I have just finished my short stay in Japan and am currently sitting on a Shinkansen which is gliding its way towards Narita Airport as my bum is kept warm (yes! All trains in Japan have seat heaters in the winter!). I thought I would share with you my 3 day (4 nights) itinerary and tips for those who are planning to stay in Osaka as I found that it worked out quite well.
Firstly, accommodation. I stayed in the Hotel Claiton Shin-Osaka which is conveniently located approx. 5 mins from Nishiminakajima Minimikata 西中島南方 Station (note that this isn't on the JR line so for those who have the JR Rail Pass it's better to walk an extra 10 mins to Shin-Osaka station) . It's just a standard hotel, nothing fancy but it does have an great buffet breakfast for ¥1000pp which kept me full till dinner. From Shin-Osaka station, it's just one stop to Osaka station where you can walk to nearby Umeda.
For me, if it's practical, I always prefer taking my time to walk through the city; it's the best way to actually experience and feel the uniqueness of Japan. Seeing daring old ladies riding their bicycles, smelling the wafts of takoyaki cooking away at the small corner stall, hearing the high-pitched sales assistants 'irashaimase!' beckoning you into their store…I'm sure many of you will agree that it's these small things that make Japan Japan.
The first part of my day was spent visiting the Umeda Sky Building (i'm a structural engineer – interesting structures excite me). This is an 8 minute walk from Osaka station. It just so happened that there was a German festival going on right underneath the building and it was a public holiday on the day (23 Dec – Emperor's birthday) so it was nice to see young families and couples out and about (although you did see the occasional salary-man…typical). You can go up to the top of the building for ¥700 but I decided not to as I think it would be better during the night. A few floors down in the main building, you can find Takimi Lane of Restaurants which is pretty much foodie heaven.
Next stop – America-mura or America town. For those of you with a JR Rail pass, you can take the Osaka Loop line from Osaka to JR Nanba 難波 then walk for 15 minutes. Otherwise, you can take the Chikatetsu 地下鉄 line from JR Nanba 難波 to Shinsaibashi 心斎橋 then a 3 minute walk. If you want to do some shopping, I recommend coming here first. There is a large array of second hand stores with a decent range of clothes for both guys and girls. One of the one's I went to stocked heavily discounted designer goods such as Isabel Marant, Chanel, Philip Lim, Alexander Wang to name a few.
The triangle in the middle of America-mura is a great place to sit, eat takoyaki, and people-watch. Although, the blazing hip hop music from the nearby store does make it feel a little like you're in a club. I recommend getting your takoyaki from a place called Daigen (unfortunately I don't have a map, but if you ask around people will know where it is – literally 30 sec walk from the main triangle). They've been operating since 1963! They sell takoyaki burgers with green shallots but instead of the usual bun, you are given a crunchy alternative: two thin rice crackers.
Finished the day at Iidaya いい田屋 izakaya where we had delicious kushi-mono (grilled skewered foods) and a motsuni nabe (pork hot pot). Definitely recommend this place if you are in America-mura till late!