Travelling to a new place is always exciting; you get to visit famous historical sites, buy things you may not be able to find in your home country, mix with locals and try exotic new foods. But as well as booking flights and hotels and mapping out the spots you’d like to visit - or asking a local Host for some advice - it is also important to do some research that can help you get around or save money. If you’re heading for Osaka, the third biggest city in Japan and unarguably the country’s food and comedy capital, then check out these essential travel tips to get as much as you can from this exciting city. A trip is even better when you are prepared! Osaka is a great city to visit for dining, exploring and shopping, and with these eight tips, you’ll be on your way for a fun-filled journey.
Get Pocket Wifi
Having unlimited internet wherever you go isn’t just good for posting live social media updates, but also for unrestricted access to restaurant and sightseeing spot opening times, directions, and for sending messages to others. If you’re arriving at Kansai International Airport, you can get unlimited pocket wifi for as little as 758 yen per day. (For more information, see the airport’s website. Having on-the-go internet does make your life much easier when travelling and is more convenient than renting a local phone or SIM card.
Take Advantage of Tax-Free Shopping
Tourists in Japan who are staying less than 90 days qualify for duty-free shopping! There are a few rules to this: firstly, you must take your passport, with the tourist visa enclosed, along with you when you shop. In addition, shops require for you to spend more than 5,000 yen (or 10,001 yen in some stores) before qualifying for tax-free shopping. Stores in Osaka that offer this system to visitors include Tokyu Hands, a retail store you can find in Shinsaibashi, Sannomiya, and Umeda; electronic stores BIC CAMERA and Yodobashi Camera, both located in Hankyu Umeda Main Store; and the Duty Free Shop at Kansai International Airport. A few things to note: not all items are eligible for duty-free shopping, so be sure to check. Always take your passport with you to prove you’re a tourist and not, for example, in Japan with a work visa. Sometimes you will get the 8% consumer tax deducted from the total price in-store, and sometimes you will have to claim it back with receipts at the airport on your way home. If this isn't a great reason to visit Osaka I don't know what is!
Research Tickets and Passes
Getting hold of passes can save a lot of money and stress. As well as the widely known Japan Rail Pass used for unlimited travel on JR lines and most bullet trains (recommended for those travelling around the country within a week or so), Osaka also has its own city passes that are great if you plan to go around the city to different places. You can find out all about each individual pass on the Osaka Info website.
Getting around Osaka is cheapest and easiest by metro. Buses are also convenient but are slightly more difficult to navigate. Taxis are the most convenient, and in Japan completely reliable, but are also much more expensive and it can be difficult to communicate with the driver if you don’t have the Japanese address of where you’re going. Consider your options and choose according to your Japanese language ability and budget.
Follow Local Rules
Adhering to local habits is a fine way to be a good visitor and to not annoy the locals. For example, when you are standing on an escalator, be sure to stand on the right-hand side, leaving space on the left for people in a hurry to pass. Keep in mind that the rest of Japan usually lines up on the left. Other local customs that also apply to the rest of the country include not blowing your nose in public (wiping a runny nose is perfectly OK but avoid the noisy clearing of sinuses when you’re around other people), don’t try to tip, keep quiet and avoid phone calls on the train, and always follow the queuing system.
When Chatting to Local People
You might find that Osaka people are friendlier than their Tokyo cousins – it is one of the things they are proud of! Locals in this city will be happy to hear you say that you prefer Osaka to Tokyo (even if it isn’t true)! There is a lot of competitiveness between the cities, partly because of their rivalling baseball teams. If you plan to go out drinking, don’t be afraid to say “kanpai!” (cheers!) to the person sitting next to you when everybody’s had a few. Learning a few local phrases can’t hurt either; try saying “ookini” (the local word for “thank you”) in a shop or restaurant; you just might make someone’s day.
Roads and Streets
Unlike many western countries, where streets tend to have names, Japan often sticks to numbers. One thing Osaka does, though, is call their roads “suji” if they go north or south, and “tori” if they go east or west. This can help you remember which direction you’re heading.
Try the Local Food
Remember to try as much food as you can while you’re in Osaka! Takoyaki (octopus in fried dough) and okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake packed with different ingredients) are local delicacies, but bear in mind that culinary delights also change with the season. For example, you should try crab (kani) and blowfish (fugu) in winter. However, keep in mind these can get pricey. In spring, you can explore a huge amount of cherry-blossom themed food such as sakura mochi (pink rice cakes) and sakura taiyaki (a fried cake with sweet “cherry blossom flavoured” filling). In summer, you can get delicious shaved ice nationwide, and autumn brings mushrooms, pumpkin, and chestnuts.
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