Whether you’re planning your first trip to Japan, or your umpteenth trip, Osaka is definitely a city that you can’t miss! Thanks to the beauty of Japan’s well-connected and efficient train network, you can explore Osaka and so many more cities (with Osaka as your base) in a week easily!
We recently flew to Osaka on Scoot for a week and our adventure included day trips to Himeji, Kobe, Shiga and Mie. Can’t wait to explore the Kansai region for yourself? We’ve got you covered with our 7D6N Muslim-friendly itinerary!
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Day 1: Konnichiwa Osaka!
- Elaine and I took a non-stop direct flight at 10.35am on Scoot from Singapore. The flight timing was perfect because we did not have to reach the airport at an insane early hour and upon arrival at Osaka, it’ll be dinnertime!
- P.S. Scoot has 10 weekly flights to Osaka so you’ll definitely find one that suits your schedule! 😊 Scoot flies from Singapore to Osaka from SGD209 (one way, including taxes)!
- We were greeted by the rainbow mood lighting when we boarded the plane! Did you know the cabin lights change colour depending on the time of the day?
- Our flight on Scoot’s 787 Dreamliner was a dream! We had one of the most restful flights ever as we were seated in ScootInSilence – the quiet zone in Economy class with no kids below 12. Plus, we reserved the front row seats (also known as Stretch seats) which had 50% more legroom so we had the best of both worlds! Alternatively, you can also reserve Super seats which will give you 30% more legroom.
- When booking your ticket, we recommend selecting the FlyBagEat You’ll get 20kg checked luggage (hello shopping in Japan😍), a hot meal and beverage. #HHWT tip: Get this bundle in advance as it’s cheaper than purchasing your meal inflight and extra baggage later on!
- You’ll find the halal options marked with a “H” on the menu. We chose the teriyaki chicken rice and the braised chicken with rice which reminded us of Lo Mai Gai (Steamed Glutinous Rice with Chicken)!
- Touch down at Kansai International Airport and it’s time for dinner. There are a few halal food options at the airport and best of all, it’s Japanese cuisine!
- Always wanted to try udon? Get your fix at the U-don! This self-service eatery serves Sanuki Udon, a popular type of udon from the Shikoku region. Cold udon was available when we were there because it’s summer. If cold noodles sound strange to you, trust us, it’s heavenly in the hot weather.
- Start by selecting your choice of udon, then pick your toppings! There are various types of tempura (including prawn, chicken, squid and more) and oden available.
- We ordered the Niku-Udon (left), also known as meat udon and the Irodori-Udon (right) which already included a few tempura and oden. We couldn’t resist getting extra tempura though 😋
- Halal status: Halal-certified
- Dropped by HIS counter at Kansai airport before heading to the train station to pick up our JR West Rail Pass which we purchased in advance on Klook. We bought the 4-day pass as we would be visiting various cities in the following days! Plus, you can save the hassle of purchasing tickets before each train ride and avoid the long queues too (especially during rush hour!).
- This pass can be used on the Kansai-Airport Express Haruka, Rapid Services, local JR-West trains and JR buses.
Day 2: Osaka
Food Hunting At Kuromon Ichiba Market (1.5h)
- Start your day with brunch (because what’s a vacay without sleeping in a little J) at Kuromon Ichiba Market, also known as “Osaka’s Kitchen”. Well known for its fresh seafood, you’ll find a variety of stores which specialize in various types of seafood.
- Do note that none of the stores here are halal-certified but there are Muslim-friendly options.
- If you love crabs as much as we do, stop by Yasojima for the sweetest and juiciest grilled King crabs!
- Take your pick from the various trays and the staff will grill the crab meat for you. Prices per tray begin from ¥4,000 but the quality of the meat is worth every yen.
- Halal status: Only seafood served
- Besides seafood, you’ll find plenty of fruit stalls and you definitely have to try melon, a popular Japanese summer fruit! This particular store had melons from various prefectures including the premium Crown Melon.
- We decided on melon from the Yamagata Prefecture and it was soooo sweet. If only we had melons like these back home!
- Still feeling peckish? Grab a stick of tempura or two from Nisshindo. From squid to pumpkin tempura, Nisshindo has it all!
- Halal status: Muslim-friendly verified by local authorities.
Explore The Pacific Rim At Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium (2h)
- As one of Japan’s most impressive aquariums, the Kaiyukan is a must-visit!
- We bought tickets in advance on Klook so we could skip the queue and enter the aquarium quickly with our e-ticket!
- Go on a tour of the “Pacific Ocean” as you explore the 14 exhibits based on the various locations on the Pacific Rim.
- Start your journey at Japanese Forest where you’ll meet Asian small-clawed otters, all the way to Japan Deep where you’ll find humongous Japanese spider crabs!
- This exhibit was one of our favourite along with the jellyfish exhibit. The graceful movements of the jellyfish were so mesmerizing, we could have stayed the whole day!
- #HHWT Tip: There’s a prayer room just next to the aquarium, on the 3rd floor of Tempozan Marketplace. Remember to stop by the Information Counter to get access to the room.
Shabu-Shabu at BULLS (1.5h)
- Celebrate your first full day in Osaka with Shabu-Shabu at Bulls! Depending on your appetite, there’s an all-you-can-eat course (¥4,300) or a set menu with fixed quantity for beef and chicken but unlimited rice, vegetables, udon and ramen. Alternatively, there’s also a steak set available (¥2,000) and Oyakadon (¥1,500). Do note that all prices exclude tax.
- Add your choice of vegetables into the broth and dunk the beef slice. When it’s cooked, do what the locals do and dip it into the raw egg or the ponzu sauce! We ordered the Shabu-Shabu set and regretted not going for the buffet once we took the first bite. The sweet, flavourful broth drew out the savoury taste of the beef and the meat was really tender!
- Halal status: Halal menu available. Do note that alcohol is served.
Night Lights At Dotonbori (1.5h)
- The night is still young and it’s time to explore one of Osaka’s popular tourist spots – Dotonbori!
- Be dazzled by the neon lights and signs including the famous Glico Running man! Did you know the sign has transformed 6 times over the past 8 decades?
- You’ll also find plenty of shopping options ranging from Forever 21 to souvenir stores where you can find Osaka exclusive merchandise. We just couldn’t resist the Hello Kitty takoyaki socks!
- P.S. Our colleague, Luqman, flew from KL to Osaka (with a transit in Singapore) to join us!
Day 2: Himeji
- If you’re departing from Osaka station, hop on the JR Special Rapid Service train bound for Banshuako and it’s a direct train to Himeji in just 63 minutes! As we had the 4-day JR West Kansai Pass, all we had to do was present it at the train gates.
- #HHWT tip: Use the Hyperdia website to find the fastest route to your destination. If you’re an Andriod user, there’s a Hyperdia app too!
Tempura Lunch at Kamifuku (1h)
- Fuel up with yummy tempura at Kamifuku! This eatery is just a 3-minute walk away from Himeji station.
- Pick any of the 3 options – vegetable tempura, tempura or tempura + sashimi set.
- The tempura was really light and crispy and when paired with the tempura sauce, the flavour was just amazing! The sashimi was fresh (after all, you’re in Japan!) but not exceptional.
- Halal status: Halal menu and disposable utensils are available upon request. Do note that alcohol is served.
- #HHWT Tip: There’s a prayer room next door at SHINKI bus Building, just next to Kamifuku. Register at the info counter and the staff will point you in the direction of the toilet where you can take wudhu.
- Prayer mats and garments are available too!
- S. You can rent a bicycle here as well, absolutely FREE. However, there are only 8 bikes available.
Marvel At Himeji Castle (2.5h)
- After a 10-minute walk, we’re finally at Himeji Castle! Did you know Himeji Castle was crowned one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan back in 1993 along with Horyu-ji Temple?
- PS. This castle is also known as the White Heron Castle as the structure of the Main Keep resembles a white heron in flight!
- This spectacular castle is well-known for retaining its early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture with its 83 buildings.
- Exploring Himeji Castle is a great workout! Expect plenty of stairs, including 6 levels of steep steps in the Main Keep. Put on a pair of comfortable walking shoes!
- Take a stroll through Koko-en Japanese Garden, located just a few minutes away from Himeji Castle. This sprawling garden consists of 9 gardens in different styles of the Edo Period!
- Take a break at Sojuan (located in the garden) and experience a Japanese tea ceremony at ¥500. We were served a cup of Maccha (powdered green tea) along with seasonal wagashi (traditional Japanese sweet) – Aogaki (green persimmon)! This wagashi is unique to the summer season and the desserts change each month. We were surprised to taste smooth red bean paste when we bit into it as we couldn’t tell what flavour it was!
- You’ll be given a step-by-step guide on how you can enjoy the tea ceremony like a local. It was really fun learning about the Japanese culture and customs!
- Halal status: We’ve checked with the teahouse and all ingredients are Muslim-friendly. However, the desserts change monthly so we recommend that you enquire with them prior to your visit.
- Don’t forget to take in the view outside the teahouse! The view from this window is beautiful in all seasons.
Dinner At Fukutei (1.5h)
- One last thing before you leave Himeji, dinner! With only 2 items on their Muslim-friendly menu – conger eel tempura with hot noodles (a Himeji specialty) and Hitsumabushi, grilled eel over rice (a Nagoya speciality), it’s obvious what Fukutei restaurant is well-known for.
- If you’re wondering which one to pick, honestly, both are really good! We never thought eel tempura would work but it was delicious and the hot noodles in yuzu broth was really refreshing.
- As for Hitsumabushi, eating it was such an amazing experience!
- Firstly, divide the food into 4 portions. For the 1st portion, eat it as it is. For the 2nd, add wasabi and leek. For the 3rd, prepare it like the 2nd portion but add the broth. And for the last portion, eat it the way you like! Personally, I liked it with the sweet broth but Elaine and Luqman preferred it without.
- Halal status: Muslim-friendly menu available. Do note that alcohol is served.
Day 4: Kobe
- Just a short 25 minute train ride away from Osaka lies Kobe, the city famous for its signature Kobe beef! We’ll get to that later 😉
A Snack At Chinatown (0.5h)
- Start your day at Chinatown and drop by Est Royal for its famous chou à la crème, also known as cream puff!
- One bite and you’re in cream puff heaven. We love how the pastry was crispy and the cream was just the right level of sweetness. Not a bad way to start the day, right?
- Halal status: We’ve checked with the store and the chou à la crème is made using Muslim-friendly ingredients. As for the other desserts, do check with the store for alcohol content when you’re there as the desserts are seasonal.
Check Out Japan’s First Mosque – Kobe Mosque (0.5h)
- Next up, take bus 7 from Motomachi station to Japan’s first mosque – Kobe Mosque! Alternatively, it’s a 15 minute walk from Est Royal.
- #HHWT tip: You can use your ICOCA card (a pre-paid contactless card) on buses and trains! To get the card, head to any JR station and purchase it from the machine. It costs ¥2,000 with a ¥500 refundable deposit.
- This mosque was founded in 1935 and what’s incredible is that the mosque survived both the 2nd World War and the Great Hanshin earthquake when the surrounding city was very badly damaged.
Lunch At Naan Inn (1h)
- Grab a quick lunch at Naan Inn, located just opposite the mosque.
- This cosy eatery serves Pakistani and Indian cuisine. If you happen to be there on Fridays, join the locals for a lunch buffet!
- S. If you’re looking for a halal grocer, Kitano Groceries (just a few doors away) imports halal products and produce.
- Halal status: Halal menu, as verified with Kobe Mosque.
Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway (3h)
- Take the City Loop bus from Kitano Meister Garden to get to Kobe Ropeway. Alternatively, it’s a 5 minute walk from JR Shin-Kobe station.
- Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city as the cable car ascends Mount Rokko. Keep a lookout for Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Garden along the way!
- You’ll find an observation deck at the top station of the ropeway with gorgeous views of the city, both in the day and night!
- Check out the garden with 200 different types of herbs and flowers! The herbs differ by season and since we were there in summer (August), there were lemon grass, mint, turmeric, sunflowers and more!
- Need to soothe your aching feet? Dip your feet in the footbath with herbs freshly picked from the garden. There are towels available for ¥100 to dry your feet after that.
- Instead of taking the ropeway, why not take a 20-minute downward hike? You’ll get to see Nunobiki Waterfall, one of Japan’s famous waterfalls up close! P.S. If you decide to hike, remember to purchase the one-way ropeway. Also, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and the right attire!
- It’s rare for nature spots to be near major stations in the city so the hiking trail here is really a gem not to be missed!
Misono Kobe Beef (2h)
- Misono Kobe, the restaurant which popularized Teppanyaki Steak has recently started serving a halal Kobe beef menu. This is one of the major reasons why we were super excited to visit Kobe!
- The set meal is on the higher end (from ¥27,000 excluding tax) and this is because Misono is the only store serving sirloin and tenderloin, which are the better cuts as compared to other stores. Remember to make a reservation via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least 1 day in advance!
- Watch the chef skilfully prepare your meal on the iron plate in front of you, with the gorgeous city view in the backdrop. It felt like a performance and honestly one of the best meals we’ve had!
- The set includes salad, grilled vegetables, Kobe beef (sirloin), garlic fried rice and the sweetest Japanese melon.
- The beef was so tender, melt-in-your-mouth good that we wish it never ended. The garlic fried rice was served after the beef and cooked using beef fat. The end result? Perfection. We devoured the entire bowl of garlic rice which was really light with the crispiest beef fat. Writing about this is making us salivate already 😅
- Halal status: Halal-certified Kobe beef (you may request to see the certificate) and Muslim-friendly ingredients. Do note that alcohol is served.
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Day 5 – Shiga
- Make good use of your JR West Kansai pass and hop on the train from Osaka station to Ishiyama station. This will take about 43 minutes.
- Change to the Keihan line to Ishiyamadera station and take a short 10 min walk to reach your first stop, Ishiyama-dera temple!
First stop – Ishiyama-dera Temple (1h)
- We arrived at Ishiyama-dera bright and early and it’s perfect time to visit as the temple ground was really peaceful and quiet leaving us to explore.
- It’s said that the world’s first ever novel, The Tales of Genji was written here by the female author when she looking at the moon reflected in the famous Lake Biwa!
- The temple is best visited in autumn when the gorgeous red and yellow autumn leaves shroud the temple and pavilions, but in summer, it transforms into a serene place as the buildings were surrounded with leafy green trees.
Summer treat – Kakigori at Sajo Towson (1h)
- Before heading to our next stop, we took a short break at Sajo Towson on the way back to the station, a little hidden gem famous amongst locals for its kakigori (Japanese shaved ice). This is a dessert that the locals love, especially in summer to beat the heat!
- We tried their popular ice cold maccha kakigori complete with azuki (red beans) and the milk kakigori, which was sweeter and perfect for those who aren’t fans of maccha
- Sajo Towson’s maccha isn’t too overpowering and the azuki adds a sweet note to the shaved ice
- Regardless of what you choose, both flavours are equally yummy and so incredibly inviting when it’s hot outside!
#HHWT Tip: Look out for the signature 冰 flag waving in the wind to spot kakigori stores around Japan! Kakigori usually do not contain non-halal ingredients nor alcohol, but as always, best to check with the store owners if you’re unsure about it.
- We once again took the Keihan line from Ishiyama-dera station to Ishiyama station and changed trains to Omihachiman to explore the old merchant town (around 45mins)!
- The little town of Omi-hachiman is now a peaceful escape with plenty of canals and a few tourist boats waiting for you to hop on and ride down the canals like the merchants once did while trading their goods!
- Look out for the boatmen towards the end of the canal, leave your name on the sheet of paper with the number of people who will be taking the ride. Do note that there are fixed timings for departure.
- Each ride costs 1,000yen and takes around 30mins.
- After our boat ride, we took a short walk to check out the nearby Shimmachi-dori, a well-known merchant street back in the days. It was a public holiday when we visited so the stores were closed that day 😞
Hikone Castle (2h)
- Leaving Omihachiman, we took a 30min train ride to our final stop – Hikone Castle.
- One of the five castles designated as Japan’s National Treasures, it’s widely considered to be a masterpiece amongst the modern castles!
- As it’s located up on a steep hill, be sure to put on your walking shoes and prepare for a short climb up. The stunning view of the town and Lake Biwa will make it worth your while.
- You can also borrow a walking stick which is really helpful if you have difficulty going up and down the steep stairs!
- One thing we loved is the cute mascot of Hikone – Hikonyan! Hikonyan makes an appearance every day at the castle so be sure to check the information board or with the sales vendor to find out what time and where it appears. There are Hikonyan souvenirs available too!
- After your visit to the castle, check out the tranquil Japanese garden, Genkyu-en, that’s a short walk away. Or if you’ve not gotten enough of boat rides, there’s also a short boat ride that goes around the moat of the castle
Day 6 – Mie
Getting there (2hrs)
- Unlike the other cities on our itinerary, you’ll need to hop on the Kintetsu rail to get to Mie. The Kintetsu line also includes popular cities like Nara and Kyoto, so if you want to extend your trip to include those cities, the Kintetsu Rail Pass (5 days) is another option (do remember to check the redemption locations, as you’re only able to collect it at certain stations).
- Otherwise, get your ticket (and a limited express on top of it, if you want to secure your seats) from the Kintetsu station at Osaka-Uehommachi station to Toba station in Mie – that’ll be your first stop for the day!
Ama Hut Hachiman Kamado (2.5hrs)
- One of the absolutely can’t miss thing to do in Mie is the Ama Hut experience!
- When you alight at Toba station, head down to the pick-up point and you’ll find the bus to the Ama Hut waiting for you. Remember not to miss it as timings are fixed for the ride there and back. A reservation is needed for this!
- Meet Japanese female free-divers (they dive without gear and just by holding their breath!) who prepare a delicious fresh-from-the-sea seafood meal for you! They were so friendly and welcoming that we felt right at home.
- The seafood set that you’ve reserved in advance will be prepared for you in front of your very eyes.
- The set includes either Ise lobster or abalone, assorted shellfishes, miso soup, seabream sashimi and white rice, served freshly grilled and steaming hot. Remember to request for the Muslim meal when you make your reservation as Hachiman Kamado is able to provide halal-certified soy sauce!
- While you’re enjoying your meal, you would also be regaled with tales of the ama divers (the oldest diver is 86!) translated by their English speaking staff, a traditional dance and you even get to try on their traditional ama diving wear!
- You can also try on the traditional Ama costume, can you believe they used to dive in this?!
- Halal status: Muslim-friendly meal available. Do note that alcohol is served.
Ise Jingu (1hr)
- Ise Jingu or Ise Grand Shrine is one of the most important shrines in the Shinto religion. We recommend only visiting the inner shrine (unless you have more time), as the area is huge comprising of an inner and outer shrine which are 6km apart
- The story behind the shrine is a fascinating one as according to traditional rituals, the shrine is torn down every 20years to be rebuilt, and this practice has been done for around 1,300 years now.
- Although you won’t be allowed to take photos of the shrine (where they perform their prayers) nor get a glimpse of where the sun goddess is enshrined, it’s an interesting local experience to better understanding Japan’s culture
- Just a short walk away from Ise Jingu, in Oharaimachi, is the yummy and traditional akafuku snack, well loved by locals! Smooth azuki (red bean) wrapped over a chewy mochi – it’s the perfect afternoon snack for your tea break after all that exploring.
- The awesome thing is that the dessert is served with a cup of tea for each person in your party. So be sure to let them know the number of people and number of sets you’ll want.
- Each set comes with 2 akafuku and is priced at 210yen.
- It’s a free seating area but it can get pretty hot inside during summer, so look out for a seat near the edge and you get to enjoy your snack with a view too!
- You’ll need to walk around 10mins to get to the main store, just opposite the entrance of Okage Yokocho (the old street).
- Halal status: We’ve checked on the ingredients for the sweet snack and it doesn’t contain any animal products, by products nor alcohol.
Oharaimachi and Okage Yokocho (2hrs)
- Spend some time strolling through the streets and be transported back to the olden days as Okage Yokocho (situated around mid way of the Oharaimachi street) was modeled after the old townscape of the Edo to early Meiji period in Japan!
- While you’re there, don’t miss the many souvenir shops, especially the maneki-neko (beckoning cat) specialty shop, Kichou Shoufukutei, selling a wide variety of the cute cat figurines from various places in Japan. There’s even a maneki-neko festival held in Ise City every year!
- P.S. The locals believe that the maneki-neko brings good luck and fortune to its owner!
- When we were there, we were treated to a short taiko (Japanese drum) performance at the center of the street as locals sat on benches and listened to the music while enjoying their snacks
#HHWT Tip: Check the opening hours as the old street closes at 6/7pm depending on the season.
Back to Osaka (2hrs)
- After a long day of exploring it’s time to take the Kintetsu back to Osaka. You can drop off at Osaka-Namba station and head to either Ramen Honolu or Ayam-ya for dinner!
- Both restaurants are around a 10min walk away from the station and serve yummy chicken ramen. We decided on Ramen Honolu as it was our first time trying it!
Day 7: Osaka
Last Minute Shopping (2 hours)
- If you gotta catch them all, don’t miss Pokemon Center located right next to JR Osaka station.
- The store is huge with plenty of Pokemon plushies across generations and Pikachus in every outfit imaginable! We even found Pikachu in summer exclusive outfits. Pikachu bug catcher, anyone?
- Just next to the Pokemon Center is Japan’s famous clothing retailer, Uniqlo! This is the best time to shop as it’s the summer collection. Don’t forget to bring your passport to enjoy tax-free shopping on purchases over ¥5,000.
- Certain electronics are cheaper in Japan and Yodobashi Umeda has everything you need! From cameras to hairdryers to any electronic game you can think of, you’ll find it all. Do note that international warranty is available for only certain products.
- No trip to Japan is complete without checking out the local drug stores! As there was a Daikoku store (one of the major drug stores) near our hotel, we dropped by almost every other day because of there were endless products to browse. As the items change according to the seasons, we found this ice mask which is perfect in summer!
Going Home, Kansai Airport
- As our Scoot flight was at 4.30pm, we reached the airport at 1pm so we could grab a quick lunch.
- Another restaurant serving halal Japanese cuisine at Kansai Airport is Sojibou, which specializes in soba. Since its summer, try cold soba noodles served on a bamboo tray with a serving of tempura! Other dishes include the hot soba noodles with jumbo shrimp tempura and hot soba noodles with duck and leek
- Halal status: Halal-certified
- After immigration, there are plenty of stores if you’re up for more shopping. From Chanel to Uniqlo to last minute souvenirs, you’ll be occupied for hours.
Flying Back To Singapore/Kuala Lumpur
- Thank goodness for the large overhead bins on Scoot’s Dreamliner because we did plenty of last minute shopping at Kansai Airport.
- We recommend taking the non-stop direct flight back from Osaka to Singapore, it’s only 5h 55mins! Do note that this flight is only available on certain days.
- Pre-book your meal to enjoy yakisoba on your flight back! This is one of the meals that is exclusive to the direct Osaka-Singapore flight.
That concludes our whirlwind adventure exploring Kansai Region! Exploring beyond the major cities was truly an adventure and one that we can’t get enough of. Well, you can never get enough of Japan, right?
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