Asia,  Japan,  Osaka,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Travel Diary Osaka (Japan) #2: our first onsen, Dotonbori and Shinsaibashisuji Shopping Street

If you haven’t done so, read our first Osaka travel diary here

Hardly our suitcases scattered in the Airbnb, we are already outside, too eager to discover Japan, which we are visiting for the first time

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary


As we are cold, our first goal is to find a Uniqlo, where I am sure to find comfortable and warm pajamas. Of course, we’ll end up at Uniqlo last, being too busy looking left to right

Our first stop is the local supermarket. We discover with excitement bentos, sashimis and sushi to take away – for a very affordable price (within 4-6€). We won’t starve to death, yeahhh!

We take a picture, like everyone else, in front of this restaurant with this giant crab, moving its legs. I’ve already seen this crab in several vlogs on YouTube, with the “running man”. Apparently, when we go to Osaka, we have to take a picture of them 😀

As a consumer, I am immediately attracted by the many “tax-free” stores that sell Japanese cosmetics on several floors

If you know me at all, you know that I am an absolute fan of (facial) skin care products, and a true adept of the Japanese “yarrow” method and Japanese and Korean beauty products

If you don’t know anything about it, do a little research before coming here. If you are really lazy, you should know that there is a very famous site in Japan called cosme. Every year, they classify cosmetic products by category. And all products that receive an award will proudly display the words “#1 Cosme 2017” on their packaging. By buying #1 Cosme products, you won’t risk taking a wrong step

The bad news is that there is a HUGE number of categories: make-up remover oils, face cleanser, mascara, concealer, cushion etc

But the good news is that from 5000yen of purchase, you will be given a “tax-free” invoice (you have to show your passport) and you will be able to recover 8% of this amount at the airport, before leaving Japan

Well, I’m not telling you everything I bought, eh 😀 it would be too cruel for my banker

Here is a store selling Tenugui, a kind of Japanese handkerchief. They are now used as greeting cards or even business cards. This store also sells hand-painted greeting cards on Japanese paper (washi), which is still made in the traditional way

First restaurant

We end up in a restaurant with bentos (with sashimis) at 1100yens

Inside, surprise! I hear Vietnamese 😀 ahahha in fact, only the chief is Japanese, the others are Vietnamese. So I take the opportunity to ask the Vietnamese waiter what this or that dish contains 😀 it’s really very good, but it looks like the Japanese restaurants you can find in France. Which isn’t necessarily a good sign

Namba Walk

To get to Uniqlo, we go to the Namba Walk, an area full of stores, but which is in the basement. There again, I’m late to go to Uniqlo, being too busy raving about these cute stores

There are also Japanese umbrellas. My mother (who has already been to Japan) told me that I should definitely buy one. The wrist of Japanese umbrellas are rectangular in shape, so they are much thinner and featherweight vs. the umbrellas sold in France with round wrists. And it costs only 1000yens (7.7€)

Finally, we end up at Uniqlo to discover a very small unpretentious boutique. Hyper disappointed, we tell ourselves that we will go later to another store, bigger, 10 minutes away

Tennen Onsen Naviwa Hot Spring

As we don’t feel like taking a shower (even though it is hot) in our poorly heated apartment, we decide to go the next day to an onsen 24 minutes by metro from our home

What differentiates an onsen from a classic public bath Sentō is its water source. This onsen, located on the 8th floor of a building, pumps its thermal water from a depth of more than 600m. JB will explain here how to behave in an onsen

In almost all onsens, access is forbidden to anyone who is tattooed (this would be a distinctive sign of members of the Japanese mafia). That’s it, all these years of resistance to the temptations of tattooing are only used for that: to be accepted at the onsens

As nudity is de rigueur in onsens, there are two separate areas: men and women. It’s not fun at the beginning to walk around naked like that in front of strangers, but since no one is staring at anyone, I feel comfortable very quickly

Maybe it’s better that way, that way you learn to love your body, to see other real bodies too, and not slimmer bodies, photoshopped in magazines

The water is super hot (the hottest at 42°C), after an hour, clean as a new penny, I can’t take it anymore, I go out

You can also eat outside the onsen. There is a machine that looks like a vending machine

We choose our dishes at the push of a button, we pay. And then we give the tickets to the waitress. She then gives us a number. And when the order is ready, she will call our number. All communication with the saleswoman is in Japanese, but given the context, we understand everything she says:D

Here too, the dishes are of the same quality as in France. However, the miso soups tested since yesterday are a thousand times better than in France. We can perhaps say that a mediocre level in Japan corresponds to a good level in France

I can’t wait to discover what real, good restaurants in Japan look like 😀

First experience of Japanese politeness

During our visit to Onsen, JB was able to discover for the first time the legendary Japanese politeness

Not having enough money to pay Onsen (who only accepted cash). JB went to the nearest bank. At the entrance, a guard in a cap and white gloves greets everyone and indicates an available ATM

Bad luck, ATM is only in Japanese, impossible to withdraw money under these conditions. JB then asks the guard if he can help him, which he does without hesitation. Despite this providential help, impossible to withdraw the money, the ATM does not seem to accept the card. The guard then uses his walkie-talkie to ask for help from a bank employee who arrives 10 seconds later

The employee looks at the card and seems to indicate that it isn’t possible to use it here but that it is necessary to go to the “post office”

When JB asked for directions to get there, the employee simply decided to accompany him, even though it was still a 5-minute walk

Imagine the same scene with a Japanese tourist in France..

The subway

Let’s talk about the Japanese subway! You can buy tickets one by one, or buy a multi-purpose card (there are several different transportation networks), compatible also with some drink dispensers (which are very numerous). In the Kansai area, the ICOCA card is popular. We buy it for 2000yen (including 500yen deposit which will be refunded when we return the card, and 1500yen credit). We have to badge the card when we enter/exit the subway, so that the money is debited from our card according to the route we take

The Japanese have thought of everything. At each station, we see a map of the coming stations, where we are told in which car we have to get on to get out right in front of the escalator/stairway/elevator. Rhalala, Japanese perfectionism!

For those who are afraid of getting lost, all the signs are translated into English (even the station names), don’t worry!


Shinsaibaishusuji Shopping Street

Shinsaibaishusuji is a long shopping street (600m), covered, a paradise for serial shoppers. Fans of luxury brands will love to spend their day at Daimaru, especially to rob the SK-II store (a super Japanese brand, super expensive, but gives – apparently – a dream skin). I’ll come back another day to get a free skin analysis

Waiting, we are still looking for the famous Uniqlo store. It has 4 floors, and the offer here is obviously more complete than what you can find in France. There are many limited collections, including one with Inès de Fressange. The prices are half as much as in France

We end up at Daiso’s, a boutique with a unique price. This store is the proof of Japanese ingenuity. There is a product for every need, for example this metal thing to avoid oil splashes during cooking

Or a fake egg, to be put in the pan, able to measure the state of cooking of the real eggs => You can therefore make perfect boiled eggs

There are also collars to wear underneath sweaters. These collars are more and more sold in France too, I find them too cute

I understand why those who visit Japan always come back with a suitcase full of knick-knacks, tools of all kinds. Because you can’t find them anywhere else

We spot a restaurant (belonging to a chain), not too expensive and well rated on Tripadvisor, at the corner of the H&M. Their famous BBQ pork rice & kimchi is to die for! Same thing, you have to order using a machine and give the ticket to the waiter. It’s really handy because the waiter doesn’t have to try to understand English or bother with the payment, he can concentrate on the service

JB takes in addition an option – egg-. But he finds himself with a raw egg 😀 Not knowing what to do with it, he only collects the yolk and puts it in his soup “à la vietnamienne”. Later on we will understand by observing a local, that you have to beat the egg, like an omelette, then make a hole in the rice and put the egg inside, until it is cooked

Takoyaki Wanaka Sennichimae

The next day, as I’m still jet-lagged, I wake up only at noon, and we go out for breakfast right away. JB takes me to TAKOYAKI WANAKA SENNICHIMAE, a very famous address in Osaka to test their famous Takoyaki, made with octopus, cream and egg which seems to be a specialty of Osaka

For 500 yen, we are entitled to a rather substantial lunch for two. At the bottom right, you see some kind of slices, like leaves. This is katsuobushi, a dried, fermented fish, sliced into thin strips. Because of the heat, they move! It’s super weird but funny at the same time

Pancakes are also available, but they are 1000 times more consistent than those found in France. The proof is in the pasta & polymer models (by the way, all the restaurants show models of their dishes in polymers like this, it helps a lot the tourists)

JB will complete his lunch with chicken nuggets at Kinnotorikara – Tonkara Stick (medium good)

The reason why JB stays glued to the street food stand to eat is because it’s frowned upon to eat/drink while walking. And since there aren’t many trash cans in the street, he stays next to it so he can throw the garbage in the stand’s trash can

Here, there are mainly waste garbage cans for drinks only – next to the drinks dispensers. Otherwise, you have to put everything in your bag and dispose of the waste once you get home (or at the hotel). That doesn’t stop the Japanese streets from being super clean. Cleanliness is mainly related to civic-mindedness, not to the number of garbage cans available

Bic Camera

We end our walk at Bic Camera, a Darty/Fnac/Baker combined, where one can rave about Japanese ingenuity and the multitude of Japanese technological products. The building has 9 floors, we just spotted bags particularly adapted to digital nomads, and seats reserved for gamers. We will come back to it, for sure!


Sakae Sushi

After working a little bit, we will have dinner at Sakae Sushi. There is a queue but fortunately it goes very fast. We are entitled to two seats at the counter, in front of the chefs. Yesss!

Here you order sushi by sushi. There are numbers in front of each type of sushi/maki. You have to write down your order on a paper and give it to the waiter/waiter. The sushi costs between 100yen and 300yen per piece. As we are greedy, we choose the most expensive sushi, which are more provided in fish (fatty tuna, fatty salmon, very fatty tuna…)

The tray in front of us with ginger is ours too. If we order little, the chef can put the sushi directly on this plate. But as we took a big quantity, he gives us a separate dish

And this is real Japanese food! All sushi has wasabi in it, they put enough of it, but not too much

This is the quality you expect from sushi in Japan. In the end, we will have paid about 47€ including drinks

Other (Asian) tourists don’t know how to eat sushi properly, so don’t look around to learn how to eat sushi like Japanese people. The real Japanese method is to dip a little bit the FISH in the sauce (especially not the rice!), and put the whole sushi in your mouth

That’s it for today, see you soon for new adventures in Japan! Read more (notebook #3) here

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • First restaurant (run by the viet) : 1100yens/bento
  • TENNEN ONSEN NAVIWA HOT SPRING: 800 yen/entry. Small towel rental: 150yen
  • Lunch in front of the onsen: from 500yens/dish
  • Metro => onsen : about 7 stations, 24 minutes : 230 yen/person
  • Purchase of an ICOCA card: 2,000 yen, including 500 yen deposit, and 1,500 yen credit to be used for the metro/drinks machines
  • Takoyaki : 500 yens for 8 balls
  • Chicken nuggets: 250 yen half a portion, 500 yen a normal portion
  • Bubble tea : 300 yens
  • Pancake : 400yens
  • Restaurant Sakae Sushi: between 100yen and 300yen/sushi. Our meal cost us about 47€ for two, drinks included
  • Withdrawal at ATMs: about 200yen fee for each withdrawal

Practical advice

  • Withdraw money from Citybank ATMs, 7-eleven or post offices
  • Most restaurants, stores and supermarkets accept payment by credit card (no extra charge). If you have the international option as we do, it is very advantageous. Sometimes you have to enter the PIN code, sometimes not
  • Bring some change, especially to pay for street food
  • In Japan, it is very frowned upon to eat and drink while eating. You should eat if possible next to the street food stand. Then, there aren’t necessarily garbage garbage cans nearby, so you have to bring the garbage with you (and throw it at home, or at the hotel).
  • Smokers have reserved areas for smoking. Some smoke next to the cigarette vending machines because there is a garbage can dedicated to ashes. Again, Japanese people don’t do two things at once: they don’t walk while smoking either. They smoke first and then they walk.

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