a day in


Osaka is the perfect character foil to Kyoto. Where Kyoto is elegant and poised at every angle, Osaka is organized chaos. Unafraid to be a little loud, a little messy, at times a bit gaudy. But that’s a part of the charm. An Asian metropolis that is a food lover’s paradise, with bright neon billboards glowing in the night, long arcades of shopping, tall buildings, packed department stores, hidden gems in alleys and underground malls. But also some iconic landmarks, a castle in the middle of the city. Tranquil parks. Historic temples. 

Osaka is an easy place to be. Accessible. A little less mainstream than Tokyo. A bit less overwhelming. Tourist friendly. A place that could easily fill a weekend without crazy planning. Perhaps an ideal 36 hour destination. 

Osaka was a pit stop on the way to Kyoto on this winter 2022 trip, but it delivered on the food, shopping and aimless walks.

Osaka is sprawling. 

Made even more expansive with the long bridges connecting the parts of Kansai together. From the airport, we took a cab to a little island of Nanko tucked into the bay on the west side of the city, to stay at the Hyatt. At night, it seems isolated, quiet.

The morning brought sweeping views revealing the city beyond.

With just one full day in Osaka, the goal was to hit some main attractions, eat some iconic foods, and wander through neighborhoods in a wide loop through the city. 

Of course, the first order of business is breakfast. We went to a Japanese cafe for some classic Japanese cafe fare that was perfectly charming, and a warm start to a day of walking.

And then it was over to the iconic Osaka Castle. 

The castle is emoji-perfect, regally rising amid the modern city but insulated by pristine grounds. In the crisp winter morning air, it felt particularly peaceful. 

Something about the colors, the muted blue greens and worn stone neutrals, among a backdrop of natural greens and blues in the trees and sky just a perfect dose of serotonin.

Gotta love a good moat


And then it was a short ride over to Shitennoji. Last time I was here, back in 2016, it was still under construction. Now restored to its past glory, it was a surprisingly peaceful walk through (a stark contrast from the ticketed attractions of Kyoto that make temples feel more Epcot than religious sometimes. 

From there, it was a short break into civilization, popping into Abeno Harukas for some shopping and a pick me up. And a quick lunch at a hole in wall okonomiyaki joint. One obligatory street food checked. 

And then back into a peaceful escape, into Tennoji Park. With the beautiful Keitakuen Garden basking in the glow of an early golden hour. Light diffusing through a canopy of delicate colorful leaves. 

couldn’t help but think if this were a park in nyc it would be packed at all times with city dwellers hungry for greenspace.

tennoji park

Home to the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, it’s like a baby Met/Central Park, or Brooklyn Museum/Prospect Park, but the lowest of keys.


On the other side of the park was a whole new world, as in shinsekai, a place that felt straight out of a manga page. A retro fever dream of the future in the Tsūtenkaku tower. Bold store signs lit up in the dusk, luring you in like arcade games. 

Another set of iconic bites: this time kushikatsu, served via automated conveyor belt. 

Straight shot up through Nipponbashi Denden Town, a haven for nerds with disposable incomes (I say this with love), with larger than life shops filled to the brim with anime, manga, figurines and video games.

And then, as the sun set into night, we made it to the heart of it all: our friend the Glico man.

Dotonbori is always a vibe. Not fun during peak tourist hours, but on this off season day, relatively free of tourist bus loads of frenzied shoppers, it was surprisingly calm. From internationally known brands to obligatory stores (Bic Camera, Donki, and the many drugstores), from the main covered shopping arcade to the many alley offshoots, it could be easy to spend a whole day shopping without needing to venture far, so it was probably better to save this for the end of the day, when tired feet made up for ambitious eyes. 

One final snack for the road home, and a solid full and fulfilling day in the books.

see also

snapshots from tokyo
snapshots from seoul