Must-Read Guide 10 Amazing Ideas What To Do In Osaka
Top 10 Amazing Ideas On What To Do In Osaka, Japan
1. Dotonbori Osaka (道頓堀)Let’s start with Minami in the South of Osaka. Dotonbori is the heart of Minami, being the most vibrant district of Osaka and town’s entertainment hub. No idea what to do in Osaka? No matter how long you’re in Kansai region for, Osaka’s Dotonbori is a must-visit spot and it’s undeniably the most colourful and dynamic area of Osaka. It shouldn’t surprise anyone why Dotonbori in Minami district of Osaka appears to never sleep, day or night. The nightlife here goes on from Thursday night all the way till Wednesday. With flashy neon lights, hundreds of restaurants, bars, street food stalls and night clubs, Dotonbori is one of Osaka’s top attractions and home to myriad of large billboards and gigantic TV screens, a bit like the West End of London.
History of Dotonbori CanalDotonbori’s reputation of being Japan’s food capital and ultimate gastronomic wonderland didn’t happen overnight. The history of Dotonbori located in Minami part of Osaka goes back to the beginning of 17th century when the merchant Yasui Doton spent all his fortune on transforming the area of today’s Dotonbori into the entertainment district by expanding the local river. His plan was to connect it into a canal network. Now this explains why the romantic and always busy bridge was called in his memory as ‘Doton Canal’. Today, Dotonbori in Osaka is a favourite food destination for the Japanese and millions of Japanophiles looking to please their demanding taste buds in search of sensational culinary tour.
Dotonbori restaurants and foodMy absolute favourite of Dotonbori are the explicit restaurant signs featuring ‘Nation’s Kitchen’ favourite Japanese dishes, you will soon realise you’re being spoilt for choice. Dotonbori in Osaka is the number one tourist destination with countless food stalls, restaurants and bars enticing you to try irresistible snacks and mains.
KuidaoreThis is why Osaka’s favourite phrase ‘kuidaore’ reminds you to literally take your food feast seriously, so much that you go bankrupt! Or, if you prefer, eat till you drop. No wonder it’s our number one amongst many things to do in Osaka, it’s Osaka street food!
Dotonbori bridge and The Famous Glico ManMake sure to check out the famous 70-year old Glico Man sign representing Osaka running man. It’s the oldest out of all posters at the Ebusu-bashi bridge, it’s one of the most iconic places in Osaka and entire Kansai region. Dotonbori Canal is a great place for a midnight feast, socialising with the super friendly, outgoing Japanese locals and even (thanks to its romantic scenery) dating. The minute you’re in, you’ll quickly forget that this is Japan. Remember to take a snap of the Glico Man, it’s a must-see thing in Osaka as this poster also symbolises the pride Osaka takes in its sports activities such as marathon. You can thank us later!
2) Osaka Shopping at Shinsaibashi, Namba Parks and Den Den Town (大阪の買物)Remember to add shopping to your things to do in Osaka list, I’m dead serious about it! Although I’m not a fan of shopping holiday destinations myself, I feel like Japan has something unique about this pastime. Shopping in Japan deserves at least a couple of hours, whether you’re just window shopping, buying souvenirs for friends or topping up your travel wardrobe. Osaka is one of the best places to shop so you shouldn’t skip shopping from Japan experience. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on the latest gadgets, chic fashion of the Far East and thousands of trendsetting ideas that incubate in Japan before they make their way towards the West.
Shinsaibashi OsakaShinsaibashi in Minami is a huge shopping area with Shinsaibashisuji being the hub of it and it’s right by Dotonbori. The roofed arcade covers about 580 meters and it is home to over 200 stores. Bear in mind I don’t write about it for no reason. Shinsaibashi must be good if it attracts over 60 thousand people on a ‘quiet’ weekday! Remember that it can get very crowded so expect to rub shoulders with a few more shoppers, especially on the rainy, sticky or cold days. It’s also a perfect shelter if you’re trying to escape the lashing rain on those gloomy, drizzly afternoons. As soon as you enter Shinsaibashi in Osaka, you’ll discover plenty of cute, independent teashops, cafes, cake shops, lingerie and chic boutiques that know exactly how to attract you with their cuteness overload!
Namba Parks and Den Den TownIf that’s not enough, then Namba Parks, another shopping complex, within your reach and something for the anime geeks – Den Den Town, also spelt as Denden Town, Osaka’s equivalent of Akihabara in Tokyo! Now you know what to do in Osaka with some spare yen!
3) Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル)Do you like putting things into perspective? Try one of Osaka’s main attractions, Umeda Sky Building. It is by far one of the most exciting, top things to do in Osaka and especially if you’re into views from the top of some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Whether seen from the top or the bottom – both views of and from Umeda Sky Building in Osaka are just as impressive. This shiny state-of-the-art cobalt blue glass and steel building attracts millions from all over the world and there’s no possible way you wouldn’t be taken aback. Umeda Sky Building is spectacular and in fact it consists of two separate towers joined right at the top of it – what links them is the ring-like observation deck which is a must-see in Osaka. ‘The Sky Walk’ offers 360 degrees panoramic views from the rooftop corridor and the observatories are on three different floors. One of the most beautiful parts is the ‘Floating Garden’ with an outdoor observatory and the futuristic looking lift so remember to check it out! I’m sure you’ve been to or visiting Kyoto on this trip to Japan and I’m almost certain you’ll be passing through the remarkable Kyoto station, an architectural wonder. It happens to be the creation of Hiroshi Hara, the same architect designed Umeda Sky Building which is quite a thing!
Osaka knows how to make you fall in love with it and after entering this colossal skyscraper you’ll be delighted with the views it offers! Make sure you pick a sunny day get the most of your experience or come just before the sunset for spectacular views. It’s a great dating spot in Osaka if you’re looking for some really good ideas on what to do in Osaka with your love and you can treat them to one of the cosy and romantic restaurants with beautiful views on Osaka without leaving the building.
4) Osaka Castle (大坂城)Not sure what to do in Osaka during your 2-3 day stay but want to make sure you tick off Osaka’s main attractions? Without any hesitation, I can say that Osaka castle is one of the most beautiful castles you’ll visit in Japan and it’s rated as one of the top things to see in Osaka! This beautiful construction goes back to 16th century, and to be more precise, 1583 by a Japanese leader who tried to unify Japan. Did you know that Osaka Castle attracts over 1 million visitors? Not no mention another couple of millions who prefer to admire this grandiose castle from afar. Personally, I think the exterior of the castle is more fascinating (it’s usually the case with the Japanese castles, they tend to be empty as opposed to the Western castles where the beauty comes can be seen inside the castle). Osaka Castle is also one of the iconic and most Instagrammable places in Japan. People love taking pictures of this spectacular, brilliant construction ornamented with meticulous shining gold details. If you go up to observatory located on the 8th floor of the castle, you’ll get a chance to oversee unspoiled view of Osaka. Whether it’s the panoramic views of Osaka from the top or enjoying the beautiful Osaka castle, you will love it there. Even more so when you’re visiting Osaka Castle Park in full bloom in April when the tea houses and sakura trees make are nothing less than spectacular. Osaka Castle is so pretty and you might as well snap a few shots for your Insta yourself!
5) Osaka templesIt’s not just Kyoto where you can see some of the most beautiful temples. Whether you have only started or finalising your list of things to do in Osaka, add Osaka temples to your guide on what to do in Osaka. I’m only going to name a few most interesting ones for you:
Namba Yasaka shrine
Namba Yasaka shrine is undeniably a temple with a character. The gigantic size of a mythical lion face called shishi welcomes you with rather mixed feelings to say the least! Don’t get startled, the 12 metre tell devil is not as black as he is painted! In fact, Namba Yasaka shrine has been awarded as Osaka’s first intangible folklore asset.
Shitennoji shrineIf you’ve been to Tokyo and visited its most iconic Sensoji temple in traditional Asakusa, you will almost immediately make a connection of Shitennoji shrine with the five-storey pagoda by the Hozomon Gate in Sesonji temple complex. It all makes perfect sense as Shitennoji temple is Japan’s first Buddhist temple, built in 593 and in fact it’s older than Sensoji temple that goes back to 628. Shitennoji temple was erected to enshrine the Shitenno, o the Four Heavenly Kings. It’s one of the most beautiful construction built in this style. Located in the vicinity of Osaka’s modern, futuristic buildings and neon lights, Shitennoji temple offers some beautiful, peaceful traditional scenery that’s just great for self-contemplation and meditation.
Located in Hirano neighbourhood of Osaka, Senkouji temple, also spelt Senkoji temple, is a truthfully unique temple. Although Senkoji temple looks like any other from afar, it’s far from them. Whist most religious places tend to be associated with soul purification and general positivity, Senkouji temple allows you to experience hell without transitioning to an afterlife. This is why Oni and Enma-sama, the two devilish looking statues are standing at the front of the temple to greet you. There’s a self-service machine telling you whether you’re getting closer towards a demonic or angelic eternity – try your luck but, shame if your afterlife fortune is bad. The ‘Paradise or Hell’ furtune check machine will blast the loud sound from the speaker so everyone around you knows what’s waiting for you in your afterlife! Ouch! Nonetheless, it’s a free experience for you, friends and children, if you’re travelling with any.
Katsuoji templeIf you’d rather avoid finding out your afterlife destination from Senkoji temple’s fortune check, Katsuoji temple might be a better shout. First of all, Katsuoji temple is known as the temple of victory and good luck, which sounds quite promising. Katsuoji is Osaka’s secret gem and still barely known to foreign tourists, featuring a beautiful traditional shrine surrounded by a Japanese garden and tori gate. But there’s one interesting aspect of it that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. I’m talking about daruma omikuji, or the hollow, round-shaped Japanese traditional dolls, usually featuring a bearded man painted in red. There are thousands of them and rather than you trying to find them, they will find you. They are all over the temple, scattered around the Japanese gardens, near the gorgeous fountains, ponds filled with koi fish and stone lanterns. They are the temple!
And since it was founded in 765, it carries over 1,300 years of history of charming landscape changing every season, that’s over 5,000 seasons! From white snow cover, to cherry blossoms, to evergreen gardens and Katsuoji temple at its best during not-to-be-missed autumn foliage season, all for 400 yen! Now you know exactly what to do in Osaka! In case you can’t find this beautiful temple in other travel guides listing best things to do in Osaka, keep this page open – it will come in handy!
6) Osaka street foodThe list of Japanese street food to try in Osaka is endless and I will not talk to you if you don’t add it to your top things to do in Osaka. Let me be totally honest with you – you will not find such a selection anywhere else in Japan, including Tokyo or Kyoto. Osaka food is heavenly and there are a few Japanese snacks you should try to Osaka, so mark my words when you’re there and look for the street food stalls selling them:
Osaka TakoyakiOsaka food is renowned for its delicious taste with irresistible Osaka takoyaki to kill for. Although it’s not all about the speed and the perfection, the smell combined divine taste of these round-shaped octopus balls will linger around in your taste buds for quite some time! You’ll struggle to find the equivalent taste in the Japanese restaurants in the West and most places in Japan too so make the most of Osaka takoyaki whilst you there, even if it means takoyaki overload! Head over to the number one takoyaki place in Osaka in Dotonbori, right before the Takoyaki Museum! Our video below tells you all about where to try the best street food takoyaki in Osaka.
Osaka OkonomiyakiI might be a bit biased here but I haven’t met anyone who would openly admit they don’t like okonomiyaki. The taste of okonomiyaki is quite specific, being a combination of various flavours and sauce also served in takoyaki. Osaka street food has virtually no rivals. But what I like about it most is the art of preparing okonomiyaki, a little bit like a magnet to your eyes. Just be careful not to overdo it! Check out our video listing Top 10 Things to do in Osaka Japan which includes best okonomiyaki in Osaka!
Kushikatsu ShinsekaiWe learnt that from our Japanese friends we met in Okinawa islands who happen to be born and raised in Osaka. Kushikatsu, or kushiage, is a deep-friend meat and veggie served on a bamboo skewer. Kushikatsu is a total craze amongst Westerners who find out about this Japanese specialty. You can find it anywhere in Japan but the legend has it that the birthplace of Kushiage is in Osaka, and more precisely, in Shinsekai neighbourhood. It’s a delicious comfort food and enjoyed by many with some food venues having queues outside their entrance doors, especially in Dotonbori and Shinsekai neighbourhood of Osaka. Kushikatsu is served with a variety of dipping sauces and shared between everyone at the table. As you might have realised by now, there are plenty of things to do in Osaka, with food taking one of the hot spots. I’m sure you’ll love Osaka’s divine street food and if you’d like to know more about where to eat in Osaka and best restaurants serving ramen, fugu fish, kushikatsu, okonomiyaki and more, check out our article here. Also, the video below is all about the place where we tried the best ramen in Osaka, something that will come in handy for many of you!
7) Osaka nightlifeWhilst you might not know what to do in Osaka in the evening, I have good news for you. There are plenty of things to do and see in Osaka and luckily, Osaka is the liveliest and most vibrant out of all places in Japan. Osaka nightlife is known to be the best in the whole of Japan, that’s right! It’s a very bold statement I’ve just made here but the enthusiasm, friendliness and the attitude of the people we met in Osaka and from Osaka goes beyond your expectation. There might be a few reasons why Osaka truly never sleeps and seems to win in entertainment over Tokyo. Osaka is more compact, with the majority of things happening in Namba and Umeda. Dotonbori Canal area is very picturesque and it creates the holiday, almost beach vibe without leaving the big city, an experience similar to Barcelona’s La Rambla or Singapore’s Clarke Quay. The transport seems to be cheaper, food is cheaper, more people happen to be living in Osaka unlike many Tokyo’s commuters living in other prefectures, and stations not being totally cramped with salarymen. We’ve had such a great time with out host at Yasuda Building aparthotel where we stayed that we didn’t realise our time in Osaka was coming up to an end.
Best clubs in OsakaWhether you’re into clubbing or not, you should check out the night scene there. Osaka clubs are really glamorous, with many people hitting the floor with some totally out of this world moves. The ones you should check out is Giraffe Club Osaka in Dotonbori, Minami and Giraffe is quite expensive at 3,000 yen but comes with 4 floors and really good music, voted number 1 in Osaka, I can confirm that! G3 is right next to Giraffe Osaka, also friendly towards foreigners. Some of Osaka clubs like Club Joule, Club Circus, Alzar, and Pure cater also towards older groups and make it to the top of the rankings for best clubs in Osaka. Lastly, if you’re into old school hip hop, head to Ghost Ultra Lounge for a good night out, it’s priced at a reasonable 1,500 yen per person. All in all, make the most of your nights in Osaka as Osaka nightlife can be pretty wild. Speak to the locals whenever you get the opportunity as this is the best way to understand the Japanese culture. Some will even start chatting to you first and if you’re lucky, they may even organise the whole night out for your friends and bring their crew out! You can check out some of the best Osaka nighlife spots in the video listing Top 10 Things To Do in Osaka.
8) Korea Town Osaka or Little SeoulHere’s another great idea on what to do in Osaka, especially for those of you who like K-pop and Korean street food. Osaka is home to the largest concentration of Koreans living in Japan. A bit of historical context never hurts and since I really enjoy sharing my world history knowledge, here’s a little explanation why there are so many Koreans in Japan. There was a time in 20th century where Korea was colonised my Japan. In 1930s, under Japanese rule, around 2.5 million Koreans emigrated or were moved to Japan, with some being forced to manual labour during World War 2 in construction, mining and so on. As you can imagine, some have moved back since and others stayed, forming the so-called Korean towns, that includes South and North Koreans with the latter ones sending some remittances back home. However, that’s the old wave of Korean migration and the newcomers are from South Korea, popularising the much-loved K-pop and K-drama in Japan.
Tsuruhashi Osaka, a Big Sister of Shin-Okubo TokyoVisting Korea Town in Osaka’s Ikuno-ku is one of the best things to do in Osaka. Start with Tsuruhashi which is home to around 90,000 ethnic Koreans. Great news, you can try delicious, authentic Korean dishes without crossing the border! When you get off Tsuruhashi station, make sure to start your sightseeing with Miyuki dori shopping street, trying some of the best kimchi out there, pop your head in to numerous Korean cafes and restaurants and try some BBQ-grilled meat, Korean pancakes, delicious traditional desserts. Since Miyuki dori shopping street is home to over 150 Korean food stalls, you’ll leave vert content! Quick reminder, don’t forget to stuff your bags K-pop merchandise from K-station shop and with some of the best trending Korean beauty products, you can thank me later! You must agree with me, this is a pretty good idea on what to do in Osaka, rain or shine.
9) Universal Studios Japan in Sakurajima, OsakaIf you ask a Japanese person what to see in Osaka, the first thing they might say is Dotonbori and the second one Universal Studios Japan in Sakurajima island. If you’re looking for some of the most exciting ideas on what to do in Osaka, Universal Studios Japan will deliver. Although tickets to Universal Studios Japan and anywhere in the world are never cheap, the money there is well spent but remember about the queues. Let’s be brutally honest and face the reality, if you’re in a rush and are trying to squeeze in a few other activities on that day, don’t even bother. However, if you have allocated plenty of time for USJ Osaka, let me tell you what to expect without spoiling it! Trust me, no one will argue about USJ Osaka being one of the best places to visit in Osaka. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Minion Park, Jurassic Park, Snoopy Studio, Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, Shrek, Spiderman and Jaws are only a few of the theme park attractions and the list goes on. As you can expect, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USJ Osaka opened back in 2014 will be the busiest one and Universal Studios Japan has nailed it. Anyway, see for yourself but if you’re asking for some top ideas on what to do in Osaka, Universal Studios Japan is one of them!
10) Osaka Parks and Japanese Landscape GardensOsaka is home to thousands of futuristic looking neon lights, some of the best Japanese street food, night clubs, theme parks and lovely, friendly people. With all these high-ranking factors, Osaka one of the best liveable cities in Japan. Now, equipped with plenty ideas on what to do in Osaka, you are ready to go and explore. Or maybe not just yet; as Osaka parks will unconditionally steal your heart, no matter whether you’re visiting Osaka during cherry blossom season, autumn foliage or anywhere in between. Here are a few beautiful parks in Osaka featuring fantastic art of Japanese landscape garden that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Kema Sakuranomiya Park (毛馬桜之宮公園)Kema Sakuranomiya Park is known for being a great cherry blossom spot in Osaka. With over 30 hectares and about 5,000 cherry blossom trees, you can only imagine that the banks of Okawa River get crowded with sakura enthusiasts and street food stands. Once the petals start to fall, the riverside gets blanketed with beautiful, light pink cover – creating an ephemeral, fairy-like scenery.
Osaka Castle Park (大阪城公園)I’ve already covered the scenic and historical landmark in more detail, explaining why Osaka Castle is one of the best places to see in Osaka and why you should make a way up there too. You should also know that Osaka Castle Park is the second largest park in Osaka and it’s surrounded by 600 cherry blossom trees, around 1,300 ume or plum trees blossoming around February and seasonal flowers like azaleas.
Minoo Quasi-National Park (明治の森箕面国定公園)Right, I’ve purposely left it till the end to see how many of you will complete this little reading! Mino Park, also known as Minoh Park or Minoo Park, is a quasi-national park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Osaka and one of Osaka’ hidden gems. Known mainly to the locals and some well-informed visitors of Osaka, it’s a place you will regret not seeing.
Mino Park is for Osaka what Mount Takao is to Tokyo, a nice peaceful oasis, scenic hiking spot and an escape from Osaka’s urban sprawl. Minoo Park is located in the North part of Osaka, about 25 minutes on the train from Umeda station with one change and costs as little as 270 yen.
Deep Fried Maple LeavesIf you’re visiting Japan during autumn, make sure to stop by as Minoh Park is one of the top spots to see autumn foliage in November in the whole of Kansai region! Minoo Waterfall is one of the main attractions at 33m, surrounded by beautiful autumn colours, from the golden gingko tree leaves to bright red maple tree leaves. Do you remember reading about Katsuoji Temple? If you skipped this part, get back to it again now! There’s a pleasant 4 km hiking trail leading all the way up to Katsuoji temple from the waterfall. If you’re unconvinced, this place is great for foodies looking for something unique. How about crispy maple leaves deep fried in sweet batter? Yeah! I bet you’re interested!
Sika Deer and Macaque Monkeys in Japan Teaming Up In Minoo ParkOne final call, this time for the nature lovers. I hope you remembered to add Snow Monkey Park to your bucket list. Great if you did, you’ll love it there and sorry to hear if you can’t make it there, that’s a real shame… Or not! Why? Because I have good news for you and no travel guides ever mention it! You can see Macaque monkeys also known as Snow Monkeys running around nowhere else but Minoo Quasi-National Park! It gets better, if you’re lucky, you can see them jumping on the backs of Sika deer and either rubbing their backs or getting a free ride around the park! Now you understand why you MUST SEE Minoo Quasi-National Park and will agree with me that this is going to be a highlight of your trip and a totally crazy idea on what to see in Osaka! If you have more time, there are a few other parks you should see, like Ikeda Castle Site Park, Nagai Park, Japan Mint and Tennoji Park with Tennoji Zoo, lake, several beautiful ponds, the traditional Japanese-style Keitakuen garden and very impressive multiple floral sculptures made with flowers and elaborate motifs. If you’d like to read more about where to find the best parks to see in Osaka, check out our article here, you’ll love it!
Final Thoughts on What To Do In Osaka and Best Day Trips from OsakaAlthough there are hundreds of cool things to do and see in Osaka, this city is also a great base if you’re looking for some of the best day trips from Osaka to Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji castle, Nara Deer Park or Lake Biwa. Check out our video below from our half a day trip to Nara Deer Park and Nara’s beautiful temples, it was such a great day out! You can read more about the best day trips from Osaka here where I cover this in more detail a separate article. Whether you’re planning to get a Nationwide JR Pass for your entire stay in Japan or not, you can always get a Day JR Pass for Kansai region, allowing you to see all these places at virtually no cost (ok, it’s around £20 for a day but still, it’s a very good price for how far you can get with your JR Pass!) Have you been to Osaka or planning your trip? What’s the most exciting place or thing you’d like to see? Leave a comment in the section below to help us and other readers decide on what to do in Osaka, Japan first thing when they check into their hotel rooms!
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