19 Jul Osaka Roundup: Art, Coffee, & Culture
Okay, a disclaimer before you start reading: I’ve been to Osaka thrice. But it’s only this recent trip that I got to spend a week navigating my way through different neighborhoods and wards in Osaka—so this list isn’t really a comprehensive one (unlike the roundup for Tokyo, which was derived from 5 trips lol). My friends and I opted out some tourist spots (like Osaka Castle and Tennoji temple) since we were short on time and wanted to explore more cafes and do some shopping.
Here’s a little roundup of places in Osaka—no bookstores too, because I only passed by Tsutaya a few times and I didn’t want to get any books for this trip! Mostly art places, touristy non-negotiables, and a rather long list of coffee shops you can check out in case you find yourself in Osaka soon. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for art supplies in Osaka, Kawachi is your best bet. Visited the Dotonbori branch (8F of Tokyu Hands building) and was surprised to find all the materials I needed in one floor. I’d like to think this is Sekaido’s counterpart in Osaka.
The best place to shop for stationery, anywhere in Japan, hands down. Went to the Dotonbori branch (2 floors of Loft shared with Tower Records and Muji) and the stationery section was extensive, as usual. Pro tip: check out the sale pile and you might be able to score some good finds (I got paper bags!) for only 100JPY.
By default, Daiso has been widely popular for its 100JPY price—but to be fair, you can get anything here at a very affordable price. From pillowcases to washi tapes to kitchenware to cosmetics (lol I forgot to draw my eyebrows and bought a pencil here), and of course, to snacks, you can never go wrong with Daiso. So glad the branches we visited (in Nara and Shinsaibashi) weren’t too crowded. More reason to shop, I guess?
It’s either you go to Loft or Tokyu Hands, really, if you need to stock up on your stationery. My recommendation is going to Tokyu Hands first if you need tools like folders, pencil cases (I got my Delfonics utility pouch here!), and pens. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or need more options (ha!), head to Loft to see if they’re available.
Putting this here because I’ve been asked several times about my disposable film cameras. Don Quijote’s prices are the cheapest I’ve seen so far (tax-free) so if you want to stock up on your gear, definitely drop by Donki.
I’m such an anti-tourist for the primary reason that I hate crowded places. Buuuut Dotonbori is a no-brainer, must-visit if you’re exploring Osaka. The array of shops and restaurants in Shinsaibashi are great for leisurely shopping and eating—I mean, there’s GU, Uniqlo, Daiso, etc. on the same strip! Ichiran ramen is also around the corner, and so are my fave fast food places (Sukiya, Matsuya, Yoshinoya).
We booked an airbnb near Dotonbori (5 minutes walk) and it was super efficient especially since we spent most of our trip exploring cafes near the area.
Umeda Sky Building
I always have a soft spot for architecture, and visiting Umeda Sky Building ultimately felt like entering a space facility (lol, it did help that I was wearing a NASA shirt). I’m scared of escalators but for some reason, this one wasn’t as scary? Didn’t go up to the topmost part anymore because we were 100% satisfied with the escalators (LOL) and ended up doing six round trips like true tourists. #sorrynotsorry
Universal Studios Japan: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Obviously went here for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and of course we lined up for the 4D ride (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey)—WORTH EVERY PENNY. Also, if you’re a huge fan of Harry Potter (raise your hand!), definitely try the Butterbeer drink and ice cream (!). Pro tip: Take it with you while you line up so you won’t get bored, lol. The Hippogriff roller coaster was meh, tbh. If you’re planning to take home some goodies, check out Honeydukes or Owl Post for souvenirs. I was super stingy (always am, really) so I just got a Ravenclaw enamel pin (my house!) to take home (price wasn’t as expensive lol). I bought a Gryffindor scarf during my first visit so I brought it out (of course) and wore it that day (it’s still available at the shops).
In other parts of USJ, I really enjoyed the Spiderman 4D ride (by default, this is one of the OG 4D rides!) and the Minion Mayhem 4D ride (soooo cute). We went on a Tuesday and surprisingly, it wasn’t super crowded. I recommend going on weekdays and not on weekends and holidays, unless you want to line up longer.
Always been curious about Saturdays NYC after seeing it on most people’s posts in Osaka (and New York). You’d be surprised that this is actually a lifestyle and clothing store. I was skeptical at first but omg, their clothing is tdf. But of course, so is their coffee. The clean aesthetic of this establishment sets it apart from the skyscrapers surrounding the area.
Also, a PSA: in one of the roads nearby, look up and you will spot Roy Lichtenstein’s art on one of the buildings. You’re welcome.
Come here for the pancakes, stay for the interiors. Brothers’ pancakes didn’t disappoint, of course—it was my first time trying souffle pancakes (those fluffy ones you see on IG) and they were soooo good. A relatively nice place to just chill and unwind before doing (more) walking, lol.
Lilo Coffee Roasters
Don’t let this cafe’s small space fool you—it’s as cozy as it can get. Nevermind that the chairs are all bar stools, there are outlets and the ambiance is quaint and quiet, perfect for introverts. The coffee is another story—I got the East Timor blend and it was probably one of the best coffees I’ve had in my life.
Brooklyn Roasting Company
New York City lowkey manifesting itself to me (lol) with this NY-based cafe near Umeda. Apart from the good coffee and chill vibes of this roastery and cafe, the view by the river is quite impeccable. Go here during golden hour and you’ll definitely be pleased with what you’ll see.
Not entirely sure what the difference is between Pablo and Pablo Coffee but regardless, the cafe serves Pablo’s signature cheese tarts and soft serve ice cream. Probably the coffee selection is more extensive here? Located a few blocks away from Shinsaibashi, this is a nice, spacious place to spend an afternoon after long walks in the area.
Located beside LiLo Coffee Roasters, Elk’s serves quite a delight—with its wide range of pancakes, desserts, and brunch food. NGL, still thinking about the tiramisu pancakes we had!
West Wood Bakers
I’m not going to line up for breakfast, but for some reason, we waited in the heat for more than twenty minutes to get ourselves a table at West Wood Bakers in Orange Street. The food was okay, I guess? American style dining in the middle of hipster Orange Street. I loved the pancakes—they weren’t fluffy but they were so good.
Orange Street’s stretch of furniture shops inspired me so much to decorate my own room. I was quite surprised to find this hidden gem of a street as I made my way through each furniture store, taking home their flyers and calling cards (I am a paper hoarder, in case you haven’t noticed) and took photos for inspiration. Here are some of the furniture shops we dropped by:
Asoko | Onoe Furniture | Acme Furniture | Biotop Nurseries
Kyoto & Nara
We spent a day in Kyoto and another in Nara, but I regret staying for ONLY a day in Kyoto. I mean? I could live there! *sobs*
I’ve never been to most of the scenic places in Kyoto (my last visit was also just a daytrip) so I’m glad we visited most places this time.
Obviously went heart eyes emoji all over this attraction, mostly because of the beautifully lined tori gates, the impeccably cold weather (but not freezing), and the lovely sketching session I had during golden hour (below). It felt nice to do nothing but just draw and observe people.
Fushimi-Inari at dusk! So pretty. Obviously brought home a tori gate for the ~memz~.
I’m not sure if I really dressed up in this color scheme because I was going to Kyoto. But I diiid save this outfit for this specific Osaka trip! LOL, priorities.
Found myself getting lost in another time period as I walked down the streets of Gion District. Authentic matcha soft serve, beautiful traditional architecture (don’t miss the old-fashioned Starbucks right smack in the middle of Gion), people in kimonos and yukatas…it was a sight to see. Except the crowd was crazy. But I can’t help but oooh and aahhh as I was taking in everything that was right in front of me.
(And yes I match the place apparently LOL)
I wish I could’ve stayed longer in Kyoto but we were short on time. We spent the night chilling at Drip & Drop coffee supply (loooove this place) before taking the train back to Dohtonbori (which was quite a long journey). We were just famished and bought konbini food for dinner at our airbnb.
Going to Nara didn’t excite me much, because I have been here on my first time in Tokyo in 2007. It was okay. Deers are okay. It was also HOT the day we took the train to Nara, so there’s that. What I did like was the train ride and spending more time than usual exploring Nara station.
We had lunch outside of the Nara station exit before heading to the deer park. I was shookt, these deers are adorable (and smelly). And cute, fine. Hahaha.
We also managed to visit the Kokifuji 5-storied pagoda, among others. We spent a good few hours walking around the area; something you can do if you want to forget about shopping and eating for a bit. 😛
And of course, what’s a trip without a vlog? Here are some snippets from Osaka. Keep watching until the end for my journal flip through. Said I wasn’t going to document my trip but who am I kidding, it’s part of my DNA by default. Lol.
Have you visited this part of Japan? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂