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Guide to Osaka Japan: Activities, Foods & Places to Stay

By Vicky LengUpdated Jul. 6, 2024

Imagine a place where neon skyscrapers stand alongside tranquil shrines, where sumo wrestlers and geishas coexist with Harry Potter. If you can't picture it, then a visit to Japan Osaka. It is such a metropolis that harmonizes modernity and tradition, where Eastern and Western influences converge.

As one of the best cities to visit in Japan, Osaka is sure to amaze you with its food, accommodation, and attractions.

Now, follow this post to discover all that Osaka has to offer.

What to Do in Osaka

When it comes to what to do in Osaka Japan, you can't miss out on the culture, food, and attractions. So, here are 6 of the most recommended activities. Just dive in and add them to your itinerary.

1. Learn the History of the City from Osaka Castle

People often say that if you haven't visited Osaka Castle, the most famous place of interest in Osaka Japan, then you haven't truly been to Osaka. This eight-story fortress was first built in 1583. Though it suffered damage due to conflicts between different troops and forces, it has been preserved through reconstruction efforts. A major renovation in 1997 restored the castle tower to its glory.

As a witness to the changing times, Osaka Castle is undoubtedly an excellent window into Japanese culture and history. The museum within, dedicated to the history of the castle and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is a must-visit for many tourists.

If you want to enrich your traditional Japanese tour, the secondary castles, gates, turrets, and moats surrounding Osaka Castle are also worth delving into to uncover their stories.

Osaka CastleOsaka Castle

2. Get Luck at Namba Yasaka Shrine

There are about ten shrines in Osaka, Japan. If you are unsure which one to choose, make it Namba Yasaka Shrine.

Located in the Naniwa Ward of Osaka, it is easily accessible and free to visit. The shrine is not very large, with its most famous feature being a massive lion-head-shaped structure, 12 meters tall and 11 meters wide.

It is said that the lion's mouth can swallow bad spirits, warding off misfortune and illness while bringing good luck to your studies and work.

Apart from the Cherry Blossom season, if you happen to be in Osaka in January, make sure to visit Namba Yasaka Shrine on the third Sunday of the month. It's also one of the best times to visit Osaka. This is when the shrine hosts a tug-of-war ritual, a lively tradition rooted in Japanese mythology. It symbolizes people's liberation from hardship and evilness, not only an entertaining spectacle but also believed to spread good fortune and prosperity.

Namba Yasaka ShrineNamba Yasaka Shrine

3. Enjoy Food and Drinks in Dotonbori District

Osaka is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. When you tire of sightseeing during the day, head to the Dotonbori district in the evening to treat yourself.

Before you hop on a train, take some time to wander around nearby. You can start at Shinsaibashi, one of Japan's busiest and oldest shopping streets, which stretches to Dotonbori.

Along the way, various restaurants, cafes, and souvenir boutiques. But don't consume too much, because there are even more izakayas and bars near Dotonbori. Delicacies like okonomiyaki, taiyaki, sushi, and eel are must-try.

If you haven't enjoyed yourself, continue to America Mura, the heart of youth culture located west of the Shinsaibashi shopping area. It is a paradise for young group tours. Here you can drink all night to the fullest!

Night View in Dotonbori DistrictNight View in Dotonbori District

4. Feel the Vibe of Retro Japan in Shinsekai

Craving a vibrant retro experience in Osaka? Then look no further than Shinsekai. Developed in the early 1900s, Shinsekai (meaning "New World") was modeled after Paris in the northern half and New York's Coney Island in the southern half.

As you walk through its neon sign-filled alleys, you will immediately be captivated by the variety of kushikatsu (specialty fried foods). Venture further, and the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower will come into view. Whether you ascend its heights or admire it from below, it's an excellent choice to capture Osaka. And that's not all.

Shinsekai is also a haven for hot springs. The warm water drawn from deep below the surface will make all your travel fatigue seem nothing.

Admire the Tsutenkaku Tower in ShinsekaiAdmire the Tsutenkaku Tower in Shinsekai

5. Meet Your Favorite Characters at Universal Studios Japan

As one of the few in the world, Universal Studios Japan is definitely a must-visit sight in Osaka, Japan.

Currently, USJ features ten themed areas, including Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Minion Park, Amity Village, Waterworld, Universal Wonderland, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Super Nintendo World.

Whether it's coming face-to-face with ferocious dinosaurs, braving blockbuster rides, or soaring through magical skies, Universal Studios is the perfect choice for a family vacation and is suitable for all ages.

Universal Studios JapanUniversal Studios Japan

6. Have a Bird's Eye View of Osaka on Hep Five Ferris Wheel

Standing 106 meters high, HEP Five Ferris Wheel is an Osaka landmark that offers breathtaking panoramic views. On a clear day, you can even see the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Mount Ikoma in the distance. At night, the city's neon lights come alive, creating a completely different atmosphere.

With a ride time of 15 to 20 minutes, HEP Five Ferris Wheel is a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The air-conditioned gondolas ensure a comfortable experience, making it especially perfect for sharing a romantic moment with a loved one.

Hep Five Ferris WheelHep Five Ferris Wheel

Where to Stay in Osaka

When visiting the attractions in Osaka, Japan, a place to stay is essential, as the city is quite large. Each area has its unique advantages, so you can choose based on your needs. Here are some recommended areas for accommodation.

  • Kita and Umeda Area

Kita has four railway lines converging, making it convenient for traveling both within Osaka and to Tokyo or Kyoto. Additionally, Kita is a hub of shopping, dining, and entertainment, allowing you to visit Osaka even on foot.

As for the Umeda area, it is close to Kita and offers a variety of accommodation options. You can choose from the upscale Hilton Osaka, the mid-range Hotel Granvia Osaka, or the budget-friendly Ibis Osaka.

  • Namba and Shinsaibashi Area

Namba and Shinsaibashi are adjacent to each other, only a few blocks apart. The two areas have a dense network of subways and buses. Due to the high foot traffic, similarly, there are many places to stay overnight as well.

Hotels like Centara Grand Hotel Osaka and Swissotel Nankai Osaka enable you to enjoy panoramic city views. Besides regular hotels, you can even choose capsule hotels or internet cafes.

The next day, a short walk to easily reach attractions like Dotonbori, America Mura, and Kuromon Market in Osaka, Japan.

  • Tennoji Area

Tennoji is located in the southern part of Osaka and is connected by two train stations and a tram. The area is home to attractions such as Tennoji Park, the zoo, and the Osaka City Museum, and is just a short walk from Shitennoji Temple, Shinsekai, and Tsutenkaku Tower.

Moreover, the tallest building in Japan, the Abeno Harukas skyscraper, is also located here, making it a great place to visit and stay.

Best of all, hotels in the Tennoji area, such as Miyako City Osaka Tennoji, are comfortable and the prices are significantly lower. If your budget is a priority, it can be a top choice.

What to Eat in Osaka

Now that we've covered things to do and places to stay in Osaka, Japan, let's take a look at the must-eat Osaka food. Here are three highly recommended dishes:

Osaka Food, OkonomiyakiOsaka Food, Okonomiyaki
  • Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is typically made with batter, eggs, cabbage, and meat or seafood. Despite the stereotype of being a Japanese savory pancake, the name actually means "grilled as you like it". So, you can have the chef add a variety of ingredients to cook your customized version, with seasonal oysters highly recommended.

In Osaka, the most famous okonomiyaki restaurant is Mizuno. It's just a 5-minute walk from Namba Station on the Midosuji Line subway.

  • Takoyaki

Similar to okonomiyaki, takoyaki is mainly made with batter and eggs. However, it is shaped into balls and contains a whole octopus and other flavor-enhancing ingredients. Topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes, it offers a burst of savory in every bite. The crispy exterior and gooey interior also make your palate more generous.

Make sure to try the takoyaki from Aizuya, as this shop is considered the birthplace of takoyaki.

  • Kushikatsu

As noted, Shinsekai is a great place to try Kushikatsu. In addition to that, head to Daruma, the birthplace of Kushikatsu. Here, you'll find all the classic items like pork, beef, shrimp, bacon, asparagus, pumpkin, and sweet potato, all coated in a golden-brown batter and fried to crispy perfection. The secret dipping sauce will leave you wanting more.

Prepare for Your Journey to Osaka

Overall, as the second-largest city in Japan, Osaka is a treasure trove of tourist attractions. This post only lists a small fraction of what's on offer. Hopefully, the information provided here can inspire you and give you a basic grasp of what to do in Osaka, Japan.

But even if you're inundated by all the recommendations, fret not. Tailor-made Japan tour plans are accessible. Feel free to commission a custom trip to Osaka for your peace of mind.

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