Japan is a magical country that has captured the hearts of many over the years. The bustling city streets show us what life is like in the fast lane, while the calm landscapes of the country prove that peace and tranquility can be found in the most unexpected places. If you want to experience everything that Japan has to offer, then it might be time to book a trip to the capital city of Osaka.
Osaka is one of the largest cities in the world thanks to the 19 million people that call it home. Plus, the streets are filled with around 5.5 million vending machines, with 3% of Japan’s power is used to keep them up and running. As well as plenty of things to eat, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Osaka that help everyone to appreciate the rich history of the city.
As well as being one of the greatest castles in Japan, Osaka Castle is a huge symbol for the city as it represents a considerable portion of the past. Hideyoshi Toyotomi was once one of Japan’s great warlords who ordered the castle to be built in 1583. Now, it stands strong as a reminder of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Thankfully, there are many ways to enjoy the castle.
Cycling is one option, meaning that visitors can stop when they please to enjoy some of the local street food or take in the sights, while others prefer to lace up their boots and stroll through the park instead. To top it off, visiting in the spring means that people can gaze in awe at the impressive cherry blossoms that surround the castle, too. Just be sure to check the yearly season times to make sure you don’t miss out!
Some of us prefer to stick to the quieter areas of the city. However, if you want to explore the local youth culture and find yourself in the heart of the action, then look no further; American Mura is the place to be. The village is so large that it’s often compared to Tokyo’s Harajuku district. Thankfully, there is plenty to do.
There are many restaurants and cafes for those looking for a bite to eat, while the boutiques and clothing stores offer a way for people to enjoy a slice of the local fashion. That’s not all. If you’re looking for something more low-key, American Mura is also home to many trendy street stalls, vintage clothing stores, and many street fashion stalls. It really is a dream for social media travelers as there is always something to capture people’s eyes.
Believe it or not, but this is one of Japan’s oldest temples. That’s right; the Shitennoji Temple has been standing since 593 CE after Prince Shotoku founded the building all those hundreds of years ago. As if that wasn’t enough, it was also the first Buddhist temple built in Japan. The prince wanted to introduce the religion to the country, but the temple wasn’t in for an easy ride.
Many portions of Shutennoji have burned down over the years. Thankfully, it has been carefully reconstructed and built to look just as it would have in the 6th century. Once you have finished exploring the temple, the Gokuraku-Jodo Garden are sure to captivate visitors. The entire space was designed from descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha, meaning it could be your chance to experience a real-life paradise for yourself.
Redhorse Osaka Wheel
Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to ride on one the fifth tallest Ferris wheel on the planet? Now could be your chance as the Redhorse Osaka Wheel is the tallest in Japan. However, this ride isn’t for the faint-hearted. The wheel stands at a whopping 403.5 feet high at the tallest point. The Redhorse Ferris Wheel has 72 gondolas that can take up to six people at one time.
Thankfully, there is a surprise waiting for anyone brave enough to take a ride on the wheel. Yes, the floors are made from glass. A trip around the wheel takes around 18 minutes where people can enjoy taking in the city from a whole new height. The thrilling yet magnificent scenery helps to make it feel as though you are flying high above the hustle and bustle happening down below.
Maishima Pottery Museum
Before Osaka earned its name, the city was known as Naniwa, and it was the birthplace of sueki pottery. This was the beginning of all types of pottery in Japan. The city decided to pay honor to the skill by building a human-made island for the Maishima Pottery Museum in 1998. One of the main buildings is filled with all kinds of potter’s wheels while other areas allow visitors to try their hand at making a pot of their own.
Once your masterpiece is complete, the museum places it into the kiln so that it can later be shipped to your home. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty or you want to learn more about the history of the art, then have no fear; there are also a selection of pieces scattered throughout the museum that help visitors learn all they need to know.
This building first opened its doors back in 2014. However, Abeno Harukas has already grown to become one of the most popular attractions in Osaka. It’s a multi-purpose commercial building that is filled with everything from offices to a hotel and a museum to plenty of stores and restaurants. Abeno Harukas stands almost 1,000 feet above the city, making it the tallest skyscraper in the country.
This makes it the perfect home for Harukas 300, an observation deck that allows visitors to enjoy a panoramic view of the city as it is found on the 58th, 59th, and 60th floors. To top it off, the Kintetsu Department Store is the largest in Japan that sells everything from local goods to international brands. Still not enough? The Buddhist and Western art pieces in the building’s gallery are changed every few months, so there is always something new to enjoy.
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine can proudly boast that it is one of the oldest shrines in the country. It was built in the 3rd century, long before Buddhism swept over the country. This means Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine uses Sumiyoshi-zukuri architecture that had no influence from mainland Asia. There are more than 2,000 Sumiyoshi shrines found dotted throughout Japan, and they are usually placed near harbors.
This is because they enshrine the kami – Shinto gods who are said to protect sailors, fisherman, and travelers. However, Sumiyoshi Taisha is the most famous of them all. The entrance to the shrine is highly decorated by the Sorihashi Bridge that arches over the pond, with thousands of visitors heading to the shrine every year. The beauty of the architecture teamed with the atmosphere of the shrine is enough to leave many of us in awe.
It might seem tough to find peace and tranquility in the neon jungle, but Hozenji Temple has been able to do just that. The temple is found tucked away amongst the buildings as it stands as one of the smallest of its kind in the country. The alleyways all around the temple still stand as they did all those years ago thanks to the traditional cobblestones that line the streets.
Once inside, it’s time to find Fudo Myoo. The statue is now covered in a thick layer of moss thanks to the thousands of wishes that are made every year. It’s said that a wish and splash of water to the statue will bring anyone good luck. It’s best to plan a visit to the temple in the early hours of the morning or evening as this is when it’s most alive.
Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
It might look small and unobtrusive from the outside, but the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum is a hidden gem of the city that brings Japanese art to life in a whole new way. Here, visitors can learn everything they need to know about a type of Japanese print known as ukiyo-e. They use blocks of wood to make the designs that depict scenes from the Edo Period, and therefore show off the Floating World.
This means the walls are lined with all kinds of images that are designed to take people’s minds away from the real world. These pictures would have once been hung around the streets as they showed off kabuki – a traditional theatrical form that sees men play all the roles in the play. The prints were like the movie posters of the Edo Period.
There are many districts throughout the city, with Shinseki being one of the most nostalgic in the area. It was built before the war before it was left to fend for itself for many decades following the disruption. Thankfully, many have since reclaimed the streets as Shinsekai has since been brought back to life with a whole host of stores, street stalls, and food stops. That’s not all.
Have you ever wanted to enjoy Japan’s answer to the Eiffel Tower? Look no further. Tsutenkaku Tower stands tall above the district. The original tower was destroyed in the war, but it was later rebuilt in 1956. If battered and deep-fried food is your kind of meal, then you won’t be disappointed. The area specializes in kushikatsu with the likes of asparagus, pumpkin, beef, and chicken all on the menu to enjoy as you wander the alleys of Shinsekai.
If there is one area of Osaka that’s not to be missed, it’s Dotonbori. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, and it might not be hard to see why. The area gives the likes of Times Square a run for its money as the buildings are covered with flashing neon signs as all the clubs and restaurants want to pull in the passing trade. The destination is defined by the canal and Dotonbori Bridge.
Thankfully, the bridge is one of the best ways to take in the view. Here, it can be time to try and spot some of the famous signs that have flashed for many years. The clown and the Glico running man are two of the most prominent in the area. Of course, it’s best to visit Dotonbori Bridge at night to make the most of the neon jungle.
Minoo National Park
Technically, this park is located on the outskirts of the city, but the breathtaking views are too good to leave it off a list of things to do in Osaka. Minoo National Park can almost make it feel as though you’ve stepped into another world as it’s filled with miles of forest. A visit in the fall is one of the best ways to enjoy the park as the leaves begin to change color. The best bit?
Street food vendors also have a special delicacy to try: deep-fried maple leaf. That’s certainly one to tick off the list. Another draw to Minoo National Park is the impressive Minoo waterfall. The waterfall stands at 108 feet tall and is found at the end of a scenic hike. Enjoying the trail will also give people the chance to explore the handful of stores and temple buildings scattered along the way.
ROR Comedy Club
Believe it or not, but Osaka has built a huge reputation for itself thanks to the comedy scene found throughout the city. This is something that many locals are proud to boast as people from across the world travel to Osaka to sample the unique comedy clubs on offer. There are a number of venues on offer. However, ROR Comedy is an English comedy show hosted by award-winning comedians.
Their shows are held every Friday and Saturday night, with hundreds of people lining up to get a seat in the comedy club. However, it seems as though you could find out what it’s like to be on stage, too. The club holds an open mic night every Tuesday so that budding comedians can try out their latest routines and earn their five minutes of fame.
Kitamura is a restaurant that was first founded back in 1881. It has been a fan favorite ever since, with the restaurant even earning itself a Michelin star along the way. An experience dining at Kitamura all starts by stepping through a set of sliding glass doors. From here, everyone is welcomed to a tatami mat table where they can sit and watch as their food is carefully prepared before their very eyes by one of the many chefs.
Thankfully, there is plenty on the menu. However, it’s the sukiyaki that’s got so many people talking over the years. This is a traditional stew-type meal that is made up of finely sliced vegetables and meat that are all cooked in a mixture of mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Just be sure that everyone at your table is aged 12 years or older or you will be denied access.
Umeda Sky Building
Like many cities, Osaka is filled with skyscrapers. The Umeda Sky Building is not one to be missed on your trip to the capital. The building is almost 570 feet tall and is made up of two towers that stand side by side. However, they are connected by The Floating Garden Observatory that is just as spectacular as it sounds.
There are windows for those hoping to stay inside, while the open-air deck lets visitors feel the wind rush through their hair as they take in 360-degree views of the Osaka. The unique style of the building has drawn many architects from all around the world. There are also several hidden gems in the building, such as the restaurant hidden in the basement. The restaurant has built a replica of a town from the Showa Period that takes guests back in time for their meal.
Kuromon Ichiba Market
This market was once known as Emmeji Market thanks to the Emmeji Temple that used to occupy the area. There was once a black gate that stood at the entrance to the temple, meaning it later become known as the Kuromon Ichiba Market, or the Black Gate Market. Now, the market stretches for almost 2,000 feet, where 170 market stalls open every day to sell a host of fresh products.
Some of the many produce on offer include eggs, vegetables, and meat, with many chefs heading to the market every day to make sure they have only the finest of ingredients for their restaurants. Although more than half of the sales are to businesses, the market is completely open to the public. The taste, smell, and fresh produce on every day draw hundreds of people to the market each morning.
Tower of the Sun
This weird and wonderful sculpture has stopped many people in their tracks over the years. The Tower of the Sun is found in the grounds of the Expo Commemoration Park where it has proudly stood since 1970. Artist Taro Okamoto created the piece for Expo ‘70 where the theme was progress and harmony of mankind. Taro wanted to represent the past, present, and future in one piece of art, so he decided to use three different faces around the piece.
The largest face represents the present and is a moon-like orb. The top of the tower showcases the future with a gold-colored steel face featuring eyes that light up at night. The final face is a black sun that represents the past. There was once a fourth face inside the tower that showcased the underworld, but it has since been moved to an unknown location.
Osaka Shochikuza Theatre
There are many aspects that have come together to create the diverse history of Osaka over the years. Thankfully, the Osaka Shochikuza Theatre is one of the many places that loves to keep the past alive thanks to their classical Kabuki drama performances. The theater opened in 1923 after it was carefully designed to represent the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It was once intended to show movies before it later started to host musical performance reviews, too.
The last film was screened here back in 1994 with a showing of Gone with the Wind. The inside of the building was completely renovated in 1997 as it now features modern fittings while the exterior is still true to the original features. Although there are many traditional performances on offer at the Osaka Shochikuza Theatre, there are also many modern comedy shows and musicals as well.
The National Museum of Ethnology
Not only does this museum offer up plenty of insight into Japanese history, but The National Museum of Ethnology also pays tribute to many places around the world. The museum is found in the heart of Expo Park. Although The National Museum of Ethnology has a vast collection of items in its possession, it only over shows off a few pieces at a time. However, this does mean that the displays are always changing.
Each hall is dedicated to another section of the world, with the majority of the focus being on people’s cultures and their daily lives. This means that tools, costumes, and masks are the main features of the displays. Plus, there are also a handful of vehicles, boats, and buildings to enjoy, too. The museum is a great way to enjoy the rest of the world while visiting Osaka.
Namba Yasaka Shrine
There are many shrines found across Japan, but Namba Yasaka Shrine sure is one that stands out compared to many others. The shrine is made form a giant lion’s head-shaped building while the rest of the grounds are surrounded by cherry blossom trees. It’s believed the lion’s open mouth swallows any evil spirits that might be following you around, meaning people are left with nothing but good luck for school or business ventures.
The shrine is just five minutes from the heart of the Namba district, yet it can almost feel like you’re stepping into another world thanks to the peace of the area. Sadly, the majority of the buildings have been destroyed by fires and air raids, but they have since been reconstructed to stand as they once would. The best time to visit is the third Sunday of Japan as the annual Tug-of-War Ritual is in full swing.
Shinsaibashi is one of the most popular areas of Osaka, and it might not be tough to see why. One of the biggest draws is Shinsaibashi-suji, which is an almost 2,000-foot-long undercover shopping avenue. It’s been one of the most prominent shopping areas in Osaka for the last 400 years as all kinds of stores fill every space. Shinsaibashi is also filled with many bars, such as Space Station – a bar where visitors get to enjoy drinks named after their favorite video games characters.
This is all while playing everything from classic to new releases on the 13 consoles found throughout the room. As if that wasn’t enough, the area even features the Mitsu Hachimangu Shrine that has been standing since 749 BCE and the 8th-century Mitsutera Temple. If that wasn’t enough, the country’s first cat cafe, Cat of Liberty, features dozens of furry friends for us to meet.
Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
Some of us love to learn all about the history of an area. If that’s the case, then it might be time to head to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. Here, visitors get to take a glimpse all the way back to the Edo Period thanks to the incredible work that has gone into making the displays. There are many smaller models of the streets of Osaka to show what the city would have once looked like.
That’s not all. There is also a replica street that features many buildings from the time and allows people to wander through the alleyways as they please. The best bit? You can even hire traditional clothing, such as kimonos, to make your visit feel all that more immersive. It might not be long before it really does feel as though you have been transported back in time.
Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street claims to be the longest in Japan as it stretches for over 1.25 miles. There are a huge variety of stores that are on offer with the likes of snacks, books, shoes, clothing, groceries, and even traditional medicines all up for grabs. However, there is something else to add to the list of wonders hidden in the district: Osaka Tenmangu Shrine.
The shrine was founded in the 10th-century and has since become one of the most important in the country. This is one of many shrines that is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, the Shinto deity of scholarship. Amazingly, the original shrine and building have been destroyed many times over the years thanks to fires, with the current hall and gate being in place since 1845. If you head here in July, then be sure to check out Tenjin Matsuri – one of Japan’s biggest festivals.
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
It can be easy to take instant ramen noodles for granted. However, it wasn’t until Momofuku Ando noticed the lengthy lines outside ramen shops that he realized there was a need for change. He soon founded Nissin as Momofuku wanted ramen to be available to anyone, anytime. Creating the food was no easy task as it would take plenty of trial and error to make the recipe that many of us know and love today.
Now, people from all around the world have thanked and congratulated the founder for his work. All of this and more can be learned in the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum as we are taken on a journey through time. We get to learn all about the hidden messages in their advertisements as well as getting the chance to design our own pots and make noodles before collecting a host of memorabilia from the day.
There is a beloved tale that goes with Ohatsu Tenjin. The shrine represents Japan’s answer to Romeo and Juliet as two lovers, an adult worker named Ohatsu, and a soy sauce store owner named Tokubei, met and fell in love. Their tragic story eventually ends with them taking their lives together in the forests of Tsuyuno Tenjinsha. Now, the shrine attracts many couples from around the world who all want to pray for a strong relationship and marriage.
There are many ways to make an offering. Some use wooden boards known as Emas to write their wishes. Others draw their own face of beauty as they wish for true beauty for themselves. To top it off, there are also a number of festivals held at the shrine throughout the year, such as the summer festival and the bean-throwing festival.
Just as the name suggests, Spa World is filled with spas to help us relax. The complex is made up of a host of additions, such as pools, saunas, and relaxation rooms. Plus, there are many treatments on offer, meaning there are plenty of ways to unwind at Spa World. Amazingly, it features one of the largest hot spring complexes on the planet as they all use natural spring water to help guests feel as relaxed as possible.
Many of the rooms throughout the building are modeled on spas that are found around the world, while the roof is home to a water park for anyone looking to have a little fun during their visit. Spa World is open 24 hours a day, and you can even stay overnight. Just be sure to skip a trip if you have any visible tattoos as there is a strict policy.
There is an incredible feeling that radiated from Peace Osaka. The center is found in Osaka Castle Park where it opened in 1991. However, it has since reopened as a peace museum as well as a memorial to the many people who lost their lives in the Osaka Air Rades. Peace Osaka hopes to help them live on forever as well as find a way to spread the importance of peace to any future generations.
The many exhibits throughout the building showcase the effects that conflict has had on the country over the years, while the Visual Section allows visitors to take a closer look at panels and books on the subject. Another aspect of Peace Osaka is the 250-person auditorium that holds many events throughout the year, such as movies, lectures, concerts, and animations.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of Japan’s most impressive aquariums thanks to the huge number of species that now call it home. There are 15 tanks in the aquarium that all focus on different regions of the Pacific Rim. The central tank is one of the main attractions as it focuses on the Pacific Ocean and has a whale shark roaming freely amongst the other marine life.
Thankfully, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan offers a new way to explore the underwater world as visitors start at the top floor before climbing down eight levels in a spiral. The central tank is in the middle of the room, while the lowering level means that guests here can watch the underwater world from every level. Visitors can get even closer to the action with some species as there are special interactive tanks.
Universal Studios Japan
Amazingly, this park was the first Universal Studios park to open in Asia. It first opened its gates in 2001 and is now the second most visited theme park in the country. There are eight sections in Universal Studios Japan: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Wonderland, Waterworld, Jurassic Park, Amity Village, San Francisco,Hollywood, and New York.
Here, people get to enjoy all kinds of rides they would expect from any other Universal Studios park, but with a twist. There are many limited edition souvenirs of your favorite characters available to purchase. Still not enough? Just like Universal parks around the world, Universal Studios Japan has plenty of shows throughout the day and night as well as our favorite mascots roaming the streets for any photo opportunities along the way. It’s certainly a destination to add to the list of things to do in Osaka.