Tokyo and Osaka are the two biggest cities in Japan. They are located in the Kanto and Kansai regions, 500km apart.
When planning a trip to Japan you may wonder whether it is better to visit Tokyo or Osaka. Here is a brief introduction to these two cities which may help you decide.
Tokyo and Osaka Comparison Overview
|History||Edo period||Ancient transport hub, key mercantile area|
|Culture||History, pop, high-tech (including robotics), anime||Comedy|
|Sightseeing||Tokyo Tower, Asakusa Sensoji, Omotesando and Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing, Ueno Park, Tokyo Disney Resort||Dotonbori, Osaka Castle, Kaiyukan Aquarium, Umeda Sky Building, Universal Studios Japan|
|Things to Do and See||Sushi making, Edo crafts, swordsmanship, manga and anime, sumo wrestling and Kabuki show, Maid Cafe||Bunraku Puppet Drama, Japanese Comedy|
|Excursions||Yokohama and Kamakura, Mount Fuji and the Five Lakes, NikkoYokohama, Kamakura, Mount Fuji, the Fuji Five Lakes, and Nikko||Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Himeji, Kobe|
|Food||Fine and Michelin-starred dining, Edo-period food such as Nigiri-zushi, Tempura, SobaA variety of international foods, Michelin-starred food, and typical Japanese food including nigiri-zushi, tempura, soba, ramen, chankonabe, and monjayaki||'The Nation's Kitchen', reasonable prices, food and snacks such as Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki in Dotonbori|
|Shopping||Anime goods, traditional crafts, fashion and brand-name goods in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Ginza||Clothing and fashion goods, gadgets, high-tech, Japanese sweets and Takoyaki souvenirs at Umeda, Namba and the Takashimaya Osaka Store|
|Traffic and Transportation||Bustling||Relaxed|
|Accommodation||Wide-rangingWidest range of clean and comfortable hotels||Affordable prices|
Alisa Liu is a star to work makes Asia Highlights even better
Alisa Liu was my contact person for Asia Highlights. She was remarkably punctual, she was thoughtful, and she handle an emergency on my end, with grace and patience. She recommended great hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Japan that put us in the center of the action. The guides she choose were personable, punctual a knowledgeable about their cities.More
Brent Zadorozny, Oct 2023
Started using Asia Highlights to plan my trip to Japan. Sharon was very helpful, giving me all the information I would need for the tour. I would definitely use Asia Highlights again, when planning another trip to Asia.More
Rachel Nelson, Oct 2023
Our airport pick-up went very smoothly. Our guide, Vivian, on the second day was very nice, very accommodating, took into account our preferences. In Osaka, our trip to the castle was a very long walk with lots of steps to climb and quite honestly wasn’t very interesting. But Dotonburi is a must-see and we enjoyed that very much.Our trip to Hiroshima was very memorable. I highly recommend it. Our guide, Etsuko, was very knowledgeable and kind. The trip to Miyajima island, on the other hand, wasn’t too memorable. Our next city, Kyoto, is a truly wonderful place to visit. All the temples we went to were very interesting and very distinctive from each other (Kinkakuji temple, Nijo castle, Sanjusangendo temple,Kiyumizo temple, Fushimi Inari shrine, Kasuga Taisha shrine, Tojaidi temple). The sake tour was a downer and wouldn’t recommend it.Our guide, Ritsuko, was a darling. She was very knowledgeable too and kind and warm and easy to talk to. Our last tour in Tokyo was a rainy day and Sue, our guide, was able to change our tour to the next day. She was so efficient and so accommodating and so kind and very knowledgeable too.More
Mrs Cristina Hidalgo Loris, Oct 2023
Very good tour of Japan
Very good tour around Japan for 10 days, including Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto. Excellent guides and experiences. Albee, the tour organiser, was always available to sort out changes to itinerary or extra requests.More
Guy Slimmon, Oct 2023
Everything is good
All of the hotels were wonderful and our guides were super friendly, knowledgeable and flexible. We had a 10 day trip that included multiple cities and lots of different sights, we squeezed in as much as we could, including a 2 day hiking trip to Mt. Fuji (our guide Sun Nan was awesome!). Our guide in Tokyo, Jennifer, was lovely and our guide for 2 days in Kyoto, Dennis, was also super great. We did a food tour in Osaka with Vivian which was nice Sallie Fujimoto-SwunMore
Ideale Tran, Oct 2023
Thank you for the wonderful experience…
Thank you for the wonderful experience we all truely enjoyed. From the beginning (making first contact with Sharon from Asia Highlights) to the end (Saying good bye to our amazing guide Lilly) the experience was top notch. Great communication while preparing the trip and excellent local knowledge of our tour guide. I can highly recommend Asia Highlights and would not hesitate to use them again for our next trip.More
Dany Gruosso, Oct 2023
Vacations in Japan
The guides Jessie and Vivian were very kind and professionals and the drivers as well. In a future vacation we will get in touch with Asia Highlights without a doubt.More
Hilda Andrade, Oct 2023
Experience with Asia Highlights
This was my first time working with a travel agent to plan an international trip and because of the seamless experience I had, I have decided to always work with an agent when booking international trips. Asia Highlights did an amazing job in ensuring we found a trip that worked well for our budget and provided us with special experiences in Japan that exceeded our expectations. From travel logistics in Japan to lodging and activities, we felt taken care of. If I had known that travel agents were this helpful, I would have worked with them in my prior travels. I definitely plan to book my next trip to Asia with this agent.More
Adie Ballantyne, Oct 2023
Jason and Cathy from Asia Highlights…
Jason and Kathy from Asia Highlights did a great job for us. They were very responsive and professional. Hotel choices and attractions made for a wonderful first time trip to Japan.More
Norman and Mary Van Zante, Sep 2023
This was one of the best experiences in…
This was one of the best experiences in Travel that I have ever had... and I have traveled extensively. The reliability of the the driver and guide, the kindness each displayed (different people in different cities same result) and the flexibility to work with my family's requests was outstanding. I now wish for this experience where ever I may travel next!More
Donna Huck, Sep 2023
First and foremost, this review is based strictly on prompt response from Asia Highlights.I was browsing Asia Highlights website on the night of September 17th 2023 and really impressed of the positive reviews. So I decided to send an e-mail for an estimate of a private tour guide in Tokyo Japan for 6 days/7 nights including hotel accommodation for my 90-year-old father and I. I provided as much information as I can what areas of interest we would like to visit. I was really expecting a 72-hour delay response from Asia Highlights given time difference in California and Japan. The following day, I received an e-mail from Kate Long. Impressive! Kate provided a very detailed suggested itinerary with great consideration for my 90-year-old father. I truly appreciated her thoughtfulness! I will definitely reach out to Asia Highlights on our next trip! Thank you Kate!More
F K, Sep 2023
Perfectly planned and organized
Albee at Asia Highlights created a diverse, fun-filled itinerary for our trip. She listened carefully to our interests and made sure that we made the best use of our time in Japan. Our local guides, drivers and vehicles were excellent. Albee was always available to answer all my questions with a lightening fast response time. A very memorable experience and I would definitely book with Asia Highlights again.More
Carol Ann Paget Brown, Sep 2023
Sharon provided great service while…
Sharon provided great service while planning and booking our Japan trip! Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to family medical reasons. Sharon was very understanding of this and helped process the cancellation and refund in a very timely manner. When we are ready to book our trip again, I will certainly be reaching out to Sharon and Asia Highlights!More
Ali Tahir, Sep 2023
I just wanted to tell you how pleased…
I just wanted to tell you how pleased we were planning and coordinating our recent Japan trip with Alisa Liu. Alisa was responsive, answered questions in a timely manner despite our 15 hour time difference, and coordinated a trip for a 6 person multi-generational tour to everyone's satisfaction. (ages7-70!)We were particularly thankful for her help as 2 typhoons bore down on Japan during our stay. She helped us rearrange train and hotel reservations, and was able to get us a refund from a hotel that would not typically offer that. I have referred other friends to her with confidence.More
Berdine Bender, Sep 2023
Not only Albee was great! Each of our guides and drivers were also a joy. Daniel was our first knowledgeable guide who spoke excellent English and was so much fun throughout the day. Jeremy was our guide for the next few days and he also was fun, flexible, and had so many interesting tidbits to share with us throughout the day. Kiko was our guide on the next leg of our journey. She had such a joyful sense of adventure and curiosity that was such a hoot. Vivian was also professional and very aware to what our needs were in the moment. Tian was incredibly flexible and when our plans literally changed when he picked us up, he showed great flexibility and took us to some really fun places at the last minute that were some of our best experiences. And finally Charlie was our last guide and he was so thoughtful and consistently anticipated our needs. By the time we realized we might need something, he would already have it taken care of. All of our guides were so thoughtful and conscious of either making sure we got time to ourselves or of being available right when we needed them. They were each fun and had their own personal flavor that they brought to the experience. We are so grateful for the consideration and flexibility that Asia Highlights showed us consistently and would highly recommend them for anyone interested in visiting Asia. Thank you so much! It was an amazing trip!More
Leah Stine, Aug 2023
Alisa is awesome!
We have been looking to go to Japan for a long time. The food, the culture, and the rich history have always intrigued us. We tried many times to set up pieces of the trip on our own, but couldn’t put together a sensible vacation. Then we found Asia Highlights and Alisa! She helped us tailor a remarkable adventure to Japan! She answered our many questions and shifted our itinerary to maximize our time in each city. I highly recommend Alisa to help you put together the trip of a lifetime. We are looking forward to our journey!More
Mark Linn, Aug 2023
Sharon has been very helpful since the…
Sharon has been very helpful since the beginning coordinating our itinerary in order to accommodate everything we want to see, it been great working with herMore
May, Jul 2023
When I first book I was scared of what…
When I first book I was scared of what to expect, but oh my God! What an amazing experience this has been, from Sharon to all the guides Shawn and Mr. Ho, such amazing people! Their work is excellentMore
Saul Velez, Jul 2023
Albee was very helpful and responsive…
Albee was very helpful and responsive in helping me make plans for their 10 day Japanese tour.More
Bhavini Patel, Jul 2023
Alisa was a perfect tour consultant
Alisa responded to my numerous questions with efficiency and accuracy. She was constantly suggesting options to make the trip more enjoyableMore
Matha Goram, Jul 2023
1. History: Edo History vs. Transport and Trade Hub
Tokyo has only been the capital of Japan since 1868. Originally a fishing village called Edo, it became the center of government when Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun.
The Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for 268 years from 1600 to 1868. During this period Edo rapidly developed and its population grew, establishing the city as a center of culture and commerce.
After the Tokugawa Shogunate ended and imperial rule was restored in 1868, its name was changed to Tokyo and the city became the capital of Japan.
Osaka is the second-largest city in Japan. Known as 'the city of water', it is an ancient transport hub and a key mercantile area, trading especially with Korea and China. Osaka continued to flourish when the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi based himself at Osaka Castle in 1583.
Osaka is also known as 'Manchester of the Orient' because of its successful spinning industry. Osaka is one of Japan's major cultural and trade centers.
2. Culture: Futuristic and Historical vs. Traditional and Local
Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and the world's most populous metropolis. A mixture of history, pop and high-tech, the city's history can be seen in districts such as Asakusa with its many excellent museums, historic temples and gardens.
Tokyo offers a high-tech lifestyle with the modernity of Harajuku's vibrant fashion, robot restaurants, maid cafes, cosplay, manga and anime.
Osaka is famous for street food, top-notch shopping and friendly locals. Osaka's comedy culture is on show with a wide variety of Yoshimoto comedians from the city. The friendly atmosphere derives from the locals' love of conversation and laughter.
3. Sightseeing: City Attractions vs. Pleasant Surroundings
While Both cities have many attractions such as shops, museums, parks and temples, Tokyo is much bigger and offers sufficient interest for a three- to five-day visit. Osaka is more famous for its vibrant culture and needs only two to three days for its sights.
Tokyo is rich in tourist attractions. Sights include Shibuya Crossing and the Tokyo Skytree, the Disney Parks, Tsukiji Outer Market, Senso-ji in Asakusa and the Meiji Jingu Shrine, the Tokyo National Museum, the National Art Center and Mori Art Museum, Shinjuku Gyo-en and, for cherry blossom and autumn leaves, Yoyogi and Ueno parks.
Around Tokyo there are day trips to Yokohama, Kamakura and Nikko, (famous for history and culture), and Hakone, Mount Fuji and the Five Lakes, (for natural surroundings and hot springs).
Suggested reading: The Top 6 Day Trips from Tokyo — Perfect for Families, Retired Couples...
Osaka also offers a number of tourist attractions, including Dotonbori, Osaka Castle and the Kaiyukan Aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, the Umeda Sky Building and Minoo Park.
Osaka is smaller than Tokyo, but offers more in its surroundings. Day trips to popular cities such as Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Himeji and Kobe are recommended.
4. Things to Do: Tokyo has More Activities
Besides sightseeing, Tokyo and Osaka offer various fun activities for tourists which provide a great opportunity to get close to Japanese culture.
Top things to do in Tokyo:
1. High-tech entertainment at the Robot Restaurant in Kabukicho in the Shinjuku area.
2. Taste the freshest seafood and learn to make Sushi around the Tsukiji Fish Market.
3. Go Kart in bustling areas like Akihabara, Shibuya and around the Tokyo Tower.
4. Drink at the Maid Cafe at Akihabara.
5. The Edo Crafts Experience, make Kiriko cut-glass or Edo-style bamboo blinds.
6. Watch a Kabuki show at Kabukiza.
7. Take a Samurai Sword Dance class.
8. Explore the world of anime and manga in Studio Ghibli.
Top things to do in Osaka:
1. Watch Bunraku puppet shows at the National Bunraku Theater.
2. The Kimono Wearing Experience.
3. Watch Japanese Comedy at the ROR Comedy Club.
4. Sample the local dishes.
5. Food: High-class and Michelin Cuisine vs. Street Food
Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world for diners, with more top-notch international cuisine and Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city on the planet.
You can find international restaurants in Azabu, Hiroo and Roppongi districts, casual dining anywhere in Tokyo, fine cuisine on the top floors of skyscrapers and major hotels and themed dining in the Ninja 'Robot' Restaurant.
Tokyo also has famous local and regional Japanese specialty dishes from the Edo period such as nigiri-zushi, tempura, soba and ramen noodles, chankonabe and monjayaki.
Osaka is famous for its local dishes and strong food culture. It is said people from Osaka will spend all their money on food and drink until they go bankrupt!
Local specialties include takoyaki, okonomiyaki, kushikatsu, kitsune udon, teppanyaki and beef. You can experience Osaka's food culture at the neon-lit Dotonbori district and in Kitashinchi.
Alongside its food, Osaka offers a unique and authentic drinking culture. It is famous for tea and soy milk drinks such as genmaicha soy milk and sake.
6. Shopping: The Latest Trends vs. Bargain-hunting
Tokyo is one of the world's best cities for shopping. You will never feel bored, finding such interesting and unique goods as anime, traditional crafts, trendy fashion and designer brands.
Tokyo has countless shopping districts, each with its own character. You can buy electronics and computer goods in Shinjuku and Akihabara, clothing in Shibuya, Harajuku and Ginza, pop culture at Akihabara and Harajuku and Japanese memorabilia and handicrafts at Harajuku.
Osaka is famous for a huge variety of shopping areas, arcades, streets and malls, selling all kinds of items from luxury goods to bargains. Osaka is known as a great city for bargaining, a unique experience.
The three best places are Umeda, Namba and Shinsaibashi-suji. Shinsaibashi-suji is Osaka's oldest and busiest shopping arcade. Great things to look for include clothing and fashion, gadgets, high-tech, toys, Japanese sweets and Takoyaki souvenirs.
7. Traffic and Transportation：Bustling vs. Relaxed
Tokyo has a great network of train, subway and bus lines and frequent transportation services, but it is overloaded. Tokyo's small roads are congested during the rush hour, so driving in Tokyo can be a scary experience in the morning and the evening.
Shinjuku Station is the world's busiest train station with over 3.6 million passengers a day. It is also the world's second-biggest with over 200 exits and 51 platforms serving thirteen lines.
Osaka features less crowded public transportation with wider roads and less traffic. Traveling around Osaka is generally safer and more relaxed than in Tokyo.
Subways and trains are the best way to get around Osaka. The most useful train and subway lines are the Osaka Loop Line, the Midosuji Line and the Chuo Line. The easiest and best way to use Osaka public transport is to have a prepaid card such as Icoca, Suica or Pasmo.
8. Accommodation: A Wide Range vs. Affordable Prices
Tokyo offers the widest range of lodging choices in Japan with international and domestic hotel chains, hostels, dormitories, capsule hotels and ryokan. Shinjuku is the most popular district for accommodation in Tokyo because of its convenient location and abundant shopping, entertainment and sightseeing opportunities.
Hotel Century Southern Tower is a pleasant four-star hotel in Shinjuku with an excellent location, just a few steps from the station entrance, 900 meters from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and 1.3km from Meiji Jingu Shrine. The average price is around 250-320 USD per night.
There are fewer hotels in Osaka, but they tend to be more affordable than Tokyo. When in Osaka, the Osaka Station and Shin-Osaka Station areas are highly recommended. These are transportation hubs, convenient for side-trips to nearby cities.
Hotel New Hankyu Osaka is a four-star hotel with a good location, a three-minute walk from Osaka Station, ten minutes walk from the Sky Building and Umeda Station. The average price is 130-180 USD per night.
You may enjoy Tokyo more if:
1. You are interested in pop and high-tech culture.
2. You have a sufficient budget to enjoy the world's best Michelin food.
3. You prefer the latest, trendy shopping.
You may enjoy Osaka more if:
1. You are interested in local atmosphere.
2. You delight in trying a variety of reasonably-priced food and snacks.
3. You prefer a destination with a more friendly and relaxing feel.
Visit Japan with Asia HighlightsVisiting Japan with Asia Highlights
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