Bullet Train & Osaka Castle
Updated: Oct 31, 2018
We arrived in Osaka around 11:30 AM after taking the 2.5-hour bullet train from Tokyo. We booked our tickets on an app called smartEX: Train Booking App. When I first tried the app, it was giving me problems creating an account so I turned on my phones VPN to a Japan location and everything was then able to be processed. I made sure to screen-shot the reservation and put it in a Japan Album in the photo section of my phone just in case I wasn't able to get back on WIFI. I usually create an album of screenshots of basic info of my trip so its easily accessible if I am on the go.
For payment, I was able to input my international visa credit card but I did notice that when I went to book return tickets it would not let me put in a second card. If you’re doing a lot of corporate booking, I would suggest creating two accounts one for personal and one for business in order to have two cards on file. You can also buy these train tickets directly at the station but if you’re traveling with someone it’s always nice to guarantee seating together.
We picked up our Tokyo- Shin-Osaka Train at the Tokyo Train Station located in the middle of the city. I believe the official name of the train is called the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen Train, so you'll see that referenced quite a bit on the app. Because we are not members who buy into a monthly use of this app we had to pick up our tickets at the train station. You can either pick them up from a vending machine or from an actual ticket reservationist. When we got to the reservation desk we showed them our reservation number and they handed us both our sets of tickets for there and back.
Most signs are in English and finding the reservation desk was very easy. After getting the tickets I noticed their scrolling train times were a bit hard to decipher so I asked a station employee if they might be able to tell me exact train number. Not all employees of the station speak English but it seemed the staff at the ticket booth had a lot of experience dealing with international tourists. We swung into McDonalds at Tokyo Station to grab something before our train ride and were pretty surprised it was cash only. A lot of surprising things in Tokyo and Osaka were cash only but this certainly wasn't one we were expecting. I do however think things are changing there and getting more card friendly.
All of the taxis take credit cards so that’s one less thing to worry about. Any Visa, MasterCard etc. will do, you just have to wait for them to print out a receipt and sign it every time. This can be rather frustrating if you’re in a rush.
smartEX: Train Booking App
We were given a travel tip that if we wanted to see Mount Fuji from the train to book (TOKYO - SHIN- OSAKA) Seats D and E. I also booked the two seaters on the way back; D and E and we were able to see it on the way back from Osaka. We looked out for it by tracking it on our pre-downloaded google map. I had zoomed into it earlier that day so my GPS had it all ready and set up before I lost WIFI. They have WIFI at most of the major train stations in Japan but you have to log in and give your email which is a rather long process when you’re traveling.
When we got up to the platform at the statin we spotted Dr. Yellow! Dr. Yellow is a special train that is used to test the tracks all over Japan. Everyone was taking pictures of it so it must be a rare occurrence. When we arrived at Shin-Osaka we had to take a cab to our Hilton Hotel which was located next to Osaka Station. One thing to keep in mind is that Osaka Station and Shin-Osaka Station are two different stations and they are about a 15-minute cab ride apart. The conversion rates for the Tokyo- Osaka tickets are 13,620 JPY = $121.23 US for a non-reserved seat, 14,250 JPY = $126.84 US for a reserved seat and for a green car (their version of first class) 19,030 JPY = $169.39 US. These can slightly change due to current conversion rates. You can also buy a round trip as well. We went with the ordinary reserved seat and it was great. They even had a charging outlet which was great for charging our phones but unfortunately, no WIFI. In Japan they also use the American style outlet so all of our devices worked.
Bullet Train views
After checking into our hotel and getting changed we headed over to the very beautiful Osaka Castle. We took the subway from Osaka Station to Osakajokoen Station. Taxies in Osaka and Tokyo are actually quite expensive so your much better off taking the metro. I did speak with the tourist office located across the way from the entrance to the actual subway and they were very helpful in making sure I was going in the right direction.
It was a 95-degree day and the property of Osaka Castle was a lot larger than we thought. We walked in straight and followed the crowd’s direction. There is a plaza called the Jo-Terrace Osaka that you pass through in order to start your walk to the castle. It consists of all different types of restaurants, a Starbucks and a gift shop. I swung into Starbucks for an Iced Chai Latte to beat the heat and noticed they had Matcha and Chai packs to go. I picked up the Matcha pack to bring back to Seoul but I should have picked up the Chai because they actually don't have that flavor in Seoul! While in Starbucks, I noticed they have some nice vegetarian options for the food which is fantastic for that quick bite on the go.
The original castle was completed in 1583 and was attacked and destroyed several times, most recently during air raids in WWII. The present castle is a concrete reconstruction that was finished in 1995. The view from the top floor is excellent and the floors below have great displays on the castle’s history. If there’s a long line for the elevator, take the stairs. There is also a beautiful garden called the Nishinomaru Garden that is most famous for its cherry blossoms and is a great place to view beautiful scenery in any season. It has a fantastic view of Osaka Castle's Tenshukaku (main keep), as well as other buildings on site. Cherry Blossom Season for Osaka is around March 21st hitting its peak by around April 1st and lasting around a week after that. I thought this was the perfect mid-day adventure! Just be sure to put on your walking shoes as it's a little bit of a walk from the main entrance to the castle itself.
ON THE GROUNDS OF THE CASTLE
At Jo Terrace Osaka
(Just a selection of some that caught my eye)
Gram Osaka Castle Castle Town - (Cafe & Pancakes)
Location: B-Terrace 1 F
-Pancakes and other breakfast foods.
Italian Dining NATURal(Italian)
Location: B-Terrace 1 F
-Delicious Italian cuisine featuring pizza and other Italian dishes.
Kinjo TateI(Cafe & Japanese dining)
Location: C-Terrace 1 F
-Casual Japanese dining with 4 domestic beer brands.
Location: D-Terrace 1 F
Japanese Sweets · Kimono Experience
Guests can enjoy Osaka's Udon or Japanese Sweets wearing kimonos and in a shooting studio.
TAKAHIRO RAMEN(RAMEN & Craft Beer Specialty Store)
Location: E-Terrace 1 F
Extremely popular ramen shop in Osaka Castle featuring 8 kinds of dumplings, ramen and craft beer.
Location: A Terrace 1 F