This is the second part of our Kansai adventure, to Kobe and Osaka, which we knocked off in single day. We had been to both places numerous times so this time we narrowed our focus to the must-do things.
There are lots of things to do in Kobe, about a 50-minute express JR ride from Kyoto. We used to always head down to Harborland, which is an excellent place to hang out for a nice meal, shopping and some scenery. Most of all, there is a mini-theme park there which offers plenty of fun.
But with limited time, we narrowed our focus on Sannomiya, Kobe’s main terminal. If you are looking for Kobe steak (as we were), this is the area to visit, but I would still recommend doing some research beforehand because there are simply too many choices and you don’t want to end up picking the wrong one.
We did your research and chose a Kobe steak teppanyaki joint called Royal Mouriya (review here). It’s located on Ikuta Road, which is easy to find because there is a large arch on both ends which says “IKUTA ROAD.” There are loads of Kobe steak houses along this road and in the surrounding streets.
Another landmark to help you find this place is the massive Tokyu Hands you will see at one end of the street, just across the road. Tokyu Hands is one of Japan’s most famous specialty department stores and you can spend hours or even days in there wandering through the levels looking at really cool Japanese stuff. Check out the English website here. Basically, Tokyu Hands has whatever you want — their motto is “When You Visit, You Find What You Want” — except it looks more appealing because it’s Japanese and is packaged in that alluring Japanese style.
From snacks, phone accessories, travel goods and cooking utensils to stationery, home appliances, toys and cosmetics, Tokyu Hands as it all. Kyoto doesn’t have one, which is why we came all the way here, but Osaka has two and Tokyo has four. The one we visited, Kobe’s only store, had close to 10 levels. So if you’re looking to buy stuff — cool, quality, unique stuff — go there. I highly recommend it.
If you have to make a choice between Kobe and Osaka, choose Osaka. It’s bigger, as most of the things Kobe has, and it’s closer to Kyoto (about 25-30 minutes via the JR).
With just a later afternoon and evening to spend, we caught the JR from Kobe to Osaka and went straight to Honmachi for the massive Akachan Honpo baby store there (website - Japanese).
After spending a lot of money there, we went to the most happening place in Osaka, the lively Dotombori (or Dotonbori). It was raining pretty heavily that night but the area was still packed with people. It’s just one of those places with so many iconic images (the giant crab, the Glico runner, the drummer clown — though that place has closed down) and you just have to visit and see for yourself.
We first enjoyed some takoyaki (battered balls with octopus inside — interpret that as you wish) at this little dingy joint because it looked pretty popular. There are literally dozens of takoyaki places at Dotombori and I’ve tried my fair share over the years but none have been able to match the brilliance of Taco Tora in Kyoto (review here). The one we sampled on this night was pretty average, to be honest.
The takoyaki was just an appetizer, as we then headed over to Osaka Botejyu for some okonomiyaki (review here). That was a great meal, but unfortunately it didn’t leave us with a lot of time or stomach space to try other places. So instead we went to H&M and bought a bunch of clothes and caught the JR back to Kyoto.