Japan

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.

Japan, Travel

What To Do In Okinawa? The Classic 5-Day Road Trip Itinerary


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Okinawa is located south of mainland Japan, in fact closer to Taiwan than Japan itself. It does not have distinctive four seasons but a mild tropical climate throughout the year. Jetstar launched direct flights from Singapore to Naha since November 2017. It may not be the most comfortable in economy class but it saves both time and money! So here is what you need to do in Okinawa.

*The More I Travel Exclusive* Book your Japan travels with KKday through this link and get up to 10% discount. By doing so, I get a small commission fee that helps to sustain me longer on the road to create content for my readers.

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Day 1: Naha

Plan your day one itinerary well because it can be decisive in whether if you should be get a day-pass for Yui-Rail. There is another option of single trip ride which is chargeable by the distance you travel on the monorail. If you are renting a car, most car rentals will pick you up from the arrival halls if their offices are not on-site. You do not need a car in Naha itself because you can get around easily using the Yui-Rail. Another consideration is that you have to pay for parking most of the time since you are in the city. Check out Direx Okinawa if you are looking for a sports car rental. My rental experience with them was very pleasant. It came with a premium pick-up and drop-off service in a limousine.

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Visit Kokusai street (aka international street), it is where most shops and restaurants congregate. You will find plenty of locals around the area too. Drop by Makishi market for some Soki Soba (aka okinawan soba) and Kokusai street food market for Okinawa Yakisoba.

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As you walk along the streets, you will see plenty of ice-cream stores. Don’t miss the soft serve ice-cream, especially the special purple sweet potato ones. Blue Seal is one good brand to try, but they are American-owned. Yukishio salt ice-cream is also awesome. You can try the Go-Karting experience in downtown Naha where you can dress up in different characters and have heads turning! They have it in various part of Japan such as Go-Karting Tokyo.

I recommend to stay in Airbnb apartments in Okinawa to experience the local experience. I spent my entire period with different hosts and they all exceeded my expectations. For privacy, choose the entire apartment instead of just a room. Spend the night in Naha.

If you are a first time user of Airbnb, use my link to get a USD33 credit which can be used for your bookings. By doing so, I get a credit of USD20 too. It helps to sustain me longer on the road to create content for my readers.

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Makishi Market

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Experience different Japanese desserts, you will be spoilt for choices!

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Night scene at Kokusai Street

Day 2: Shuri Castle and Chatan

Arrange to collect the car and drive to Shuri castle. An alternative way to travel to Shuri castle is the monorail. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site and there are plenty of walking trails around the castle. You will spend about 1.5 – 3 hours there, depending on how fast u walk or if you are interested in the history of Okinawa.

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View from Shuri Castle

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Another Blue Seal Store

Continue onwards to Chatan where the American village is located at. Check out the Okinawa specialty at Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna. There’s plenty of food at the village so go wild! The village looks like some parts of LA and San Francisco.

Spend the night in Nago.

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Best Taco rice ever at Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna

Day 3: Churaumi Aquarium

One of the best highlight of Okinawa is the Churaumi Aquarium. Definitely give it a visit if you are in Nago. Needless to explain, there are plenty of blogs talking about aquarium experiences.

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The whale shark is one of the highlights of Churaumi Aquarium

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Don’t miss the dolphin shows at specific timing

For an authentic meat feast in Nago, try their local pork and beef at a restaurant called ‘Manmi‘. The quality of food is excellent but you pay for the quality.

Spend another night in Nago.

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Day 4: Nago and Cape Manzamo

We visited Okinawa in January which it is the start of the cherry blossom season. The blooming starts up north of Okinawa and works its way down the island. There are a couple of cherry blossom festivals in various towns, usually starting from the northern ones like Nago.

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Typical Izakaya in Nago

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Cherry blossom spotting at Nago Central Park

As you make your way back to Naha, visit the famous Cape Manzamo for some touristy shots. If you are looking for some outlet shopping, consider Ashibinaa Outlet Mall which is near to the airport. But personally, it was a disappointing shopping experience with its steep prices and availability of choices when compared to the American or European outlets.

Spend the night in Naha.

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Cape Manzamo

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Sweet potato cheese tarts!

Day 5: Naha

This is the last day in Okinawa which is also ideal for some last-minute shopping. Consider some souvenir-shopping around Kokusai street. Do try their specialty sweet potato tarts called Beniimo. The supermarkets have a wide range of Japanese food of premium quality, especially their sushi!

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Look at the wide range of sushi!

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Indeed a foodie heaven

If you miss out the taco rice at Chatan, try the one in Naha at Tango Jango. My buddy, Taisho brought us to a super local Izakaya (Japanese bar) for the best Okinawan food throughout the whole trip.

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Pig ear dish

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Traditional Okinawan bitter gourd with eggs, a must-try!

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Fresh calamari

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Okinawan mochi

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Live Okinawan music by the owner and his son during the meal

If you have some time or another day to spare, check out the Okinawa Prefectural Museum. It covers an interesting history of Okinawa and a good portion of the day was spent in there. Shopping for souvenirs and local products can be done at a nearby mall called Naha Main Place. It is pretty good for cosmetics and pretty much everything you can think of buying from Okinawa!

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Lastly, you can’t leave Okinawa without trying their steak! There is this superb restaurant called “En Okinawa” serving Okinawan best steaks (Motobu and Ishigaki).

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This is a rough guide of my time in Okinawa, it is perfectly fine to move the activities around to suit your flight time and preferences. Hope it helps in some way!