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First day back at work after two weeks away is always a struggle but I'm happy to get back into a healthier routine after far too much dim sum and ramen! 😋 I've added Hong Kong and Tokyo to my Stories highlights for those who missed my updates!

We found this pretty street in Shibuya, Tokyo, near the famous and very hectic Scramble/crossing. So nice to see some more traditional streets hidden amongst the super modern tower blocks and huge neon lights.

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First day back at work...

After a long hiatus from the blog, I've just shared some of my recent favourites. From @oddboxldn to @olio_ex, they're all helping to make our lives more sustainable! Click the link in my profile and let me know what you think.
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Featuring my beautiful WWF KeepCup!
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#sustainability #sustainableliving  #keepcup #london #thisislondon #wwf #noplanetb #sustainable #ecofriendly #londonblogger #plasticfree #londonbylondoners #climateweek #reusable #reducereuserecycle #foodwaste  #olio #oddbox #allplants #eatlessmeat #londonblog #ecofriendlyliving

After a long hiatus from...

Spending a few days enjoying Sicilian views, sunshine, food, and spritz!
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Spending a few days enjoying...

Take me back please!! 🙏🏻 The walk to the calanques near Marseille was tough in the heat but the views made it worth doing! Loved having a picnic in the shade before going for a swim in the clear waters.
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#calanques

Take me back please!! 🙏🏻...

When you spot a pretty backdrop! 🏃‍♀️ Marrakesh was 10x more beautiful than I had been expecting, with decorative arches, colourful tiled courtyards and orange trees being common sights. I loved the smells as well - argan oil, orange blossom and fresh mint all remind me of Morrocco now.
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When you spot a pretty...

I think the cats of Essaouira and Marrakesh deserve to have a post dedicated to them, given how much time I spent admiring them! 😍 #catsofmorocco
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I think the cats of...

Osaka: One Day Itinerary

By Posted on 3 min read 1617 views

Osaka

Osaka may not be quite as pretty as Kyoto or quite as exciting as Tokyo, but it’s still very much worth visiting! Not only does it have one of the most famous castles in Japan, it’s also known as the nation’s kitchen. Expect a lot of delicious food. What’s great about Osaka is that you can see most of its highlights in one day with a good itinerary – perfect if you’ve only got a limited amount of time to spend in Japan.

Try some French pastry, Japanese style
painduce osaka bakery

Start your day with breakfast at one of the many Japanese bakeries in Osaka. I loved trying new things every day while I was in Japan, like green matcha croissants and cherry blossom brioches. In Osaka I can recommend Painduce bakery, but there are plenty of other bakeries you could try around town, often near train stations.

Have a matcha ice cream by Osaka Castle
osaka castle matcha
Osaka Castle itinerary

It’s never too early for matcha ice cream! It’s just like having tea and milk if you think about it, right? If you happen to be visiting during the cherry blossom season, sit yourself down under a pink tree and admire the castle from afar. If you have the time, brave the queue to get into the castle (it was too long when I was there) and learn more about the history of the place.

Osaka travel guide - castle
Take in the view from Umeda Sky Building
Umeda sky building, Osaka

This building looks like it belongs in a sci-fi film, and although its design is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, it has the best view in town. Head to the Floating Garden Observatory (the platform connecting the two towers) for 360 degree views of Osaka. I’ve heard that it’s amazing for watching the sunset too! Also check out the basement for some of the best food in the city, and a “street” that is designed to look like a 1920s Japanese village. Try Okonomiyaki Kiji, which many people say is the best place for okonomiyaki (a local specialty) in Osaka.

Shop like a teenager in Amerika-mura
amerikamura osaka

Photo credit: Laura Tomàs Avellana

Amerika-mura (AKA the American village) is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Harajuku. This is the place to spot Osaka’s latest street fashion, shop in cool little boutiques and thrift shops and get your dose of hipster artisan coffee. While you’re there you could eat an ‘ice dog’ and try to spot the small-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Eat like a local in Namba
Osaka Guide: Dotombori

Head to Dotombori street in the Namba neighbourhood for a huge selection of street food and restaurants with the boldest signage you will ever see. Look out for the giant octopus, blowfish and crab.

Osaka dotombori namba street

With Osaka being Japan’s capital of food, you’ll want to try a few of the local specialties. Takoyaki and okonomiyaki are the top two must-try foods. Head over to Creo-ru if you want to try some of the best that the city has to offer and avoid the queues.

Okonomiyaki Osaka Guide
Takoyaki Osaka Food Guide

After dinner, take in the neon lights from Ebisu-bashi bridge and spot the famous Glico man sign.

Wander through Shinsaibashi Suji, a long, lively shopping arcade full of all sorts of interesting little shops. If you would rather see the older side of Osaka, head to Hozenji Yokocho Alleyway, behind Hozenji Temple.

glico sign osaka

Osaka is a fantastic city to visit for a day or two, and it’s also an easy train ride away from Kyoto and Nara so it’s the perfect base. It’s a must for any foodies out there!

Other fun activities in Osaka include: Osaka Aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, Spa World, Shitennoji Temple, and Tempozan Ferris Wheel. For shopping, go to Rinku Town!

Where to stay: on my second trip to Osaka I stayed at Candeo Hotels Osaka Namba. The location is super convenient for walking around the centre of town and it also has an onsen spa on the roof which is a plus!

Planning your trip to Japan? Check out my other blog posts:

Here's a quick guide to spending 24 hours in Osaka. From finding delicious local food to seeing the best city views, this guide has got you covered!

5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan

By Posted on 3 min read 2032 views

prepare-japan-trip

Travelling to Japan takes more preparation than your average holiday – at least that’s what I found. Some things I wish I’d looked into earlier than I did, others I was glad I had researched long in advance! Here are the five things I think everyone should do before getting on a plane to Japan:

Book hotels

So this may seem obvious to you, but I made the mistake of booking my flights long in advance then waiting several months before bothering to look into hotels. Hotels are expensive in Japan, especially during cherry blossom season! Don’t leave it to the last minute. For Tokyo, we ended up splurging on the wonderful Grand Hyatt Hotel for a few days, then being very disappointed by an APA Hotel in Shinjuku. Kyoto hotels seemed so busy at the weekends that we went to Osaka for a couple of nights before going there. If you want a more authentic experience, book a ryokan well in advance, preferably one that will serve food. If you’re thinking about trying a capsule hotel have a look at my tips or those of Travel Outlandish before you book!

Buy a Japan Rail Pass

If you are going to be taking a few trains while you’re in Japan, you need to buy a JR Pass before you get there. This will be a lot cheaper than buying tickets in Japan and will save you the hassle of buying a ticket for every journey.  We found that our pass was really convenient for travelling between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Arashiyama and Nara. You can even use it for the JR lines within Tokyo. Have a look at how Justine did the math if you’re not sure whether the pass is worth it.

Order a sim card or portable wifi

You can have a sim card or a portable wifi device sent to your hotel so that it’s there when you arrive. I used Japan Wireless, although there are a few other companies offering the same service. I found having a SIM card with data to be incredibly useful for using Google Maps and looking up where to go next when we were out and about. No worrying about the phone bill when you get back home and no desperately trying to catch some public wifi!

Learn a few words of Japanese

I found that locals actually speak more English than I expected, but knowing a few words of Japanese was still really useful. I loved memorising things from the Lonely Planet Phrasebook, and it was small enough to carry in my pocket. I also used a few apps to practice listening and pronunciation, like Mirai Japanese or Memrise.

Find out if you need to book things in advance

By the time I found out that you needed to make a reservation by mail for the magnificent Kokudera moss temple in Kyoto, it was too late! If you want to do go-karting around Tokyo, you need to apply for an international driving license before you go. To visit an owl cafe, it’s best to email a few days in advance. If you’re into your food, you might want to reserve some of the top restaurants before you fly out to Japan.

Some things you don’t need to book in advance include your Pasmo (which can be used for public transport in different cities), the famous robot restaurant in Shinjuku, and seats on trains which can be reserved on the day you are travelling.

 

Also useful to know is how much money you’re going to need. Creative Travel Guide have put together a great little guide that tells you how much you can expect to spend on food, transport and different types of accommodation in Tokyo.

 

Have a look at my other posts for more tips:

 

If you’re going to Japan, is there anything more you would like to know about?

If you’ve been there before, do you have any other tips?

 

How to prepare your trip to Japan, from buying a Japan Rail Pass to booking a trip to an owl cafe!