Destination Guide Osaka

WELCOME TO STUDY ABROAD IN OSAKA JAPAN!

Ibaraki is a verdant suburban city of Osaka and part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. It was founded on January 1, 1948. The word Ibaraki literally means “wild trees”, which is quite suitable as the city is characterized by its beautiful nature. The green and grand hills of Hokusetsu surround the city, giving it a certain kind of tranquil atmosphere, and the world famous cherry blossoms are something that make people across the world travel to Japan every spring. Ibaraki is blessed with a perfect location between the two famous cities of Osaka and Kyoto, which are just a short train ride away. The cities of Nara and Kobe are also nearby. This makes Ibaraki an ideal base from where it is easy to travel to see other parts of Japan. Even the capital city Tokyo isn’t that far away; it’s only at a distance of less than four hours by train!

Japanese people are very kind and polite, which makes it easy to fall in love with the country and its locals. If you ever get lost in Japan, don’t worry – the locals will stop to help you, even if they were in a hurry themselves!

A river and cherry blossoms in Osaka.

QUICK FACTS

Full name: Japan
Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Population: 126,860,000 (274,822 Ibaraki)
Capital: Tokyo
Major languages: Japanese
Major religions: 51.82% Shinto, 34.9% Buddhism, 4% Shinto sects, 2.3% Christianity
Life expectancy: Women 86.8, men 80.5
Currency: Yen, ¥ (1 EUR =120,5 JPY)
Main exports: vehicles, electronics, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemical substances, textiles, and processed foods
Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 9

GEOGRAPHY

Ibaraki is located in the Osaka prefecture of Kansai region. There is also a prefecture called Ibaraki in Japan, so remember to check the map carefully! The metropolis of Osaka is right next to the city of Ibaraki. Basically, these cities have melted together and it is hard to tell where one ends and the next one begins. The ancient city of Kyoto is also close by, and geographically, Ibaraki is situated in the middle of Kyoto and Osaka. The cities of Kobe and Nara are near, just a short train ride away.

Japanese cherry blossoms in spring.
Cherry blossoms are an essential part of the spring time in Japan.

CLIMATE AND WEATHER

Japan’s climate is mainly temperate, but varies considerably between the north and the south of the island. Osaka prefecture is located in the humid subtropical climate zone, which means that winters are mainly mild and snowy scenery is rarely seen. The average temperature during winter is around +10-13 °C. The weather starts heating up quite quickly when spring comes, and summers are hot and humid with the temperature rising up to over +30 °C.

TRANSPORTATION

There are two railway stations in Ibaraki: Ibaraki and Ibaraki-shi. Ibaraki Station is the main railway station of the city. JR Kyoto line’s local and rapid trains take you to Osaka in 10 and to Kyoto in 30 minutes. The private Hankyu Line serves a few stations in Ibaraki and allows you to take a connection line to Kobe. A straight bus line will take you to the Kansai International Airport in around 70-80 minutes. A one-way ticket to the Kansai International Airport costs 2050¥.

TAXI

Taxis are quite expensive and unnecessary due to the efficient public transportation. However, a taxi might be the best option in smaller cities where public transportation stops operating during the night time. If you decide to take a taxi, remember that the doors are always electronically opened by the driver, so do not try to open the door by yourself. Take into account, as well, that most taxi drivers speak English quite poorly, so it is good to have your destination written on a paper which you can give to the driver.

Japanese food.
Japan has a very distinctive food culture.

FOOD AND DRINK

Japanese food has been trending in Western countries for quite some time already, and especially sushi is well-known and loved by many. Sushi is something you should definitely eat while in Japan, but there are plenty of more unique and delicious dishes you should try out, as well. The Japanese are huge foodies and the food culture of the country is very distinctive, something you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Although originally imported from China, ramen has grown to be a dish that somewhat defines Japanese food culture. There are four types of ramen bases: shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented bean paste), and tonkotsu (pork). The types are often mixed together as well, so there are plenty of different tasting ramen to try out! Small ramen shops are found on almost every street corner, just go and find out what’s your favorite one!

Okonomiyaki is a pancake-like dish whose style of preparation varies across Japan. Kansai region is especially known for its okonomiyakis and the dish is often referred to as “Osaka soul food”. Osaka-style okonomiyaki contains meat or different sorts of sea food, vegetables and cheese.
Udon noodles are a delicious and budget friendly choice to tame your hunger. Kitsune udon originates from Osaka. If you love grilled food, teppanyaki is your choice! In teppanyaki restaurants, customers are seated at the counter where chef prepares food on an iron griddle right in front of the eaters.

The Japanese are huge tea enthusiasts, and tea is the most consumed drink in Japan. There are dozens of tea types, but you should try at least Sencha and Matcha which are both types of Japanese green tea. Participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is worth experiencing. Remember to try Japanese rice wine sake, as well: it is served in most restaurants.

The Japanese are huge tea enthusiasts, and tea is the most consumed drink in Japan. There are dozens of tea types, but you should try at least Sencha and Matcha which are both types of Japanese green tea. Participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is worth experiencing. Remember to try Japanese rice wine sake, as well: it is served in most restaurants.

Vending machines in Osaka
Japan is the promised land of vending machines.

Japan is the land of millions vending machines. Most of them sell snacks and beverages, but in fact, you can purchase anything from toys to umbrellas and neckties. It is said that the Japanese never wonder why they have so many vending machines, but rather why other countries don’t. It is no wonder, as the island’s over 5,5 million vending machines (the highest ratio of vending machines to landmass in the entire world!) will provide you with almost anything you can possibly imagine. Japan’s low crime rates is one of the reasons that makes it possible to have so many vending machines, as they rarely fall victim to mischief. But whatever are the reasons behind the huge popularity of vending machines in Japan, one thing is sure: the Japanese truly love them, and over the years they have become a distinctive part of the country’s culture and retail infrastructure.

ACTIVITIES

IBARAKI

Ibaraki is a city of several options for free time. There are cultural shrines to visit, as well as little shops and services of all kinds. A visit to Expocity is a must once you are in Ibaraki. It is the largest entertainment complex of Japan with great shopping facilities, a wide range of restaurants and attractions, such as an interactive aqua zoo! You can also spend a day strolling around in the paths of Expo Commemorative ’70 Park, if you’re in the mood for enjoying beautiful nature. In addition, it’s only at a distance of ten minutes by bus from Ibaraki’s main station. Expocity offers you activities for several days, and as it is easily accessible from Ibaraki––you can visit there as often as you wish!

Expocity is a shopaholic’s favorite place, as it has a vast selection of both Japanese and Western top brand stores. Foodies will have their own share with well over 50 different cafés and restaurants offering food from various parts of the world. Besides Japanese, the food cultures from other Asian countries and Western parts of the world are well represented. How would a tasty Hawaiian burger or traditional Korean barbeque sound to you? And of course, there are plenty of Japanese restaurants to choose from––it’s all up to you! Expocity also has several attractions to offer. At the Pokémon EXPO GYM every Pokémon trainer’s dreams come true as they are provided with a chance to play along and talk with the Pokémon. The expo even has Pokémon stand-up shows and a special Pikachu restaurant where you can take break and charge your batteries before continuing to have fun with the Pokémon!

Expocity entertainment complex in Ibaraki
Expocity in Ibaraki is Japan’s largest entertainment complex.

Nifrel is a special kind of interactive aqua zoo, where innovative design meets the creatures of the land and the sea creating a novel experience for the visitors. Colorful lights of the aquarium tint the peaceful movements of a wide variety of different sea creatures swimming in their tanks. You also get to meet a majestic white tiger and the always-so-cute penguins.

Right next to the Nifrel aqua zoo is the Redhorse Osaka Wheel, which is the tallest Ferris wheel in Japan rising up to over 123 meters. You get to admire the beauty of the landscape opening in front of your eyes as the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park starts right from where the area of Expocity ends. The ferris wheel has a floor made of glass, which makes the experience even more exciting as you get to view what’s right underneath your feet!

The Expo ´70 Commemorative Park combines the beauty of Japanese nature with modern art sculptures in a unique way. The park is divided into four different sections according to the seasons of the year and every season is illustrated through appropriate flowers and trees. If you want to spend a day surrounded by beautiful nature and interesting works of art, strolling around the park and having a picnic with your friends would be a perfect way to do so!

The Expo ´70 Commemorative Park, Ibaraki.
The Expo ´70 Commemorative Park, Ibaraki.

Rose is the flower of Ibaraki city and you get to admire the beauty of different roses by visiting Wakazono Park’s Rose Garden. The Rose Garden has 150 different rose kinds and especially during spring and autumn time the blooming over 2 300 roses will take your breath away. You can get to the park by taking a bus near the JR Kyoto line’s Ibaraki station.

There are many traditional temples to visit both in Ibaraki and Osaka area. Sojiji Temple is known as the temple of knives, as every year on April a special ceremony of Hocho (knife) is held at the temple. At the ceremony a priest graciously splits a fish with a knife in one of the temple rooms. Sojiji Temple even has a knife ditch where used knives dedicated to the temple are buried. The temple is located near Hankyu Kyoto Line Sojiji Station, only one station from the Ibaraki-shi main station.

A man riding a bike in Osaka.
The metropolis of Osaka is surprisingly village-like city.

OSAKA

Osaka is a village-like city of a bit less than 3 million people, and it’s only a short train ride away from Ibaraki. Streets are clean and organized. Most streets are lined with beautiful trees and pollution feels minimal. You might expect to see skyscrapers and stressed out people, but instead you’ll find peace and quiet and calm neighborhoods with some lovely, bustling spots.

The city has everything that you could expect to see in a modern metropolis. It is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan after Tokyo. The city offers excellent shopping facilities with countless shops, most of them found in the areas of Chuoo and Kita. Osaka is also famous for its food culture which is described with the term “kuidaore”, meaning “eat until you drop”. Dotonbori is one of the thrilling areas for foodies with a vast selection of different kind of restaurants. A visit to a theme park of Universal Studios Japan is a good way to spend a day, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan!

KYOTO

As for Kyoto, it displays traditional Japanese culture with ancient temples, geishas and tea rooms. From the roughly 2000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in this ancient capital, 17 are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Japanese film and TV industry has its center in Kyoto, and the Kyoto Studio Park Toei Uzumasa Eigamura is an interesting combination of a theme park and a film set with a big collection of traditional Japanese buildings.

KOBE

Kobe is world famous of its hot springs and delicious Kobe beef. A train ride from Ibaraki station to Kobe takes less than an hour. Kobe has been an important port city for centuries and the atmosphere in the city is quite exotic compared to many other Japanese cities.

NARA

Nara is located less than an hour away from Osaka. It was the first permanent capital of Japan and still remains full of historic treasures such as beautiful temples – Daimon-ji Temple with its giant Buddha statue being one of the most famous ones and definitely worth a visit. Nara is also known for the sika deer strolling around the city, especially in Nara Park.

A park in Osaka.
Japan’s nature is breathtakingly beautiful and especially the parks are worth visiting for.

CURRENCY

The currency in Japan is Yen ¥. 1 euro is approximately 120,5 JPY. Japanese prefer cash over credit card and cash is easiest way to pay for your purchases. Most foreign debit cards do not work at local ATMs and there are only a few ATMs that accept international credit card withdrawals. It is recommended that you check out current regulations from your card company’s website. You should also notice that the transaction fees might be very expensive.

VACCINATIONS

Make sure you are up-to-date with routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine. Some travelers are also recommended to take a vaccination against Hepatitis A & B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies.

SAFETY

Japan is ranked as one of the safest countries in the world and tourists get to enjoy the luxury of feeling safe wherever they go. Although you don’t have to put extra attention to your safety, being cautious is always recommended when in a foreign country.

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