What to do in Osaka?
Osaka is a thriving city full of friendly people, great culture, and mouth-watering food options. It’s not quite as big or trendy as Tokyo, nor is it as historical as Kyoto or Hokkaido, yet its charm as a growing bustling city creates a certain allure that can leave anyone feeling like they’ve just been bitten by the travel-bug.
Dive into this neon colored city and experience the Japanese history and culture in monuments, shrines, and museums. Afterwards head on over to the local restaurants, izakaya (local bars), and shopping districts to experience the vivid Osaka nightlife! Below we’ve listed a few of the best things to see in Osaka that you won’t want to miss:
1. The Local History and Culture
Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo)
The “crown jewel” of the city, the Osaka Castle is not only Osaka’s most famous monument, it’s also one of the three most famous castles in all of Japan! This historic monument was built in 1583 by order of Japanese warrior and politician Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Now it serves as a representation of the Azuchi-Momoyama period (16th century).
Located within the Osaka Castle Park, this site was the setting for numerous battles that led to the destruction and re-building of the castle time and time again. The castle as it stands now was last reconstructed in 1931. Today it serves as a relaxing cultural center with an amazing natural scenery.
Osaka’s best known temple, Shitennoji Temple was built in 593 AD by order of Prince Shotoku to be Japan’s first Buddhist temple. This temple also had to undergo several reconstructions, the latest of which was in the 1960s. Within the temple you can visit the five-story pagoda, the Golden Pavilion (Kondo), the Lecture Hall (Kodo), and the lovely corridor that links these three.
The Hozenji Temple is one of Japan’s smallest temples. Don’t let that fool you, however, as it may also be one of the most memorable temples you’ll see. This serene oasis is located in the middle of the Namba district, a popular entertainment district. It houses a small statue of Buddha covered in a thick layer of moss from constant splashes of water by praying visitors.
One of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, Sumiyoshi was built over 1,800 years ago. Today it stands as a representation of Shinto architecture and is a National Treasure of Japan. Bask in the spiritual energy, walk between the thousand-year-old camphor trees, and be sure to visit the picturesque Sori-hashi Bridge.
2. The Neighborhoods in Osaka
Osaka’s old downtown district, Shinsekai preserves a strong nostalgic atmosphere. The streets are filled with colorful retro-looking shops, making it one of Osaka’s most charming neighborhoods. For a better view, you can visit the neighborhood’s Tsutenkaku Tower. It is a 103-meter (338-foot) tall tower that holds a slight resemblance to the Eiffel Tower.
One of the most beautiful alleyways in Osaka, Hozenji Yokocho is a stone-paved alley lined with over 60 traditional and restored shops. Entering this street will make you feel like you’ve just jumped back in time about 200 years. It makes for an especially magical walk in the evenings, when the hanging lanterns lining the street are lit.
Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Arcade
The Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Arcade is famous for being the longest shopping street in Japan. It stretches over 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) through Osaka. Here you can find clothes, household items, books, shoes, and plenty of souvenirs. There are also cafes and restaurants to grab a bite whenever you need a break.
Amerika-mura (also Ame-mura), or American Village, is one of Osaka’s trendier neighborhoods. Its fashionable shops and boutiques are stocked with imported goods. Many of the goods come from the United States, thus giving the village its name. This area is also known for its cafes and restaurants, so be sure to stop by and enjoy the local culture.
3. The Food Options in Osaka
Kuromon Ichiba Market
Admittedly, you’ll probably find great food options anywhere you go in Osaka, particularly if you’re in any of the shopping streets. Nevertheless, Kuromon Ichiba Market does stand out from the rest as it’s one of western Japan’s largest markets. Coined “Osaka’s Kitchen,” Kuromon has a history of over 190 years and consists of over 180 different stores.
This popular tourist attraction is crowded by foreign visitors, now. However, for the longest time it was almost exclusively frequented by locals. Even professional chefs come here looking for fresh, quality ingredients to supply their restaurants. If you’re a fan of fresh seafood, be sure to visit Kuromon and dive deeper into Osaka’s food culture.
4. Things to do in Osaka at Night
For those looking to get some more shopping done, Shinsaibashi is one of the best shopping districts in Osaka. Here you’ll find shopping malls and boutiques that carry everything from luxury brands to popular fashion retailers.
The shops have more than just clothes, however. You’ll also find plenty of drugstores, handicrafts, souvenirs, and food options. Plus, it makes for the perfect place to pass the time on a rainy day.
Located in the Minami area, Dotonbori is Osaka’s most touristic neighborhood. If you wish to experience the epitome of Osaka’s night culture in one street, this is a must-visit. Dotonbori makes for a fantastic evening stroll as the street is lined with large, flashy neon displays.
This colorful street attracts millions of visitors from around the world. It’s interesting both for its unique style and its vivid, bustling crowds. Whether you’re looking for restaurants, izakaya (local bars), shopping, or just a fun evening stroll with plenty of entertainment options, Dotonbori is the place to be.
Additionally, many visitors choose to join one of the local pub-crawls or food tours to experience a more “locally guided” tour of Dotonbori. This really depends on whether you’re looking to get lost among the neon lights or wish to have a more structured taste of Osaka’s culture.
5. A Few More Fun Osaka Experiences
If you’re traveling with kids and want to treat them to the magic of a movie-themed park, Universal Studios makes for an awesome day trip. If you’re not traveling with kids, it’s also an excellent way to release your inner child and have a fun-filled day.
This park has a collection of facilities and rides based on famous hollywood movies. Most recently, they’ve even began incorporating some Japanese entertainment like Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and even Godzilla! As well, you’ll find the classics like Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter.
Kaiyukan is one of the biggest aquariums in the world. It hosts over 500 different kinds of marine life and over 30,000 animals. The eight floors of exhibits include dolphins, penguins, sea lions, otters, turtles, and even whale sharks! This attraction provides a relaxing and educational experience, perfect for the whole family.
Getting Around Osaka
As you plan your itinerary for Osaka and are booking your tickets and hotel, remember to prepare for how you’ll be getting around the city. As with any big city, the public transport system is great, however, it can get quite crowded. It would be unfortunate to start off your trip in a crowded train, with your luggage, trying to figure out where to go.
For this reason, we recommend hiring a private car service with a reliable company that can accommodate to your schedule. This way, you’ll save valuable time by traveling around Osaka with a professional local driver. What’s more, you’ll also have 24-hour customer support available that can adapt to any changes or requirements you might need.
Osaka, A Unique Japanese Experience
Whether you’re going for a taste of the local cuisine, the historical monuments, the shrines, the beautiful scenery, or simply because you love Japan, Osaka is a wonderful city to see.
Regardless of the season, there’s always something fun to do in this great metropolis! You’ll undoubtedly find new treasures every time you visit. Enjoy delving into the local culture and let us know in the comments if there’s any place we didn’t mention that you absolutely love in Osaka. Have a wonderful trip! 行ってらっしゃい !