- Visiting the Osaka Aquarium
- Shopping at Pokemon Center Osaka
- Going to Expocity via the monorail
- Hanging around the Grand Front Osaka
Our second day in Japan would turn out to the most tame of our trip. It was a day to help us ease into what would become a huge trekking holiday.
On this day, the first destination was the Osaka Aquarium in the city’s west. The aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world and houses the famous whale sharks.
We then head back to Osaka Station to shop at the Pokemon Center Osaka and a quick lunch before heading north towards Expocity, which in the past was home to the only Pokemon Gym in the world.
We ended our day hanging around the shops at the Grand Front Osaka.
Before the trip
I recommend buying the Osaka Aquarium tickets in advance. By buying the ticket you can skip the queue and head straight for the entrance. We bought our tickets at Klook. We also got a small cashback by using Cashrewards.
To the Osaka Aquarium
From our hotel at Hotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka, we walked to Osaka Station. Osaka Station is a hub for multiple train lines, such as the Osaka City Loop and Kyoto lines, and at least four different shopping centers like Daimaru and the Grand Front Osaka.
TIP: Before using the trains, make sure to purchase a Icoca, Suica or Pasmo prepaid cards from one of the ticket machines. All the ticket machines have an English language option by touching the ‘English’ button in the top right corner.
NOTE: If you are looking for the shinkansen to get to a far away destination, you will need to take the train from Osaka Station up north for one stop to Shin Osaka Station.
For us to get to the aquarium, we took the Osaka City Loop line on platform 1 from Osaka Station towards Shin-Imamiya Station and getting off at the third stop at Bentenchō Station. We would need to take a combination of JR and non-JR lines. Since the Osaka City Loop is a JR line, we changed station when we arrived at Bentenchō Station to the non-JR line, which is just a short 3 min walk and requires you tap your prepaid card at the respective ticket gates.
NOTE: If you have the Japan Rail Pass active, you don’t need to tap your prepaid card at the ticket gate when you enter or exit a JR station, just show your pass to an attendant and they should let you through.
On the non-JR line from Bentenchō Station, we took the line towards Cosmo Square for 5 mins and got off at the second stop at Osakako Station. We walked another 9 mins through the streets towards the Osaka Aquarium. You can tell you are headed in the right direction by walking towards the giant Ferris Wheel. Located in the same area as the Osaka Aquarium are Lego Land, Tempozan Harbor Village and Tempozan Park.
NOTE: If you are lucky, next door to the Osaka Aquarium is the Osaka Culturarium which generally host exhibitions like the fantastic Naruto Exhibition, which was held back in August to September 2015. I recommend checking their website if you want to know if they are hosting anything when you are visiting.
The aquarium is visually stunning from its entrance. As soon as you start, you are invited through a glass tunnel showcasing some of the sea creatures you are about to encounter. It’s a great moment to take in a photo or two, but expect it to be very crowded.
The aquarium’s set out is like a massive spiral. There is a central tube in the middle that, as you progress, will see from different angles and depths. As you go further down, the darkness becomes more prevalent and the crowds you saw at entrance thin out.
We were treated to seeing the otters, dolphins and a live feeding of the penguins. They were all adorable creatures. The dolphins move very quickly in their tanks so you need to be extra quick if you want a good photo or video.
There are plenty of other sea creatures to see, many varieties of fishes from around the world, mantises, seals and turtles. We saw a really cute turtle swimming in one of the tanks – it had really big eyes and a massive shell.
There is a dark zone near the bottom of the aquarium. This place houses the smaller life forms in tanks in the middle of the room that you can walk around such as glowing jellyfishes, claims and eels.
At the end of the aquarium, there is an open area that allows you to touch and pet the mantas and some other sea creatures. There is also an open area to see the penguins, but we weren’t able to touch or pet them. There is also a store for you to buy souvenirs and photos that the attendants take of you at certain points in the aquarium.
Overall, we spent about an hour and half at the aquarium. It’s definitely a kid friendly attraction since it hosted several interactive and fun activities throughout the venue aimed at them.
Right next to the Osaka Aquarium is the Tempozan Marketplace, a shopping center with merchandise and gift stores, clothing stores, and plenty of food stalls including an area called Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho. Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho has an old Japan aesthetic to it. You can wander around for food or take for photos as though you were in old Japan. We just came to buy some souvenirs like the crispy crab snack and dried scallops.
Pokemon Center Osaka
We returned to Osaka Station from the Osaka Aquarium and headed straight to the Pokemon Center in Osaka. The Pokemon Center is located in the Daimaru Umeda Store building on floor 13. We just used the escalators since we felt the elevator was too crowded. The Pokemon Center takes up the entire floor space. Here we found so many fantastic merchandise for ourselves and friends and family.
There is also a section to take photos, play the arcade games and tables to play the Pokemon Trading Card Game, albeit you will probably be up against a formidable Japanese youngster.
There are always new merchandise to collect every month, whether its a promotion for the latest game, movie, celebration (eg, Halloween), etc. When we were there, there were still merchandise for the Detective Pikachu movie. The real-life looking Pokemon from that movie were freaky, I’m thinking of Lickitung and the possessed Aipoms, and they were equally freaky as plush toys. The other big thing was the 3D recreation of the first Pokemon movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution. There were plenty of Mewtwo and Mew merchandise for that movie as well. The background music that was playing was from the movie. I remember it quite vividly.
We came to the Pokemon Center mainly for the cosplay Pikachu plushes. We picked up the ones we were missing, which was most of them. Unlike western versions of the plushes, the Pokemon Center plushes generally look and feel great. Once you buy a plush here, you won’t want other versions they sell elsewhere. One of the ones we bought was the Ampharos Pikachu plush in the photo below.
Before we left Osaka Station to our next destination, we opted to grab a quick lunch at 551 Horai. 551 Horai offer delicious and inexpensive pork bao and gyoza. We grabbed baos for ¥380.
I recommend taking public transport to Expocity. Do not take the route that says get off at Kishibe Station and then take a bus, since the entrance to Expocity can only be reached via the monorail or by car. Expocity isn’t a place you can get to by just walking into the area. I followed this route and learnt that the hard way. We came back the proper way.
Take the Hankyu-Kyoto Line from Osaka Station to Yamada Station. Get off at Yamada Station and take the monorail to Expo City.
Expocity has lots to do, including the shopping complex itself, Nifrel (an indoor zoo) and the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park.
I recommend visiting the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park first since it closes pretty early on most days. Plus, you probably want to get the beautiful photos before the sun sets. Here you will see The Tower of the Sun and a some stunning gardens.
When you get off the monorail, there are plenty of signage to show you where to go if you are going to the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park. For us, we just walked towards The Tower of the Sun, which looks like a robot chicken.
The price to enter the park varies depending on which part of the park you plan to visit. We couldn’t get in since we came after 5 PM. (If only I didn’t take the long way here…)
There are plenty of things you can do and eat around Expocity. It was a very family friendly area.
If you are interested in Gundam, there is also a merchandise store called Gundam Square.
We headed back to Osaka Station using the Monorail and connecting train line.
Grand Front Osaka
The Grant Front is located next to Osaka Station. It is one of multiple shopping centers in the Umeda area. In our last visit to Osaka in 2017, we opted to go to the Umeda Sky Building which had a stunning view of the city.
The Grand Front was okay. There wasn’t much to write about. It was a standard fare shopping center with many higher end labels. We noticed that there were a number of vacant lots as we climbed higher in the building. I liked the look and feel of the interior architecture, it was very modern.
Stay tuned for Day 3 – Osaka: Universal Studios and Dotonburi, the famous food street in Osaka.