it! I wanted to try that bread with Nutella, whipped cream, and other spreads!
I loved that bread! It was the right amount of sweetness and a hint of smokiness to it from the bake or fry. SOOO GOOOOD!
Sushizanmai: ¥6,200 (₱2,944)
In Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, the sushi place that we wanted to try was Sushizanmai because of its reputation but the line was very long. We opted to fall in line instead at Daiwa Sushi which surprisingly was an amazing food experience for our family. So when my sister and I found out that there was a branch in Dotonbori, we chose to eat dinner there on our 2nd night.
There was no line at this restaurant and it wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be. My sister and I chose to sit by the sushi bar.
I ordered a Tuna platter while my sister chose to order different varieties of sashimi and sushi.
The sushi and sashimi was fresh and delicious. We both saved the Otoro (Fatty Tuna) as the last bite and OMG MELT IN YOUR MOUTH GOODNESSZZZZZZZ! I had to close my eyes with every bite so I can maximize the experience of that heavenly sashimi!
DAMN! That was one of hell of a sushi plate! Both plates were served with Miso soup which was very appetizing. Restaurant was active too – what you’d normally expect in a Japanese restaurant wherein all the staff shouted greetings every time someone comes in and leaves.
Milk Craft Cream Shake & Whipped Cream and Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream: ¥1,100 (₱523)
Prior to our trip, our cousins visited Osaka too and shared their experience with a popular Hokkaido ice cream brand – Milk Craft. Having recently shared a post on the best milk ice cream my mom and I ever had in Hokkaido a few months before (North Plain Farm), I wondered if both brands were the same.
Unfortunately, they’re not. Milk Craft is a popular milk stand in Tokyo. The branch in Osaka recently opened this year only. Their milk comes from the Shiribetsu subprefecture in Hokkaido. Based on articles online, the lines are long. You’ll also find lots of pictures online because of the soft serve’s perfect swirl. Check #MilkCraftCream on Instagram.
The branch in Osaka is located in Namba City. We walked through the Namba underground area to get there. OMG! The Namba subway and walk area is crazy! There were so many people going in different directions! It’s not as synchronized as Tokyo.
After a 15 minute walk, we reached Namba City. We asked the mall information staff where Milk Craft Cream was located and they instructed us to go to the upper floor and we’ll immediately see it.
When we spotted Milk Craft, we found a swirl of line in front of it but the end of it was blocked by a staff. We asked if we could fall in line but she pointed us to another swirl of line by a nearby corridor.
Since our cousins said it was their favorite and I really wanted to find out if it was just as good as North Plain Farm’s, we fell in line. We were in line for around 20 minutes. My sister ordered the shake while I ordered the ice cream cone. After every order, a lot of the locals were taking photos of their ice cream by the brand’s sign.
My sister said her order was the best milk product she’s ever tasted. Mine was really good but it melted quickly so I had to lick and lick failing to really appreciate the taste.
Was it better than North Plain Farm’s Soft Serve? Find out: North Plain Farm Food Haul + Taste Test
7-eleven : ¥2,300 (₱1,092)
One of my favorite things to do in Japan? BUY FOOD AT 7-ELEVEN! Not just because it’s budget friendly but the quality can be comparable to eating at restaurants!
When my youngest sister & I arrived at Kansai Airport back in 2015, the first food we had was at Lawson’s and we couldn’t get enough! The Ilohas water was the best and the Onigiris were to die for! We wanted to try all the flavors at the time. So for my consecutive Japan trips, convenience stores were a staple.
Since there was a 1 minute walk away 7 eleven from Hotel 88, we bought everything there – water, snacks for our day trips, quick breakfast & dinner meals, desserts, and sometimes, needed toiletries.
Here are some of the items that we bought from 7eleven during our stay in Osaka:
- Onigiris/Sushi packs – of course! Make sure you try the rolled one too! Not just the triangular shaped ones!
- Mochifuwa Pancakes – YUMMY! My sister & I love this! This is the perfect on the go snack or breakfast. It’s a pancake sandwich with different fillings. We had the chance to try red bean, whipped cream, and butter & maple syrup. Make sure you try the white one from The Seven Sweets chilled section. So creamy and yummy! We bought like 5 or 6 packs of this! MUST TRY! We wanted to purchase some of these as gifts for home too but we didn’t find any 7-eleven at KIX. We found a similar product at Lawson’s but the 7-eleven one was so much better.
- The Seven Sweets cheesecake – This was just alright. It was too sweet! But I liked the creaminess.
- Corn Dog – average taste!
- Calpis – A lot of Japan blogs rave about this drink. It tasted like a cross from soda, yakult, and milk. For me, it wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad either.
- Egg Sandwich – creamy egg filling!
- Katsu & Egg bread – We didn’t like the egg bread but the Katsu one was good.
North Plain Farm
We also visited Yodoyobashi Ona to check out North Plain Farm’s food products at Mercato Piccolo. Unfortunately, the soft serve wasn’t available there. Only butter, cheese, and milk products are available for purchase at that branch.
BUY THE HOKKAIDO BUTTER! SO GOOD! If you want to try the ice cream, it is available at another Mercato Piccolo branch.
For more details, read North Plain Farm Food Haul + Taste Test
Other Food Options
Prior to our trip, I listed down all the food places that I wanted to check out and try. Here’s a list for your reference. We didn’t get to try all of these because we easily got full (EHEM! CREO-YU TAKOYAKI! BEST EVER!).
Namba (Dotonbori)/Shinsaibashi Area:
- Ice Dog – Vanilla ice cream in a bun
- Kogaryu Takoyaki
- Poppin Sweeties – Rose-shaped fruit ice cream! We wanted to Instagram this one but we couldn’t find the stall.
- Bokkoshi Ramen
- Tori Paitan Ramen
- Luke’s Lobster
- Pablo’s Cheese Tart – We were supposed to take out a tart here and try the sweet corn ice cream but the line was very long and there was only ONE staff doing everything (taking orders, packing the product, & accepting the payment)
- Toki Sushi
- Daruma Kushikatsu – Fried foods on a stick
- Genroku Sushi
- Mizuno – Okonomiyaki
- Kurukuru Takoyaki
- Alycon Creperie
- Ichiran – One of the most popular ramen restaurants in Japan! When we passed by this place, it had a very long line! (Mostly Chinese tourists in tow of a guide).
- Kinnotorikara – Fried chicken food stall
- Rikuro’s Cheese Tart
I really wanted my sister to visit Kuromon Ichiba as it was her first time but since we got lost, we’ll just save this for next time. Here’s a list of food we wanted to try at Kuromon Market:
- Kyoho Grapes – I read a few articles that this can be a very, very, very affordable alternative to the overwhelming and expensive $1,977 (₱105,830) Ruby Roman Japanese grapes from Isetan that was featured on BuzzFeed’s Worth It on YouTube. The Kyoho Grapes cost around ¥1,000 (₱475) to ¥2,500 (₱1,187) at Kuromon Market.
- Raw Uni
- Wagyu Beef
- Quail Egg Octopus
- Tuna Sashimi (Otoro), Nigiri – Sampei/Maguroya Kurogin
- Daiwa Koen Osaka Cake
- Takoyaki Wakana Takosen
- Maruzen Meat
- Sakura Rice Ball
If food trips are your thing, Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi/Namba is your best destination!
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN
Since it was my sister’s first time in Osaka, we couldn’t miss a day at Universal Studios Japan (USJ). I wanted to return as well because although my first time at USJ was great, I felt like I didn’t get to maximize everything USJ has to offer.
Back in 2015, my youngest sister and I only got to experience 3 attractions – Terminator 2:3D (Theatre Show), Universal Monsters Live Rock & Roll Show (Theatre Show), and Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey (Ride). Most of that day was spent in lines – lines to buy entrance tickets, lines to enter, lines to eat, lines to ride, lines to watch shows, LINES, LINES, LINES! I still remember the look my sister had on her face when we were an hour into the line at the Harry Potter ride. Boy was she annoyed!
During that year, there weren’t any travel activity online platforms yet in the Philippines so we couldn’t purchase the tickets in advance. But now, THANKS TO KKDAY, my sister and I had the chance to spend more time experiencing thrilling rides than waiting in lines! It was the best day!
KKday is an online platform where you can conveniently book tickets, passes, transfers, and tours of travel activities around the world in advance. The prices of the tickets on KKday are usually less or the same than when you purchase directly at establishments. If you follow KKday on social media, you have access to occasional discounts and promo codes of your preferred and popular travel activities to further reduce the price of your tickets. Watch out for Buy X, Get X deals or % off promos!
On KKday, there’s already an option to book a USJ bundle that includes your entrance ticket and an express pass of your choosing. In our case, we booked the Universal Studios Japan: Entrance Ticket & Universal Express Pass (Standard 4-Off Season) dated June 26, 2018. The bundle price was ₱6,515 per person.
If you buy tickets directly from USJ (prices based on http://www.usj.co.jp/e), the total would be ¥7,900 (₱3,759) 1 day entrance ticket + ¥5,200 (₱2,475) Universal Express Pass Standard 4 = ¥13,100 (₱6,234) per person (exchange rate as of July 2018).
Please note that prices on KKday vary day to day.
In this analysis and upon checking USJ passes on KKday again, the price on KKday is more expensive but do note that if you buy on the day itself at USJ, there is no assurance that you will be able to purchase an express pass as this tends to get sold out easily. Back in 2015, it took us around 45 minutes to purchase entrance tickets. So what the KKday tickets provide are convenience and peace of mind.
From Namba, we took the Hanshin local train to Nishijuku station. From there, we rode the Yumesaki/Sakurajima line to Universal City. We arrived around 9AM and the park was still closed but there were already long lines at the ticket booth and entrance gates. My sister and I took photos at the globe first and ate the snacks we bought from 7eleven.
On the website, the official opening was at 9:30AM but the gates opened around 9:20AM. When the line started to move, my sister and I followed suit and fell in line.
We were in line for around 5 minutes! Although the KKday confirmation emails indicate that the vouchers should be printed, both the printed and mobile version works. We just needed to zoom in the QR code on our phones before scanning. When we saw that this worked, we placed the printed vouchers in our bags and used our e-copies all throughout the day.
Thanks to the USJ express passes booked via KKday, I was able to experience 5 of USJ’s best and thrilling rides while my sister got to experience 6. My sister’s favorite ride was Hollywood Dream’s The Ride. I passed on this as I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters.
Here are the rides that we got to experience:
- Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey
- The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman The Ride 4K3D
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Jurassic Park: The Ride
THRILLING RIDES EVER! I’m a movie buff and it’s so amazing when there are destinations like USJ which allow us to somehow live out our fantasy dreams of being wizards, superheroes, and more. These rides were heart stopping, scream inducing, and thrilla pallooza!
We stayed the whole day at USJ. And OMG, it was FREAKING HOT! SOBRANG INIT! We even saw a local almost pass out at the Minion Park. People were fanning her and making her drink water. I also saw a lot of people holding up fans because of the heat. To cool off, my sister and I would always enter souvenir shops and pretend to buy! HAHAHAHA! ANG INIT TALAGA!
Our favorite place to cool off was at the benches in the Hollywood area. It was just a few minutes walk from the entrance. This is also the area where the theme park’s Wi-Fi signal is the strongest. When we needed a relief from the heat, we would rest there for a bit.
What we were really excited for was USJ’s newest attraction – Universal Spectacle Night Parade. It was supposed to start at 8PM but at around 5:30PM, it rained. It did stop but at around 6:30PM, the park announced that they would cancel the parade due to intermittent weather.
We were disappointed by this. We also noticed that around 5PM, park guests were already saving spots on the benches and sidewalks on the parade’s route. When the announcement was made, my sister and I decided to go home because we were very tired. Passing through the Hollywood area, there were a lot of guests sitting by curbs probably hoping that the parade would still push through. But we already saw USJ staff remove the SPECIAL VIEWING AREA barriers so it was official that the parade was really cancelled.
Even though we missed the parade, my sister was lucky to witness a parade early that afternoon. I was so bummed because after our experience at Minion Mayhem, we agreed to wait for each other at the Minion Park while she goes to the bathroom. When she returned, she told me that she got to view the Water Surprise Parade.
Based on the time we exited from the mayhem ride, the parade probably started around 2:30PM. My sister showed me her video and it was a bunch of floats of characters from the different USJ worlds and USJ staff holding water guns. On the Studio Guide pamphlets, it looks like the staff would be squirting water out of those guns but my sister said that when she watched, there was no more water inside their toy guns.
We also noticed that at the boardwalk there was a faucet with a sign that the water was for water guns only. With the heat at USJ, this parade is definitely a wet relief! So if you’re looking to get wet by the summer parade, make sure you bring extra clothes!
Our whole experience at USJ was a satisfying and fun one. We got to experience the best rides and we did see the benefits of using the USJ Express Pass. This was specifically evident at the Harry Potter & Minion rides. We saw the lines without express passes and they were really long! I said to my self, Been there, done that! HAHAHAHA! The relief of breezing through the express lane was the best!
Watch out for the article to be published after this one as that will be a very detailed account of our experiences at USJ!
If you’re interested in buying your Universal Studios Japan entrance tickets and passes via #KKdayPH, book HERE. #TravelWithKKday
When you hear the word Kobe, you immediately think beef, right? Or is it just me? It’s like Kobe’s word vomit is Beef. I’ve seen a lot of blogs do the Osaka – Kyoto – Nara – Kobe travel route when in Kansai. Some of the itineraries make Kobe out to be a food stop. And that’s what we did! I really wanted to try Kobe beef which is said to be the melt in your mouth kind which I’ve never tried before.
Recently, I’ve been hooked on BuzzFeed’s Worth It show. It’s where 3 guys try out 3 different dishes of the same ingredient at 3 drastically different price points and choose what dish is the most worth it at its price. They’ve tried this concept with eggs, lechon, cheesecake, seafood, breakfast buffets, and many more!
I wanted to try a mini version of this and where else to try it than in Kobe where almost every nook and corner has a Kobe beef restaurant in sight!
KOBE – SANNOMIYA STATION
From Hotel 88, we lugged our bags to the elevator after Namba Walk’s B6 exit. We then headed towards the Hanshin line – the same train line we used for USJ. We took the train headed for Kobe Sannomiya. The train ride took around 50 minutes and had around 10+ stops. The one way train ride cost us ¥410 (₱195) each.
At the Kobe – Sannomiya station, we located station lockers to put our luggage in. Since we had 2, we rented out 2 lockers for ¥600 (₱286) each. The smaller lockers cost ¥300 (₱144). Please note that the lockers only accept ¥100 coins. You can find these coin lockers all over the station. Our specific lockers were located near the A10 exit.
Our first stop on the KOBE BEEF Worth It show was Kobe Steak Ishida. After inquiring at the tourist information center, we walked towards the E8 exit. Once out, take a right then take the next right at the corner. Go straight! While walking, we passed through the Honten Kobe Steak Ishida branch. We kept walking until we found the yellow & green Arc Coast sign.
We took the elevator to the 2nd floor and we were finally at Kobe Steak Ishida Ikuta Shinmichi.
KOBE STEAK ISHIDA (IKUTA-SHINMICHI)
We dove right into it by starting with the priciest meal we had during our recent Japan trip. Kobe Steak Ishida is one of the most popular Kobe beef restaurants in Kobe. You’ll find articles and TripAdvisor reviews that usually include this restaurant in the Top 5.
To eat at Kobe Steak Ishida, you need to reserve in advance on their website. If you choose to wing it and try your luck on the day itself, there might be lines. We booked a lunch dated June 27 last June 12. There are 4 branches of Kobe Steak Ishida within the Kobe-Sannomiya area but the website company will choose the location for you. The reservation also needs to be paid in advance. If you don’t order any extras during the date of your lunch or dinner, you won’t need to pay anything else during the course.
Our reservation was scheduled at 11:30AM so we arrived on time. Once the elevators opened, we were welcomed by the staff. She asked for our names and led us to our table. We didn’t need to show the reservation email.
The restaurant is intimate and there’s only 2 cooking counters with seats. Even though it was a Wednesday, the place eventually filled up!
We ordered the following:
- A5 Kobe Beef Course BMS Grade of 10-12 (Sirloin 130g): ¥13,800 (₱6,567)
- A4 for A5 Kobe Beef Course BMS Grade of 8-9 (Tenderloin 110g): ¥11,500 (₱5,472)
The courses include – Assorted Appetizer, Soup of the Day, Original Salad, Kobe Beef, Fried Seasonal Vegetables, Bread or Rice, Dessert Assortment, Coffee or Tea.
Please note that when reserving online, the price includes an 8% tax and 8% service charge. The total price per person was ₱7,015.
When we were seated, the staff asked for our bags and placed them inside a basket which was then put under our seats. Another staff also handed a warm moist towelette to clean our hands.
After taking a few photos of the restaurant, the staff confirmed our orders and asked us if we wanted to add anything and we said no.
After a few minutes, the appetizers were served – a piece of fish, squid, and beef slices:
We loved the beef on this plate! We thought if this was good, how much more the main course, right? The fish and squid were just okay.
While we were eating the appetizers, our assigned chef placed 2 slabs of raw beef in front of us. The marbling on the beef had me pining for it to be cooked already. It looked so luxurious! We were getting very excited!
I read a blog review that they had Foie Gras as an appetizer at this restaurant. You actually have to purchase this as an extra. It’s not included in the course menu. But promise! The steaks were already filling! You don’t need that Foie Gras!
After we finished the appetizers, they served a bowl of steamed egg soup. This was savory and tasteful.
Our assigned chef arrived. He placed 2 plates in front of us then started to put condiments on them and indicating what they were – sea salt, pepper, mustard, and fine salt.
Then, he started to cut up the beef and cook them! WOOHOOOOOO! The smooth cut of the beef looked so mesmerizing! The sizzle was drool worthy.
While the chef was cooking, our salad was served. It had fresh vegetables and glass noodles. This was really good!
AND THEN! The chef placed 3 pieces of each kind of steak on each of our plates. IT LOOKED SO BEAUTIFUL! HAHAHAHAHA!
While we were marveling at this, the chef then turned to other guests on the counter and started to cook for them. He was multitasking between 2 groups just like the other chefs on the same and other counter.
MOMENT OF TRUTH! I tried the darker colored beef first which was the less expensive one (Tenderloin) and OMG! I closed my eyes and placed the back of my hand on my forehead. ANG SARAP! IBA! Quality beef! SOBRANG SARAP! It tasted so good with the salad and Japanese rice. It was smoky, beefy, juicy, OMG! I’m not so good at describing food but it was very good steak! My sister on the hand was muttering all kinds of praises at her side too.
AND FINALLY! The highest grade beef!
OMG! That Sirloin Kobe Beef was a #FOODGASM moment!
OMG! I never knew BEEF could taste THAT FREAKING HEAVENLY! YES! It’s true! THAT WAS THE MELT IN YOUR MOUTH BEEFY GOODNESS! I kept closing my eyes with every bite! It was excellent and gastronomic! All praises, REALLY! The high fat to meat ratio was definitely the culprit of that melt-y mouth feel. SO GOOD!
The chef also recommended to season the beef with these combinations: a bit of sea salt + pepper and mustard and soy sauce.
After cooking beef for the other group, the chef continued to cook the remaining beef along with vegetables. He saved the beef fat for last and cooked it with the bean sprouts! I actually wanted the fat with the rice but YES, what he did was the ‘healthier’ option. HAHAHAHAHA!
My sister didn’t like the vegetables too much. I agree but I did like crunch of it when chewed with the steak. But the beef was best with rice! OF COURSE! The potato wedges were a welcome side too! It was freshly cooked! Its texture was like fries but the taste was like mashed potatoes. I loved the sprouts that were fried with the beef fat. Not healthy but not too indulgent! It was just right!
When everything was served, the chef bowed and we thanked him.
That course made me blissful! I felt like crying because I couldn’t believe I was really there eating amazing food! Overall, that was the best beef I’ve ever had! Asking my sister’s opinions, she did love the Sirloin Kobe Beef but it comes second to the Matsusaka beef she tried a few years before.
That was definitely filling! When we finished our plates, the staff took them and asked if we wanted coffee or tea. My sister ordered hot tea while I had iced coffee. The coffee was very strong so I had to put a lot of milk and sugar.
We were very full at that point but when the desserts were served, WHO’S FULL? NOT US! Look at that!
The ice cream was very rich and creamy and it complimented the cheesecake’s hint of tart and milkiness very well. We liked this dessert! It was the perfect cap to an amazing course meal! KUDOS & BRAVO TO Kobe Ishida Steak! I understand why it’s popular and needs reservations in advance!
All throughout, the staff was really attentive. When our water was midway through the glass, someone swoops in and fills it to the brim. They were full of smiles too!
I highly recommend you to try Kobe Steak Ishida if you’re looking for a quality Kobe Beef Restaurant.
For more information, visit kobebeef-ishida.com. The official company that handles Kobe Steak Ishida’s reservations is My Concierge Japan. You can inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
KOBE STEAK LAND
While searching for a Kobe beef restaurant before our trip, my mom asked her chef friend (Sandy Daza, owner of Casa Daza) what he would recommend and Kobe Steak Land was his first choice. The Kobe beef courses have mid-range prices. If we had more time at Kobe, we would have definitely tried this restaurant! From my research, I found out that this place is popular too and tends to get long lines.
From the E6 Exit of the Kobe – Sannomiya station, we just walked straight and passed through a lot of shops. That’s when we saw the big signs of steaks overhead with Steak Land written on it. I’ve read blogs that called this lane the ‘Kobe Beef Street’. When we passed through, there were no lines and there were a lot of attendants encouraging us to eat their Kobe beef there.
According to online photos, the Kobe Beef Steak set at Steak Land costs around ¥4,800 (₱2,287).
KOBE FACT! HAHAHAHA! Just like BuzzFeed’s Worth It show where they spew out food facts every now and then. Sorry! I’m just really into the Worth It show, okay? So! KOBE FACT! Did you know that most of the Kobe products sold and eaten in Kobe and even other parts of Japan actually originate from the nearby Awaji Island? [See OKN II Route Map]. Awaji breeds the cattle that Kobe and even Mastsusaka beef are made from. If you have no time to visit Kobe, there are a lot of Kobe restaurants in Osaka.
NANKINMACHI (KOBE CHINATOWN)
From Kobe Steak Land, we walked towards Daimaru, a big department store or mall brand in Japan. Across Daimaru, we checked out Nankinmachi, Kobe’s Chinatown.
There, we found affordable Chinese street food. A lot of tourists were walking through there. We also noticed a long line at a Chinese dumpling shop. If you love Chinese food, you’ll love this street! There are so many choices!
Since we were still full from our Kobe Ishida Steak experience, the last thing we wanted to do was eat at another restaurant.
The main reason we visited Nankinmachi is because this is the place where you can, according to articles and blogs, purchase the most affordable Kobe beef.
All throughout our walk at Nankinmachi, we found at least 3 stalls that had this Spiderman design. This is the stall that sells the cheapest Kobe beef products. So for our version of KOBE BEEF Worth It, we tried this!
My sister and I tried the Kobe Beef Red Meat Steak worth ¥1,500 (₱715) and Kobe Beef Sushi Prime Red Meat worth ¥800 (₱382). The Red Meat Steak was served with corn and a special sauce while the Kobe Beef sushi was served with a hint of wasabi. My sister insisted I have the whole sushi while she took a few bites of the red meat steak.
We ate our orders at the stand in surface at the stall.
For ₱382, a two bite beef sushi wasn’t worth it. There were big chunks of salt with each chew and the taste of the beef was just okay. I’ve had the best beef sushi in Takayama and that was only ¥700 (₱335) for 2 pieces. That sushi was such a let down!
My sister didn’t like the red meat steak. This was good although a bit gummy. But it tasted good. The sauce wasn’t good so don’t dip the beef if you’re buying this. Corn was okay. I’ve tried better steaks here in Manila at a much cheaper rate – mostly US or AUS steak meals in restaurants.
Our visit at Nankinmachi for the cheapest Kobe beef was a bust! The Chinese street food we passed through looked better. If we’ll return to Kobe, we will definitely try the Chinese food varieties and skip the Spiderman stalls of Kobe Beef.
So, what is our WORTH IT WINNER? Definitely, KOBE ISHIDA STEAK! HAHAHAHAHA! That’s it for the Worth It Show by Irene! HAHAHAHAHA! Tune in next time?! Catch my Worth It series on my next trips! MAYBE?! SOON?! HAHAHAHA!
My sister and I were supposed to walk further and explore Kobe Harborland but it started to rain so we explored Ikuta Road instead. It’s Kobe’s main entertainment district where you’ll find a lot shops and restaurants.
It’s like a massive version of Greenhills. If you’re staying within this area, you have access to everything that you’ll probably need during your trip.
PORT LINER TO KOBE AIRPORT
After exploring, we returned to our coin lockers and retrieved our luggage. We then headed towards the Port Liner. There are a lot of signs and directions so we found the port liner easily.
From Kobe – Sannomiya to Kobe Airport, the train ride took around 10 – 15 minutes and cost us ¥330 (₱157) each. It had more than 10 stops. I was surprised because I kind of thought it would be a one way liner to the airport directly but yeah, there were a lot of stops.
At the airport, we followed the signs for the free shuttle bus to the Kobe port. But since we arrived around 3:45PM and the next bus was inbound at 3:54PM, we waited inside the airport. It was very windy that afternoon! VERY WINDY!
On the dot, the free shuttle bus arrived and off we went to the Kobe port which was 2 minutes away. You can actually walk from the airport to the port. There’s a pathway but since it was very windy, we waited for the bus.
KOBE FERRY TO KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX)
One of the reasons why we chose to explore Kobe on our last day in Kansai is because there is a 30 minute high speed ferry option from Kobe to KIX. To experience all kinds of transit, we chose this option. Plus, all foreign tourists are entitled to the ferry discount of ¥500 (₱238) instead of the normal ¥1,850 (₱880).
Make sure to show your passport upon purchase of ferry tickets. Please note that this discount is available until March 31, 2019. If you’re exploring Kansai with Kobe as a stop, this is definitely a cheaper alternative compared to the ¥1,050 bus from KIX to Osaka.
When we arrived a few minutes before 4PM, the next ferry departure was at 5PM. We just waited at the port area. There’s free WiFi and a veranda where you can take photos. There are also different vending machines if you’re thirsty or hungry. For kids, there’s also a captain costume to play with.
I’m not sure if it was just the windy weather that day but that ferry ride was NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. We were so surprised! That ferry ride was a much more intense version of Enchanted Kingdon’s Rio Grande Rapids!
OMG! At times, I was gripping the handles of my seat because of the jumps and bumps of the ride. The waves were big! And I must hand it to the captain, he did his best avoiding them! KUDOS! I felt like one wrong turn would capsize the ferry any second! The captain was really pushing through or around the waves!
It was funny because we thought our rides at USJ were done, we didn’t expect that Kansai had one more thrilling ride for us! HAHAHAHAHA! Because of this, the ferry ride didn’t feel like 30 minutes, it felt longer. It was open sea! We assumed maybe that’s why this transit route wasn’t popular! Or maybe just new? HAHAHAHAHA!
There were calm moments where the ferry would just push through but there were more wavy and bumpy moments! But when we reached the area with barriers, all was calm from there and I heaved a sigh of relief. Once we disembarked, a shuttle bus was waiting to take us to KIX Terminal 1. The bus ride took around 3 minutes.
If you’re up for a thrilling 30 minute ferry ride to KIX, take the ferry from the Kobe port!
For more information, visit http://www.kobe-access.jp/eng
When you hear the word NARUTO, what comes to mind? Anime, right? I didn’t even watch Naruto as a kid but I know it as an anime. That’s it! It’s ingrained in my mind that Naruto = Anime. Even when you google the word, NARUTO, all search links and photos on the first page is related to the anime.
So when my sister posted a photo on her FB account of the Naruto Whirlpools, her friends messaged her and asked where the photos were taken. She said, Naruto to which her friends replied, Saan yan? (Where?). She answered, in Japan and they responded with, May ganyan sa Japan? (There’s something like that in Japan?)
I didn’t even know the Naruto Whirlpools existed until a few months ago. There’s not a lot of blog posts and article information online from Filipino travelers.
But we’ve actually seen something a lot that was actually inspired by the Naruto Whirlpools. If you’re a Shabu-Shabu or Ramen lover, you see this! If you’ve watched The Emoji movie, you’ve seen this! Do you know it yet? No?
The Naruto Whirlpools actually inspired the pink swirl on that white fish cake that you eat in soups or use as an emoji. Most people know it as a fish cake or Japanese food emoji but it’s actually called a NARUTOMAKI. Cool, right?
If you watch Naruto, you can also find a swirl design on his metal forehead band, I can’t find any article linking this with the whirlpools but it must be inspired by it.
The whirlpool phenomenon happens when two opposing currents meet. It can happen when you’re draining your bathtub, using a washing machine, or in the case of Naruto’s – when a narrow strait has fast flowing water meeting different tides. Naruto Whirlpools is actually one of the best whirlpool sights in the world.
Planning a Naruto day trip is a bit of tricky especially if you plan to take public transportation. You have to factor in bus schedules and the strength of tides. YES! The first thing you have to take into account is if there will be actual whirlpools seen per day. It’s not a continuous occurrence. It usually happens more in the summer and twice per day. Sometimes, there won’t be whirlpools at all.
My main reference in planning our day trip to Naruto was Uzusio’s website. They’re one of the sightseeing boat companies available in Naruto. They have a timetable of tide strength per day.
We decided to do the day trip on our first full day in Japan (June 25, 2018). On Uzusio’s website, it indicated that the whirlpools will be strongest at 10:40AM and 4:50PM. According to them, we should visit 2 hours before or 2 hours after the indicated time.
Please note that Naruto is not a part of Kansai. Naruto is in the Tokushima prefecture, Shikoku region. But it is easily accessible. You can choose to take these transport options to the Naruto Whirlpools:
- 2 hour bus from Osaka
- 30 minute ferry from KIX + 1 hour bus from Kobe
- 50 minute train from Osaka to Kobe + 1 hour bus from Kobe
Since my only reference was tourist information online and not actual experiences of travelers (from travel articles or blogs), our Naruto day trip was time pressured and constrained. I would have loved any information from personal accounts to adjust.
Here was our schedule:
7:35AM to 9:24AM
|Minato-machi BT. OCAT to Naruto Park JR Shikoku Bus|
|Uzo No Michi|
|Naruto Park to Sightseeing Port Local Bus|
|Wonder Naruto Sightseeing Boat to Whirlpools|
|Naruto Sightseeing Port to Park Local Bus|
|Naruto Park Café|
1:40PM to 1:55PM
|Taxi to Naruto Expressway Bus Station|
|Sloppy Rail to Highway Bus Stop|
2:00PM to 3:55PM
|Naruto Expressway Bus Stop Minato-machi BT. OCAT JR Shikoku Bus|
The schedule may seem okay but we definitely played with time dangerously! HAHAHAHA!
JR SHIKOKU BUS (OSAKA – NARUTO)
Upon seeing Uzusio’s tide table reference, we decided to take the 7:35AM bus to Naruto Park and 2:00PM bus back to Osaka. We wanted to book online because if you book more than 7 days (Hayauri 7) before your actual trip, there’s a discount. But when I tried booking through kousokubus.net, it kept requiring that our names be in half width letters. Unable to do this, I sought help with Hotel 88 and they were able to purchase the discounted tickets for us. We just paid them upon check-in.
One way fare to Naruto Park from Osaka costs ¥3,250 (₱1,545) per person while the discounted rate is ¥2,600 (₱1,236). The Naruto Park stop is only for inbound buses to Tokushima so for the bus back to Osaka, we availed the route from Naruto Kosoku (Expressway/Highway) bus stop. The fare and discount rate is the same.
From Hotel 88, we just retraced our steps back to Namba OCAT. This is the same bus station of the airport route. When our bus arrived, the driver asked for our tickets and we told him, “Naruto Koen” and he happily said it back, “Naruto Koen, Naruto Koen”.
The bus seats were reserved and even though it was a Monday, the bus was 90% full. The ride took around an hour in the Osaka-Kobe area and then another hour in Awaji island area. The route was similar to the SCTEX route to Subic. The Awaji Island route had lots of green scenery and tunnels.
It got a bit sunny in the middle of the ride but what we loved about the bus is that the drapes were quality material as it did block the sun fully. No heat was seeping in. Not like the buses we have in the Philippines where drapes are useless.
When we were passing through the Naruto bridge, we were so ecstatic. We peeked out the window to see if we can view the whirlpools from the bus. And we did! We saw glimpses of it until…the bus stopped…by the bridge highway. No one else was standing until the driver said Naruto Koen. This was our stop! And we were the only ones disembarking!
From the name of the stop – ‘Naruto Park’, I expected the bus stop to be at a park. Not by a highway! My sister and I were surprised like, “Wow okay! The bus just left us on the side of the road.” HAHAHAHA! It would have been better if there were others who went down but we were the only ones who did!
Looking up we saw a big sign saying NARUTO PARK. We had a view of the Onaruto bridge at our backs and a bunch of slopes ahead. We really asked ourselves, were we actually in the right place? HAHAHAHA!
Walking further, I saw a building that I assumed to be the Onaruto Bridge Museum Eddy. On our way there, my sister and I climbed the bridge walkway first to take photos of the Onaruto bridge. What a sight! From that bridge walkway, we saw a parking area on one side and the museum on the other side.
We went towards the museum first and finally saw the direction signs for Uzu-no-Michi, the viewing deck of the Naruto Whirlpools. To be sure, I asked the attendant inside the Onaruto Bridge Museum Eddy but she didn’t speak English. So I just pointed to a photo on the pamphlet and she pointed me where to go.
We walked the downward slope to the under-bridge walkway for around 5 minutes before we reached the entrance to Uzu-No-Michi. This is a framed glass viewing area under the Onaruto Bridge. The entrance fee is priced at ¥510 (₱243).
The time we had to work with is that we had to catch the 11:00AM sightseeing boat before the Naruto Whirlpools disappear. And we were only working with the local bus transportation which only runs 1 bus per hour! This really sucked!
The bus we were schedule to take was 10:36AM, so we had around less than an hour to walk to/from the local bus stop and experience Uzo No Michi. It wasn’t easy because Uzo No Michi is a damn long walk! HAHAHAHA! You actually have to walk half the bridge which is about 450m before you see the best viewing frames of the whirlpools.
From the entrance to the main viewing area, there are actually 3 rest station benches where people can sit. It’s a very long hallway! HAHAHAHA!
But the glass framed floors made it fun! Since the viewing is also under a highway bridge, the floors rattle a bit because of the passing cars.
We really liked this place! We had a lot of fun taking photos and staring at the whirlpools beneath us. It was so hypnotic and mesmerizing. It felt like we were inside a screensaver.
From the main viewing area, you can also watch the sightseeing boats cruise over and beside the whirlpools! I loved this!
Because one of the boats (Uzushio) resembled a pirate ship and I felt like I was in the midst of a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End! It was so cool! The whirlpools looked like a vortex about to suck in the ships! It was a worthwhile sight! A MUST SEE! The pirate ship can be ridden through the Awaji side of the bridge not Naruto Park.
Most of the tourists in Naruto were locals mostly families enjoying the view of the whirlpools on the floor and by the window.
I also liked the windy feeling at the viewing area. It was refreshing and made the long and rattle-y walk bearable!
At around 10:10AM, we started to walk back to catch the 10:36 local bus to the sightseeing port. I really wish we weren’t in a hurry and pressed for time here but we had to work with the tide and boat schedule.
At the Uzu-no-Michi entrance, there were tourists being dropped off by taxis at the stop so if you want a bit of convenience, you can just take this to the sightseeing boat port.
My sister and I walked back up the slope and started to look for the local bus. We had to climb down and up a few stairs and slopes before we found the bus stop. It is located at the other side (where the parking area is) and the bottom of it. You’ll pass through a walkway tunnel or you can choose to walk through the bridge we initially walked through near the Naruto Park sign.
The local bus left at exactly 10:36. We got our ticket and paid ¥110 (₱53) when we alighted. You have to place your bus ticket in a container by the driver and place the coins there too. If you have no change, the bus has a money changer but it won’t deduct your fare. You get the same exact amount in coins and you have to place the coins inside the payment container.
The bus ride took around 5 minutes. It may seem like you can walk from the park to the port but it was very hot and the coastal road to the port didn’t have sidewalks all throughout. If you’re pressed for time like we were, take a taxi or bus.
UZUSIO WHIRLPOOL SIGHTSEEING BOAT
When we alighted at the Naruto Sightseeing Port bus stop, there was a small establishment there with a big and vertical NARUTO sign.
We availed first class seats for the Wonder Naruto Sightseeing Boat. There are 2 kinds – Wonder & Aqua Eddy. The Aqua Eddy has a bottom viewing area but there were a bit of negative reviews on this so we decided to take the other boat instead.
The staff doesn’t speak English very well so we just pointed out the boat we wanted to take and said first class or top. The first class tickets were priced at ¥2,800 (₱1,331) per person. Most of the guests were Japanese locals again. We bought tickets for the Wonder Naruto Boat departing at 11:00AM.
At 10:55AM, the staff started to accommodate the passengers. We weren’t that many.
Also, we had the first class area all to ourselves! There’s an air-conditioned room with comfortable couches and a breezy viewing deck around.
After walking through Uzu-no-Michi and around the Naruto park to find that bus, it was a relief to sit in that first class area! The boat looked very clean and brand new.
We stayed inside the seating area for a few minutes until we saw the Onaruto Bridge in sight. We opened the sliding doors and started to view and take photos. It resembled the SanFo bridge in movie scenes but silver. I couldn’t believe that just some minutes before, we were under that bridge and now we were on a boat marveling at it from another angle.
The slow cruise, fresh air, ocean breeze, and angle of the Onaruto bridge was such a worthwhile travel experience. My sister and I loved it!
The view of the whirlpools from the first class area was great. We got to see a lot of whirlpools form. The side maneuver of the boat allowed us to take in amazing angles of the whirlpools and the Onaruto bridge. What a great sight!
After taking a few photos, I just stared at the phenomenon happening beneath my feet. It was just water. It was so simple. But it felt grand. I loved it!
The view from Uzu-no-Michi was amazing! But the view from boat was amazing too! Both were worthwhile! And I’m really grateful that I got to experience the Naruto Whirlpools even if I just knew that it existed a few months ago!
The sun was out and about too! Although hot, it provided great lighting to an already amazing view. The sun highlighted the best of it all!
When the boat started to cruise back, my sister and I just rested inside the seating area. We were back at the port at around 11:40AM. Since the next bus to Naruto Park was 12:14NN, we just waited inside. Please note that there is no Wi-Fi or tables in this area. There is a viewing area on the second floor but only seats are available.
There is a souvenir shop, vending machines, and food section where you can buy but the food is limited. We were the only ones waiting for the bus! Everyone just went on their merry way with personal cars or rentals.
The local bus arrived at the bus stop at around 12:19NN not 12:14NN as indicated in the timetable. We were dropped off where we embarked an hour ago. We climbed up the stairs again, walked through the parking area, and settled at the tourist center and café nearby.
For more information on the Uzusio Whirlpool Sightseeing Boat, visit http://www.uzusio.com/en! You’ll find access options, fare schedules, tide timetables, and more useful travel information on this website.
NARUTO PARK CAFÉ
All we had for breakfast was water and the Mochifuwa Pancakes from 7eleven so after all that walking and sightseeing, we were very hungry! We ordered Fried Noodles and chicken Karaage which were very good! Total order was priced at ¥900 (₱431) I loved the chewiness of the noodles! The chicken was moist and juicy too.
We also ordered dessert which according to the menu signs are the bestsellers, sweet potato ice cream and frozen sweet potato. The ice cream was really good and creamy but I didn’t care for the cut up sweet potato mixture on the bottom. This ice cream was way better than the Milk Craft ice cream cone I bought the day before. It didn’t compliment well with the ice cream. The Frozen Sweet Potato was a mistake buy. We didn’t finish this. It was like frozen potato coated in sugar. That’s it! Total cost of the desserts was ¥650 (₱311).
Since there was only 1 local bus operating per hour to Naruto Kosoku bus stop, my sister and I decided to take a taxi from the café. We asked help from the tourist information staff. This is where we started to live dangerously with time HAHAHAHA! It was 1:15PM when we requested for a taxi but the one that was called for was expected to arrive at 1:40PM. We booked bus tickets back to Osaka at 2:00PM so we were pretty worried that we might not make it. The next bus would be at 2:45PM and we had to pay an additional fee for this.
We just winged it and hoped for the best!
When the taxi arrived, we quickly got in at 1:40PM. We reached the Naruto Highway Bus stop at 1:55PM. The taxi cost us ¥3,200 (₱1,531). We thought we were good but PANIC!, the highway bus wouldn’t pass at that stop! We had to take the Sloppy Rail up to the highway where the actual bus would stop.
When we asked the lady at the station where the bus was, she saw our tickets and the time and quickly led us to the sloppy rail – it is like a cable car/elevator on rails that brought us to the higher road. The lady told us to walk fast once we reached the top and look for the Osaka arrows and signs.
NARUTO HIGHWAY BUS STOP
The sloppy rail was free and slow. HAHAHAHA! It made us more nervous! At the top, we saw a sign for buses heading to Osaka, Kobe, etc so we followed that! We passed through a long tunnel and climbed a flight of stairs.
Once again, we were at the side of a highway road clueless. There was no attendant, just a few people.
It was 1:58 on our watches. Will the bus come or did we miss it?
Phew! Then the Osaka bus arrived! The driver alighted holding a clipboard asking for our tickets. He saw our tickets and indicated which seats we should settle in.
JR SHIKOKU BUS (NARUTO – OSAKA)
What a relief! We made it! The bus we were on was 90% full as well. This route had a stop at Kobe. It was a smooth ride and we arrived on time at Namba OCAT.
If you have more time to explore the Naruto Whirlpools area, you can also check out:
- Onaruto Bridge Museum Eddy – Since we were pressed for time, we didn’t get to experience this! The illuminations seem really cool!
- Otsuka Museum of Art – We intended to visit this but it was closed during our day trip.
- Eska Hill
- Senjojiki Observatory
- Take the earliest bus from Osaka to Naruto Park (6:40AM, 6:55AM, or 7:20AM) and the latest bus from Naruto Highway to Osaka (5:45PM or 6:15PM)
- Experience Uzu-no-Michi Walkway & the Sightseeing Boat in the morning and explore Onaruto Bridge Museum Eddy, Otsuka Museum of Art, Eska Hill, & Senjojiki Observatory in the afternoon or vice versa.
- Please note that the local bus starts operations at 10:36AM (weekdays) and 9:36AM (weekends&holidays) from Naruto Park. Only 1 (weekdays) or 2 (weekends&holidays) buses operate per hour. Cheapest fare is ¥110. The local bus route is Naruto Park – Naruto Sightseeing Port (Uzusio) – Konaruto Bridge (Naruto Highway Bus Stop) – Naruto Station – Tokushima Airport – Tokushima Station & vice versa. Please also note that the local bus stop is different from the Osaka – Naruto Park highway bus stop.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The area consists of upward and downhill slopes and long walkways.
- Bring a few bottles of water!
The Naruto Whirlpools is a MUST SEE!
If you don’t want to experience the time pressured day trip itinerary that we had, try to avail a rental car in Osaka. Although, we had an amazing time, it would have been better if we weren’t in a hurry most of the day trip. Look into renting a car with driver from Easy Travel Japan so that you can experience everything at your preferred pace and not take into account bus schedules.
We used them during our stay in Okinawa and they provided exceptional service. They also provide services in Osaka. From the online communications to WhatsApp conversations during the tours to overall service, Easy Travel Japan is great! It’s expensive but if you’re looking for convenience, check them out.
For more information on this car rental service, visit easytraveljapan.com or inquire at email@example.com
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX)
Our recent trip to Japan wasn’t only to explore Kansai but also to experience Okinawa. For convenience, we were in transit at KIX for a few days. First, when we arrived, second was when we had an early flight to Okinawa the next day, and the last was awaiting a flight back to the Philippines. During this time, we had the chance to stay at 1 of KIX’s available accommodations & explore the food scene a bit at the airport.
HOTEL NIKKO KANSAI AIRPORT
From June 27 – 28 and June 30 – July 1(more on our experience during these dates in my Okinawa article soon), we stayed at Hotel Nikko KIX. I’ve never stayed at an airport hotel before so it was kind of a relieving & relaxing experience for me. Imagine having the airport just a mere 3 minutes away.
No hassles with commute and check-in!
Entering Hotel Nikko, I felt like a business traveler. The lobby was gorgeous and the staff was very welcoming. During our first stay, we stayed at the South Wing. The rooms are a bit dated and the carpet sides have built up dust. The beds were clean and comfortable but the comforter top was a bit rough so we used the cotton blanket inside and shunned away that topper.
Even though the runway was in a relatively far off view, the room was very silent. We didn’t hear any hint of a plane departure or arrival. The bathroom is very clean and we loved the Shiseido toiletries! It smelled so good! Wi-fi was fast too.
For south wing rooms, complimentary water is not provided.
The rate paid for that night at Hotel Nikko was ₱6,946. We booked the room through Agoda.
The hotel is located right outside KIX past the JR Ticket office. Pass through the rubbery jumpy walkalator (we thought this was fun!) and enter the Aeroplaza Building. To your right, you’ll find the entrance to Hotel Nikko. On the same floor, you’ll find a Lawson’s convenience store and Burger King. Since we were a bit tired from our Kobe tour day, I just bought food & drinks from Burger King for dinner during the night.
There’s also a viewing area of the airport runway, river, and sea. This was really nice. From our room, the same view could be seen but without the feel of fresh air. I stayed at the viewing area for a couple of minutes before going back to the hotel room with the food I just bought for my sister.
I just pondered on all the moments we’ve experienced so far and just thanked the universe for everything that has happened. It was a peaceful and grateful moment. Seeing the planes fly overhead or land, I think of all the people excited for their own travel experiences or locals coming home to their families or businessmen hoping to sign contract deals and ventures, and many more.
In a second, I realized there were infinite moments being created – emotions scattered all over. It was a hectic itinerary for us so I was very grateful to stop and stare at the vast view and pause, even for just a few minutes.
Our stay at Hotel Nikko’s south wing from June 27 – 28 was just average but the convenience of being right beside the airport was the best feeling!
If you’re interested in staying at Hotel Nikko during your KIX transit, visit nikkokix.com/en or inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also check out the newly opened First Cabin Hotel. It is a luxurious version of a capsule pod/hotel. It is also located at Aeroplaza.
Trip date: June – July 2018
It was very refreshing for me to visit Japan in summer. Why? HAHAHAHA! For the past 5 trips to Japan, all I ever associated with JAPAN was COLD.
- Tokyo – Jan 2016 – VERY COLD!
- Nagoya, Takayama, & Shirakawago – April 2016 – COLD!
- Sapporo, Niseko, & Otaru – Dec 2016 – I GOT VERY SICK COLD!
- Magome, Matsumoto, Toyama, Shirakawago, Takayama, Gujo, Kuwana, & Nagoya – April 2017 – COLD!
- Niseko, Sapporo, Asahikawa, Sounkyo, Biei, Furano, & Lake Shikotsu – Feb 2018 – TOO DAMN COLD TO FUNCTION!
See? HAHAHA! It was a relief not having to pack and lug around heavy jackets or even take 5 minutes to wear everything only to take them off for another 5 minutes later on.
We experienced around 4 weather conditions during our recent summer trip to Japan:
- Very hot! Comparable to the heat in the Philippines! We experienced this at Naruto and USJ. It can get scorching!
- The sun was out but it was pretty windy! – This was our favorite! It was bright yet the breeze of the wind made us feel fresh.
- Raining – Just a normal shower once or twice during the trip
We were grateful that it didn’t rain that much during our stay. We never had to buy an emergency umbrella at a convenience store even though my sister really wanted those clear umbrellas for a photo-op.
If you’re visiting during this season, bring sun block/screen, caps/hats, sunglasses, windbreakers, or ultra light down hoodie jackets. Wear dresses, shorts, and light weight & colored clothes.
Exploring Kansai soon? Try this OKN II travel route!
Please note that prices may vary depending on exchange rate. As of July 2018, ¥1 = ₱0.4764
This is a sponsored write-up. My experiences with products & services may or may not be the same as yours. All opinions are inspired by my (and my sister’s) experiences & nothing else.