When planning a trip overseas, the last thing you want to hear about is how much money it’s going to cost you. So when I planned a trip to Japan earlier in the year, the response I received from my social circles was enough to scare me.
“Mitzi, Japan is expensive!” they cried. So I feared for my credit card, believing them, until I touched down in Osaka and lined up for my first meal. Holding a laminated Okonomiyaki menu in my hands, I realized then that Japan is not expensive; it’s just not as cheap as Southeast Asia.
Would I have to give up my first born child to finance this trip? Hell No. In a city where the local mantra is Kuidaore, or to ‘eat until you drop’, thankfully you can do just that without your wallet keeling over. Here’s my thrifty guide to surviving 12 hours in Osaka city.
Bento Breakfasts at 7/11:
More like a supermarket than a humble convenience store, the 7/11s in Japan are my favorite place to shop for cheap food. Believe me when I say they have everything at an affordable price. From bakery bread, cakes, steamed buns, and gourmet salads, you could basically eat here for every meal. Just grab a grilled salmon bento and an orange juice and you’ll be right until lunch.
Catch the Train:
Need to get somewhere? Take the rail system. Whether it’s the JR Line or the local subway, it’s affordable and efficient, down to the very last second. As an English speaker, the hardest part about riding the rail system in Osaka, and the entire of Japan for that matter, is the lack of English signs. But if you can recognize colors and symbols together, you’ll be fine. And if you do get stuck, just ask a local for help. A friendly “Eigo ga hanemasuka?” (Do you speak English) should do the trick.
The best thing about the ticket machines on the subway is that they are great change dispensers. Just chuck in a ¥1000 note and you’ll get a bunch of change that most shop keepers don’t have.
Pose in a photo booth:
Got some time? Amusement centers are so easy to find and just as easy to get lost in. Inside are games, skill testers and my favorite: photo booths! Just think of it like a passport photo booth, but way more fun. For around ¥400, the photos make great souvenirs to take back home and the process of taking the photos will result in many giggles. If you don’t want to spend your money, then just walk through these buildings for five minutes of entertainment.
If you are starving, then yes, it’s possible to survive on vending machine cuisine. You can get both hot and cold coffee, soft drinks and snacks for cheap. Sure they aren’t the healthiest of options, but they will tide you over. And if you’re still hungry, I’m sure there’s a 7/11 somewhere close by.
Get High at the Hep Five Building:
From the outside, the Hep Five Building in Umeda doesn’t look affordable. In fact, it’s pretty ritzy and everyone comes for one reason, to shop! But on top of the building there is a red Ferris wheel which provides an amazing view of the city. For ¥500, you can get a 15-20 minute ride and see Osaka from over 100 meters above the ground. And after, if you don’t have the cash to splurge at the shops, then hey – there’s always window shopping.
Buy souvenirs from the ¥200 shop:
If you’re a girl shopping in Japan, it can be near impossible to say no to all the wonderful things available to buy. Seriously, I’ve never had to restrain myself so badly before. From crazy clips to fake fringes and lashes, it’s easy to get swept up by material objects in modern Osaka. If you do have the urge to splurge, then head to one of the 300, 200 or 100 yen stores. Yeah, they are the equivalent of the shitty knick-knack stores at home, but my gosh, they are so much fun! Plus you can get some pretty decent souvenirs to take back home. (There’s one in the Hep Five Building.)
Sushi train dinner:
Sounds cliché, but there are sushi-trains everywhere in Osaka. And to find them? Just walk the streets and keep your eyes open for tiny rooms crammed with people. The cheapest trains are those that offer a standard price per plate, and you’ll be able to distinguish them fairly easily from the signs out the front.
Some free attractions include:
- Go people watching in Dotonbori, Namba. Come here at night for awesome billboards and lights.
- Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda City, Osaka. It’s free to get in here, but costs money if you want to make your own ramen! (Do it, it’s fun!)
- Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine: One of the oldest shrines in Japan.