50 Recommended Things To Do in Osaka
Osaka, the largest city in western Japan, is traditionally known as a place with so much delicious and cheap food which you can eat till you drop. Besides this, the city features clusters of modern skyscrapers as well as numerous ancient and distinguished shrines and temples vying for your attention. You can also buy all sorts of cutting-edge and fashionable things including clothing and household goods here. Let's get started with discovering 50 recommended hotspots in Osaka and find out what makes them so appealing!
Feb 28 2019 (Jun 03 2022)
▼The North Area
In Osaka, there are two bustling downtown districts, i.e. the North (Kita) and South (Minami) areas. The North area is especially known for its refined metropolitan image. At the heart of the area lies various large department stores, commercial complexes, and high-rise office buildings where many shoppers and the working crowd gather. In addition, at Nakanoshima where there are many administrative, economical and cultural facilities, it offers a nice blend of retro-looking modern architecture as well as trendy cafes for you to take a breather. Over at Temma, check out the places where you can experience the traditional downtown's liveliness and charm.
1. Osaka Station City
This is a commercial complex spread out in the vicinity of JR Osaka Station. Its large rooftop boasting of a cutting-edge design creates a futuristic view along with the cluster of skyscrapers surrounding it. Besides famous department stores like Daimaru and Lucua, there is a wide variety of shops offering fashion and cosmetics that will no doubt enhance your shopping experience. Last but not least, check out the tourist hot spots such as Minami Gate Hiroba (South Gate Square) which is one of the 8 squares with vastly different characters of their own.
2. Umeda Sky Building
Umeda's landmark features two 40-story high-rise buildings linked at the top by an uniquely designed connector nicknamed as Mirai no Gaisenmon (The Triumphal Arc of the Future). At 173m above ground is Kuchu Teien Tenbodai (The Floating Garden Observatory), where you can get a panoramic view of Osaka's streets.
3. HEP FIVE's Ferris Wheel
This bright red ferris wheel with a diameter of 75 m is perched on the rooftop of commercial complex HEP FIVE and will surely leave an impression on you with its eye-catching appearance. While in the gondola at the highest point of around 106 m above ground, be treated to a captivating view of the city landscape below. On clear days, you can even get a glimpse of the magnificent view at the Seto Inland Sea. If you wish to take a commemorative photo, just approach the staff there who would be happy to help. At night, the illuminated ferris wheel exudes a different and romantic charm from daytime, which further contributes to its popularity.
4. Nakazaki-cho Neighborhood
This area is filled with streets with a retro atmosphere and located merely 10 minutes away from the modernized urban area of Umeda. As such, coming to this neighborhood feels as if you have gone back in time to the old days. Among the wide array of stores lining the streets here, you can find cafes remodeled from traditional houses, sundry and secondhand clothing stores, and more, together with shrines and temples in the quaint alleys. You may just find a pleasant surprise here!
5. Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street
This is Japan's longest shopping street with a total length of approximately 2.6 km. Besides featuring about 600 shops including those dealing exclusively in knives, pottery and kimono, there are many restaurants and eating places which allow you to eat Osaka's signature foods while shopping around. During the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) held on on March 24-25 each year, look out for the famous portable shrine procession so as to experience the lively atmosphere and the locals' way of living.
6. The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
This is a museum based on the city's history and culture of housing. Its biggest selling point has to be the replication of life-size buildings and sights in Osaka around the early 1830s. Visitors can walk through the streets leisurely and touch the exhibits to get a feel of how Japan used to be in the olden days. Don't fret even if you do not understand Japanese, because there are audio guides in English, Korean, and Chinese to help you appreciate the exhibits better.
7. Osaka Tenjin Hanjotei
This is an entertainment hall designated for rakugo (Japanese traditional comic storytelling) where professional rakugo storytellers entertain the audience every day with their engaging tales. Don't forget to check out the modest Japanese-style building along with retro items such as the rickshaw, or the post box beside the entrance that gives you a peek into the cultural aspect of past eras. Depending on the season, be treated to captivating and eye-catching flower decorations such as the mochibana (small rice cakes stuck to branches to look like flowers) during New Year or plum flowers in February.
8. Nakanoshima Park
This is the first park built in Osaka City back in 1891. The 10.6 hectare park is sandwiched between two rivers and offers an abundance of greenery, thus creating a beautiful harmony with nearby modern buildings such as the Osaka City Central Public Hall and a library. Especially worth checking out in mid May and mid October is its rose garden, which features about 3,700 rose stubs of 310 different species.
▼ The South Area
As compared to the North Area, the South (Minami) Area has a mixed and relatively down-to-earth appeal. At its center are the Namba and Dotonbori neighborhoods which are representative of Osaka's flashy and lively atmosphere. Within this area, you can find Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street which is a shopper's paradise, Amerikamura that is a magnet for youngsters in search of secondhand clothing and unique sundries and Nippombashi which allows you to enjoy otaku culture to its fullest.
9. America-mura (American Village)
With Triangle Park (Mitsu Koen) at its center, America-mura is known as a leading trendy hotspot to youngsters in Kansai, thanks to its wide array of shops selling things such as secondhand clothing and music records. Even the young people wearing unique fashion and the many creative works of art all over the place feel as though they are a part of this place. Don't forget to seek out the many photogenic desserts available here too!
10. Okonomiyaki Miduno
Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) consists of various ingredients such as sakura shrimp, meat and vegetables mixed with wheat flour before it is grilled on a hot plate. In Osaka, although there are many okonomiyaki restaurants, Miduno, a longstanding restaurant which has been around for more than 70 years, is especially recommended for its voluminous Yamaimoyaki. This dish uses yam instead of wheat flour in the pancake mixture and includes thickly-sliced pork belly and loin meat, oysters from Hiroshima and large shellfish adductor muscles. Savor a different texture and taste from the usual okonomiyaki through this dish!
Omurice (Omelette rice) is a dish whereby a thin omelette is spread over fried rice seasoned with ketchup. Hokkyokusei which was established in 1922, is known as the creator of this dish. The restaurant has a Japanese-style atmosphere thanks to its tatami (rice straw mat) floors and a Japanese-style garden at the center of the restaurant. Being able to eat such delicious omelette rice where the egg and tomato sauce go well with each other at such a place will definitely be an unique experience.
This area has many well-known signboards, such as those of Kani Douraku and Glico, and is widely regarded as one of the most prominent downtown areas of Osaka. As such, it is always bustling with activity all year round, day and night. With such a dazzling variety of restaurants here, this is the place to be if you want to experience Osaka's gourmet scene at one go. In recent years, the promenade along the river has undergone maintenance and plays host to many events now thus giving an added boost to the lively atmosphere here.
13. Hozenji Yokocho
This area consists of two 3m-wide alleys stretching 80m from east to west. On the stone pavements at both sides of the alleys, there are many shops with a nostalgic feel selling delicacies like traditional Japanese cuisine, okonomiyaki, and deep-fried skewers. At the center of this area stands the statue of Mizukake Fudosan covered with moss located in Hozenji (Hozen Temple) where you can make a wish by pouring water over it.
14. Aburiya Dotonbori Midosuji Branch
This yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) restaurant allows you to enjoy hand-cut domestic beef at reasonable prices. They prepare each cut differently so as to best bring out the flavors. As you can enjoy all-you-can-eat high quality meat at your table, be sure to enjoy the meal to your heart's content. There are menus in different languages and there are staff who can speak Chinese so you don't have to worry about the language barrier here.
15. Kinryu Ramen Main Store
This is a famous ramen restaurant in the South (Minami) area which can be easily identified by its huge dragon objet sticking out from its shopfront. It is also well-known for offering seats on tatami mats which will definitely be an unique dining experience for everyone. Other than its signature ramen featuring deep-bodied pork bone soup and straight noodles, don't miss the free flow of kimchi, leeks and garlic which goes well with the ramen. As the restaurant is open 24 hours a day, you can even pop by late at night for a ramen treat!
16. Takoyaki-doraku Wanaka
At the mention of Osaka's delicacies, you definitely cannot miss the crowd favorite - takoyaki (octopus dumplings). These ball-shaped dumplings are made from specially-made hot plates where a mixture consisting of wheat flour and finely-chopped octopus and condiments is poured into the molds. Although there are many types of takoyaki shops in Osaka, Wanaka is widely regarded to be the local favorite, with its takoyaki having a crispy exterior and moist batter filled with the delicious taste of dashi (broth).
17. Sennichimae Doguyasuji
This is a shopping street featuring rows of shops specializing in kitchenware and cooking equipment that are favorites even among professionals in the culinary scene. Besides the usual things you can find in a kitchen, you can also find merchandise such as takoyaki grill molds, signboards, and lanterns here. In recent years, food samples which resemble the real thing are hugely popular. Besides finding these items at the sundry shop Design Pocket, you can even try making one of these food samples and bring home something which is uniquely yours.
18. Kuromon Market
This market which is affectionately known as Osaka's Kitchen, packs as many as about 180 shops into around a 580 meter long space. Besides the usual fresh seafood, fresh produce and clothing that can be found in most markets, look out for special items such as fugu (puffer fish) and Soft-shelled Turtle. With its large selection of restaurants, you will also be able to enjoy delicious dishes using the freshest ingredients.
19. Denden Town
This is the largest electronics shopping street in Western Japan said to be as representative as Tokyo's Akihabara. Over 500 specialty shops offer a wide range of electronic items such as appliances, machinery, tools and computers. If you have something you need but are unsure where to get it, just head to the general information counter at Nippombashi Information where you will also be able to get the local map in languages such as English, Chinese and Korean here.
20. Nippombashi Otaroad
This is the largest otaku town in Kansai and features various shops such as Animate, selling everything related to anime such as comics, duojinshi (magazines published by fans), figurines, character goods, trading cards and games. For cosplayers, be sure to check out Japan's largest cosplay event, Nippombashi Street Festa.
21. National Bunraku Theatre
This is the theatre where the intangible cultural heritage asset Bunraku (traditional puppet theatre) is performed. This art form features the manipulation of puppets along with traditional music using shamisen (Japanese 3-stringed instrument), and is well-known to be a traditional form of entertainment created in Osaka. Besides Bunraku, there are also Buyo (Japanese traditional dance) and rakugo performances. For those new to Bunraku, there are events such as the Bunraku appreciation class which will help you to understand this art form easily.
22. Osaka Shochiku-za Theater
This is Japan's first Western-style theater, built in 1923 with an elegant Neo-Renaissance-style huge arch. Besides Kabuki (Japanese traditional dance), other forms of stage arts such as musicals are also performed here. Sometimes, there are even performances targeted specifically at tourists from overseas!
▼The Tennoji and Abeno Area
The Tennoji and Abeno area is also one of the main districts in Osaka. Starting with Abeno Harukas, the area has constantly attracted commercial complexes, and now include Japanese-style gardens, art museums, a zoo in a park and an ancient temple of more than 1,000 years of history surrounding it. This is also the only place in Osaka where the tramcars are running, so you can take in the sights at a leisurely pace. Tourist hotspots such as Shinsekai at Tsutenkaku Tower are also very popular and great for experiencing the nostalgic downtown atmosphere.
23. Tsutenkaku Tower
This 103 m tall observation tower is so popular that it has more than 1 million visitors annually. Besides getting a great view of the city from the observatory, it is also home to some must-visit antenna shops of some of the major domestic food manufacturers. It's also said that if you touch the bottom of the Billiken statue's feet here you will get good luck!
24. Janjan Yokocho Alley
This shopping street stretching for around 180 m from north to south is located between Dobutsuen-mae Station and Tsutenkaku Tower. It is well-known for the assortment of of cheap and and delicious food, including yakiniku, sushi, udon (thick noodles) and izakaya (Japanese pub) fare. Thanks to the gathering of many famous kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers) restaurants such as the main store of Kushikatu Daruma, this area is also regarded as the battleground of kushikatsu restaurants.
25. Spa World
This popular hot spring facility was awarded with a star in the Michelin Green Guide and features 16 types of hot springs in 11 different countries' styles, including the ancient Roman style. There are also facilities such as the hot stone bathing house, swimming pools, and a hotel which offers great views of Tsutenkaku Tower.
26. Tennoji Zoo
This zoo houses about 1,000 animals of about 200 species with its selling point of reproducing and presenting the natural habitats of these animals as they are. You can observe animals, such as the hippopotamus and lion in the African Savanna Zone and the Asian elephant in the Asian Tropical Rain Forest Zone, up close in their natural habitat recreated.
This is Japan's oldest state-sponsored temple, having been built in the year 593. The unique style of this temple is characterized by its Middle Gate (Chumon), Five-story Pagoda (Gojunoto), Main Hall (Kindo), and Lecture Hall (Kodo) arranged in one straight line while surrounded by Japanese cloisters. Look out for the Antiques Market as well, which takes place on the 21st and 22nd of each month, where you may find something you like among the wide array of items offered.
28. Tramcar (Hankai Tramway)
This retro tramcar, which links the southern part of Osaka City and Sakai City, has been running since 1897 and is known as one of the most retro tramway lines in Japan. Along this tramway line, you can see tourist spots such as Sumiyoshi Taisha (Sumiyoshi Shrine). Don't forget to buy the one-day free pass which allows you to take unlimited rides within the day which will be a great deal especially for tourists.
29. Abeno Harukas
This 62-floor building stands over 300m-tall, making it Japan's tallest building. The commercial complex houses a department store, hotel, art museum, and observatory. For the daredevils, the much-talked-about Edge The Harukas allows you to walk on the rooftop deck while attached to a lifeline, thus offering you an unobstructed view of Osaka's sights in a thrilling manner.
▼Other Areas in Osaka City
While touring in Osaka, there are other areas which you definitely should not miss. For example, the Osaka Castle area features many tourist hotspots representative of the city, the Bay area which consists of large leisure facilities, the Tsuruhashi and Ikuno areas are each famous for their Korea Towns, and Sumiyoshi which is famous for its ancient shrine.
30. Yamamoto Noh Theater
This theater is dedicated exclusively to the performance of Noh, one of Japan's traditional arts. In order to promote and increase awareness of this art form, there are services specially aimed at foreigners, such as the provision of audio guides in English, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. There are also performances with English commentary, so this allows visitors who don't know Japanese to appreciate and understand the story.
31. Osaka Castle
This is one of Japan's top three famous castles and was built in 1583 by the famous general Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Sengoku. It has since become a symbol of Osaka with its awe-inspiring main tower and 30 m high stone wall, which is the largest in Japan. Pop by the museum located in the castle tower as well to learn more about the history of Osaka Castle!
32. Miraiza Osaka-jo
This is a multi-purpose facility with a retro charm located within Osaka-jo Koen (Osaka Castle Park). The restaurant on its rooftop offers an unrivalled dining experience where you can see the main castle tower in front of you while enjoying your food. In June 2018, the Samurai & Ninja Experience facility was opened where you can learn how to wear a kimono as well as how to hold and wield a sword to engage in a chanbara battle (mock sword fighting). Check out the Shuriken Dojo as well, where you can learn about a ninja's weapons and how to throw their shuriken, and then swing by the souvenir shop for some mementos to bring home.
This is a river cruise service on Okawa River, which runs through the centre of Osaka City. Board this at 4 locations including Osakajo Pier and go on a approximately 55-minute long cruise. The frequency of the cruise is on an hourly basis. Be greeted by signature sights such as Osaka Castle and the red-bricked Japan Mint. During spring, the sides of the rivers are filled with sakura blossoms which, along with the unique buildings lining the river, will be a visual feast and enhance your cruising experience.
34. Tsuruhashi Shopping Street and Ikuno Korea Town
The Tsuruhashi Shopping Street in the neighborhood of Tsuruhashi Station and the nearby Ikuno Korea Town just a short walk away are widely known as the Korea Towns in the Kansai region. Other than Korean restaurants, you should also check out stores selling side dishes such as kimchi, namul (seasoned vegetables) and buchimgae (Korean pancakes) and sundry stores offering merchandise related to Korean pop culture. Due to the presence of objects such as Baekje Gate (Kudara-mon) and Miyuki-dori Central Gate, this has created an unique atmosphere here which makes you forget that you are actually in Japan instead of Korea!
35. Sumiyoshi Taisha
This ancient shrine was built 1,800 years ago and is highly revered as the head shrine of about 2,300 Sumiyoshi shrines located nationwide. During the New Year period, as many as 2 million people come to pray here. Don't forget to check out the main sanctuary (Honden) which is a designated national treasure, Sorihashi which is an arch bridge with its largest bend at around 48 degrees and Goshogozen, and a rock which is said to be able to grant your wishes.
36. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
This is the world's largest aquarium which aims to replicate the environment in the Pacific Ocean. As many as 30,000 sea animals of 620 species are featured in its water tanks, such as whale sharks and penguins. The tunnel-shaped water tank titled the Fish Underpass - Aqua Gate will allow you to observe these lovely marine animals up close and in a fun manner.
37. Universal Studios Japan
This counterpart to a popular theme park in the US is one of the most popular theme parks in Japan as well! It is especially well-known for its movie-themed attractions, such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which are bound to give you a fantastical and unforgettable experience!
38. Maishima Waste Disposal Plant
This is a new generation of waste disposal plants designed by Vienna artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser which is much-talked about for its revolutionary look like a castle in a fairy tale. You will be able to tour the premises for free by making a reservation in advance and can see facilities within, such as the rubbish incinerator, as well as learn about environment preservation and what it means to coexist with nature.
Hokusetsu refers to 10 cities and towns* located in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture which is characterized by its luxurious housing estates and quiet, elegant image. Besides this, there are various pockets of greenery in the form of parks as well as tourist spots and leisure facilities that are fun for people of all ages.
*Ikeda City, Ibaraki City, Suita City, Settsu City, Takatsuki City, Toyonaka City, Mino City, Shimamoto Town, Toyono Town, and Nose Town
39. CUPNOODLES MUSEUM
This museum is based on the theme of instant ramen "Cup Noodles" from Nissin Foods. Besides featuring the packaging of cup noodles worldwide, you can also find the company's regular and region-limited products here. There is an experience corner where you can try making your original cup ramen by designing the packaging and choosing your favorite ingredients.
40. Asahi Breweries - Suita Brewery
This is the factory which makes Asahi Breweries' famous products such as Asahi Super Dry beer. You can get a free tour of the factory if you make a prior reservation. Other than observing the beer production process, you can visit the beer can exhibition hall where 6,000 cans of around 3,500 types of beer worldwide are displayed. Don't forget about the tasting of freshly-made beer here as well!
This is one of Japan's largest leisure facilities at approximately 172,000 square meters and has features such as a shopping mall and a large Ferris wheel that is said to be the tallest in Japan at 123m. Its aquarium, NIFREL, is especially popular for its use of lighting, images, and music in creating an artistic and memorable experience for its visitors.
42. Expo'70 Commemorative Park
This park originally used to be the venue of Expo'70, a world fair held in Osaka. At its center stands the symbol of the Expo named "Taiyo no To" (Tower of Sun), designed by artist Taro Okamoto. The park offers different views during the changing seasons for people of all ages. Also worth checking out is the National Museum of Ethnology which collects and displays information about the races of people in the world.
43. Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
This is Suntory's whiskey distillery, which you can tour if you have a prior reservation. Besides observing the production process, you can look at exhibits about Suntory's whiskeys in the Yamazaki Whisky Museum and sample whiskeys of the world, including rare unblended malt whiskeys.
44. Hoshida Park
This park located in Katano City features one of the largest suspension bridges for pedestrians in Japan. It is nicknamed "Hoshi no Buranko" (Star Swing). Perched at a height of 180m and with a length of 280m, this bridge allows you to take in the breathtaking sights of nature during the changing seasons in a thrilling manner, as if you were walking in mid-air. Within the park, there are also facilities such as a man-made climbing wall which is even suitable for beginners.
45. Mino Falls
The Mino Quasi-National Park is a natural habitat for 980 types of plants and more than 3,000 species of insects. While known as a beautiful place for its sakura blossoms, autumn foliage, and frost-covered trees, the park is also home to the famous Mino Falls which is 5m wide and has an elevation difference of 33m. As such, it has the nickname "Tenka no Meibaku" (famous waterfall of the world).
The 13 cities and towns in the southwestern part of Osaka Prefecture* are collectively known as "Senshu" and have many sights to offer, such as areas that have been prosperous since the old days, historical and cultural spots, and traditional festivals. Being surrounded by the sea and mountains, you can experience nature at its best, too. Kansai International Airport, which is a key hub for air travel in the Kansai region, is also in this area.
*Sakai City, Kishiwada City, Izumiotsu City, Kaizuka City, Izumisano City, Izumi City, Takaishi City, Sennan City, Hannan City, Tadaoka Town, Kumatori Town, Tajiri Town, and Misaki Town
46. Sakai Hamono Museum
This museum features the cutlery of Sakai, a city which is responsible for more than 90 percent of the country's domestically-produced knives for commercial purposes. Besides the exhibits showing how cutlery like knives are produced in the city, you can see for yourself how experts make them at the live demonstration corner and marvel at their amazing techniques. Don't forget to check out the wide variety of cutlery sold here, which includes knives for both commercial and domestic use.
47. Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun Ancient Tumulus Clusters
This is a huge cluster of 89 ancient tumulus, with the most famous being that of Emperor Nintoku, which was estimated to be built during the mid-5th century. As such, this is regarded as one of the top 3 biggest grave sites along with Egypt's Khufu Pyramid and China's Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (Qin Shihuang). At the middle of the cluster is Sakai City Museum, featuring the archaeological finds from the tumulus, including haniwa clay figurines.
48. Night View of the Sakai Senboku Coastal Industrial Zone
This is one of Kansai's most famous industrial belts, with large petroleum chemical combinators, factory chimneys, and pipes coming together to form an imposing view. At night, the illuminated area is especially popular with visitors seeking to catch the unique view as lights create a mystical atmosphere similar to a sci-fi movie.
49. Rinku Premium Outlets
This outlet mall is easily accessible from Kansai International Airport, and is modeled after a typical American port town. The beautiful townscape creates a relaxed atmosphere, as if you are at a resort. Also located nearby is Rinku Pleasure Town Seacle, a commercial complex that has a Ferris wheel for a landmark.
50. Inunakiyama Hot Spring
This is one of Osaka's famous hot spring resorts. It is located at the foot of Mount Inunaki, a quiet place which has been thought of as a location flowing with mystical energy. Embark on great hiking courses in the vicinity and throw barbecue parties in bungalows and cottages! During summer, you will be able to see fireflies as well.
Osaka is very accessible and has lots of places for tourists to explore. In addition, you can easily travel to nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe from Osaka. After reading all about this amazing city, how about paying it a visit to experience all that it has to offer?
Title Image: estherpoon / Shutterstock.com
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.