Osaka Trip Just Before Covid19 Halted Worldwide Travel

I haven’t updated this blog for so long but here I am making a new post to share my travel experiences in Osaka that happened from February 16-21, 2020, just before most international boarders were closed because of the pandemic. During this time, Japan has already recorded several cases of Covid-19 while the Philippines has a handful cases.  Last January, I also flew to Tokyo to spend my birthday there but it was an H to H experience – Hotel to Hospital.  I ended spending my vacation in my bed.  But I won’t be sharing that story for now.

Twice or thrice a year, I bring my parents out of the country for a short vacation.  This year, we have confirmed bookings to Osaka, Saigon, Siem Reap, Bandar Seri Begawan and Bali.  Except for Osaka, everything was halted because of the pandemic.  Thankfully last 2019, we were able to visit Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok.

Why Osaka?

My parents wanted a winter experience but not really snowing or super cold.  Tokyo or Sapporo could have been an option but according to weather forecast, it’s too cold for them.  So we settled for Osaka and contend ourselves with its fake snow mountains! 

 

I have been to Osaka before, you can check my blog entry here.  But this is the first time my parents are visiting Osaka so they are excited considering that this is also their first ala-winter trip.

Our Hotel in Osaka

For this trip, we stayed at Art Hotel Osaka Bay Tower – a 5 star hotel with a commanding view of Osaka Bay.  It was not actually my first choice because we normally would stay in a city center hotel where everything is within walking distance. But this time, we settled for the hotel’s highly rated restaurant and onsen.   The hotel also is located right above a train station (airport loop) and few meters away from the city subway line. So it’s still a perfectly located hotel in the bay area.

More than the food served at the buffet restaurant which is located at the 51st floor of the tower was the panoramic view of Osaka one enjoys while having a meal.

 

Duration, Places Visited, Activities Done and Cost of Travel

This trip is 6 days and 5 nights, a bit longer that the usual 4 days 3 nights trip I do with my parents.  It’s longer because its winter season and I made sure that we have day/s to just stay in the hotel if my parents can’t take the cold outside.

Every time I travel or I travel with my parents, it’s always a DIY type of traveling basically because we wanted to mange our own time. We have tried travelling before with a tour package but it doesn’t suite our personalities. There are places in the itinerary that does not appeal to us while there are places we wanted to see but are not included in the itinerary.

Here are the places we visited in Osaka

Rokkosan National Park or Mt. Rokko Snow Mountain

Mt Rokko is located in Kobe – that’s roughly 2 hours away from Osaka using public transportation. There are numerous attractions in Mt Rokko like Rokko Cable Car, Tenran Observatory, Rokko International Musical Box Museum, Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden, Rokkosan Country House, Rokko Garden Terrace, Rokko-Shidare Observatory, Rokko-Arima Ropeway and Rokko Snow Park which is the main reason why we went here. We bought a Rokkosan Tourist Pass which is a great deal for this purpose.

To Get to Mt. Rokko using the Rokkosan Tourist Pass from Osaka, we took JR Line and went off at JR Rokkomichi Station.  Bus 16 and 106 is on the left exit of the station which we used to go to Mt. Rokko and went off at the last station which is the gateway to the cable car to Rokkosan.

We spent the whole day in Rokkosan visiting the various attractions in the area.

Osaka Castle

I have been to Osaka Castle before and this time we’re using the Osaka Amazing Pass which I bought online.  We went to see the museum inside but unfortunately taking photo is prohibited.  The castle is a good place to learn a little history of Japan and since I am with my parents, it was more of a slow-paced day for us.

Osaka Museum of Natural History

Osaka Museum of Natural History showcases Osaka’s history, featuring archaeological finds & palaeontology exhibits.  Entrance is free with our Osaka Amazing Pass. To get to the museum from Umeda, we took the Midosuji Line bound for Nakamozu and got off at Nagai station and took the 3rd exit to reach it.  The museum also has a nice botanical garden at the back.

Interestingly, an early cherry blossom treat here!

Tennoji Zoological Garden

Tennoji Zoo is one of Japan’s oldest zoos.  It houses more than a thousand animals of different types, including lions, bears, chimpanzees, koalas, kiwis, red pandas, giraffe, reptiles, birds and many more. The Zoo is a 5-minute walk from Dobutsuen-mae Station on the Osaka Metro Sakaisuji and Midosuji Lines.

Tempozan Harbor Village

Few minutes from our hotel is the Tempozan Harbor Village.  It is a leisure destination that is highlighted by Kaiyukan, one of the world’s largest aquariums, Tempzan Ferris Wheel and a shopping complex among many others.  We where not able to do the Santa Maria sight-seeing cruise of Osaka Bay as there where no operation when we were around. We settled instead for the Ferris Wheel Experience and Marine Aquarium which are both amazing.  Tempozan is a 5-minute walk from Osakako Station on the Osaka Metro Chuo Line.

Cosmo Tower

We like tall buildings and observatory decks and we always make sure to include one in our itinerary that is why we went to Cosmo Tower. Cosmo Tower is the second tallest building in Osaka, and the third-tallest building in Japan.  It is formerly known as Osaka World Trade Center Building.  The observation deck on the 55th floor offers a 360-degree panorama of Kansai International Airport, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Awaji Island. It is located at Trade Center-mae Station along Osaka Metro Line.

Umeda Sky Building and Kuchu-teien Observatory

Umeda Sky Building is the world’s first connected pair of skyscrapers at 173m high. The rooftop observatory provides the superb cityscape of Osaka.  The Observation Platform  and amenities here is better than Cosmo Tower. Access to Umeda Sky Building is through JR Osaka Station Central North Exit or Osaka Umeda Station of the Hankyu Line.

Nissin Cup Noodles Museum

The Nissin Cup Noodles Museum is a museum dedicated to instant noodles and Cup Noodles, as well as its creator and founder, Momofuku Ando. The museum is located in Ikeda and is located within walking distance from Ikeda Station on the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line. Admission is free but one has to pay for the noodle packing activity inside. During the time of our visit and as always, expect lots of schools kids enjoying their factory.

Kuromon Ichiba Market

Kuromon Ichiba is a colorful covered market which stretches in Osaka’s Chuo Ward. It is sometimes referred to “Osaka’s kitchen” because both local homeowners and restaurant chefs get their supplies here – the market is famous for its fresh seafood and has recently become a popular tourist location. As a result it can get quite crowded. One reason for the market’s popularity is that many stalls will prepare, cook and serve their food right on the spot. This makes it an excellent venue for strolling, sampling, and snacking on a delicious variety of fresh market foods. When we went here, we tried an authentic Kobe beef.  Kuromon Ichiba is a 3 minute walk from Nippombashi Subway Station and Kintetsu Nippombashi Station.

Doutonburi

The old town and perhaps the convergence of people in Osaka, Doutonburi never fails a new tourist or a returning one for that matter.  There is always something new for everyone to enjoy while strolling around the canal. Since Doutonburi is centrally located, going in and out of the area anytime of the day is always a breeze. 

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Every time we travel, we always make it a point to visit a church, being Roman Catholics for matter.  This time, we went to St. Mary’s Cathedral Osaka which is the seat of the Archdiocese of Osaka.  The church is a bit difficult to find for first timers because it’s not located along major thoroughfares. However, we managed to reach the church after some directional confusion with my Google maps.  We took Exit 2 of Morinomiya Station on the Subway Chuo Line and walk west for 10 minutes just following Google maps.

So basically those were the places we visited for this trip.  Roughly we spent around 120,000.00 for this trip covering our airfare, hotel, all meals, all tours, transportation and related activities. No shopping included in the amount.  Japan is a little more expensive compared to other countries we have been to.

Reflection

This trip to Osaka almost did not push through because of Covid-19. During this time, the world was already scrambling while the Philippines has yet to recognize the appropriate action to do.  Japan on the other hand has not imposed any travel restrictions as cases were confined in two cruise ships docked in one of its ports.  

The “feel” of Osaka was still normal and no “pandemic-panic” can be seen.  The usual touristy areas were still very packed because perhaps its high season. Wearing of face mask is not unusual in Japan because Japanese basically would wear a face mask every time they are on the streets. On our part, we made it a practice to be wearing our masks all the time. As for the other tourists around, I noticed that practically everyone was wearing a face mask.

My parents initially wanted to cancel this trip because of fear but I was able to convince them to proceed anyway. First, WHO has not yet declared NCov a pandemic – Covid19 was not yet identified as the name for virus.  Second, I have already spent for the trip and cancellation and refund is not possible.  If we cancel, I am loosing my money.  Third, my parents want a winter break and as a matter of fact, my parents already did some winter cloths shopping.

As a tourist and someone who spends and organizes an annual trip with my parents, I set goals and expectations before I embark to travel.  I choose a destination based on several reasons such as my mood, what I want to do, how much it cost, if there is something new I can experience in that destination and how my parents would perceive the destination.  There is always a motivation for me to travel.  It just doesn’t happen.  My behavior as a tourist is both intrinsically driven and destination driven.  It’s intrinsically driven because I am satisfying an urge and a need to travel. The urge may be food I wanted to eat, place I wanted to see, weather I wanted to experience or simply a time I wanted to spend elsewhere with my parents. I am sure people travel because of intrinsic motivation – whatever motivates them.  People travel because of a reason.

Additionally, a destination can influence a tourist’s decision on where to travel.  A tourist has a picture or image of the destination in his or her mind that would make him/her decide to visit a particular place.  For example in my case, I settled for Osaka because it’s not too cold as compared to Tokyo yet we can still experience Japanese culture similar to what we can experience in Tokyo. Hence, tourism demand is formed by what the destination can offer or alternately offer.

I feel happy about this trip as my expectations were met.  I was able to do what I wanted to do together with my parents.  What I planned and expected, happened.  Osaka was able to give me that winter break I wanted together with my parents.

Lastly

I made this blog post as my assignment in Module 3, “Tourism Demand: The Tourist and Tourist Markets” which is part of Tour 201. In this blog post, I answered several questions (I won’t present the questions anymore) as required by the module. I am currently taking up Graduate Diploma in Tourism Development and Management at the University of the Philippines.  

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