Asia, Story, Travel

Things to do in Osaka, Japan

things to do in Osaka
The “Strip” in Osaka, Japan

Osaka is a massive city, second only to Tokyo. While our time here was short, it was easily the single most amazing night we had in Japan. There is no shortage of things to do in Osaka.

After wandering down the narrow street past many adult clubs, we found our hostel for the night – Not to say it was not without trouble. Michael and I were debating the directions and sending our group every wrong way possible. Somehow Erica has an amazing internal compass, grabbed the map from the boys, and was able to navigate the way to our hidden hostel. We dropped off our bags and excitedly embarked on our adventure for the evening.

First stop, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Erica is a sucker for zoos and aquariums and being as though it is one of the largest in the world, it was definitely on our to do list.

things to do in Osaka
One of my most favorite habitats!

The thing that set this aquarium apart from others we have seen is that, instead of hundred of tanks for every species, this one contains different marine life in 16 massive tanks with acrylic glass 30cm thick. If you ever find time to hit it up it is highly suggested. You really can get lost in thought due to the general serene nature of it.

We did hit the main strip in Osaka for dinner at this popular Salisbury Steak place. How Salisbury steaks get their own restaurant is yet to be determined, however, pictures of this greasy meat with a piece of velveeta on top tickled our fancies – and why not try this popular “local” fare? We gobbled down our dinner and rushed out the door to start our crazy night.

Erica Note: Interesting fact! Osaka and Hiroshima both claim to be the creators of Okonomiyaki. While we did enjoy it in Hiroshima, this too is a MUST TRY! The experience is fantastic. Just be aware that it is alot of food, even if your eyes and your stomach tell you differently. 🙂

It didn’t take long before we were greeted on the street by a hipster-looking man wearing a t-shirt with a blown up picture of Hilary Clinton’s face. He simply said “Beer?” and we were sold. After nodding, he motioned for us to follow him. He led us to a nearby building and up several flights of narrow stairs. Once we had arrived on the correct floor, he took us down a short hallway towards an unmarked door. By this point we had no idea what to expect and were starting to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.

We opened the door revealing a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bar. The space was cramped, only housing a single couch and about eight bar stools. Behind the bar they had a small TV on a shelf that was playing the flavor of the night, “Biker Boyz”. After a closer look at the rest of their DVD collection, it was apparent that they really enjoyed bad American movies about street racing and the culture. If it had Vin Diesel in it, they had it and they loved it.

Once we were situated, our new hipster friend informed us that he was the owner of the bar and introduced us to the bartender as well. We let it slip to them that we were from Texas and were given the all-too-familiar response of: “Texas?! You mean like cowboys?!!”. This statement is also always followed up by outstretched thumbs and index fingers being raised above their heads- accompanied by gunshot sound effects.

Erica Note: “PEW PEW PEW PEW!”

While most Texans would roll their eyes and smirk at this notion, we always welcomed it as it meant we didn’t have to worry about the conversation taking a turn into Bush or politics.

However, our conversation did take an unexpected turn. After staring at me for a minute, the owner finally said “you look… familiar”. I immediately turned to Erica who burst out laughing. She quickly jumped in and said “is it Justin Timberlake?!” to which his eyes lit up and he yelled “YES!!”.


This is a comment that only seems to be made when I have my head shaved. However, since I’ve had a mohawk for most of this decade, it had been a while. I had shaved my head to try and limit the attention drawn to us (which didn’t seem to help at all) and to be more respectful due to the number of temples and shrines we were going to visit.

I shot Erica an annoyed glance to which she burst into laughter once again, clearly amused.

Erica Note: It is much easier for them to say “Justin” than “Shaun”. To my amusement he was referred to as “Justin” for the rest of the night.

things to do in Osaka
The Three Musketeers at the bar

As the night progressed, a few regulars began to show up. One was a man who had lived in California for 7 years and spoke perfect English. The others were a “salary man” (business man) and his girlfriend. Luckily for us, a good majority of people in Japan speak at least some English (including everyone in the bar). For most of the people we met, it was their second language. However, many are too shy to converse even though they can speak English better than some Americans.

After spending some time getting to know each other, the bar owner decided it was time to play a drinking game. He grabbed a standard deck of cards and a bottle of tequila. The game was a simple: The cards were laid out and whoever drew the lowest card had to take a shot.

Erica Note: Who knew we were going to spend a night drinking CUERVO with Japanese locals?

The salary man had it the worst as he was drinking everytime he or his girlfriend lost. Although, as with most of the salary men we saw, he held his liquor well. Erica started off strong, but quickly lost it towards the end. I don’t often participate in drinking games, but I had to make an exception in this case (luckily only losing a couple games).

This game continued into the night as several other bad movies played in the background. By the end of it, pretty much everyone (including the bartenders) was trashed. After many laughs (and bottles of tequila), We all posed for drunken cell phone pictures before saying goodbye and carrying Erica back to the hostel.

Picture with random locals!

Erica Note: Yeah…. I only remember the elevator up to the room and waking up the next morning. Apparently I had slipped out of the bathroom at some point that night and managed to achieve an amazingly huge cut down the side of my leg.

Leaving Osaka was a sad and slow process. Sad because our time was short and the people amazing, slow because someone jumped in front of a passing train and the track was shut down for most of the day. This was especially bad for Erica who had quite the hangover as well.

Osaka is a wonderful city with much to do and definitely a place we will return to on our next trip back to Japan. Now, if only we can remember where the bar is…

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