Osaka is arguably Japan’s street food capital and is acclaimed for having the best food in Japan, but this vibrant city also hosts a variety of great accommodation suiting all budgets.
These suggestions are by no means the only places that I grazed at over the brilliant 8 days in Osaka, so, sharing with you a few favourites and a couple of not-so-favourite spots to maybe avoid.
Where to eat
Even if booking a self-contained apartment and cooking meals to keep costs down while in Japan, it really is difficult to avoid eating out. Osaka is crammed with a profusion of alluring restaurants and cafes galore. You will never go hungry in Osaka. This city is a foodaholic’s dream and the food is amazing. If travelling on a budget, it’s not hard to find inexpensive eats.
Eating breakfast at the apartment and lunch out, then only a snack in the evenings back at the apartment is a good mix for the pocket. You don’t want to miss out on authentic culinary delights.
If you do want to save money but still enjoy eating out on your travels, then in Japan, eating at lunchtime and ordering a Set Menu is cheaper than ordering the exact same meal in the evening. Fabulous Set Menus usually consist of a main, Matcha (Japanese tea), Miso, and a salted prune.
Mennosho Tsurumaru Udon Hankyu Kappa Yokocho
A lunch of steaming hot delicious Udon noodles in the Mennosho Tsurumaru Udon Hankyu Kappa Yokocho chain (44 restaurants throughout Japan) starts at as little as ¥320, with great service from the staff.
Iekei Ramen Chokiya Nagahoribashi Branch
Lunch in the Iekei Ramen Chokiya Nagahoribashi Branch (the name is a mouthful – no pun intended) in the Chuo Ward is cheap and scrumptious.
This tiny ramen house is full of local businessmen and office workers, so you know it’s great value for money and really is excellent ramen. Good service is also provided.
Don’t let the vending machine put you off when ordering your Ramen as a kind staff member is always on hand to help. Found out later that vending machines in restaurants are common in Japan.
Cinnabon – Seatle’s Best Coffee
Always hunting for good coffee regardless of the country, popping into Cinnabon – Seatle’s Best Coffee mainly because of the name. The cosy surrounding makes up for the okay drip coffee (¥340).
This restaurant offers pasta, which I didn’t try as I’m saving myself for Italy, sandwiches, and an array of desserts.
While in the Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street, you must find the corner Takoyaki Jumbo stall. Try the amazing and cheap Okonomiyaki (savoury egg pancake) and appetising noodles from friendly chefs.
When visiting one of Osaka’s principal tourist destinations, the lively and famous Dōtonbori district, you must try Takoyaki, especially for seafood lovers.
Tourists and locals queue for ages to feast on these small luscious balls of savoury batter stuffed with a chunk of octopus and cooked in special cast iron half-spherical moulds, while you wait.
Street stall and restaurant chefs effortlessly create these crispy golden brown balls covered with a special takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, then sprinkled with green laver (Aonori – edible seaweed) and shavings of dried bonito (Katsuobushi).
Typically, 6 tasty takoyaki balls are served in a boat-shaped cardboard container so you can walk and eat along the busy Dōtonbori streets, although you can also buy these morsels throughout Osaka.
For a pricey coffee and cheesecake in quaint surroundings but with good service, take a break and try Cafe Tokiona while shopping at the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street.
Bagels and pasta dishes are also on the menu at Café Tokiona.
Just opposite the majestic and must-see Osaka Castle (post to come later), the 33 CAFE is a great little stop-off after walking the castle’s expansive grounds for hours.
Enjoy a good coffee and sweet snack with good service, in the Chuo Ward’s odd Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation building.
Where to sleep
Osaka’s Kita Ward offers a plethora of accommodation types, but make sure to shop around as Japan can be expensive if not careful.
Hotel Minn-north – Kita Ward
Booking the Hotel Minn in the Kita Ward a month in advance before arriving in Japan, this self-contained spacious apartment is good value with a kitchenette and private bathroom. A spotless abode with complimentary linen and toiletries.
The solid steel and heavy entrance door comes complete with a security keypad and you receive a PIN when checking in via a Skype call on the iPad at the front. A little odd and clunky but this is post-COVID and later discover that this check-in method is the norm in Japan.
The apartment is a short walk to the Umeda train station, several restaurants, two 7/11 convenience stores, and a Family Mart convenience store.
Wanting to stay another 4 nights, sadly, we had to move as the Minn-north would only extend if we paid ¥130,000 for 4 nights. This is more than 4 times the nightly cost for the previous 4 nights booked a month ago. The reason was that the apartment is in “high demand and almost booked out”, but when checking, it’s still fully available. Confused and frustrated, we booked the Hotel EINNS.INN Umeda Higashi instead, for 4 nights at ¥9,500/night.
Hotel EINNS.INN Umeda Higashi
Taking the train from Shinn-Fukushima for the two stops to Osakatemmangu and walking to the EINNS.INN to drop our bags off as it’s too early for check-in, we’re greeted at the hotel with over an hour of palaver.
Booked, paid, and confirmed the 4 nights for ¥9,500/night last night. However, reception is adamant this is not the correct price and is a discounted price for locals or people with a Japanese address. Staff want to charge us ¥60,000-plus for the 4 nights. On refusing this new charge, reception cancelled our booking through booking.com without us knowing and as we didn’t know what happened, he phoned booking.com. In broken English and with Google Translate, we realise we have nowhere to sleep tonight or for the next 3 nights.
After several phone calls to booking.com and speaking to an English speaker, a compromise is reached at ¥44,523 for the 4 nights. Our nightly rate increased from ¥9,500 to ¥12,000 for the small 15 m2 clean room with a private bathroom, toiletries, and fresh linen.
Typically, check-in is at 3 pm or 4 pm and check-out is at 10 am in Osaka. So, allowed to leave our big backpacks at the hotel, decide to walk off some steam and wander around the Kansai Ward until checking in again.
Not a great introduction to Osaka’s accommodation but how could we have known about a discounted price for locals and residents of Japan?
Frustrated at the price hike on booking.com and agoda.com only at the point of paying with a credit card or a price hike on arrival at the accommodation, all is revealed.
After a little research, discovered that to boost travel again, the Japanese government is giving locals discounted accommodation until the end of March. While this is great for locals, when booking via the booking.com or agoda.com platforms, it’s not apparent that the initial advertised price is for locals or Japanese residents. It’s not until following through the screens to the point of paying with a credit card that the nightly price jumps 30-50% higher.
Accommodation is expensive let alone adding this hike to the bill. Also, because of the travel discount everything seems booked out. March is typically Japan’s low-to-shoulder month with April as the start of the busier period – joy!
Interestingly, the booking platforms don’t advertise clearly that the rates are for Japanese residents and proof of residence is required. Only when reading the vague fine print on a different page that a little information is provided. A trap for unsuspecting foreigners.
Where is Osaka?
Where to shop
Check back next week for a detailed post on where to shop in Osaka. I’ll share with you the fabulous and impressive kilometres-long undercover Shinsaibashisuji and Tenjinbashi-suji shopping streets, the best convenience stores, and more for shopaholics.
Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.