Osaka is Japan's second largest city, behind the uber-modern Tokyo. But don't be mistaken, the city's by no means a little Tokyo.
Just a few weeks ago, we were invited to experience Osaka for ourselves in a short but sweet mid-week getaway
Traveling on a busy Tuesday? You bet my colleagues were jealous.
Despite it being a short trip (3D2N), our host Klook made it work. We checked out tourist-busy attractions, filled up our tummies with delicacies, and immersed ourselves in rich Japanese culture.
1. Riding adrenaline-pumping rides at Universal Studios Japan
Opened in 2001, USJ was the first Universal Studios-branded theme park to be built in Asia. Almost two decades in, you'd be forgiven to assume that the attractions were dated.
But that's not the case. After experiencing USJ in person, I can safely say the park is a good mix of old-school fun and modern thrills.
Whether you’re a rollercoaster loving individual, couple, family with kids, or Harry Potter fan, there’s something for everyone. Fans of Despicable Me can even get an overdose of cuteness at the newly opened Minion Park!
It was also my first time riding a rollercoaster that goes backward! A word of advice if you're planning to ride the Hollywood Dream – and that's not after a full meal.
2. Taking in the view of Osaka at the Harukas 300 Observatory
The view of Osaka from Harukas 300 was absolutely breathtaking.
The observatory is housed inside the Abeno Harukas, currently the tallest skyscraper in Japan at 300m. From the 60th floor, I was offered a 360-degree view of the Osaka cityscape. Gazing at the LEGO-like buildings, impressively arranged in unison, was strangely calming.
I also had the chance of taking a nice breezy stroll along the very edge of the building's rooftop, before doing bone-cracking stretches with my upper body hanging off the barricades.
3. Checking out magical marine life at the world-famous Osaka Aquarium
The Osaka Aquarium is one of the world's largest aquarium – the tanks hold nearly 11,000 tons of water!
The space is occupied by more than 15 spacious tanks, each of which is devoted to a section of the Pacific Rim’s marine life.
The focal point is the Pacific Ocean tank, which is an impressive nine meters deep, and contains an astonishing 5,400 tons of water. It is also home to several whale sharks, the biggest species of fish in the world.
Magnificent creatures, they were.
4. Getting up close and personal with animals at this "aquazoo"
Visiting Nifrel was one of the highlights of the trip because I've never seen an enclosure like this before.
Nifrel - which means "touching sensitivity" in Japanese - was set up by the folks behind the Osaka Aquarium. Located within walking distance of a shopping center, the animals and marine life are showcased in different thematic zones.
I enjoyed the "Abilities" zone the most. The dimly-lit area showcases different aquatic life - with some looking like they were straight out of a Guillermo del Toro film - on display. I never knew they existed until I visited Nifrel.
Beyond the tanks of marine life is the "Waterside" zone with its array of wildlife including crocodiles, hippos, and a majestic white tiger.
5. A mandatory visit to the Osaka Castle
What's a trip to Osaka without visiting the towering Osaka Castle?
Arguably Osaka's most prominent landmark, the castle was first built in 1583 as a symbol of power by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a prominent politician.
The castle is surrounded by smaller citadels, gates, large walls, an outer moat, and a labyrinth of walkways and peaceful garden areas.
A perfect way to take a break from the busy Osaka city to soak in rich Japanese culture and history. I'd recommend spending a few hours at the grounds as there's just so much to see!
6. Touring around Osaka city on a hop-on and hop-off bus
This is a perfect way to go around Osaka if you're visiting for the first time.
Osaka Wonder Loop bus is a fun, open-top double-decker bus that runs through most major attractions and sight-seeing areas.
There are a total of 14 stops throughout the Kita, Minami, and Abeno area, conveniently near all major sight-seeing areas. Hop on and off as you wish and explore the city at your own pace.
The bus was a perfect way for us to escape the summer heat that was already leaving us sweating in buckets.
7. Had the best ramen of my life thus far
Eating ramen in Japan is already an experience in itself, but dining at one of the best ramen joints in the country and possibly the world? It was quite something.
Ichiran has been in the game since the '60s, so you can bet these guys know how to make a mean bowl of ramen.
Springy, freshly-made noodles and tender pork slices soaked in a bowl of flavourful broth.
I'm getting hungry already.
Man, I really miss Osaka. I will definitely go back again for a much longer trip.
But if you're heading over to the port city anytime soon and looking for cool things to do and awesome places to visit, Klook's got you! From food to sight-seeing tours, make bookings at discounted prices through your smartphone.
That's not all, with the in-app QR code, you can avoid the stress of lining up, purchasing, and going through the motions. Boot up the app, scan the QR code, and you're good to go!
Don't forget to use the promo code KLOOKAWAY20 to get RM20 off your first booking!