There are things in life you tend to appreciate more when you are on the other side of the fence.
Such as running errands over a weekday, not jostling with the lunch crowd in Raffles Place and, more so for us, a getaway without the four kids in tow.
This year we decided to do that by returning to one of my favourite country – Japan.
But instead of Tokyo, our itinerary this time consists of Osaka and Kyoto.
Day 1 – the long transit and Namba at night
We took a long Scoot flight from Singapore to Kao shiung to Osaka.
The flight took off at 6 am and we arrived around 3 pm local time.
Our hotel is near Dotonbori, around the Namba station area which is quite a central area to stay in since it has the massive train interchange.
The streets are lined with neon lights that are typical of a Japanese city.
With massive props to showcase what they sell inside, you will have no trouble trying to identify your next bite.
It didn’t take us long to do the Singaporean thing and just join in the longest queue!
That brought us to this crab speciality stall which is awesome. We kept the intake small so we can try lots of stuff.
Takoyaki is the most famous food associated with Osaka and we head for that straight. It tasted pretty normal to me (although the one we have a few days later was mind-blowing).
The grilled beef is nice and almost melt in your mouth, so is the beef sushi (another shop) as our finale before we call it a day after a very long one.
Day 2 – Ichiran Ramen, Osaka Castle and my #1 food in Osaka
A trip to Japan can never be completed without having at least one meal in Ichiran Ramen
With only self-ordering kiosk and lines of single seaters, this is the ultimate restaurant for extreme introverts.
But that shouldn’t deter you from giving it a go. The ramen has the best combination of texture, stock richness and melt-in-your-mouth pork slices.
And yes, they are very generous with their green onions. I love it!
With our tummy settled, we took a train ride to check out the famous Osaka Castle.
Nested in the middle of offices and residences, the castle is really a sight to behold.
As you can see, I really like castle… and jumping.
The main attraction within the castle is a 7th level pagoda. You are supposed to head all the way up and snake your way down each level that features the earliest history of the castle to how it is being run now.
They only have one slow lift and it was packed with visitors. We climbed all the way up which really took our wind away. But the view is all worth it.
Along the way back to the train station, we came across a temple and dropped right in.
The castle took up the bulk of the day. It is really worth the time but being a foodie, the meal time is still the highlight. And our dinner that day truly didn’t disappoint.
A small shop at the corner of where we stay at, Dotonbori Niku Gekijou offers a variety of grilled meat and rice bowls with tasty sauce.
Daigekijo rice bowl (¥ 1,280) is the most popular donburi (spare rib, skirt steak, chicken neck and pork loin).
This is a shop that I can eat every meal every day at. The combination of the different perfectly grilled meat with their secret sauce over a bowl of fluffy rice and topped with green onions is just unbelievable.
Day 3 – Kyoto (Kimono rental, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
This is the day we venture outside of Osaka and head towards Kyoto.
To level up the challenge of walking the long distance, we donned Kimono outfit that we rented the day before via Klook.
With the outfit on, we took a taxi (first time in Japan) that brought us to the foot of Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings.
The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.
This is the place where people stopped for minutes blocking the entire path just to take that Instagram perfect shot.
Yes, we are blockers too.
There are a total of 10 sections to complete in order to hit the top. We stopped at the 3rd one as the slippers were really a pain to walk with, moreover up a never-ending stair.
On the way down, there is plenty to see as well.
And while randomly walking around, we came across this traditional town and took this shot that is my handphone wallpaper now.
Our next destination require us to take a bus (another first in Japan!) ride of 45 minutes to reach Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
The bamboo grove is a bit bland. You see one, you see all. The area around was pretty interesting and it is near a lake (or river, I can’t tell).
Too bad we only have a couple of hours before heading back to return our kimono on time.
Day 4 – Gram pancake, Osaka fish market, Le Croissant, Genroku Sushi
This is really more or less the last day for us as our Day 5 is also the day we fly back in the afternoon.
We want to make this a more chill day and of course, that also meant more walking and eating.
Our first stop actually requires us to queue up at 10:30 am and wait for them to open at 11 am.
Gram pancake is famous for.. Wait for it… their pancakes.
They only provide 30 of them per time slot and there are 3-time slots.
I’m never a sweet tooth person so I was quite meh to it. But still, it is something you don’t get to see and try in Singapore.
With our tummy pacified, we made our way to the fish market.
We honestly didn’t go to the actual fish market area. That is for purists. Foodies like us just want to eat.
The seafood options there are amazing. All of them are so much bigger than the ones I see in Singapore.
Just check out the size of the crab legs.
Still feeling full from the pancakes, we could barely stomach more food but we just have to.
And it began with a stick of BBQ beef and crab.
Some juice to wash them down..
And another round. This time scallops!
Near to Dotonburi, we chanced upon this bread shop because the sweet aroma was just too powerful to ignore.
As their name implies, Le Croissant is famous for their Croissant. We bought 5 of them and they almost melted in our mouth. The best mini croissant I had.
Dinner time arrives soon and we realised sushi is still missing from our diet.
At any mealtime, be prepared to queue.
So we go just before dinner time and was ushered right in.
A typical conveyor belt system, you just grab what you like and the plates will equate to the amount you need to pay.
The price is pretty affordable (¥100 ~ 200 per plate) but the portion is small.
Still, the food is really fresh and I couldn’t stop having their melted cheese on prawn/fish sushi.
This roasted beef sushi is also amazing.
Day 5 – back home
Our flight back to reality was at 4 pm. Had our last bite of Osaka food, a sip of peaceful coffee, and off we embark on our route to Kansai International Airport.
This time around, we wanted to travel more comfortably, thus we choose the slightly more expensive route (¥300 more per pax, which is about SGD$3).
Comes with reserved seat, and baggage area for our luggage.
This is RECOMMENDED!
We took the unreserved train from Kansai to Namba, we were standing for the entire 40 mins, and the train made more stops. So, please top up $3 more for reserved seats if you want a more comfortable experience.
At the airport, check in was rather smooth.
So the wife had a lot of spare time on hand to do duty-free shopping.
What is a trip to Japan without buying Japanese snacks and cakes and souvenirs! I guess that was the only shopping we did for our Osaka trip.
In conclusion, these 5 days spent without the kids was adding brownie points to our marriage. Just the 2 of us for the entire 5 days. How long ago, did we have such luxury.
Ever since the 4 little munchkins came into our life, our life has been centred around them.
How long ago was it since we ever had a proper dinner conversation, how long ago was it since we ever looked into each others’ eyes lovingly without any distractions?
Till the next vacay, with the Tans.