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My flight from Hong Kong landed in Osaka around 7pm. Due to some clever scheduling, I would have about 23 hours for a layover in Japan. First, I needed to make my way into Osaka proper.

Thanks to being the first person off the plane, I was the only passenger who made the first train to the arrivals & immigration area. This is where being a fast walker came in handy. This fast walking would eventually lead to me just making the train I wanted to take to Osaka by two minutes, even with having to go through the ticket office because none of the ticketing machines would take my credit card. The one-way ticket to Osaka from the airport was just 1190 yen, which is reasonable for the distance.

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I walked from the train station to my hotel for the night, the Crowne Plaza Ana Osaka. I had a nice view from the 17th floor. The room itself was a bit dated, but the hotel was in a nice central location, which was good for exploring on a layover in Osaka such as this one.

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My next step was to procure dinner. It was a chilly January evening, so I had ramen on my mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much cash on me, which I knew I would need. Finding ATMs that accept bank cards is painful, especially at night. I ended up wasting far too much time trying to find an ATM that would, though I did get to see lots of pretty holiday lights in the process. The Hikari Kyoen Festival of The Lights was going on, so much of the area was lit up.

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I eventually found a 7-11 that would take my card, which I reached just as a woman was pulling down the gate to close it for the night. I managed to explain that I just needed one minute to get money, and she kept the gate open just for me, which I greatly appreciated. I had to take out more money than planned, but I knew I would be back in Japan in September, so it wasn’t a big deal. Finally, I could go get some dinner.

Here comes my second difficulty of the night. I had looked up a few potential ramen spots, only to find that either they did not exist, weren’t open, or I couldn’t find them. I spent another hour or so trying to find them, then finally found a spot in the basement of an office building near Osaka station that looked suitable. It was busy, so I figured it must be good.

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It was called Room, and it’s a branch of Kamitora, which was actually one of the ramen places I had been trying to find, though it wasn’t marked as such and didn’t match the photos I had seen. The name in Japanese is 麺’s room 神虎 大阪駅前ビル店. My bowl of steaming ramen was my reward for having spent a couple of hours wandering Osaka in search of cash & food.

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My next planned stop was for some Japanese craft beer. However, thanks to having wasted so much time, I arrived at Craft Beer Base Bud just as it was closing. It looks like a cool beer spot, deep in the basement of an office building. At this point, I realized it just wasn’t going to be my night. so I headed back to my hotel to sleep.

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After getting a few hours of sleep, I left the hotel around 9 am to walk to Osaka Castle. The walk was nice, as it follows the water, passing across an island that includes Nakanoshima Park.

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It was nice to see that an introspective Tommy Lee Jones is still getting work promoting Boss.

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Osaka Castle was originally completed in 1597 and has been restored to its former glory following its destruction in several conflicts, including World War II. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I just walked around the outer edges of the grounds, as the rest required an entry fee. The park was pretty, even in January.

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From there, I walked north toward the Tenjinbashi shopping area. The long narrow alley is filled with shops of all kinds, but I was there for one reason: to go to one of Osaka’s best sushi restaurants, Harukoma.

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Harukoma is a destination for sushi fans. The restaurant was scheduled to open at 11am, but there was already a round of people inside when I arrived at 10:35am, plus there was a line outside. While I waited, I talked with a guy from South Korea who had also heard it was some of the best sushi in Osaka.

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The wait took about 45 minutes, but we eventually made it inside. Upon entering, it’s easy to see why there’s such a line. The tiny place only holds a couple of dozen patrons at a time. The wait was well worth it. It was some of the best sushi I’ve had in my life. I had 20 pieces of nigiri in all 2650 yen, which is about $26 USD.

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After lunch, I walked back to my hotel. It was time to check out and begin to make my way back to Kansai Airport at the conclusion of my layover in Osaka.

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The train journey was uneventful until I heard an announcement. Only half of the train would be going to the airport, and I was in the wrong half. Fortunately, I had somehow heard this over the podcast I was listening to, otherwise, who knows where I would have ended up. In hindsight, I did wonder why nobody else in my car had any luggage with them, but it’s a bit strange that of all the trains that might have to split, it would happen to a train that might be filled with confused visitors.

I visited Osaka with only a few goals. I wanted ramen and sushi, and to explore a city I hadn’t been to on my last visit to Japan. While I had a limited amount of time, I ate well, and I got to see some of Osaka. I did waste some time during the evening, or else I would have been able to do even more, but I still had a great layover in Osaka.

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