Somewhere in between the glittering frenzy of Tokyo and the atmospheric quaintness of Kyoto is the unabashed and down-to-earth city of Osaka. It boasts of glorious food, energetic street life, and a refreshingly approachable vibe. Interestingly, Daytime Osaka is wildly different from Nighttime Osaka, and that’s where the magic lies. Good times guaranteed, 24/7, whether you’re a curious toddler or a frazzled parent. Let’s get this party started!
1. Stay In
Stay in any family-friendly hotel within the Namba or Dotonbori area, and never go bored nor hungry. The neighborhood is tourist-friendly, close to public transportation, and within walking distance to the best restaurants in the city. I recommend booking a Japaneses-style ryokan for a more authentic experience. The beds are rolled-out futons and the furnishings are few, making it very safe for toddlers.
Ancient castles and luscious Zen gardens today, towering skyscrapers and neon signages tonight. That is a typical day in Osaka, where one can experience old and new Japan in 12 hours. Do not miss the Osaka Castle and Park, Umeda Sky Building, and the lively streets of Namba and Dotonbori.
3. Side Trip
The excellent and highly efficient railway and bus system allows you to take a day trip to nearby places within the Kansai Region. The cities of Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe are only a couple of hours away. Catch a limited express train to get there (and back) faster.
4. Stroller vs Carrier
Once again, this is the Mom Dilemma of the Century! It is kind of a given to “bring both”, and everyone is tired of hearing that. Fortunately, Japan is Stroller Central. Accessibility is not a problem, and it’s very pedestrian- and bike-friendly. However, the streets are narrow. You’re best bet is a lightweight stroller that folds easily because the last thing you want to do is struggle with an enormous pushchair when boarding trains and subways.
Quintessential Japanese delicacies such as okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and conveyor-belt sushi originated from Osaka. The food scene here is a travel destination by itself. Under the backdrop of pachinko stalls, endless stretches of lantern-lit riversides bridges, and gaudy signages, you might just have the best meal of your life. In a tiny, hole-in-the-wall stall. Standing up. Of course, it’s not the most baby-friendly way. Thankfully, there are also plenty of “proper” sit-down restaurants equipped with highchairs and necessary contraptions to rein in your little people. Head to Mizuno Okonomiyaki (voted as the best!) and Isono Ryotaro to have a more conventional family-style meal.
6. Stay Connected
Whoever said ‘the best things in life are free’ was definitely not referring to WiFi in Japan. It is nearly impossible to avail of a free internet connection outside of your hotel room. It is best to rent a pocket wifi. It is convenient, affordable, and essential.
8. What to Pack
Check out the contents of my day bag while traveling in Japan. It’s pretty basic. And light! For your carry-on baggage during the flights, this post might be helpful.
9. What to Buy
Two words: shopping heaven. The city is bustling with shopping areas, from humble souvenir stalls to luxurious boutiques. But if you’re keen on getting authentic Japanese products that you will actually use, try out their amazing skincare brands (such as Shu Uemura), high-quality electronics, or a smart pair of Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. Not that I’ll ever stop anyone from getting sushi- or bento-shaped (and scented) rubber eraser. And a pack of instant ramen. Just putting it out there.