My niece, Sophia, has always been a big Harry Potter fan. And just like any other Potterhead, it has always been a dream of hers to see Hogwarts in person and live the life of a magic school’s student even just for a day. So, for her graduation, our family decided to make this dream of hers come true and planned a trip to Osaka, Japan.
If you haven’t seen the feature video my sister-in-law made, check it out now! Our Awesome Spring Family Vacation in Japan
If you already have a plan to visit Japan but clueless on how to process your visa, feel free to go through a guide I made especially for Filipinos like myself: Preparing for Your Family’s Japan Tourist Visa
When Do We Leave?
Picking a date that is suitable to everyone going on the trip is not as easy as it sounds. We started planning the trip October of 2016 and had to account school days, office appointments and major holidays before we were able to agree on a final date. Another major consideration for the schedule was the price of airplane tickets. As with any international travel, airfare takes up a big portion of the budget and booking during a sale helps lower the price but it could also mean not getting the dates we originally wanted. Taking all of these in, we decided to go sometime May 2017 as not only does it fit everyone’s busy schedules but it is also one of Japan’s most beautiful season– spring!
Cherry blossom viewing is the most popular activity during this season but unfortunately, they were already gone by the time we got there. These typically bloom at the very start of spring in Osaka (March) and only lasts for a week or so before the flowers all fall away. Lucky for us, there is more to Japan than just Sakura trees and we were able to enjoy the colors of spring during our stay.
If you wish to plan your vacation around specific blooming periods, check out this Link for more information on when they are at their peak and where to catch them.
Ready, Jet-set, GO!
There are numerous airlines that have routes going directly from Manila to various locations in Japan. Travelers now have options and can choose from a range of providers that fit their budget, schedule and preferences. The onset of low-cost airlines helped revolutionize the way we travel and people like me who previously cannot afford the expensive airfare, much less bring the whole family in tow, can now fly off to a dream destination like Japan.
Booking airplane tickets for a big group adds a lot more complication because it was harder to find discounted fares for the dates we wanted. In addition to this, spring draws in more tourists than other seasons jacking the prices up even further. In the end, we paid an average of P12,500 per person which is more expensive than my previous Japan airfare costs.
FYI: The cheapest fare I was able to score was a Cebu Pacific return trip from Manila to Nagoya at P1,920 per person with 15kg baggage allowance (all-inclusive). I’ll give more tips on how to cut costs on your vacay expenses in another post.
Home Away From Home
It’s no secret that Japan has one of the best train systems in the world. For that matter, I would suggest finding accommodations near subway exits along the main city lines to make commuting to different locations hassle free. This tip is true for any cities around the country.
Concerning Osaka, however, I personally find that the place to be is in Dotonbori! Having your home base in Dotonbori means having the best restaurants, tourist destinations and shopping area a couple of meters from your doorstep. Good for the feet but definitely bad for the wallet!
There are plenty of good hotels to choose from around the area but for travelers on a budget, I would recommend booking a room from Airbnb instead. The several times I’ve been to Osaka, I’ve been highly satisfied with all the rooms we rented. 5-star quality minus the heavy price tag!
For our trip, I turned to Airbnb once more and was very happy to find a place that can accommodate us all and was well within our budget. Check out the pictures and listing from Airbnb below:
This is perfect for a big family or group of friends who wish to have a comfortable place to go back to at the end of a long day roaming the streets of Osaka. I don’t have qualms recommending or staying here again on my next visit.
8 Days In and Around Kansai Region
There is no shortage of fun activities around Osaka but another great thing about staying here is its close proximity to other famous places such as Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. All these prefectures are located in the southern central region of Japan’s main island called Kansai and are just an hour or two train ride away. If you are in the region, a day-trip to these cities are a must and offers a unique view both into Japan’s illustrious past and technologically-advanced future.
For our 8-day trip last May, we wanted to enjoy the sights as much as possible and did not plan a lot of activities in a day. Too much walking was also very tiring for the children and elderly members of our family so, we visited places that were in more or less the same area.
Here is a high level overview of the itinerary we followed. I will link detailed write-ups and picture galleries for each locations once I have them up here in my blog.
- Arrival at Kansai International airport and checked-in to Airbnb room
- Picture taking with Osaka icon, Glico Man
- Shopping at Ebisu Bashi-suji street
- Dinner at Kimukatsu Osaka Shochikuza
- Got up close and personal with the fishy residents of the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
- The kids spent a couple of hours building block animals in Legoland
- Took in the sights of Osaka city from 112.5 meters above ground on the Tempozan Ferris wheel
- Enjoyed a meal in an old-style Japanese setting at Naniwa Food Theme Park
Whole day of fun at Universal Studios Japan
- Sampled street food along Dotonbori
- Conveyor sushi experience at Daikisuisan
- Walked around the grounds of Osaka Castle
- Explored Osaka city
- Cozying up with the city’s famous residents at Nara Park!
- Gawk in amazement at the world’s largest wooden structure, Todaiji Temple
- Visit Nara’s most celebrated shrine, Kasuga Taisha
- Spent the afternoon strolling along flower fields in Akashi Kaikyo National Government Park
- Sampled Matsusaka beef at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M
- Immersed in Japanese culture and dressed up in Kimonos
- Traveled back in time and explore the hallowed grounds of Japan’s most iconic shrine, The Fushimi Inari Taisha
- Sampled street food and visited local shops near Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
- Visited Denden Town for little bit of Anime fix
- Check-out of Airbnb
- Proceed to Narita airport for flight back to Manila
A Destination for any Season and any Occasion
WARNING! Japan is a very addictive place to visit. This has been the nth time I’ve taken a vacation there and by no means will it be the last. There will always be something new to discover and as a matter of fact, I would recommend visiting the same sites during other seasons. Same place but an entirely different story.
For now, my family and I will continue to reminisce about this once in a lifetime experience from the comforts of our home in Manila. Back to school, back to work and back to life. The good news is that there’s a promo fare just around the corner and I can’t wait to book another adventure!