Japan is an excellent destination for kids. It’s clean and safe, so there’s no need to worry about the quality of the food, drinking water or security. Amenities like toilets in public spaces are exceedingly clean, and babies are generally provided for (nursing rooms with hot water, for example). Also, people are helpful and try to communicate to the best of their ability, despite the language barrier. But it always helps to have specific advice, no matter where you’re travelling. So here are my 10 tips for getting the most out of Osaka.
1. Buy nappies while you’re there! They are top quality, and half the price of what you tend to pay in Singapore. They can be found in Toys “R” Us or pharmacies (but not supermarkets).
2. Eat, eat and eat! The department stores and shopping malls all have restaurants on the top few levels (typically levels 6 to 8) and food counters in the basements. It’s a gastronomic maze walking through the basement food halls and we honestly ran out of days to have all the food we wanted to try.
3. Some family-style restaurants (typically those that offer a kids’ menu) have a goodie basket of sorts where kids dining there can pick a toy as a gift. This kept our boys very happy during meals!
4. Osaka is a really, really packed city. There are people everywhere, so keep a tight hold on your kids lest they get swallowed by the swarms of people. Still, somehow the city still manages to be quite orderly, with people walking in single files and waiting in neat queues.
5. If your children love bread like mine do, go to the bakeries! We made a stop at the bakeries in the train station every morning to let the kids have their choice of the insanely cute buns. The bread came in individually sized portions and in super-cute cartoon characters. They were handy as snacks to chomp along the way whenever the kids were hungry, or just bored.
6. Convenience stores like Family Mart (which is everywhere!) are really useful for picking up anything you might need for the kids. We often got milk and fresh fruit here, and the prepared foodstuffs like sandwiches, bento, ramen and even fried chicken are pretty delish for the price. And don’t forget to hit the chilled section where the desserts are; it doesn’t matter if you can’t make out the picture or words on an item – just grab it!
7. Virtually everything is conducted only in Japanese. This might be a bummer if your child wants to participate in activities but cannot understand what’s going on, so avoid going to movies or shows, or activities conducted by a host or guide. On the other hand, in terms of navigating the streets, a lot of signs are now in English, and people will often go out of their way to help you.
8. Stroller accessibility can be a problem at some train stations, but the majority of the stations we used had both lifts and elevators; most times they are only at one far end of the platform though, so you may have to hike from one end to the other. Also, some stations only have steps, so do bring a lightweight stroller that you can carry down a flight of stairs.
9. Train platforms are very narrow and the trains sometimes drive past as great speeds if they’re not stopping at that station. Keep your kids close to you and away from the tracks. There are often traffic wardens or signal officers standing around – they’re really helpful for checking if the train approaching is indeed the one you want to hop on.
10. Many malls have strollers you can rent for free. As with all holidays with young children, the key is to pack light.
Singapore Airlines flies direct to Osaka twice daily (6 hours 40 minutes) or you can connect through Bangkok with Scoot, Taipei with Jetstar, plus other options.
• Osaka has Japan’s second largest daytime population, but its third largest nighttime population!
• The most popular culinary snack in the city is Takoyaki – octopus pieces fried in ballshaped batter.
• Hollywood movie Black Rain, featuring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia, was filmed mostly in Osaka.
• Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) is located on an entirely artificial island.
• The best known landmark in Osaka is its 16th-century shogunate castle.
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