We never thought that Kansai Airport is so close to Shanghai, the East-side largest city in China. It was only 1.5 hours away
JR pass is a necessity to travel around main cities in Japan efficiently. It's very easy to order online abroad in the US. We ordered 7-day normal pass online at this website https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/, which has slightly lower price than some other vendors. The pass receipt was mailed to us within one week. Never forget to bring that to Japan as that will be the key proof to exchange for the real JR pass.
Depending on your itinerary, there are several different options of JR pass that you can pick from. We chose the normal 7-day pass as we would be in Japan for 8 days total and cover several cities in Kansai area but still travel to Tokyo via Shinkansen. Also, we arrive after 8pm the first night and only needed single way easy JR with subway lines to get to downtown hotel. When we were chatting with the cashier at the JR pass center, he recommended us to validate the pass from the 2nd which totally made sense.
Two main tasks after the plane landed in Osaka. 1) go get cash at ATM or convenient stores 2) go get JR pass by using the receipt mailed to us + passport. It's very easy to find the JR pass office as it is next to the airport and Kansai airport is not big at all, comparing with Narita in Tokyo.
We had some difficulty in finding cash withdraw ATM or convenient stores though. At the opposite direct to the JR pass center, we found the only FamilyMart that we see at Kansai airport. There was an ATM inside. It was said on the machine that 100,000 was the maximum withdraw amount daily. However, we tried multiple times with that amount, it didn't work. We ended up withdrawing only half 50,000, which actually covered most of our traveling costs later on. It is true that you don't need to worry about how to use the large face value cash, like 10,000 yen, because Japan is a cash driven country and almost all merchants will have enough cash to offer changes to anything you buy with a 10,000 yen.
Without the JR pass, it took us about 2000 yen to get to the subway station that we could transit to a metro line to get to our hotel at downtown area. We will share more about the hotel we stayed at in Osaka, which was beyond our expectations in a great way!
The hotel we stayed in Osaka was one of the best experiences we had traveling so many years. Reservation at Booking.com was super easy. Small room with everything including consolidated tap water with shower water. Japanese style pajama on the bed to welcome us. The day after, we got to know the hotel participated in the government's environmental savings program so if the guests recycled towels, the hotel would provide free bottle water as reward. Local Japanese guests could also leverage points earned from this program to buy normal daily consumables for free.
As the night fell, we ended the first day in Kansai