Tokyo vs Osaka

Tokyo vs Osaka

By Albee NingUpdated Oct. 22, 2021

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

  Tokyo Osaka
History Edo period Ancient transport hub, key mercantile area
Culture History, pop, high-tech (including robotics), animeEdo period 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

1. History: Edo History vs. Transport and Trade Hub

Tokyo

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

Osaka city Osaka city

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.

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2. Culture: Futuristic and Historical vs. Traditional and Local

Tokyo

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

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.

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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

Shinjuku Gyoen National GardenShinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Mount Fuji Mount Fuji

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).

Osaka

Osaka CastleOsaka Castle

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.

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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.

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5. Food: High-class and Michelin Cuisine vs. Street Food

Tokyo

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.

ramen noodlesRamen noodles

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

takoyakiTakoyaki

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

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

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.

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7. Traffic and Transportation:Bustling vs. Relaxed

Tokyo

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

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

Tokyo hotelTokyo hotel

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.

Osaka

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.

Conclusion

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.

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