The Ultimate Travel Guide to Osaka: Transport, Weather, and Where to Eat, Visit, and Stay!
Osaka is filled with things to do and places to see, from eating delicious food to visiting the trendiest shopping and sightseeing areas. This ultimate guide will give you the rundown on all the important tips for your visit and help you put together your itinerary according to your budget. Read on to find out how to best spend your time in Osaka by learning about the top areas to visit, stay, and eat, as well as useful information about weather and transportation!
Sep 02 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
Introduction to Osaka
Osaka City, the capital of Osaka Prefecture, is the second main city in Japan following the Tokyo metropolitan area, which includes Tokyo and Yokohama. The city is the largest in western Japan with a population of approximately 8.8 million people. Thanks to the Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport), the city is easily accessible from overseas and only two and a half hours away from Tokyo via bullet train.
Roughly 500 years ago, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, famous for unifying Japan and ending the violent Sengoku era, built Osaka Castle and gathered nearby townsmen to establish a city. Combined with Osaka's valuable location on the eastern edge of the Seto Inland Sea, a major transportation route for Japan, Osaka gradually developed into a hub for politics and the economy. Later in the Edo period (1603 - 1868), the city grew rapidly with today's Namba and Shinsaibashi districts at its center. Businesses and circulation of commodities thrived, so much so that the city was referred to as "Japan's kitchen" and served as the economic capital of the country.
As such, the city prospered with lively interactions between customers and merchants. Merchants used entertaining conversations to sell their products, and a unique culture of comedy emerged from the honing of these entertainment skills. Today, Osaka is known as "the birthplace of Japan's comedy culture". People from the region are characterized as particularly friendly and candid, even with strangers, making it an unforgettable city for foreigners to feel comfortable and welcomed in.
A major reason why Osaka is a great tourist destination is the sheer abundance of places to visit. From the trendy commercial district, Umeda; the culinary and fashion districts, Namba and Shinsaibashi; the downtown districts, Tennoji and Shinsekai; all the way to the entertainment district, Bay Area, which includes Universal Studios Japan, there is a wide variety of exciting areas sprawled across the city. Osaka was also chosen as the hosting city for the 2025 World Expo and continues to be a thriving major city in Japan.
Where Is Osaka Located?
Osaka Prefecture is located in the western area of Japan, called the Kansai region. The southwestern edge of the prefecture faces the Osaka Bay, which is a part of the Seto Inland Sea.
Weather in Osaka
Climate and Rainfall
Osaka generally has a dry climate with fairly little rainfall throughout the year. Because there are many buildings and lots of concrete, the city gets very hot during the summer as a result of the notorious urban heat island phenomenon. The temperature does not get much lower in the night, so make sure to take good care of yourself during your visit. During the winter months there is almost no snowfall in the flat areas, and when it snows it usually does not exceed a few centimeters.
Although the weather is often quite clear, make sure to check the forecasts during your visit. Especially during the typhoon season between July and September, checking the weather regularly will help you plan your trip and avoid getting stuck in the rain without an umbrella.
Top Sightseeing Areas in Osaka
There are plenty of places in Osaka to experience its unique culture. Here are some of the must-visit areas for your visit.
1. A Taste of History: Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is adored by locals as a symbol of the prefecture. Hashiba (Toyotomi) Hideyoshi, the strongest political figure in Japan at the time, ordered the construction of Osaka Castle in 1583. Built on top of where Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple once stood, the glorious castle was designed to reflect Hideyoshi's status as the legendary "unifier of Japan". After Hideyoshi's death, Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shogun (general) of the Tokugawa dynasty, ordered a complete rebuilding of the castle.
In 1997, Osaka Castle was recognized as one of Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties. The castle tower as it now stands has 58 floors, reaching 54.8 meters high. The sengan-yagura (turret), which was built to manage Otemon Gate at the front entrance of the castle from the northwestern part, is historically known as the "impenetrable tower".
Floors 1-8 in the castle have a tearoom, archive, decorative folding screens, and plenty of exhibited objects and models that recreate the historical setting of the castle. The observation deck on floor 8 provides a beautiful view of Osaka's streets and Osaka Castle Park from 50 meters aboveground.
▼Osaka Castle Official Website:
2. Downtown Exploration: Shinsekai (Tsutenkaku, Yokocho)
Located in the southern part of Osaka City, the Shinsekai district is famous for its Tsutenkaku Tower and Janjan Yokocho Alley. The district was established in 1903 when Tenno-ji Park, the first Tsutenkaku Tower, and an amusement park were built to commemorate the site of the 5th Promotion of Domestic Industries Exposition (today's Tenno-ji and Shinsekai districts). Theatres and cinemas followed, developing the district into the thriving area it is today, which can be viewed from Tsutenkaku Tower's 94.5-meter high observation deck.
Nearby, the 180-meter long Janjan Yokocho Alley is packed with Osaka's staple cuisines, including kushikatsu (deep-fried meat and vegetable skewers) and doteyaki (beef tendon stewed with miso and sweet sake seasoning). You will find a lively downtown atmosphere and plenty of restaurants offering cheap and delicious dishes. Many visitors also enjoy taking photographs of the colorful store banners and amusing sights, such as the statue of Billiken, the god of good fortune, and the restaurant Zuboraya's large pufferfish-shaped lantern. The vibrant alley is popular from day to night with both locals and visitors.
3. Endless Food and Shopping: Osaka Minami (Shinsaibashi and Namba Districts)
In Osaka, the Osaka Station and Umeda Station area is referred to as the Kita (north) area, while the Shinsaibashi Station and Namba station area is called the Minami (south) area. The Kita area is a bustling metropolitan terminal area, with skyscrapers, hotels, and large shopping malls. The Minami area has a more of a downtown atmosphere, full of the rich liveliness special to Osaka.
In the Minami area, you can visit the Dotonbori neighborhood to see the colorful neon lights; Shinsaibashi Shopping Street, which attracts around 60,000 shoppers on weekdays and 120,000 people on weekends; America-mura, the center of Osaka's youth culture; the Horie neighborhood, which has many stylish stores and cafes; and the comedy theatre, Namba Grand Kagetsu.
The Dotonbori area is a great place to enjoy Osaka's cuisine, which is characterized by being both affordable and delicious. Always vibrant with both locals and visitors, there are plenty of restaurants where you can try local Osaka dishes such as takoyaki (ball-shaped fried batter with octopus), okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), and kushikatsu. If you want to take a break from the energetic atmosphere, the 80-meter long Hozen-ji Yokocho (alley) provides a quieter, classically Japanese setting, with traditional Japanese restaurants, izakaya, and bars.
Osaka Gourmet Guide
Cheap and delicious are the two major characteristics of Osaka's local cuisine. Historically referred to as "Japan's kitchen", Osaka is still considered an important food capital that developed from its background as a prosperous merchant society.
There are three main must-try local dishes in Osaka. The first is takoyaki, made by mixing in pieces of octopus meat and other ingredients into a flour batter and cooking them into ball-shaped, bite-size portions. Okonomiyaki is another staple local dish, a kind of savory pancake made with ingredients like meat, seafood, and vegetables mixed into a flour batter. Finally, fried meat/vegetable skewers, called kushikatsu, are also indispensable to the food culture of Osaka.
There are countless specialty restaurants that serve these three dishes, so make sure to try them all!
Osaka has an inexhaustible number of areas to enjoy delicious food. Head to the main downtown district Umeda for a wide range of cuisines and price ranges, Dotonbori for inexhaustible restaurants and bars, or Shinsekai for their specialty kushikatsu stores. Alternatively, the Korea town Tsuruhashi is a great place to look for yakiniku (Japanese-style BBQ) restaurants, and Kuromon Market has a large selection of fresh seafood, fruits, and local cuisines.
Food tourism is a must in Osaka, and it will not disappoint! If you don't know where to start, click here to find our recommendations for "30 Cheap and Delicious Restaurants in Osaka".
Osaka Shopping Guide
There is no shortage of places to shop in Osaka, whether it's in Umeda for large stores and brands, Nakazaki-cho for handmade products, America-mura for trendy items, Shinbashi and Namba for shopping streets and malls, or Kuromon Market for a wide range of food products. If you're ever confused or can't decide what to buy, try asking the staff for help! With so many places to shop from, you will undoubtedly come across many items you want to purchase. Click here to see our recommendations for trendy shopping spots, or here to read about "20 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Osaka"!
Events in Osaka
Spring (March, April, May)
Japan's most important spring event is arguably "hanami", where people gather to enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom. There are many popular spots around Osaka to take part in the cherry blossom viewings, including the Expo '70 Commemorative Park planted with 5,500 cherry blossom trees of nine varieties, Osaka Castle Park where you can enjoy the view of Osaka Castle and the surrounding trees together, and Kema Sakuranomiya Park to see the banks of Kyu-yodo River painted pink with the cherry blossom flowers.
The Japan Mint's cherry blossom viewing area is particularly popular every year, and around 350 cherry blossom trees of roughly 130 varieties line its 560-meter long path.
Cherry blossom trees bloom depending on weather conditions, so it varies every year, but they usually bloom between late March to mid-April. If you plan a visit during then, you will hopefully encounter these beautiful sights!
Summer (June, July, August)
During the summer months, many events take place around Osaka, including traditional Japanese festivals, fireworks, outdoor music festivals, and beer gardens. Osaka's largest festival, Tenjin Matsuri, takes place at Osaka Tenmangu every year on July 24th and 25th. On the 25th, you can see the Rikutogyo celebration where around 3,000 people wearing colorful traditional clothes accompany the carrying of a small portable shrine. The Funetogyo celebration takes place on the same day, filling the Kyu-yodo River with many traditional boats.
The finale of the Tenjin Matsuri, which has a history of over 1,000 years, is the Tenjin Matsuri Hono Fireworks Show. Around 5,000 fireworks light up Osaka's evening sky in a dynamic fashion, accompanying the Funetogyo celebration's elegant parade on the water.
Other popular fireworks events include the Naniwa Yodo Fireworks Show, featuring an astonishing 20,000 fireworks, which takes place on the second Saturday of August near the Yodo River, and the Senshu Oto to Hikari no Yume Fireworks Show, where the fireworks are accompanied by music, which takes place on a weekend sometime in late August to early September every year at Tarui Southern Beach.
Autumn (September, October, November)
Osaka's famous autumn event is the nationally famous Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri. With a history extending 300 years, this event is held in Osaka Prefecture's Kishiwada City. This festival was originally celebrated in prayer for bountiful grain harvests, but in recent years it has become known as a festival for people in the community to come together.
The highlight of this festival is the Yarimawashi event, where a large group of men carry a 4-ton danjiri (the Western Japanese word for festival floats) at full speed and make sharp right turns. Feeling the energy and speed of this event is an unforgettable experience.
It can be quite dangerous when the danjiri passes through, so if you go see this event, be careful and stay away from the road area or you may be knocked over! This festival takes place in two parts, with the first in mid-September and the second in early October.
Winter (December, January, February)
The winter season is busy with festivals for Japanese people as they ring in the new year. Around 1 million people attend the popular Ebisu Matsuri (Toka Ebisu), which takes place over three days between January 9th and 11th. The festival is celebrated to pray for business prosperity at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine, which is known to be the dwelling place of the god of business.
Visitors who come to pray are conferred (paid) "lucky charms" from the shrine called kodakara or kiccho. These come in the form of bundled items such as komedawara (straw rice bags), koban (gold coins), and red sea breams. It is said that displaying these kodakara brings prosperity to businesses, so if you have a chance to attend the festival, we recommend that you receive one!
A major event that takes place all around Japan on the 3rd of February each year is Setsubun. This event is celebrated by scattering roasted soy beans and reciting the phrase, "Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi", meaning "demons outside, good fortune inside". Afterwards, the number of beans equal to your age (or one more) are eaten to ward off evil. At Sumiyoshi Shrine, to help you ward off evil, free soy beans and zenzai (a sweet soup made with sugar-boiled adzuki beans) are handed out!
If you visit Osaka during the winter, visiting these shrines is a wonderful way to experience Japanese culture and customs first hand.
How to Get to Osaka
Osaka's two airports are the Kansai International Airport and the Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport), which is used primarily for domestic flights. As of April 2019, Kansai International Airport has an average of 579.8 arrivals and departures, and Osaka International Airport has an average of 376.1 arrivals and departures every day. With many direct flights to and from around Japan, Osaka is a popular access point for foreign visitors.
Main train stations of nearby prefectures can be conveniently accessed from either airport, including Osaka's Umeda Station, Hyogo's Sannomiya Station, and Kyoto's Kyoto Station. For visitors with a lot of luggage, express buses are available so that you don't have to worry about carrying around your luggage.
Traveling Within Osaka
Trains get very packed with commuters during the morning and evening rush hours. The peak congestion times are 7:00 am to 8:30 am and 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm on weekdays. If possible, avoid using the trains during these times, or make sure to plan ahead for any delays. As a traffic-heavy city, Osaka has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in Japan. Many of these accidents take place at intersections, so take care and look out for cars when crossing the street.
Trains are the general mode of transportation to get around Osaka, and there are many train companies, including JR, Osaka Metro, Hankyu, Keihan, and Kintetsu. All of the main sightseeing and shopping areas are easily accessible by train, making them the most convenient option.
Osaka's city bus has bus stops in many convenient locations, such as the Abe-no-Hashi stop near Osaka Station, as well as Namba, Abeno Harukas, and the Nishikujo stop to catch the train to Universal Studios Japan. The advantage of taking the bus is that you can enjoy views of the city, but be warned that depending on the road traffic, times can be less reliable compared to the trains.
Osaka's taxis have a base fare of 660 yen. If you are traveling as a group, depending on the distance to your destination, it may be cheaper to split a taxi ride. An increasing number of taxis now accept credit cards for an easier payment process. Taxis are quite safe and reliable in Japan, and you won't run the risk of getting unfairly charged.
Many taxi drivers will not be able to accommodate foreign languages, but as long as you are able to communicate your destination, taxis are the most comfortable way to get around the city. You can find taxi stands at trains stations or raise your hand to call one over to the side of the road.
If you aren't traveling on a tight budget, we recommend booking a tour taxi. The average rate for a regular 4-seater taxi is about 15,000 yen for 3 hours, and you can choose from a variety of routes to explore the city comfortably. Your taxi driver may even be able to recommend some local spots to personalize your tour!
If you own an international driver's license, we also recommend renting a car if you would rather not be worried about time or getting to the right location via public transport. For larger groups of people, the total cost can be split, so renting a car may be an ideal inexpensive option. Make sure to drive carefully if you do rent a car, as Osaka has a fairly high rate of car accidents. Take extra caution when driving near intersections to avoid collisions, and refrain from driving if you are not confident driving on the left side of the road!
For shorter distances, renting bicycles is highly recommended, especially during the comfortable temperatures in spring and autumn. You can move about at your own pace, stop wherever you want, and enjoy the view while you're at it! If you want to experience the city like a local, this is the best way to do it.
Osaka Accommodation Guide
Osaka is a popular tourism destination for Japanese people, but because direct flights are accessible from many other Asian countries, the number of foreign tourists has increased significantly in the past few years. As a result, many of the popular accommodations quickly get fully booked, so we recommend making accommodation plans are early as possible!
The most popular places to stay are near famous sightseeing areas such as Umeda Station and Tennoji, which are also easily accessible from other parts of Japan. We also recommend the Nakanoshima area, near Kyu-yodo River and Tosabori River. It is a business district with many tall buildings, but the area is also home to the nature-filled Nakanoshima Park as well as historical buildings.
The Osaka City Central Public Hall in Nakanoshima is a designated Important Cultural Property, and the Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library is also located right next to it. Why not pay a visit before taking a break at one of the stylish riverside cafes? With a wide range of options in every area depending on your preferences and budget, you should have no problem finding an ideal accommodation in the largest city in western Japan. For specific recommendations for places to stay in Osaka, click here!
The average price range for hotels in Japan is approximately 8,000 - 20,000 yen for a night per person. Services vary depending on the hotel, but most of them have a concierge and are able to provide information and recommendations regarding transportation and places to go around the city. In recent years, there has been an increase in concierges that are able to accommodate various languages, so feel free to ask for their help!
From large hotels that have restaurants and public baths to smaller and more affordable city hotels, the advantage of staying at a hotel is the ability to find the right place according to your budget and purpose from a wide variety of options.
Ryokan (Japanese-style inns) are on average 10,000 - 20,000 yen per night, per person. Services vary depending on the ryokan, but they are a wonderful way to experience Japanese culture, from tatami (straw mats) flooring, yukata (casual kimonos), onsen (hot springs), and Japanese gardens, to traditional Japanese houses. There are many opportunities to enjoy uniquely Japanese experiences, like having a Japanese dinner in your thoughtfully designed and traditionally-styled room. If you stay at a ryokan with a public bath, you can take a relaxing bath to soothe your body after a busy day.
Business hotels are a good alternative to hotels and ryokan if you are looking to save some money, at an average price of 6,000 - 10,000 yen per night, per person. They are able to keep costs low by only providing the necessary services for a comfortable stay, with minimal furniture, electronics, and amenities.
Because they used to be frequented mostly by traveling businessmen from around Japan, many of the business hotels are located near train stations. More recently, business hotels have been popular with foreign tourists for their clean and comfortable rooms provided at affordable prices.
We highly recommend experiencing a capsule hotel as one of your uniquely Japanese experiences. At approximately 2,500 - 5,000 yen per night, per person, they provide simple sleeping spaces that fit one person in each "capsule". Capsule hotels were originally used by salarymen who had missed the last train home, but more recently they have become quite popular with travelers looking for cheap accommodation.
More and more capsule hotels have been popping up around the city, popular for their simplicity, design, amenities, and comfortable mattresses. The newer ones are especially concerned with providing comfort for visitors, so it's definitely worth considering staying at one!
Guest houses are popular for backpackers, and they generally provide accommodation for about 3,000 - 7,000 yen per night, per person. Prices are relatively cheap, but they are also used by travelers who enjoy interacting with other visitors and locals in shared spaces. An increasing number of guest houses are connected to cafes or bars where you can make conversation with the owner or locals to learn more about the city.
*Prices mentioned for all the types of hotels above vary depending on busy periods.
Osaka Tourist Information Centers
Osaka's ever expanding transportation network means that you may find yourself lost at one point, but not to worry! Here are some tourist information centers you can look out for if you have any trouble reaching your destination. Of all the tourist information centers, we recommend finding one with a JNTO certification. JNTO stands for the Japan National Tourism Organization, and they have established tourist information centers in convenient areas around the city.
Here are 3 tourist information centers that offer help and information English, as well as some other languages. If you need directions, recommendations, or help, make use of these centers to make your trip a smoother and more enjoyable experience!
Kansai Tourist Information Center (Kansai International Airport)
This tourist information center, located on the 1st floor of terminal 1 of the Kansai International Airport, provides tourism information for Osaka as well as other areas of Japan in English, Chinese, and Korean. They offer transportation passes as well as ticket reservations for Universal Studios Japan. Other services include money exchange for 33 currencies, and reservations for hotels all around Japan.
▼Kansai Tourist Information Website
・Hankyu Tourist Center (Umeda District)
The Hankyu Tourist Center is run by the Hankyu railway company, which connects Osaka, Hyogo, and Kyoto Prefectures. Located in Umeda Station, the multilingual staff provide a variety of services, including offering useful pamphlets containing tourism and transportation information, transportation tickets/passes, rental Wi-Fi routers, and even free unisex kimono rentals for you to take memorable photos!
▼Hankyu Tourist Center Website
・Tourist Information Center Namba Match (Namba District)
This tourist information center is located on Namba Nankai-dori in Namba's busy area. The staff speak English and Chinese (and sometimes Korean) and are able to provide you with directions to various sightseeing spots. There are also tablets in the information center that you can use to search for information about the surrounding areas, including restaurants, shopping areas, and recommendations from locals, making them a useful way for you to design a personalized travel itinerary.
▼Namba Match Website
Osaka Emergency Information
If you experience an injury or fall ill during your stay in Japan, use the website below to search from around 900 medical facilities around Japan that accept international patients. The downloadable PDF Guide for Using Medical Institutions provides information on how to access medical help, a bilingual chart to describe your symptoms, and information in case of an earthquake or emergency.
▼Medical Emergency Guide
Visit a police station if you encounter any troubles, lose an item, get lost, or become victim of a crime. The website below has a map of police stations around Osaka, as well as answers to common questions about lost property and emergency numbers for police stations. Give it a read to enjoy a safer trip and make sure you are prepared if any issues occur.
▼Osaka Prefectural Police Website
Information for Muslim Travelers
For information about halal restaurants, take a look at the website below. You can filter restaurants by keywords, prefectures, and genres to help you find the right restaurant!
▼Halal Gourmet Japan Website
Traveling from Osaka
Whether by bullet train, plane, or bus, there are many ways to travel to other major tourist destinations in Japan including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Okinawa.
● Bullet Train
The Japan Rail Pass allows you to ride JR-operated train lines and buses, including bullet trains, freely for its duration. The 7-day pass costs 29,110 yen, and the 14-day pass costs 46,390 yen. We recommend that you buy a bento box (Japanese lunch box) at the station to enjoy on the bullet train. Traveling across Japan via bullet train as you gaze at the views outside of the window is a uniquely Japanese experience. Click here to learn more about the JR Travel Pass!
Depending on the distance from the airport to your destination, traveling by airplane is the most efficient way to travel long distances. Japanese airlines are known for their hospitality, and LLC (Low-Cost Carrier) flights are becoming more popular, so flights can be a fast and affordable way to travel to other destinations. During some seasons, you can buy round-trip flights to places like Tokyo, Hokkaido, and Okinawa from Osaka for around 5,000 yen by taking the earliest or latest flights.
If you are looking for the most affordable option, we recommend traveling via an express bus. The travel time is significantly longer compared to bullet trains or airplanes, but the prices are normally a few thousand yen, half or less of what you would pay to ride a bullet train. At cheapest, there are buses that run between Osaka and Tokyo for about only 1,500 yen!
Taking a night bus will also allow you to get some rest, making it not only cheap but time-efficient! The advantage of taking an express bus is that it allows you to enjoy the delicious regional cuisines offered at the rest stops along the way.
Research the best option for your budget and destination beforehand to travel efficiently and comfortably in Japan!
*Prices vary depending on destinations and busy periods.
Shin-Osaka - Hokkaido (Hakodate City)
Via Bullet Train: Approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes
(Osaka Station → Shin Osaka Station → Tokyo Station → Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station → Hakodate Station)
Via Airplane: Approximately 3 hours and 30 mins
(Osaka Station → Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) → Hakodate Airport → Hakodate Station)
Shin-Osaka - Tokyo (Tokyo City)
Via Bullet Train: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes
(Shin-Osaka Station → Tokyo Station)
Via Airplane: Approximately 3 hours
(Shin-Osaka Station - Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) → Haneda Airport → Tokyo Station)
Via Express Bus: Approximately 8 hours
(Osaka City bus terminals → Tokyo bus terminals)
Shin-Osaka - Fukuoka (Hakata City)
Via Bullet Train: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes
(Shin-Osaka Station → Hakata Station)
Via Airplane: Approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes
(Shin-Osaka Station → Kansai International Airport → Fukuoka Airport → Hakata Station)
Shin-Osaka - Okinawa (Naha City)
Via Airplane: Approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes
(Shin-Osaka Station → Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) → Naha Airport)
* These estimates are minimum travel times. Actual times may vary depending on the time of day and traffic conditions.
Visit the Exciting City of Osaka!
Osaka is a lively place, filled with visitors from all over the world. With so many things to do, it may be difficult to decide what to prioritize. We hope that the information in this guide will help make sure you know all the tips and tricks to enjoy a smooth and pleasant visit!
Osaka is also near some other popular sightseeing destinations like the prefectures of Kyoto and Nara, which are easily accessible from Osaka. If you have the time, we highly recommend that you also visit these places which are rich with historical charm!
*All the information provided in this article is accurate at the time of publication.
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Title Image: Jo Panuwat D / Shutterstock
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.