A City to Be Experienced
A city of urban diversity with a sense of wonder, Osaka is the gateway to Western Honshu. Numerous tourist attractions are within easy reach of this bustling metropolis. It is famous throughout Japan as the center of “food culture”, modern architecture and vibrant nightlife. Osaka is a little less frantic than Tokyo but slightly more dynamic than Kyoto. Osaka is truly one of the world’s great international cities.
As Japan’s third largest city by population, Osaka has something to offer to almost any type of traveler. it isn’t just historic sights and beautiful culture, the city is a buzzing hub for creatives, nightlife and foodies alike, there is so much to do here!
Let’s go through them! Shall we…
Osaka Castle is the shining jewel among the city’s tourist attractions. One of the most historically significant sites in Japan, it was built in 1583 by the order of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the one of the most famous unifying warlords of Japanese history. Later the site of one of the famous Battle of Sekigahara, the castle would eventually fall to the Tokugawa clan, who were the last of the shogunates of feudal-era Japan.
While the castle standing today has been reconstructed many times, there are still many areas of the park that are considered cultural assets, like Otemon gate. The castle itself has been renovated and changed into a museum.
The Osaka Castle covers an area of about 15 acres. The inside has a number of exhibitions dedicated to the history of the area during the 16th and 17th centuries. The park surrounding the castle is a popular spot for locals and travelers alike. In late winter, check out the plum-tree orchard and, then, at the beginning of spring, see the flowers bursting forth in brilliant displays of pinks and white.
- The closest station is Tanimachi 4-chrome Station along the Tanimachi Subway Line and Chuo Subway Line
- The closest JR station to Osaka Castle is Osakajokoen Station on the JR Loop Line (160 yen, 10 minutes) from JR Osaka Station
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan
Hours: 9:00 – 17:00 (last admission 16:30)
Fee: JPY 600
Universal Studios Japan is the most visited theme park in Japan along with Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea). Universal Studios Japan offers numbers of fun and thrilling attractions in 9 different zones of Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland, Minion Park and The Wizard World of Harry Potter. One thing to note however is that there is obviously more of a Japanese twist here, so expect to see a range of local characters as well.
Besides attractions, Universal Studios Japan merchandise collections are hugely popular among visitors. You can find limited products of popular characters like Minions, Sesame Street, Hello Kitty and more! There are also cute character themed food and drinks available at the park.
Dotonbori is Osaka’s most touristic neighborhood located in Minami area. Famous shop displays (such as Glico Running Man and the moving gigantic crab) and flashy neon lights at night attract millions of visitors.
This street is the city’s main artery and epitomizes Osaka culture. The streets a lined with places to eat and drink, and the area teems with people, at night, the pace is a bit frantic, almost like a scene in a movie, as you’re sucked in and shuffled among the smoking, drinking and gorging crowd. You will never be bored of this vibrant and energetic neighborhood!!
Umeda Sky Building
Umeda Sky Building is a high rise building with a spectacular observation deck in the Kita district in Osaka, near Osaka and Umeda Stations. It’s one of the main landmarks in Osaka and one of the most applauded architectures in the world for its unique shape and structure. The observatory called “Kuchu Teien” (means The Floating Garden) is situated at 173 m high and 360° panoramic view of the city can be enjoyed at an open-air deck. You can enjoy the spectacular night view of Osaka.
The Umeda Sky Building became famous after it was Introduced in a British magazine as “triumphal arch of the future.” Since then, the number of foreign visitors has rapidly grown, and it’s now one of Osaka’s most popular sightseeing spots.
The Umeda Sky Building is a 10-15 minutes’ walk from Osaka and Umeda Stations.
Floating Garden Observatory:
Hours: 9:30 – 22:30 (last admission 22:00)
Fee: JPY 1,500
Shinsekai is Osaka’s old downtown district where the nostalgic atmosphere strongly remains, and it’s the best place to feel the real vibe of the city. The area was developed into its current layout following the success of the 1903 National Industrial Exposition, which brought over five million people to the neighborhood within just five months.
The streets are filled with colorful and retro shop displays which makes Shinsekai one of the best photo spots in town. The symbol of Shinsekai, Tsutenkaku Tower is a great spot to enjoy the overlook view of this charming neighborhoods and Osaka City.
The tower was built in 1912 resembling the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Although it was scrapped during WWII, the tower was reconstructed soon afterwards in 1956. The current tower is 103 meters high, with the main observatory at a height of 91 meters. A new open-air deck on top of the main observatory was opened in late 2015.
Shinsekai is a short walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Loop Line, Dobutsuen-mae Station on the Midosuji and Sakaisuji Subway Lines, and Ebisucho Station on the Sakaisuji Subway Line.
Hours: 9:00 – 21:00 (last admission 20:30)
Fee: JPY 700 (additional 500 yen for the open-air deck)
Namba Yasaka Shrine
A shrine in the Namba area of Osaka is one of the most unique and coolest shrines in Japan. Namba Yasaka Shrine is often called “the Lion Shrine” as it houses the giant shishi (mythical lion) head shaped statue. The 12 meters high, 11 meters wide and 10 meters deep statue has become a popular photo spot in Osaka in the past year. In 2001, it was designated as Osaka’s first intangible folklore asset.
Shinsaibashi is the best district for shopping in Osaka. It is one of Osaka’s oldest and busiest shopping arcade which is 600 meters in length and consists of hundreds of shops and boutiques. Not only clothing items, but there is a wide variety of shops in this arcade such as drugstores, variety shops, restaurants, cafes and more. It’s the place to come and shop up a storm.
Kuromon Market is one of the largest markets in western Japan that consists of 180 stores. Its reputation as one of the best wet markets in Japan has quickly transformed it into one of the most traveler-friendly areas in Japan.
The market has over 190 years history and it’s known as “Osaka’s Kitchen” as all kinds of fresh food products can be found at this market. It’s also the best spot to enjoy authentic street foods of Osaka. If you wish to learn Osaka’s food culture deeper, Kuromon Market is the right place to visit.
Osaka Aqualiner River Cruise
Cruise around Osaka Castle and Nakanoshima on the Okawa river. Pass under countless bridges and see Osaka’s best spots. The city is overflowing with history and beautiful scenery that you can enjoy from the Aqualiner.
From 8 pm, a night boat service, known as the “Twighlight Boat”, runs, giving you the chance to enjoy the romantic, illuminated Osaka night scenery. The boats offer drinks and light meals, and are equipped with toilets.
You can board from any of the following 4 boarding spots:
- Osaka Castle
Shitennoji Temple is one of the oldest temples exist in Japan. Considerably, the temple was founded by Prince Shotoku in 593 as the first Buddhist temple in the country although the temple buildings have been rebuilt over the centuries. The temple owns a beautiful Japanese garden “Gokuraku-jodo Garden”, and it’s also home to numbers of national treasures and Important Cultural Properties.
Shitennoji is a short walk from Shitennoji-mae-Yuhigaoka Station on the Tanimachi Subway Line. Alternatively, it can be reached in a ten minutes’ walk north of JR Tennoji Station on the JR Loop Line.
Hours: 8:30 – 16:30
Fee: JPY 300
Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M
For people wanting to try the famous high-quality Matsuzaka beef, this is the yakiniku restaurant to go to. Matsusaka beef is the meat of Japanese Black cattle reared under strict conditions in the Matsusaka region of Mie in Japan. It has a high fat-to-meat ratio. Within Japan, it is one of the three Sandai Wagyū, the “three big beefs”; the others are Kobe beef and Ōmi beef or Yonezawa beef. Please remember that Matsuzaka beef is by no means cheap, so please go prepared.
Watch Baseball Games (Hanshin Tigers)
Hanshin Tigers is a professional baseball team based in Hyogo Prefecture, and hugely popular in Kansai region. Tigers fans are said to be the most enthusiastic of whole Japanese baseball league. Their home ground, Hanshin Koshien Stadium is only 15 km away from central Osaka. The baseball league runs annually from March to September, and numbers of exciting games can be watched at Hanshin Koshien Stadium.
How to Get to Osaka
Osaka is served by two main airports; Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka International Airport (better known as Itami; ITM). Kansai Airport handles most international flights while Itami Airport handles most domestic flights.
If you holding a Japan Rail Pass, the best way to travel between KIX and Osaka is the JR Haruka airport express train to Tennoji (1,710 yen, takes about 35 minutes) or Shin-Osaka (2,330 yen, takes about 50 minutes), and then a subway or taxi to your final destination.
If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, then the Rapid airport express (1,130 yen, takes about 45 minutes) on the private Nankai Line is the fastest way to south and central Osaka (the Minami district etc). It runs direct from KIX to Namba Station, where you can catch the Midosuji subway line to other destinations in Osaka.
Another great option for travelers without a Japan Rail Pass is the JR Haruka/ICOCA card combination deal. This deal gets you one-way or return travel on the JR Haruka airport express train between the KIX and Osaka and a cashed up ICOCA prepaid card at significant savings.
If you are arriving at Itami airport, the best way to travel between Itami and Osaka is an Osaka Airport Limousine bus (640 yen, takes about 30 minutes).
Getting Around in Osaka
- The circular JR Midosuji Line connects with most major Osaka stations.
- If you’ll be traveling a lot by train around the Kansai region, then you may want to get a JR Kansai Area Pass or a Kansai Thru Pass. They’re both unlimited use passes, the main differences being that JR Kansai Area Passes are for JR trains and need to be used on consecutive days (1-4 days variants), while Kansai Thru Passes are for non-JR trains and can be used on non-consecutive days (2- or 3-day variants). Though they’re for use on different train lines, both can get you to Osaka from KIX.
- If you are staying in Osaka for any length of time consider buying an Osaka Amazing Pass. Available in 1- or 2-day variants, this tourist pass will not only give you unlimited use of the subway and bus system in Osaka, but it’ll give you free access to 35 of the city’s key attractions. Please note that the 2-day version must be used on consecutive days.
If you are wondering which area to stay in Osaka, check out our recommended Where to Stay in Osaka article packed with things to do in the area.
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.