Japan, Travel

What To Do In Osaka and Kyoto? The Amazing 7-Day Itinerary


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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.

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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!

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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.

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Pokemon Center @ Daimaru Umeda and Pokemon Cafe at Shinsaibashi

Foods to try: Okonomiyaki @ Kazenomachi (2-9 Tamatsukuri Motomachi Tennoji-ku Osaka)

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Fresh oysters and ingredients cooked right at the table

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Food to try around Shinsaibashi area: Ichiran Ramen, Omurice

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Cubicle eating concept @ Ichiran Ramen

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Omurice

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.

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Feel the soft skin on the backs of stingrays at the petting area, perfect for kids

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Check out the feeding times at Osaka Aquarium, you will not be disappointed by the well-trained sea lions

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 Fresh Maguro (tuna) on rice

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Super fresh sashimi on rice

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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.

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Consider getting the Kyoto-Osaka sightseeing pass if you are traveling to these two cities

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Japanese corndog

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Kyoto Takoyaki, scroll up and notice the difference between this and the Osaka Takoyaki in terms of size and toppings

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Guess the size of this oyster! Check out the answer two images down below

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TA-DA!

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!

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Came across this street store selling raw egg on rice

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Man, it was so good!

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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.

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Legs too tired? You can hire a trishaw too!

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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.

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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!

Japan, Travel

Top Experiences at Universal Studios Japan


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Located in Osaka, Kansai region of Japan is the official Universal Studios Japan. This Universal Studios theme park is the first in Asia (second one located in the sunny island of Singapore; Universal Studios Singapore). The other two Universal Studios are located in Orlando and Los Angeles. Due to the huge influx of tourists in to Japan, Universal Studios Japan is naturally one of the top favourites regionally and domestically. We had the chance to visit the awesome and highly-raved about theme park during the Christmas period and it most certainly lived up to its reputation! It was my first time among all the Universal Studios theme park. Read on to find out the top experiences to check out!

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Book Universal Studios Japan ticket with KKday.

Skip the lines and scan your QR code to enter the thrilling world of Universal Studios Japan! Go on an adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or plunge into the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride with your USJ ticket!

By doing so, I get a small commission fee that helps to sustain me longer on the road, to continue creating content for my readers.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Step into the world of Harry Potter, enjoy a butter beer at one of the cavern stores or try casting a spell with your new wand at the castle doors or house chimneys. This is one of my favourites because I am a huge Harry Potter fan. The light show on (yes on and not at!) Hogwarts Castle was truly enlightening and it really felt like I had stepped right into Hogwarts and the amazing world of Harry Potter. Don’t miss out the 360-degree magical 4D ride to feel like you’re riding on a broomstick just like the main man himself!

If you are only able to spend one day at Universal Studios Japan, I would strongly advise you to get the Universal Express Pass, which helps you to skip queues and it also covers Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. You won’t regret this decision especially after walking past fellow fans to go right to the front of the queue! Check out the list of express rides here.

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Christmas Party Parade

This is exclusive during the Christmas festive season at Universal Studios Japan. We caught our favourite characters here such as Snoopy and the Minions. Cheers and laughter filled the atmosphere and this is where the magical parade came alive. Minion Mayhem indeed! Be sure to catch both the day and night parade!

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Christmas night parade

The Gift of Angels III

Running into its 10th year, this is also the last year for the beautiful performance titled “The Gift of Angels III”. Nothing beats a fairytale night, you need to be in line for this awesome show. This is an award-winning experience and should not be missed.

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The Gift of Angels

Minions and Fluffy Food Stations

There are plenty of food stations around but nothing beats the cute popcorn store featuring minions on a unicorn @ Pop A Nana cart! You can get popcorn filled inside this adorable souvenir! Don’t forget to munch on a Minion strawberry shortcake and a fluffy hot chocolate drink, which were oh so delicious.

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Try the sweet potato corndog, that’s one of my favourite!

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Fluffy Hot Chocolate

Christmas Village Store

If you simply cannot leave Universal Studios Japan without a souvenir, this is the best place to bring the cute characters you’ve seen around the park back to your homes. During the Christmas season, there are several more options apart from the regular ones.

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Don’t forget to pose with all the characters around the park to keep these unforgettable memories!

Book Universal Studios Japan ticket with KKday.

Skip the lines and scan your QR code to enter the thrilling world of Universal Studios Japan! Go on an adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or plunge into the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride with your USJ ticket!

By doing so, I get a small commission fee that helps to sustain me longer on the road, to continue creating content for my readers.

Europe, Finland, Hotel & Flight Reviews, Travel

The Best Glass Igloos In Finland (Lapland)


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Deep in the Finnish Lapland lie these magical igloos that usually operate for about half a year from September to March. This is also the period when the sky gets darker during the winter months, coinciding with the Aurora Borealis over the skies of the northern hemisphere. These beautiful dancing lights stretch from Nordic countries such as Norway, all the way to the North American region in Alaska and Canada. Travellers from all over the world venture as north as possible in hopes of chancing upon the mystical green skies, which contribute to tourist booms especially during this time of the year.

Nothing really compares to the sight of the Northern Lights from the comfort of a warm glass igloo. I have heard of many travellers who spend up to two weeks in the Artic Circle only to be disappointed due to either cloudy night skies or low aurora index. On the other end of the spectrum, I have heard of people jumping for joy with tears of happiness when their eyes first glimpsed the lights. I caught my first sighting back when I traveled to Iceland in 2016. They were simply magical and kept you wanting to see more of its spectacular nature. Again, I was blessed to have caught the Northern Lights together with the love of my life this time on my honeymoon trip to the Finnish part of Lapland. Read about my Finnish Lapland road trip here.

Northern Lights Village

If you are looking for a wholesome Artic Circle experience in the Finnish Lapland, look nowhere else – Northern Lights Village is the top choice as it specialises in not just accommodation but creating a uniquely customized experience. It is located in Saariselkä, about an hour’s drive away from Ivalo airport. We visited during the autumn months, away from the winter crowd. Northern Lights tours can be booked and professionally organized by the warm and knowledgeable staff who are ready to go the extra mile to make your experience that much more special. There are two main options for the tours –  a viewing by the lake in Inari or at the border town of Nellim. I recommend to stay a minimum of 2-3 nights to give yourself a good chance of spotting the Northern Lights around the area. If you have a car and want to go Northern Lights hunting on your own, check out Kaunispää to get away from the village lights. The gate of Lapland’s gold fields lies at Tankavaara which is easily accessible by car to find out more about the history of gold mining in Finland. Tours to Inari can also be organized or self-driven. My favourite part of the experience was the husky farm visit at Extreme Huskies. We tried husky sledding on wheels since there was note yet any snow fall in September. If you are looking for a Finnish sauna experience, there is a shared sauna on site to enjoy.

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Indulge in the personalized cabins with a simple touch of luxury

 

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We caught the auroras right outside our igloos!

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The in-house restaurant cooks up scrumptious meals for its guests

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You can see how well the huskies are trained for these runs

Santa’s Igloos Artic Circle

This is the igloo experience to go for if you are heading to Rovaniemi – Santa Claus’ hometown. Located right beside the Santa Claus Village, its location is perfect to explore the surroundings by foot. Rovaniemi city centre is just a short distance away, reachable ideally by car or bus services in Santa Claus village. I recommend to book the family igloos which comes with a private sauna attached to the room as you get to experience a true Finnish sauna at your discretion. There are various activities (other than the magical Santa Claus village) in the area such as ice fishing in winter, husky rides and of course, Northern Lights viewing. Beyond Artic is one of best companies around providing photography expeditions, it is run by a bunch of passionate and adventurous photographers. For a great time hanging out with Husky pups, you can’t miss Bearhill Husky, which is a working dog kernel. The owner of the kernel Valentijin, is super passionate about his dogs and visitors get to learn a lot about the life of a husky growing up and being trained throughout the different seasons. There are also opportunities get up close and personal to play with the huskies, which is a huge plus!

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Aurora across the northern skies right outside our igloo at Santa Igloos Artic Circle. Kp index is about 1-2 that night and we had to look north to find it.

 

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Photography tour with Beyond Artic, shot taken by Juho

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The igloo’s reception and dining area

Levin Iglut

Located in the ski town of Levi, Levin Iglut is one of my favourites when it comes to the comfort of the igloo. I recommend to go for the premium ones with unobstructed views of the valley. Each igloo comes equipped with simple cooking facilities if you are looking prepare some simple meals. Your booking includes breakfast at Restaurant Aurora Sky. A half-board dinner is also available during high season. It is a gorgeous place to explore the wilderness of Finnish Lapland, check out the drone footage below.

 

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Gorgeous view of the valley from our premium igloo

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The sky comes alive at night, a clear night with a good KP index will give you good chance of spotting the northern lights.

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Restaurant Aurora Sky – have you thought about having a meal here while watching the sun go down?

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We had the opportunity to find out more about Levin Iglut from Kristiina who started the place about 3 years ago. She plans to keep the number of igloos constant instead of expanding in order to continue providing a personalised touch to each of her guests’ experience.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

This is probably one of the most famous igloos in Lapland due to heavy media coverage in recent times. Personally, I did not have the chance to stay there (they are not opened during autumn) but I would love to check it out someday! Nevertheless I visited the area from the outside it definitely looked like an awesome choice to experience igloo living.

 

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Due to our limited stay in the Finnish Laplands, this is all the info we have for now. Have you got an awesome igloo to recommend? Drop a comment and we would absolutely love to check it out!