Osaka has plenty of attractions, and everyone will be pleased. Whether you wish to visit a museum, whether your kids want to have fun at an amusement park, or whether the whole family prefers going shopping – Osaka has all of this.
In this article we have gathered what we believe to be the best attractions of Osaka, trying to mix different kinds of experiences that can appeal to everyone.
- Visit one of the many museums and admire contemporary art or ancient ceramics.
- Visit the Osaka Castle and its complex structure, built and destroyed several times during the course of time.
- The Universal Studios are the perfect place for a family-friendly day of adventures.
- Visit the districts of Shinsekai, Tenma and Minami and experience the lively Japanese metropolitan life…
- …or get away from the city and hike around Minoo Park.
The construction of the original castle was started at the end of the 16th century, with Toyotomi Hideyoshi who wanted the castle to be the center of a new unified country. However, after his death, the castle was destroyed by the Tokugawa troops and then rebuilt. In the 17th century the main castle tower burnt down because of lightning.
People had to wait for 300 years before seeing the castle tower rebuilt. Nowadays, the castle tower is modern on the inside and houses an excellent museum about the history of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. When visiting the castle, you will have the chance to appreciate the complex arrangement of secondary citadels, gates, turrets and moats.
Its garden, called Nishinomaru Garden, is especially popular during the cherry blossom season because of the 600 cherry trees scattered all over. You can stroll around or sip a cup of tea in one of the many teahouses, while enjoying a unique view of the castle and of the trees at its foot.
Universal Studios Japan
The Universal Studios in Osaka was the first theme park of this kind to be opened in Asia. It is located in the Osaka Bay Area and it occupies 39 hectares. It is divided into eight sections, some of which are: Hollywood, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
You and your whole family will have an amazing day with the many amusement rides, which include carousels as well as roller coasters and simulators (some of which are based on famous movie franchises like Spiderman or Back to the Future).
Going around the Studios, you can take pictures of famous characters like Snoopy and Hello Kitty, who also perform on daily shows. Finally, just outside the park you will find a huge shopping mall, with hotels and restaurants and shops, where you can buy souvenirs to bring back home.
National Museum of Art
You will find this amazing museum in the heart of the city, occupying the two underground floors of Nakanoshima Island. The works of art displayed inside the museum focus on Japanese and foreign contemporary art, and regular exhibitions are hosted from the museum collection, as well as special exhibitions.
The building housing the museum is interesting in itself. it was opened in 2007 and it was designed to mimic the growth and the shape of a bamboo plant.
Museum of Oriental Ceramics
The museum was founded in 1982, and it fits in perfectly with the natural surroundings of the Nakanoshima Park. It exhibits more than 6,000 pieces of oriental ceramics, coming mostly from China and Korea. You will also find two national treasures and 13 important cultural assets.
The two most famous collections are the Ataka Collection of Chinese and Korean ceramics and the Rhee Byung-Chang collection of Korean ceramics, which every year attracts thousands of aficionados, especially from Korea.
Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
Ukiyoe, the Japanese woodblock prints, is an art form that is unlikely to be found anywhere else. This museum displays a collection of famous theater actors from the late Edo period. The Kamigata Ukiyoe museum is the only museum in the world that features a permanent exhibition of this kind.
The woodblock prints created in this region are unique, with features that distinguish them from all the other woodblock prints of the country. They were more realistic and aimed to express the true personality of the people portrayed, especially the great actors of that period.
National Bunraku Theater
Osaka is one of the best places where to watch bunraku, the traditional Japanese puppet theater, mostly because of the National Bunraku Theater that opened in 1984. It aims to preserve, develop and pass on the traditional art form of bunraku.
During the months of January, April, June, July, August and November, you can enjoy a play in English, at what is called the Temple of Bunraku. The plays usually last all day and are divided into different acts. You can buy a single-act ticket for 1,000 yen.
When there aren’t any plays on, the theater is still used for projects aimed at the preservation and promotion of this art form, and sometimes you can watch another type of traditional performance.
Umeda Sky Building
Located in the Kita district, the Umeda Sky Building offers you a breathtaking view of the whole city of Osaka. The building is 173 meters tall, and its two towers are connected by what is known as the “Floating Garden Observatory” (you will find it on the 39th floor). This observatory deck is the best spot to snap some great pictures.
In the basement you will find something completely different. Be ready to travel back in time with a faithful replica of a bustling Showa Period (1926-1989) town, where you can stroll around or head to the restaurant for some delicacies.
The district of Shinsekai was first developed in 1903, right after the National Industrial Exposition. The northern half of the district is inspired by Paris, while the southern one is meant to evoke Coney Island.
The Tsutenkaku Tower, one of the symbols of the district, was built in 1912, to imitate the Eiffel Tower. After being destroyed during WWII, it has been rebuilt and today stands at 103 meters, with the main observatory located at 91 meters.
When in Shinsekai, we strongly recommend you to try kushikatsu, one of the most famous local specialties. Kushikatsu is composed by food put on skewers, then battered and deep-fried. You will find chicken, beef, pumpkin and asparagus, and also some dessert varieties. Kushikatsu restaurants are open 24 hours, but it is at night that they get really lively and busy.
If you just want to relax, spend some time at the Spa World, a huge bath complex with a big number of pools arranged on two floors: one European themed, the other Asian themed.
East of Kita you will find the Tenma neighborhood, mostly famous because of the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and the Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street, which is the longest shopping street in Japan (more than 2km) and is packed with shops that sell everything, from clothes to medicines.
On the other hand, you can pay a visit to the shrine, which was founded in the 10th century and is one of the most important shrines for those Shinto practitioners who are devoted to the deity of scholarship (that is celebrated during the Tenjin Festival, see above).
Along the shopping street, there is also the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, that lets you have a glimpse of how the city used to be during the Edo Period (1603-1867). You can visit the houses that have been faithfully recreated and listen to your audio guide to learn more about that time.
Minami is Osaka’s most famous entertainment district and it can easily be reached from anywhere in town. The district is divided into different areas. Dotonbori is probably the most famous one, mostly because the quality of its food and the unique show created by the neon lights and the mechanized signs.
Amerikamura is a shopping district specializing in teenage fashion. It has a lively atmosphere and is packed with clothing stores and thrift shops. Den Den Town, on the other side, is an electronics district where you will find the best possible bargains of the city. It is also known to be an otaku paradise, with plenty of manga and anime shops and cosplays cafes.
And for those who are keen on art, they must visit the National Bunraku Theater and try to watch one of the shows.
Maybe you wish to get out of the city and immerse yourself in nature. Then the best thing is to go to Minoo Park. It is a forested valley just outside Osaka, and it is a wonderful place to admire the autumn colors in a natural setting (especially during the second half of November).
Many locals head there to get a break from the busy metropolitan life. From Umeda, it just takes half an hour to reach it. The main hiking trail is about 3 km long: It starts near Hankyu Minoo Station and leads to the Minoo Waterfall, the main attraction of the park.
You can reach the waterfall in about 45 minutes. The first half of the trail is fairly flat and you will find plenty of shops and temples, while the second half is a little bit steeper. In autumn you can also taste momiji tempura: maple leaves, deep-fried in batter.
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