Japan is now becoming the most popular destination for tourists from my mother land, Philippines. Previously I think it was Hong Kong and I too was a visitor numerous times in that place. Back when the exchange rate was low that you can shop til you drop and there were no tensions yet between our country and China. Now, Hong Kong is just a memory. Not in the travel destination list anymore. Most people when ask where they want to go will say: Japan! Japan!…
I can honestly say that going to Japan is better for Filipino tourists. Not only because it’s the new “in” destination and you also want to have a photo in Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto or as far away as Sapporo. But basically it’s the culture immersion that I think is much more important. We can definitely learn a lot from the Japanese people. From their inventions to their polite ways. I probably had faux pas during our trips there and maybe made the Japanese secretly cringe. But their politeness ruled and I got away with it. Sorry about that. Ha!ha!
Our latest Japan visit was winter time. I think I should also go during summer time as it’s the only season I haven’t been to yet. I should complete all the seasons and see which is the best one. So far, it’s still Autumn time for me because I love the “bearable” cold weather and the colour of the leaves. I know some will prefer Spring time with Sakura in full bloom. While others say Summer time is better because it’s warm and you can wear pretty outfits. Whatever you prefer, let’s all try to visit all the seasons if we can. Anyway, there are a lot of things to do there and exploring is fun!
During our recent Osaka trip, we decided to rent and stay in an apartment through AirBnB (www.airbnb.com) which was hosted by Genesis Ltd. It was near Namba area (3 Chome-3-36 Ebisunishi, Naniwa Ward) and the train station (Ebisucho Station) going to the city and to/from the airport was just a mere 3 minutes walk. The area where we stayed had one of my favourite discount store “Don Quijote” (www.donki.com) nearby. The apartment had 4 bedrooms, dining and living rooms. Of course, the rooms aren’t that big but 11 people were definitely comfortable. We saved money on food since we bought from the grocery store and cooked meals. Plus, the bonding time was great because the dining table and living area was the preferred hang out place for everyone. The downside with the accommodation was that the toilet is located outside, in the landing between the floors. I guess it’s easier for the host to clean it and for security purposes also since they don’t need to go inside the apartment anymore. Still, I prefer a toilet inside the apartment if possible! Must take note of that next time we decided to stay again using AirBnB. Overall, the stay was pleasant. The host was accommodating and can easily be contacted for minor issues during the stay like the wi-fi connection problem. We stayed for 7 nights and was billed 2,199 Euro or approximately USD 2,482 (PHP 114K) at the current exchange rate. Accommodations in Japan are expensive especially during peak season so I guess it was a good deal. If we stayed in a hotel, we will pay more as we need to book at least 5 rooms. It was also booked ahead of time. Like 6 months in advance so imagine the cost if we booked it a few weeks before our trip.
View of Donki or Don Quijote
Inside Don Quijote
A few tips when staying in a Condotel or Apartment for rent:
- Don’t forget to research for the nearest grocery store in the area. If none, a good convenience store will do which is really aplenty in Japan like Lawson and 7-11. A bit expensive than a grocery store for items such as water, drinks, bread but they do sell ready to eat food too.
- Although shampoo and bath gel are provided, don’t forget to bring your own toilet essentials. If not, the nearest convenience store can help.
- Before you book for your accommodation, ask questions first. Is it near the train station? If not, what is the recommended mode of transportation. You can also google the place to check it out before you finalise everything. Having a place (be it a hotel or apartment) near a train station really helps a lot. Unless of course, you can afford to take the taxi. If you’re a big family or group, better take the train!
- Check out the food places in the area. We were happy to see my children’s favorite affordable restaurant “Ohsho” nearby and it was the first stop for hungry tummies on the day we arrived. The gyoza is a must!
Gyoza no Ohsho Restaurant
We were near the Tennoji area. And if you opt to explore that way, you will be able to see and visit Abeno Harukas which is the tallest building in Japan at the time of our visit. It housed the Kintetsu Department Store which is huge. When you visit on New Year’s day then you might want to grab some lucky bags from any store you fancy in Japan! Who knows you might be lucky and get something of great value for less.
Tennoji Park area
Abeno Harukas from Afar
Lucky Bags from BIC
There’s also the Shinsekai area which we passed by on our way to explore Nipponbashi DenDen town and Namba Parks. It’s an entertainment district and is vibrant at night. Although, there were a lot of people too during the day.
Street in Shinsekai
Tsutenkaku Tower in the background
In our previous Osaka visit, DenDen town was a favourite. And it was still a place we dropped by for the young and the young at heart to indulge. Don’t forget to browse and explore the items in some of the shops if you visit. Sometimes they sell stuff at bargain prices. Although shopping is no longer tax free unlike previous visits, you can get a tax refund for purchased items with a total of Y10,ooo and above.
We were very laid back this trip and wasn’t in a hurry to go from one place to another. Surprisingly, the winter weather wasn’t what we prepared for and expected. It was actually not so bad. We hardly use our thermals except for when we went to Mt. Rokko in Kobe. Probably due to the global warming or El Nino Phenomenon which is affecting the planet.
Namba Parks (www.nambaparks.com) at night was nice. The lights were so pretty with their Super Flower Illumination. Visiting Japan after Christmas and until New Year’s day celebration was not so bad after all.
Super Flower Illumination
View from above Namba Parks
One of the favourite of my little one was the Japanese cakes. And this trip we found some tummy delights we haven’t tasted before. Pablo is definitely a popular one but you can find stalls that sell yummy cakes when you keep looking around. There’s this shop in Namba near Takashimaya named Penguin and they sell the yummiest Japanese cakes according to my 10 year old. It was her favourite from a previous trip and probably she’s right because it was always sold out. During our winter visit we went several times to the store but wasn’t able to purchase. Maybe wrong timing of the day. The little one was disappointed but good thing we found some more stalls that compensated for her Japanese cake craving.
Penguin Japanese Cakes
Stall selling Japanese Cakes
There’s a popular store that sells pork buns and dimsum that have stalls in some train stations named 551 Horai (www.551horai.co.jp) and it’s good. Don’t compare with Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong or Din Tai Fung from Taiwan. Just give it a try when in Japan. The line is long sometimes though.
Line in the stall
If you are by chance in Japan now or planning a visit for the first time, enjoy the place! Next time, I will post stories of other places we visited during our trip.
the traveling KANGaroo