[Special Edition] 30 Things to Do in Osaka From the Standards to Hidden Gems
There is so much to see and do in Osaka, be it trying the local foods, seeing famous tourist spots, or hitting the major shopping centers, it can be a challenge deciding what to do. Here is a list of 30 things that you can do in Osaka, so open up that travel planner!
Where is Osaka?
Osaka is Japan's second largest city after Tokyo, and is located in the Kansai Region, approximately 400km west of the capital. A shinkansen (bullet train) ride from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station takes around 2.5 hr, while a flight from Haneda Airport to Itami Airport (Osaka International Airport) is around 1 hr 20 min. There are also many international flights to Kansai International Airport. On a highway bus, it usually takes 8.5 to 9 hours to Osaka from Tokyo.
For the purposes of this article, the city of Osaka - where most of the tourist destinations are located - is organized into five areas. Recommended spots in the two major commercial districts of Kita and Minami, as well as in each of the other areas, will be introduced. The city is well connected with trains and subways, so it is easy to get to and from each area.
Kita Area (Around Osaka Station and Umeda)
The area around Osaka Station and Umeda Station is a commercial district called Kita. It is an area with a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan feel than the Minami district. With large department stores and multipurpose commercial complexes selling the latest products, it attracts many shoppers from Osaka and beyond.
See the Nighttime View from Umeda Sky Building Kuchu Teien Observatory
Umeda Sky Building Kuchu Teien Observatory is a popular spot 173m above ground with a panoramic view of the city of Osaka. The view during the day is great, but the nighttime view of the high-rises shimmering in the dark is particularly recommended. Go up to the rooftop corridor, Skywalk, from the observatory on the 40th floor for a 360° panoramic view of the lights that seem to go on forever.
Entrance fee: 1,500 JPY (incl. tax)/adult, 700 JPY (incl. tax)/age 4 through elementary school age
Shop at the Popular Osaka Station City and Grand Front Osaka
Osaka Station City is one of the best shopping spots in Kita. It includes the fashion building Lucua Osaka, a haven for those who like to keep up to date with the latest fashion and trends, and the department store Daimaru Umeda, which contains many stores including UNIQLO.
The nearby Grand Front Osaka also houses a variety of stores selling fashion, lifestyle and beauty products, in addition to numerous gourmet food stores.
Take a Break at a Cafe-Restaurant in NU Chayamachi
NU Chayamachi near Hankyu Railway's Umeda Station is another building of trendy shops selling everything from clothing and general goods to music and books. Take a break at one of the chic cafes and restaurants when you tire of shopping. KELLER KELLER on the 8th floor is a "beer dining" restaurant that offers food that goes well with beer, including wood-fired pizza (1,290 JPY and up (excl. tax)). There is a full menu of desserts (730 JPY and up (excl. tax) with a drink) during cafe hours, so it's a perfect pit stop for any time of the day.
Ride the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel
Another highlight of the Kita area is HEP FIVE, a multi-purpose commercial building with a red ferris wheel. The ferris wheel entrance is on the 7th floor, and the gondolas go up to 106m above ground. One rotation on the ferris wheel is about 15 minutes, and affords a fantastic panoramic view of the city below. The mountains and the ocean surrounding Osaka can also be seen on a fine day.
Fare: 600 JPY/person
Familiarize Yourself with the Whity Umeda Underground Shopping Center
Whity Umeda is an underground shopping center in Umeda, that is said to be one of the largest in Japan. It is a complex web of halls and passages, and many first timers have difficulty getting to their destinations. This huge underground shopping center that has approximately 400,000 people walking through it everyday is linked to a giant station where JR, Hanshin, Hankyu and subway lines crisscross. It is the largest underground shopping center in the Kita area, and has everything from restaurants, clothing and cosmetic stores to various service providers. It is connected to nearby facilities and seems almost like a maze, but once you've grasped its layout, it can be very convenient.
Visit the Stores of Nakazaki-cho, Popular for its Retro Townscape
Take a short walk from Umeda to discover the Nakazaki-cho area with its traditional long houses, shops, apartments, and bathhouses. It is hard to believe that such buildings are in the center of a modern metropolis. The area also has many stores selling vintage goods and handmade items, as well as cafes situated in renovated old houses. This is a great area in which to take a leisurely stroll. Drop into any of the stores that catch your eye.
Shop on Japan's Longest Shopping Street, Tenjinbashi-suji Shotengai
Tenjinbashi-suji Shotengai in the outskirts of the Kita area is also worth visiting. Measuring 2.6km in length, it is the longest shopping street in Japan. It has approximately 600 stores including those that sell general items and clothing at low-costs, as well as restaurants that offer great food at reasonable prices. It is a popular shopping street that the locals frequent, so you can get a glimpse of everyday life in Osaka.
Shop on Japan's Longest Shopping Street, Tenjinbashi-suji Shotengai
1 to 7, Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka
See Osaka Tenmangu's Tenjin Matsuri
If you are visiting Osaka in the summer, be sure to see Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s three major festivals. It is the annual festival of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, and is held on July 24 and 25 every year. Its highlights are the Rikutogyo and Funatogyo held on the main festival day of the 25th. Approximately 3,000 people parade around with portable shrines, and over 100 boats are rowed down the river nearby. The climax is the 3,000 fireworks. During the festival, numerous food and game stalls set up shop on the temple grounds, on Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, and on the banks of Okawa River.
Minami Area (Around Shinsaibashi and Namba)
Minami is a commercial district centering on Dotonbori. It is the town of "kuidaore" (to ruin oneself by extravagance in food) with numerous restaurants serving cheap but tasty food, and is also a place where many youth trends originate. This is a supremely appealing area that is full of energy and represents many visitors' image of Osaka.
Stroll Around Dotonbori and Take a Photo with the Famous Billboard
One thing everyone must do in Minami is to take a photo with the famous Glico logo of a man running with his arms spread wide. The best place to take a picture is from Ebisu Bridge over Dotonbori Canal. The Dotonbori area was once the center of Japanese theater with many tea houses that flourished serving the theater-goers. It still has many restaurants as well as theaters such as Shochikuza for kabuki and the entertainment hall, Kadoza. There is a path along the canal, so take a walk and take in the atmosphere of the town.
Go on a Dotonbori Cruise
Enjoy views of the city from the canal on the Tombori River Cruise, a short 20-minute cruise under the nine bridges of Dotonbori Canal. Check in at the Tazaemon Bridge Wharf in front of the Dotonbori branch of the discount store, Don Quixote, which you can spot easily by the yellow ferris wheel. The cruise leaves on the hour and 30 minutes past each hour (there are some days on which they do not run.)
Fare: 900 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/child
Stroll Around Hozenji Yokocho
Hozenji Yokocho has a calm and mellow feel despite being in the commercial district of Minami. It becomes even more atmospheric in the evenings when the paper lanterns light up the stone-paved streets. The two streets that run east to west are approximately 3m wide and are lined with about 60 shops including long-established Japanese cuisine restaurants, bars, okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake) restaurants, and kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered ingredients) restaurants. Hozenji, the temple at its center, has a statue of Fudo Myoo (Acala), lovingly referred to as "Mizukake Fudo-san" ("mizukake" means to splash water, "Fudo-san" means unshakable). Make a wish and splash water over the statue for it to come true.
Scour for Vintage Clothing and Goods at Americamura
Americamura, which is the birthplace of youth culture of the Kansai Region, is a town that is irresistible to people who love fashion and trendy goods. Youngsters gather here day and night, where it is filled with shops selling the latest fashion, vintage clothing, miscellaneous goods, and records as well as live music clubs. It is an area that is fun just to walk around in, with lights in the shape of people, murals by artists, and the various styles of fashion adorned by the people.
Shop in Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street
Shinsaibashi-suji Shotengai is a popular area for shopping in Minami. It is an arcade that is about 580m long, south to north, from the south side of Nagahori-dori to Soemoncho-dori, with approximately 180 shops ranging from an established department store to shops selling the latest fashion items and cosmetics, and restaurants. It is visited by approximately 60,000 shoppers on weekdays and about 120,000 on weekends and holidays.
Enjoy the Osaka Specialties - Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki
The Minami area has many restaurants serving takoyaki (small balls of cooked batter and octopus) and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake). WANAKA, based in Sennichimae, is particularly popular for takoyaki. The batter that tastes of a kombu (kelp) and skipjack tuna stock is crunchy on the outside and soft and melty on the inside. As for garnishing, the shop's original sauce, with a fruity flavor, is the popular option (450 JPY and up).
The okonomiyaki restaurant chain, Chibo, is popular for okonomiyaki. Its original sauce is slightly sweet, light, and aromatic. Average budget is 1,500 JPY, and English menu is available.
Take a Picture with the Giant Shishi Lion Head at Namba Yasaka Shrine
Namba Yasaka Shrine is famous for a unique butai (stage where sacred dances are performed), which is in the shape of a Shishi lion head. The expression of the lion with its mouth wide open is definitely worth a photograph. Worshipers come from around the country to pay respects to this Shishi that invites victory, swallows up any ill will, and brings in success with its big mouth.
Try Various Foods at Kuromon Market
Anyone who wants to further experience the appeal of Osaka food should head to Kuromon Market. It is a large market that is often referred to as "Osaka's kitchen" and has more than 100 stores selling a wide selection of fresh food ranging from meats and seafood, to fruits and vegetables. The fact that the chefs of renowned Japanese restaurants procure their ingredients there is testament to its high quality. The market is also popular for trying various food, including sushi, rice bowl dish with seafood, and kushiyaki.
Experience Otaku Culture in Nipponbashi
Nipponbashi in Osaka is a center of otaku (a young person who is enthusiastic about computers or particular aspects of popular culture) culture rivaling Tokyo's Akihabara district. It is one of Japan's leading areas for electronics, and has numerous specialty stores for PC and AV peripherals and electronics parts, as well as shops for model-making, figurines, and games. In particular, a street referred to as Ota Road is a treasure trove for any otaku. It is full of shops for people interested in Japan's subcultures, such as Animate, which sells anime merchandise, the comic book store Wonderland, and Super Potato, with a large selection of games. If you really want to experience the otaku culture, drop in at a maid cafe where the wait staff are dressed like maids.
Osaka Castle Area (Around Osaka Castle Park)
This is the area centering on the iconic Osaka Castle. There is a verdant park on the former site of the castle, and around it, a traditional working class neighborhood with vestiges of the past. This is a great area to experience Osaka's history.
Climb the Tenshukaku Tower of Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is a popular historic spot in Osaka. The main Tenshukaku Tower, which has five layers with eight stories, has been reconstructed, and houses a museum with exhibits of valuable historic documents and art. There is also a panoramic view of the city of Osaka from the observatory on the 8th floor. The golden decorations, such as the Shachihoko carp on the roof and prostate tigers beneath the balustrade, are designated as tangible national properties.
Entrance fee: 600 JPY, free for children of junior high school age and younger
Stroll Around Osaka Castle Park
The historic site of Osaka Castle is now a huge park with examples of castle architecture scattered around it. The Ote Gate, which is the main entrance, the watchtower, and inner mote all date back to the time of the castle's construction. The beauty of the stone walls, which are said to be the biggest in Japan, is also worth noting. MIRAIZA-OSAKA-JO, a multipurpose complex next to the Tenshukaku Tower, has shops selling ninja and warrior goods, and offers samurai culture experiences. The park is full of greenery and is a great place to stroll around to enjoy seasonal plants and flowers. There is a copse of plum trees to the east of the inner moat, with trees that blossom beautifully in early spring. There are also approximately 300 cherry trees in Nishinomaru Garden, and 3,000 in the entire park, that blossom between late March and early April every year, attracting large crowds annually.
Discover Osaka Castle and Nakanoshima on a Water Bus
Osaka is sometimes referred to as the City of Water, and a great way to see it is on the water bus, Aqua-Liner, which tours Oi River that runs through the middle of the city. Osaka Castle, and historical buildings on Nakanoshima, such as Osaka City Central Public Hall and Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library, can be seen from the water bus. The Aqua-Liner takes you on a 55-minute cruise connecting Osakajo Pier, Hachiken Yahama Pier, Yodoyabashi Pier, and OAP Pier.
Fares: 1,700 JPY/adult, 850 JPY/child (elementary school age)
*Special springtime fares (March 28 - April 15): 2,000 JPY/adult, 1,000 JPY/child (elementary school age)
Shinsekai Area (Shinsekai, Tennoji)
Shinsekai, famous for Tsutenkaku, is a town with the feel of a traditional working class neighborhood. Nearby are commercial facilities, such as Japan's tallest building, ABENO HARUKAS, as well as a park with a zoo, museum and Japanese garden and old temples. This is an area with many diverse traits and appeals, both old and new.
See all of Osaka from the Tsutenkaku Observatory
Tsutenkaku, which is an icon of Shinsekai, is an observatory tower that is 103m tall. There are two indoor observatories with panoramic views of the city, and further up the stairs on the top floor, there is an open-air observation corridor that is 8.5m in diameter, from which the views are completely unobstructed. This is a great place to enjoy the views while basking in the seasonal breeze.
Observatory fee: 700 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/child (junior high school age and younger)
*An additional fee of 500 JPY required for the observation corridor (children under 5 may not go up to the corridor)
Enjoy Outstanding Kushikatsu in Janjan Yokocho Alley
Janjan Yokocho Alley is an arcade with shops that spans approximately 180m south to north from Dobutsuen-mae Station on the subway to Tsutenkaku. Its official name is Nanyo-dori Shotengai, but it is known as Janjan Yokocho because the stores used to play shamisen (three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument), making "janjan" sounds to entice customers. One of the appeals of the alley is the haphazard atmosphere with a mixture of shops ranging from standing-room only bars, coffee shops, an entertainment hall with rifle shooting games, and a shogi (Japanese chess) hall, along the approximately 2.5m wide street. There are many restaurants serving great food at low prices, so try the Osaka specialty, kushikatsu while you're there.
Take a Mid-air Stroll Along the Observation Corridor of ABENO HARUKAS
ABENO HARUKAS is the tallest building in Japan. The 58th to 60th floors, at 300m above ground, are an observatory from which there are fantastic views of the city. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of Kyoto and Hyogo, along with Awaji Island and Kansai International Airport. The 60th floor, which is the top floor, is an indoor corridor with 360° floor-to-ceiling windows where you can feel as if you are walking on air.
Entrance fee: 1,500 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/junior high and high school students, 700 JPY/elementary school students, 500 JPY/children under elementary school age
Observe the Animals at Osaka Tennoji Zoo
Osaka Tennoji Zoo has a history going back over 100 years. It has approximately 200 species of animals on its vast grounds, and is loved by people as an urban oasis. It is popular for the "habitat environment exhibits", in which the animals' natural habitats are recreated as much as possible so that visitors can see them in their natural environment. There are also meal time and snack time events where you can see the animals being fed, as well as a variety of experiences that allows you to touch the animals.
Admission fees: 500 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/elementary and junior high school students
See the Cherry Blossoms at Shitennoji Temple in the Spring
Built in 593, Shitennoji Temple is Japan's first state-sponsored temple. It is a "washu" temple that people of all sects can worship at. The central temple is built in Japan's oldest architectural style, where the central gate, five-story pagoda, main hall, and lecture hall all line up, and are surrounded by a corridor. In the spring (late March to early April), approximately 140 cherry trees blossom, adding to the beauty of the temple grounds. On the 21st and 22nd of each month, there is a fair with more than 500 stalls selling antiques, daily necessities and food.
Central temple: 300 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/high school and college students
Garden: 300 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/elementary school to college students
Pay your Respects at Sumiyoshi Taisha
Sumiyoshi Taisha, which is well worth going out of your way from Shinsekai to visit, is a famous Shinto shrine that was built more than 1,800 years ago. It is the head shrine of approximately 2,300 Sumiyoshi shrines across the country, and is a shrine for safe sea travel, agriculture, and industry. The four main sanctuary buildings, which are national treasures, are built in the oldest style of shrine architecture. Their positioning is unusual, with the second and third buildings lined up behind the first building, and the fourth building next to the third. There are many more cultural properties, such as the Sorihashi Bridge, an arched bridge that is a symbol of the shrine, and a sacred tree that is more than 1,000 years old.
Bay Area (USJ, Mt. Tempo, Osaka Port)
This is an area with some of Osaka's leading attractions, such as Universal Studio Japan (USJ) and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. It is outside of central Osaka, but can easily be accessed on the subway, New Tram, and JR.
See a Whale Shark Up-close at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
This aquarium, located on Mt. Tempo, is one of the largest aquariums in the world, and is popular for its signature tank that replicates the Pacific Ocean. The tank is 9m deep, 34m long at its longest, and has 5,400 tons of water with majestic whale sharks swimming in it. There is a total of 14 tanks, including ones that represent the Great Barrier Reef, Antarctica, and the rainforests of Ecuador. The tanks are organized in accordance with their position on the Pacific Rim.
Entrance fee: 2,300 JPY (incl. tax)/adult, 1,200 JPY (incl. tax)/child (elementary and junior high school student), 600 JPY (incl. tax)/children under elementary school age (from age 4)
Ride the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
Tempozan Harbor Village, a comprehensive leisure spot that includes Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, has one of the world's largest ferris wheels, measuring 112.5m in height and 100m in diameter. Views from the ferris wheel cars include not just the Bay Area, but the surrounding area of Osaka. There are even cars with see-through floors so you can enjoy the view from all angles. There is a special entrance for the see-through cars. The ferris wheel is also lit up at night with artistic representations of fireworks and gigantic kaleidoscopes.
Ferris wheel fare: 800 JPY/age 3 and older
Explore the Bay Area on a Sightseeing Ship
Santa Maria is a sight-seeing ship that leaves from Tempozan Harbor Village. Sail around the port of Osaka on the ship modeled on the Santa Maria that Columbus crossed the Atlantic on in the 15th century, and take in the numerous sights of the Bay Area. There is a day cruise that takes about 45 minutes, as well as a 60-minute twilight cruise (reservations required) on which you can enjoy views of the setting sun.
Day Cruise: 1,600 JPY (incl. tax)/adult, 800 JPY (incl. tax)/child
Twilight Cruise: 2,100 JPY (incl. tax)/adult, 1,050 JPY (incl. tax)/child
Have Fun at Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan (USF) is a theme park based on American blockbuster movies. The park, where you can enjoy numerous attractions and shows featuring popular characters, is divided into nine areas, including the world's largest Minions Park and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In the summer, shows and parades with splashing water are particularly popular, and the highlights of the Halloween season are experiences that will have you screaming in terror!
Fees (1-day studio pass): 7,900 JPY (incl. tax)/adult (age 12 and older), 5,400 JPY (incl. tax)/child (ages 4 - 11)
The Osaka Amazing Pass (2,500 JPY and up), with unlimited rides on private train lines, subways and buses, is a great way to get around Osaka if you're sightseeing. The pass also includes discounts at some of the places introduced above, so make sure to check it out!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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