Travel: Osaka, Kyoto and Nara with Kids during the Golden Week

I’ve always been somewhat of an impromptu traveller, but this was the first time that I embarked on a trip with blanks in my itinerary – there were a few days where we decided on the place on the day itself by looking at Tripadvisor! When I told my friends that we were going to Osaka, their responses were mixed. They felt that there was “only shopping and eating” in Osaka. Before going there, I was a bit worried but it turned out that my worries were unfounded, because the places of interest differ for people with and without children. Neither of us spoke Japanese, but we got through as the people there were polite and helpful. 

We brought along our two children aged 3.5 years old and 1.5 years old. 

Getting There

We flew to Osaka on Singapore Airlines on promotional fare. It was a 6-hour direct flight to Kansai Airport (KIX) and the inflight entertainment and service helped to make things slightly easier. On arrival, we purchased the ICOCA card which could be used for the airport express into the city as well as on all the trains we took. The ICOCA card can also be used at convenience stores, much like the T-Money in Korea or EZ-Link here.

My friend passed us a data SIM card with unlimited data that we used during the trip. It was much more convenient than using a WIFI router. 

Accommodation

Being budget-conscious, I booked an AirBNB apartment located a minute away from Kishinosato station which is a few stations away from Osaka Metro Namba station and seven minutes away from Tengachaya, an interchange station that the Airport Express trains stop at. The space was clean, spacious, newly built and had all the necessary facilities like a kitchen, washing machine and bathtub. It was a small apartment complex with one apartment on each floor.

However, it seems like most apartments have rather late check-in and early check-out times. In addition, we had to register at a tourist cafe before we were allowed to check in as part of the regulations. It seems to be only for our host, so it depends.

Our first day was ruined because we took a red-eye flight and reached Osaka very early in the morning yet could only check in at 4pm. That said, we liked the neighbourhood. There was a takoyaki booth, old-school supermarket, convenience stores and the kids loved that there was a fire station nearby.

Getting Around

Taxis are scarily expensive in Japan and it was not considered as one of our modes of travel. There is Uber in Osaka if you are in a desperate situation, but otherwise, the trains served us just fine. As we had two children, we borrowed a travel stroller from a friend and had a baby carrier. Most stations we were at had elevators. In Osaka, the train lines have different operators, so you have to be careful which line you get on to. There are signs in English with corresponding platform numbers and departure times. Trains in Osaka are extremely accurate, efficient and punctual. 

I’d downloaded a few travel applications but in the end, nothing beat Google Maps. 

Places of Interest

Kids Plaza Osaka

Directions: 1 minute away from Ogimachi station

Kids loved this place. Start from level 5 where the main exhibits are. It’s a large space with so many things for kids to do! There are live reptile and fishes, a bubble station, a large ball run, news studio, percussion instruments, a “world exhibit” where children can put on costumes from other countries, train station mock-up and in the middle there’s a slide for kids above 120cm (?) to slide down to level 4. There’s also a long netted bridge suspended in the air for kids to venture to the lower floors. 

On level 4, there’s the Kids Town with some interesting features such as the supermarket. Kids can choose their groceries, scan them and get a printed receipt of their “purchases”! There are little kiosks for kids to play pretend – a cake stand, bread shop, sushi kiosk and the takoyaki booth has to be the most fun of all. There isn’t much else to do in the other parts of the towns, but the kids can play postmen by delivering letters to the right postboxes. The Kids Town portion is nowhere as interactive as Kidzania but it will entertain young kids. 

Level 3 is the “IT zone” and where the craft workshops are held. 

Ogimachi Park

Directions: Right outside Ogimachi station

This is just a small park with slides and there’s no pressing reason to visit this place other than the fact that it’s near Kids Plaza. This was where I had an accident on the slide which left me with a huge bruise on my eye for the entire trip. Let’s just say that adults should not go on slides that are meant for children. 

Nara Park

Directions: Take the Kintetsu-Nara train from Osaka Namba station or follow this guide. The park is about a 10 minute stroll from the station. 

It’s that ~famous~ place populated with wild deer. We heard of news that the deer were starting to become more aggressive, but decided to go anyway because I believe animals don’t attack for no reason. 

There are pushcarts selling packs of deer crackers, or senbei for 150¥. The deer have a keen sense of smell and we had a deer stick its nose in my bag where the senbei were hidden. Some deer follow you if they want more. Some deer have been overfed and don’t budge even if there’s a cracker in front of their faces. Some deer can bow to say thanks. 

Walk beyond the main feeding area and there’s Todaiji temple and a beautiful green grassy patch for the kids to run around, albeit scattered with round deer droppings. These pellets are everywhere, there’s no use trying to avoid them. A long, slow trek brought us up to a shrine and medieval forest. It was sunset and we were the only ones along the stretch. The musky scent of forest trees and fresh cool air was refreshing. 

Tsurimi Ryokuchi / Flower Expo Memorial Park 

Directions: Outside Tsurimi Ryokuchi station

This place is large, and we probably didn’t manage to see it in its entirety. We went around the areas that were modelled after various countries (no Singapore pavilion, we’re too insignificant). If you like flowers, this is where you should go. The colours are so relaxing to the eyes. The main feature of the  

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Kyoto: Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Gion Street

Directions from Osaka: Hankyu Umeda Station -> Limited Express train to Kyoto or use this link

Osaka Castle

Directions: Morinomiya station

Kodomonia 

Directions: Namba Parks Level 5, near Namba station

Referral Links

Gain credits by using my referral links to book your trip! Shopback can be used on top of promotional codes to book your accommodation through AirBNB or other hotel sites!

Lodging/Apartment: AirBNB
Attractions:
Klook
Cashback: Shopback

Expenses

Airfare, accommodation and travel insurance totalled S$3,211 and I changed S$2,000 to Japanese yen (164,000¥) and brought along an additional S$500 (41,000¥) as emergency money. In total, we spent S$5,011 for 9 days. 

Airfare

We managed to secure promotional fares through Singapore Airlines for S$2,438 (2 adults, 1 child, 1 infant). This included S$200 in change fees for rescheduling our flight. 

AirBNB

The AirBNB apartment cost me S$710 for 8 nights inclusive of cleaning fees. I booked the apartment from An, a Superhost

Transport

Most of our money seemed to go towards transport. Each time we topped up the card, we used about 4,000¥ for two. We must have spent about S$200 on transport alone.

Food

Decent food can be had for about 2000¥ (~S$25) per meal for 2 adults and 2 young children. Due to our children’s preferences for gyudon, we mainly had our breakfast meals at Sukiya and Matsuya. These are just chain restaurants with standard fare. One of the more memorable meals we had was at Maeda Coffee in Kyoto, which my husband stumbled upon after a huge argument. It happened to be a highly recommended place in the end, which alleviated our moods. 

Otherwise, food is abundant in Osaka, from kaitenzushis to ikazayas, chain eateries and restaurants, you’ll never go hungry. Even the convenience stores offer tasty options like oden and bento.