Osaka, with a population of just under 3 million, is the economic and transportation center of western Japan.
Facing Osaka Bay, the city has long flourished as a window for domestic and international trade and has been a center of distribution and finance since Japan’s earliest times.
Even today, the central part of Osaka city has a busy downtown area with many places to shop, eat, and drink, while the suburbs offer residential areas and areas of abundant nature and including historical buildings.
With Kansai International Airport and Shin-Osaka Station, where the Shinkansen bullet train stops, it is also the gateway to travel in the Kansai region.
Universal Studios Japan
One of the most popular things to do in Osaka is to visit the amazing Universal Studios and although the popularity of the amusement park had begun to decline since its opening in 2001, it’s now back in action with the opening of the Harry Potter attraction in 2014, and now with the opening of the cute Minion Park in 2017.
With various collaborative projects, seasonal events, and the annual One Piece Premium Show, there are plenty of tricks to keep you entertained
Located almost halfway between the north and south areas of Osaka, you can reach the theme park within 30 minutes no matter where you stay, however, If sightseeing in Universal Studios Japan is your main focus, you can stay at one of the official hotels in the area for a full day of fun.
There is a wide variety of Universal Studios Japan limited-edition merchandise, so you can have fun picking out souvenirs.
Umeda Sky Building And Hanging Garden Observation Deck
The dazzling Umeda Sky Building is a uniquely designed connected skyscraper with 40 floors that towers 173 meters above the ground.
On the sky-high rooftop is the wonderful Hanging Garden Observatory, where you can feel the breeze and enjoy the 360° field of view.
The scenery, which has been selected as one of the best sunsets and night views in Japan is especially impressive and beautiful making it an unforgettable place for a date or just to kick off a night on the town.
Amerika-Mura or American Village is the place to go to experience the youth culture of the Kansai region. It’s lined with vintage clothing and record stores and is packed with the cool youngsters of Osaka.
It was nicknamed America Village when it began selling imported goods and secondhand clothing from the West Coast of the United States.
It is a recommended spot for fashion and music lovers and there is a small park called Triangle Park or Sankyaku Koen in the center of Amerikamura, where the young and the young at heart congregate, skate and chill out.
Enjoy Japanese food culture in Dotonbori
Among the many things to do in Osaka, we especially recommend dining in Dotonbori which is a paradise for foodies.
You could start by visiting Hozenji Yokocho, a cobblestone alley, where you will find people lining up at restaurants and bars to enjoy the food culture that Osaka is famous for.
For another serving of Osaka’s unique food culture, don’t miss Kani-Douraku, which is famous for its giant moving crab sign.
There is a take-out store in front of the restaurant, but if you want to enjoy crab dishes inside the restaurant, make a reservation in advance to avoid the one-hour or longer wait time.
Dotonbori is most famous for its unique food culture, but it also offers theaters, nightclubs, boutiques for shopping, and a canal to stroll along.
Don’t miss the Dotonbori Glico sign near Ebisubashi Bridge and the drumming doll, Kuidaore Taro, in the Nakaza Kuidaore Building.
When visiting Osaka it’s expected that you’ll take a photo of yourself with at least one of these icons.
Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
The fascinating Tenmangu Shrine has long been familiar to Osakans as the “God of Tenma”. The shrine is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, who is the god of learning, and many students come to pray for divine intervention and success in their upcoming entrance examinations.
If study is not your thing the shrine also brings blessings for love and a prosperous business.
Leading to the shrine is Tenjinbashi-suji which is the longest shopping street in Japan.
Osaka Castle, originally built in 1583 by none other than Toyotomi Hideyoshi to unify the country, is the unmistakable symbol of Osaka.
The original castle tower was destroyed by fire during the famous Osaka Summer Campaign when Hideyoshi’s son was besieged by Ieyasu’s forces, and although it was rebuilt during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), it was destroyed by lightning.
The current tower is the third one and of the reinforced concrete variety. The interior of the castle is a museum, displaying materials related to the history of the Castle and the Warring States Period.
On the spectacular observatory on the 8th floor, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Osaka cityscape from a height of 50 meters above the ground.
On the vast site, there are many historical remains designated as National Important Cultural Properties, including the Castle Keep, the Kinmyozui well house, the Kinzo gold storehouse, the Kaenkozo fire cellar, and of course the Otemon Gate.
Osaka Castle Park
After touring the Castle’s main keep, it is recommended to relax and take a walk in the expansive park.
In spring, the park is famous for its cherry blossoms, and you can take pictures of the castle and cherry blossoms. The park is also famous for its plum blossoms.
At night, the Castle is lit up and you can enjoy a different view from the daytime.
The Osaka Castle Keep towers almost in the center of the park, making this a popular place for a stroll, or a picnic among the greenery.
Osaka Museum of History
Just over the road from the Castle is The fascinating and educational Osaka Museum of History which traces the history of Osaka all the way back to the Asuka period, 1350 years ago.
Once inside the museum, a different world of full-scale exhibits awaits you with ingeniously designed exhibits and displays that are highly interesting and a great interactive way to learn about Japanese culture.
Next on the Japanvisor list of best things to do in Osaka is to visit the world-class Kaiyukan Aquarium. Located right next to Osaka bay in the Minato area, Kaiyukan is one of the five largest indoor aquariums in the world and has a fabulous reproduction of the Pacific Rim marine life.
The two main themes of the aquarium are Ring of Fire and Ring of Life, and the undersea wonder-world of 30,000 living creatures from 600 species is captivating.
Once you enter the expansive aquarium, you will find yourself in a dynamic world of life in the sea.
This is especially apparent in the tunnel aquarium section which will make you feel as if you are in the sea yourself.
Note: Just next to the aquarium is the humungous Tempozan Ferris Wheel.
The magnificent Namba Parks just next to Namba Station is a shopping precinct built on the former site of the Osaka Stadium professional baseball team.
The stylish exterior is shaped like a large canyon, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, and the majestic rooftop garden unimaginatively named Parks Garden is on the top level of the building.
It is a great place for a date with shopping and dining, and in winter, you can enjoy the spectacular Namba Parks illumination.
This amazing waterfall-like illumination is popular and it’s a popular place for couples to enjoy the illumination while buying Christmas gifts.
The refreshing Nakanoshima Park is an oasis in the heart of the city and is well known and loved by the locals of Osaka.
It was the first municipal park established in Osaka City and there is a gorgeous rose garden with almost 4 thousand roses of 300 varieties.
The National Museum of Art, Osaka
The impressive National Museum of Art, Osaka is located on the west side of Nakanoshima and is a completely underground museum, which is rare to find anywhere else in the world.
The dramatic entrance gate is designed to express the vitality of bamboo and the development of contemporary art, and the steel frame stretching toward the sky is distinctive and a hallmark of the museum.
Exhibitions are held mainly on the theme of contemporary art and feature famous foreign artists such as Picasso. Check the latest exhibition information and visit the events that interest you.
Fantastic Nighttime exhibitions are held every Friday and Saturday, so you will be able to enjoy art in the quiet of the evening in a relaxed atmosphere perhaps followed by a stroll along Nakanoshima and a waterside mean.
In the heart of the Umeda area, a 3-minute walk from Hankyu Umeda Station, the quirky HEP FIVE is an eye-catching building with its huge whale replica and cute red Ferris wheel.
The building is always crowded with young shoppers as it houses a variety of stores, including fashion, general merchandise, and restaurants.
Within HEP FIVE, a landmark of Umeda you can take a ride on the Ferris wheel and enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view of Osaka which is truly spectacular. A circuit on the wheel is a very reasonable 500 yen.
The Tennoji area is a town that has a different Osaka-like atmosphere from Dotonbori. It’s home to the new symbol of Osaka, Tsutenkaku Tower, the bustling shopping district Shinsekai, and has a unique atmosphere distinct from the Kita and MinamiOsaka areas.
And while you’re there, you should definitely try everyone’s favorite Osaka fried food, kushikatsu. You can often fry your own skewer.
Just remember the golden rule. No double dipping so there’s no putting sauce on the skewers twice. Just one dip and end it.
There are also many places to visit in Tennoji, including the Tennoji Zoo, the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art and Shitennoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, built by nonother than Prince Shotoku.
It is a great place to learn about the history of Osaka and Japan.
The surprisingly luxurious Spa World is a hot spring facility that leaves all modesty at the door and claims to be “The World’s Greatest Hot Spring”.
It is located near Shinsekai and Its motto is “A 24-hour comfortable space for beauty and health,”.
It boasts 16 different types of hot springs inspired by scenes from 11 countries, and it even won a star in the Michelin Green Guide Japon. The amusement pool with three types of slides, including Japan’s first falling rotating slider ominously named the Death Rope, is very popular with kids.
Pro Tip: Avoid going on summer vacation weekends as it is very crowded.
Fee: Adults (12 years old and older) 1,500 yen (10:00 – 8:45 the next day) Children (elementary school age and younger) 1,200 yen
Harukas 300: The tallest observation deck in Japan
The sky-high Harukas 300 is an observation deck in Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan. With an amazing open-air atrium from the 58th to 60th floors, it is an uber-stylish space surrounded by glass windows, where you can see unforgettable views over Osaka and even as far as Kobe and Kyoto.
Expo ’70 Commemorative Park
The expansive Expo park opened in 1972 on the site of the 1970 Japan World Exposition. The symbol of the park, the Tower of the Sun, was created by the famous Japanese artist Taro Okamoto.
The park is a good place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Osaka and has a variety of facilities, including the excellent Nature Park with the iconic Tower of the Sun, a charming Japanese garden, the original Expo ’70 Pavilion, and the National Museum of Ethnology.
Takoyaki is a typical Osaka specialty, made with octopus. Originally, takoyaki was flat, contained meat, and was flavored with soy sauce, but its taste adapted and spread rapidly after tonkatsu sauce was invented in 1948, and it quickly came to be known as Osaka’s soul food.
Today is often found at food stalls in downtown areas and shrines, where it is eaten as affordable street food or light meal.
Some restaurants use only octopus, while others add green onions and Konnyaku mushrooms, and other ingredients.
The standard topping is a sweet sauce with bonito flakes and nori flakes, but recently things have been getting creative and there are more and more variations such as salted lemon, ponzu sauce, and even a peperoncino style.
Minoh Onsen and Otaki Waterfall
The scenic Minoh, which is an easy 30 minutes by train from downtown Osaka, has a wealth of nature punctuated by Minoh Otaki or the Great waterfall that has been selected as one of the 100 best waterfalls in the archipelago and is one of the best things to do in Osaka for nature lovers.
It takes 40 minutes on foot from the station to the falls, hiking through the wonderful forest. If the hike has worn you out can finish up at the nearby Minoh Onsen hot spring.
It’s a great way to escape the bustling crowds for a while and get back to the simple life for an hour or two.
More Things To Do In Osaka Japan
Here are even more things to do during your stay in Osaka
- Check out the Osaka Science Museum in Nakanoshima with its huge Planetarium
- Go shopping in the expansive Osaka station building
- Visit the wonderful Instant Ramen Museum and learn about the invention of cup noodles
- Check out the view from the Eiffel Tower-inspired Tsutenkaku Tower
- Eat the local food at the Kuromon Market
- Take a spin on the Giant Tempozan Ferris Wheel and Visit The Tempozan Harbor Village
- Go to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium to watch the Sumo Wrestling during the Sumo Spring Grand Tournament
- Hit the streets of Osaka for some Go Kart time
- See beautiful wood block prinking at the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
- Visit the fascinating and mystic Sumiyoshi Shrine which is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan