Many people hate layovers. I, on the other hand, love them. If possible, I look for layovers that allow me to get out of the airport (at a reasonable time of the day) like in Seoul and see a city (unlike in Istanbul).
Thanks to Japan Airlines, I got an 11-hour layover in Osaka. Minus waiting in line at immigration, train rides to and from the airport and going through security, I really had 6 hours of exploration time. My main objective was to eat my way through Osaka (or as much as my stomach can handle).
I arrived at Kansai Airport at 06:30, and after convincing a perplexed immigration officer that my hotel was the airport, I was on my way to the city.
My first stop was Osaka Castle by 09:00. I lived in Japan for 2 years and had my share of Japanese castles. But since I hadn’t been in the country for more than 10 years, it was a welcomed sight to see.
From the outside, it looked too newly-restored. From the inside, there were lots of exhibits and a cool animation of how the castle was built. The highlight was the view up top. It was a clear day, and it felt like I could almost see Kyoto. Ok, not that far. But I could see far.
By 11:00, I was at Dontonbori, Osaka’s famous shopping district. I headed straight to Ichiran Ramen (一蘭 道頓堀店本館), known for its single-booth ramen stations for private dining.
The line was just queuing for a booth. I sat down and enjoyed my private space. My ramen was delivered by a waiter who lifted a curtain, announced my meal then bowed before leaving. Oh, Japan!
The pork ramen (¥890) was so filling. Lots of meaty flavours that felt like it was cooked for hours and just enough that I could eat more later. Hahaha…
My next stop on my eating tour of Osaka was finding a takoyaki (octopus balls) place. There were plenty of places to pick, but I found that that sold 6 balls for ¥390.
I next wanted to sample some melon bread with ice cream. But sadly, the sign on the truck said it opened at 14:00, the time of my train back to the airport.
I saw that it was 13:00 and thought I could make one last stop before arriving at Namba station: Rikuro Ojisan (aka the jiggly cheesecake that’s all the rage on the internet).
When I arrived at the shop, there was a small queue and a set of freshly-baked cheesecakes being delivered to the front window. For a mere ¥695, I got a very warm cake in a box where it can cool down in the overhead compartment of the 787 I was about to board.
With plenty of time to spare, I ordered myself (in Japanese) a cup of coffee and used up all my Japanese coins. I boarded my train at exactly 14:05, and like clockwork, the train arrived at exactly 14:45.
At Kansai airport, I found a variety of KitKats only available in Japan (cheaper once you pass immigration). I picked up Wasabi and Apple KitKats along with the Mint KitKats I found at FamilyMart.
This very short trip reminded me of my time in Japan and how awesome the country is. Until next time, またね!