Top 15 Things To Do Around Osaka
When my wife and I got married in November 2015, we wanted to go to Europe for our honeymoon the following year. We felt a short break was needed after months of planning and organizing our wedding, so we made a decision to fly to Osaka for 5 nights. We instantly fell in love with this city as soon as we landed. The weather was great, Japanese people are so polite, and there are just so many restaurants in the main areas! I bought coffee from different cafes every day, and my wife was getting desserts from all these different dessert shops daily! Osaka is known for its beautiful architecture and street food in the Dontobori area, you can also plan a day around Universal Studio if this is something that you desire. There are so many things you can do around Osaka, and JR (Japan Rail) is so convenient, so you can just catch a JR and go to Kyoto, Kobe, or Nara area if you are staying long enough and really want to make your vacation worth while. You can have a highlight for each city, and it will be totally worth it.
Below is a list of things you can do around Osaka:
Osaka Castle. The Osaka Castle is almost a must-see for anyone that’s going to be Osaka bound. Mainly because Osaka Castle is the landmark of the Osaka City. The castle is superb and has historical value. Osaka Castle is a great place to enjoy cherry blossoms during the right seasons. As the castle entrance fee is 600 yen, or free entry with an Osaka Travel Card. This beautiful architecture is eight stories high and the most popular observatory is on the 8th floor, if you don’t want to climb the stairs all the way, you can queue up to take the elevator to the 5th floor and climb from there. The main places to visit in the castle are between 2nd-7th floors. Some displays on the 2nd floor introduce the characteristics of Osaka Castle. The most special one is the original size replica of the creature head used, which is very magnificent. When you get to the 8th floor, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery around you from the top. The souvenir shop on the 8th floor is worth seeing, and the merchandises are very beautiful looking. If this interests you, please plan it on a non-rainy day. My wife and I went on a rainy day and we walked all the way up to the 8th floor without taking the elevator.
Eat Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki in the Dontobori area. Two of the most famous foods you should try in Osaka. Octopus balls, and Japanese savory pancake. Okonomiyaki is a proud local cuisine in the Osaka and Kansai regions. Not only in restaurants but even in small vendors, as Osaka is popular among men, women, and children. If you are coming to Osaka for sightseeing, please also come to this lovely city to eat and experience the local flavor! As for Takoyaki, you must not miss the national food in octopus balls. Some stores will also provide spring onions on top of your oyster sauce. The taste is soft and tender with an elastic taste on the outside skin.
Osaka Street Food is just awesome! There are ticket machines for customers to order their food and pay at Ramen noodle restaurants, so once you have decided on what to eat, and have paid for it, a ticket comes out from the ticket machine, and you need to hand it over to a waitress. Usually the machine is located outside of the restaurant, and your food will be served when cooked, this is a unique experience and people usually get their food ordered by a waitress, or customers orders from a touchscreen device. As for other street food, fried chicken, and grilled squid are also great choices for you to try out. There are also deep-fried prawns, and grilled skewers (Yakitori). These street foods actually suits well with a cold glass of beer on your hand, and you can totally relax your evening like this.
Shinsaibashi. So much to eat and shop here, you can even go to an arcade to play Pachinko (A vertical steel balls machine). Lots of dessert shops for you to choose from, and often desserts are mixed with ice-cream, or crapes. You can find some traditional Japanese restaurants here as well, just need to make sure if the restaurant separates their customers to smoking and non-smoking seats. There are some department stores if you are looking to buy some branded items. Shinsaibashi is great to walk around because glass ceilings are installed and you won’t have to worry about rainy weather at all. There are plenty of drug stores over at the Shinsaibashi area, and lots of over the counter items are really cheap and effective, for example, cold and flu medicines, pain killers, cold sores ointments, face masks, and muscle pain patches are really great for you to bring back for your family and friends. Try telling any friends that had been to Osaka that you are going there soon, and they’ll tell you that you have to go visit Shinsaibashi for food, shopping, and experience.
Shop for electronics at Bic Camera. Looking for electronics that’s made in Japan? Bic Camera has got you covered. You can find almost anything you can think of that goes into a power outlet. The voltage in Japan is 100 volt, so if your electrical good has a voltage between 100 – 200, then you can use it at any country. There are appliances that’s on display for you to test out before buying. The most popular ones like hairdryers, electric shavers, eyes massage masks, coffee machines, food & juice blenders, cameras, and many types of accessories you can think of. If you are traveling with family or friends, you can even consider buying a Japan-made oven, it can be used as a microwave, oven, you can grill french fries, and even homemade breads! Electric plugs and outlets is type-A, just make sure you do enough research and understand how warranty works before you make your purchase.
American Village. Osaka American Village is a really cool place. Most of the shoppers in the village are mostly teenagers. There are graffiti on the walls, people wearing unconventional outfits, and some second-hand clothes and antiques are really cheap. Amerika-mura (That’s what the locals call the village, Mura means village), began in the 1970s, the warehouses in this area were converted into shops, and some of the clothes, old music records, and miscellaneous goods were imported from USA, and gradually the village became noticed. There are also western style groceries stores, and restaurants for you to choose from. This is a place suitable for people who likes casual style outfits, hip-hop music, and there are always new things you can explore around this area as the trend changes. The area has its own unique culture and historical background, and the village symbolizes “Young”, as you may wish to visit here to experience the trend of Osaka culture. It’s not far away from Shinsaibashi, as it’s only a few streets away.
Umeda Sky Building. The Umeda Sky Building, owned by Toshiba, is an observatory, which is a popular landmark in Osaka. The Observatory is located on the super-high floor of the Umeda Sky Building. It looks over the entire Umeda Building with 360 degrees, if you like to see the night view of Osaka, this is definitely worth a visit. For the first time Osaka travelers, the 173-meter-high Sky Garden Observatory connects the top ring-shaped roofs of the two buildings of Umeda Sky Building. Walking over to Umeda Sky Building is actually not too easy to get to. First timers like me got lost for about 10 minutes before we found the entrance to the building. If you have an Osaka Pass in advance, either one or two-day pass, you can take the elevator directly to the 39th floor to redeem the entrance ticket without having to line up.
The Namba Yasaka Shrine is this huge lion temple. According to the official website, the Lion Hall is 12 meters high, 7 meters wide and 7 meters deep. A huge lion’s head, when you look around, you would feel there is a set of big eyes watching you, and the lion’s mouth is opened and will help you by sucking out all the bad luck, and it’s supposed to bring you good fortune and scare away the bad things around you. This is a super lively attraction for travelers and locals to visit. Locals go there to pray for a smooth career and local students often go there to pray for good examination result. Next to Namba station, the shrine is located in a quiet neighborhood with three different entrances. Go there when the weather is good, and try to make it in the mornings, you might have a really smooth day after that.
Kuromon Market. Looking just to have a taste of A5 grade beef? Kuromon Market is a morning market with food that you can buy it back to your apartment to cook, or you can eat on the spot. The market has a lot of seafood, blowfish Sashimi, noodles, and Japanese curry. Fruits like peaches, grapes, and honeydew melon can also be purchased. Some honeydew melon can be very expensive, and a reasonable price is close to $100 USD. My suggestion is to have a bit of breakfast at your hotel, and head straight to the market. Walk around and see what you may be interested in trying before deciding. You should have some raw food first (Sashimi!) before you move on to the cooked food after. Beef skewers with beer, or pan fried scallops with white wine are just one the very few great combinations you can have. I wouldn’t miss out going to this market, unless you are not a person that eats beef or seafood.
The Osaka Shitennoji, built by the prince of the temple, one of the earliest temples in Japan. Built in 593, about 1400 years old, this Buddhist temple became a place for the local Japanese people to depend on spiritually, they pray for their health as well as their career development. Students pray for a satisfactory test result. At the entrance, a Torii made of stone was built in 1294. A Torii is usually made for the entrance to shrines in Japan. You can keep a note down that on the 21st of each month is the temple day of the Shitennoji Temple. On this day, there will be many vendors selling souvenirs, which is quite lively. If you want to experience it you can pick this date to visit.
Visit Osaka Aquarium. Osaka Aquarium is one of the most parent & child friendly attractions you can find in Osaka. The aquarium was completed in the 90s, and it’s a place that families would list on their itinerary when they plan for Osaka. Transportation is convenient, just need to catch the subway to get there. As for tickets, you can buy it online in advance which is cheaper than buying on site. The aquarium is famous for it’s spacious 360 degrees surrounded tank on the 4th floor. The tank includes one of the largest whale shark, jellyfish, squids, and you should schedule a full day here for the best experience. The aquarium opens between 10:00 AM – 20:00 PM. Over at the interactive area, you can interact with penguins. Penguins are super cute, and kids really love them. What’s more cool is that there is also a tank with sharks and squid that you can also touch. Try imagining the contrast of how slippery squid feels, and how thick skinned shark feels. Just remember to wash your hands!
Go Watch sumo wrestling. Sumo has been in Japan for nearly 1500 years and is one of the most popular sports in Japan and is the most intense sport of mankind. This one-on-one fight is based on an average of more than 130-180 kilograms of weight, and is hedged by a gravitational acceleration of 110 meters. The impact force is more than 650 kilograms on average. The muscles of Sumo wrestlers are really strong, and their body fat percentage is controlled within 30%. Sumo was originated from the shrine ritual, in order to thank the gods, people pray for the harvest of the grain. Later it gradually got evolved into a competitive sport. The official competition is held three times a year in Tokyo, it runs in January, May, and September. In Osaka around March, and Nagoya in July, and Fukuoka in November. Curious about how their bodies are so huge? Sumo wrestlers eats sumo hot pot every day and takes in a lot of protein. Anyone who has just become a sumo wrestler, the first thing to learn is to cook a sumo hot pot. Some retired sumo wrestlers opened their own sumo hot pot restaurant, which is also popular among Japanese people.
Tsutenkaku Tower is a tower among the Shinsekai shopping mall in Osaka. Standing on the tower, you’ll be able to see the entire Osaka city. The current Tsutenkaku Tower is actually the second generation. The first generation was built in 1912 with the style of Eiffel Tower in Paris. Now the second tower, designed by the architect of the Tokyo Tower, Tachu Naito, was rebuilt in 1956 and it was once the highest landmark in Osaka at that time. Come here for some grilled skewers and sushi, or even have some Japanese sake spirits with your food. There is a zoo nearby, or if you don’t feel like going to a zoo, there are parks nearby, which you can plan your trip on the same day.
Go To Kyoto/Nara/Kobe. If you have enough time during your trip, you can visit Gion in Kyoto. Gion is Kyoto’s geisha district, where females dressed up in kimono’s to serve. As for Nara, you can go feed the deer and walk around the temples and shrines. As for Kobe, if you are into high quality beef, Kobe is the place for you to sit down and enjoy a glass of red with some super fine quality beef.