Traveling to Japan can be tricky but awesome; and the same can be said about traveling with kids. So why does combining the two tip the scales towards oh-so-tricky?
The language barrier, tech that’s way ahead of what we’re used to (raise your hand if you’ve been splashed in the face by a Japanese toilet bidet as it played classical music), and lack of preparation are but some of the usual culprits.
At least the last one you can do something about! So here are a few handy tips for traveling to Osaka with kids, guaranteed to elicit an arigatou or two!
Osaka with kids secret 1. Pack enough diapers!
Even though Japan is the home of Merries, MamyPoko, Goon, and some of our other favourite brands, finding kids’ products and diapers while on tour was quite a nightmare.
We had to go through 4 mini marts before finding one that sold diapers! And there weren’t a lot of options as well - only one brand and one size. Luckily, it was the correct size for us. You’d think the country that makes so many of these well-loved diapers would have them all over!
Osaka with kids secret 2. Bring a stroller
There's lots of walking involved, and taxis are really expensive. If you are worried about the hassle of lugging a stroller everywhere, don't - there are elevators that make access easy and the roads are also pretty even.
Walking is a big part of travelling in Japan so we would highly recommend bringing a stroller - we actually bought a lightweight one just for this trip. It’s a packed city as well, so a stroller also serves as a great resting place if kiddo needs a nap!
Osaka with kids secret 3. No English
Young students, storekeeper uncles, professional businessmen, taxi drivers, hotel receptionists - no one speaks more than 2-3 words of English, NO ONE - even tourist information center staff barely speak English.
Make sure you are well equipped and prepared for this. You need to pick up either a portable WiFi device or a mobile SIM card as you will need to translate and navigate on the fly.
We conveniently pre-purchased our SIM cards from Singapore for $13 and picked up the package from the OCAT Tourist Information Center (which can be found both at the airport and at Namba station).
If you don’t speak Japanese, I also highly recommend pre-booking all your tickets for admissions and travels online to minimize having to play charades in person!
Osaka with kids secret 4. The Subway and JR lines, while a marvel, are super complicated!
We spent 15 minutes at the subway ticket counter trying to figure out which ticket to buy and how much we needed to pay.
I highly recommend all parents to buy the ICOCA card before arriving in Japan. You can use it on the JR, subway, private railway, buses, and shopping in the Kansai area and around.
Osaka with kids secret 5. Book a family-friendly hotel
Osaka, much like the stereotype of Tokyo, is crowded, cramped, and expensive. Hotel rooms are tiny unless otherwise stated.
It is well worth the effort to research ahead to the exact room size to ensure you have enough space for your little ones to have a place to sleep. We experienced staying in a hotel for one night that wouldn't give us a cot as the room was too small for one! Thankfully we shifted to another hotel the next night.
Recommended family friendly hotels include Fraser Residence, Holiday Inn Namba and Hotel Universal Port.
Osaka with kids secret 6. Kids and restaurants
We got turned away at a number of restaurants ranging from hole in the wall to fine dining, as they don't accept toddlers.
So you might have to sacrifice and choose between your favourite meal and your kids. Otherwise, there is always Ippudo ramen to fall back on.
Osaka with kids secret 7. Secret gem: Paul’s Kuma Kafe
If you need a break from all things Japanese, Kuma Kafe is a perfect family-friendly restaurant where you can sink your teeth into juicy burgers and yummy pizza.
Kuma Kafe is located across the street from the Osaka Aquarium / Legoland Discovery Centre. Owner / Chef Paul is an awesome Australian dude who used to be Terminator at Universal Studios (a role he has the look for but would seem way too gentle to be playing).
He is also the artist and photographer behind everything you see in the restaurant and he makes his pizza dough by hand each morning!
Osaka with kids secret 8. Buy tickets ahead if you are visiting Universal Studios.
The queue for entrance into Universal Studios snakes quite a bit and each attraction can go beyond 2 1/2 hours waiting time to enter. Having an express pass usually reduces this amount by about two-thirds. Do buy your ticket beforehand and if finances permit, opt for an express pass too.
If you have younger kids, note that most rides at Universal Studios have a height restriction of 102 cm. That said, a trip to Universal Studios is still worth a visit for the photos, the tour around Harry Potter World (try the butter beer!) and to just marvel at how dressed up the visitors are.
I dare say that the visitors to Universal Studios were more decked out in costumes than the staff around.
Osaka with kids secret 9. Visit the Osaka Aquarium, Legoland Discovery Centre and the Harukas 300
Remember to set a full day aside for these 3 activities. The aquarium is a MUST visit and is certain to amaze. Complete with an impressive display of marine life from the waters of Japan, the Pacific Ocean, and beyond, this walk-through aquarium aims to bring visitors closer to the underwater world.
Exhibiting 27 tanks (the largest being 9 meters deep!), you'll see not only fish, manta rays, and whale sharks, but also amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals representing the beautiful and diverse natural environments of the Pacific Rim region. We picked up tickets for the aquarium in advance here.
Legoland Discovery Centre is the ultimate indoor LEGO playground with 2 rides, 8 LEGO build & play zones, a 4D cinema & much more!
It’s located 2 minutes away from the Osaka aquarium, so do make a trip here after visiting the aquarium. Note though, that the last entry for Legoland Discovery Centre is 4 pm.
End the night at the Harukas 300 - an observatory deck at heights of 300m which gives you a stunning 360 view of Osaka.
If you book the Harukas 300 ticket on Klook it comes with a free Osaka Visitors' Ticket which offers one-day unlimited rides on the Osaka Municipal Subway, New Tram, and all buses.
Osaka with kids secret 10. Make a day trip to Nara to check out the deer
If time permits, take a trip to check out the beautiful city of Nara (once Japan's capital). It’s famed for the thousands of deer that graze and roam freely in the park as well as the historic significance of many of its temples, which date back to the eighth century.
We booked our tickets which came with hotel pick up, English speaking guide, and all admission fees from here.
Secret 11. If you have an extra day, check out the Kids plaza and Osaka Castle and Park
Learning and play often go hand-in-hand when you travel and that doesn’t just apply to kids! While Osaka Castle is extra famous during cherry blossom season, a visit any time of year is well-warranted.
Enjoy a stroll around the park and its beautifully serene view. Within the castle is a museum where you’ll discover more about the rich history of this landmark.
Kids Plaza is within the same area, a few stops on a JR line away. It’s a museum made especially for kids to have fun and learn; a multi-level space with dedicated areas for adventure, creativity, and discovery.
Secret 12. Head to the airport with the Nankai Line Express
The Nankai Line express offers convenient transfer service between Kansai International Airport and central Osaka. We pre-booked our round trip tickets here for $28.
Secret 13. Try to fly direct, but transiting at Tokyo’s Narita is not terrible either
This Osaka with kids article was brought to you by theAsianparent in partnership with Klook.com. Klook offers a simple way to discover activities, attractions and things to do wherever you travel.
With a few taps or clicks, you can be ready to hop aboard the Hong Kong Airport Express, set your inner child free at Tokyo Disneyland, or marvel at the breathtaking world under the waves in Bali.
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