Osaka is one of the most popular cities in Japan to visit for its food and sites. Kyoto on the other hand, carries more of a cultural side of Japan for your visit. If you are looking to spend about a week in the Kansai region, I suggest to do both Osaka and Kyoto together. This itinerary is highly recommended by locals. If you have a few more days to spare, consider adding Nara into your journey. Another must-visit is Universal Studios Japan, which is also the first theme park in Asia!
Day 1: Osaka
Flying into Kansai International Airport is your best option as it serves major airlines and their networks around the world. It is also one of the busiest airports in Japan alongside Narita and Haneda airport located in Tokyo. I would recommend to spend a minimum of 2 full days (excluding the day you arrive) in Osaka in order to have enough time to explore this amazing city.
Tip: Plan your journey well as it will save you significant transportation costs. If you know that you will rely quite a bit on the JR line or metro, you should purchase the day passes from the first day! There are various JR pass options so pick the one that best suits your itinerary.
Day 2 and 3: Osaka
Head to the Central Business District to check out the famous Osaka Castle. Here you can find a good mix of tourists and locals visiting the castle. I chanced upon a choir of adorable Japanese school kids singing right in front of the castle- an awesome performance to watch!
You can consider visiting both the Osaka Castle and Shinsaibashi together because of their close proximity to one another. In short, Shinsaibashi is Osaka’s version of Singapore City’s Orchard Road. You can find plenty of fashion shops and themed cafes. Fans of Pokemon, rejoice! There is a Pokemon cafe right here and a Pokemon Center at Daimaru Umeda department store near the Osaka main station.
Pokemon Center @ Daimaru Umeda and Pokemon Cafe at Shinsaibashi
Foods to try: Okonomiyaki @ Kazenomachi (2-9 Tamatsukuri Motomachi Tennoji-ku Osaka)
Fresh oysters and ingredients cooked right at the table
Food to try around Shinsaibashi area: Ichiran Ramen, Omurice
Cubicle eating concept @ Ichiran Ramen
You can’t leave Osaka without taking a visit to Osaka Aquarium. The aquarium houses a whale shark, so you can just imagine the size of the tank! Located right next to the aquarium is the Tempozan Market where you can try out a wide variety of Japanese cuisine. The Osaka Takoyaki can be tasted at the traditional Aizuya store. If you are craving for fresh sashimi or sashimi bowls, head to Maguro-Ya Ten to get your fix.
Feel the soft skin on the backs of stingrays at the petting area, perfect for kids
Check out the feeding times at Osaka Aquarium, you will not be disappointed by the well-trained sea lions
Fresh Maguro (tuna) on rice
Super fresh sashimi on rice
Osaka Takoyaki @ Aizuya
Day 4: Universal Studios Japan
Check out everything about Universal Studios Japan in another article here.
You can consider the amazing USJ and JR pass bundle
Day 5: Kyoto
There are a variety of ways to get to Kyoto, the main one being the JR line. However, if you are staying near to the metro in Osaka and in Kyoto, you can consider the Keihan Main Line which also runs through to Kyoto. One of my top favourites at Kyoto is Nishiki Market. There are plenty of delicious foods to choose from, so much that you probably wish for two stomachs.
Consider getting the Kyoto-Osaka sightseeing pass if you are traveling to these two cities
Kyoto Takoyaki, scroll up and notice the difference between this and the Osaka Takoyaki in terms of size and toppings
Guess the size of this oyster! Check out the answer two images down below
Food to try: Kichi Kichi Omurice (FYI: book in advance!)
Day 6: Kyoto
No visit to Kyoto is complete without visiting Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. This picturesque forest gets super crowded starting from 10am onwards. I recommend to reach there before 9am so that you can snap your insta-worthy shots.
Our visit was during autumn and we witnessed the explosion of colors!
Came across this street store selling raw egg on rice
Man, it was so good!
Head to Fushimi Inari Shrine in the afternoon for a hike. Here, you get to walk past thousands of Torii gates to the top of Mount Inari.
Legs too tired? You can hire a trishaw too!
This is what happens if you head to the shrine during peak hours
If you are looking to check out the geisha scene in Kyoto, head to Gion for a glimpse of what life was like here centuries ago. There are plenty of kimino rental shops over there as well to immerse in the Japanese culture.
A taste of old Japan at Gion
Day 7: Osaka/Kyoto/Nara
There is an option to extend the trip in Kyoto or head to Nara for the bowing deers.
Otherwise, head back to Osaka to catch your flight!
If there’s anything I missed out or you have something awesome to share, free feel to comment below!