25 Things to Do in Osaka

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On March 31, 2017
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Osaka is a city with a heck of a lot to offer; interesting museums, scenic parks and world-class shopping, with more than its fair share of quirky charm and thousands of back streets to explore. And let’s not forget its reputation as “Japan’s kitchen,” where kuida-ore, or eating oneself bankrupt, is not just accepted, but encouraged.

So what to do in one of Japan’s most vibrant and lively destinations? Here’s 25 ideas to get you started.

1. Travel back in time in Shinsekai

Shinsekai, or New World, was constructed in 1912 as a hip neighborhood of the future but was quickly forgotten after World War II. It’s now a relic of the past, charmingly seedy, reminiscent of an 80s dystopian flick with its neon lights and octagonal Tsutenkaku Tower (a famous symbol of Osaka). Locals and tourists alike flock to Shinsekai for a taste of neo-Osaka and to sample some of the best kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered vegetables and meat) the city has to offer.

Closest station: Ebisucho Station (Sennichimae Line)

2. Buy local seafood at Kuromon Market

Half of all sales at Kuromon are to professional chefs but those in the know come here for the fresh produce and unparalleled seafood and meat. A recent increase in tourists has spurred many shops to expand, and now there are more choices for dining-in than ever before. Sit at rustic tables and eat the freshest fish imaginable served to you by the men who caught it – often they’re still wearing their rubber boots and smell of the sea.

Opening hours: Varies by shop; most open 9:00 – 18:00
Closest station: Namba Station (Midosuji, Sennichimae, Yotsubashi lines; Nankai Main and Koya lines); Nipponbashi Station (Sennichimae and Sakaisuji lines)

3. Soak in the sun at Nakanoshima Park

Established in 1891, Nakanoshima has the distinction of being Osaka’s first park. Stretching 1.5 kilometers, it rests on an actual island between two rivers in Kitahama, the commercial center of town. It’s a perfect place to observe Osaka’s spectacular skyline, lie on the grass and people watch. It also features a large and well-labeled rose garden that blooms in mid-May and mid-October. The surrounding neighborhood is filled with hip cafes and restaurants.

Closest station: Kitahama Station (Sakaisuji line, Keihan Main line)

4. See the lion at Namba Yasaka Shrine

Photo by Stephen Kelley

An 8-minute walk from busy Namba, Namba Yasaka shrine is home to the neighborhood’s guardian deity. It’s famous for its large lion-shaped stage that was built in 1975, and thus has a delightfully retro feel. It’s believed that the lion’s mouth swallows evil spirits bringing good luck, especially for those looking for success in school and business. Because of this many people visit the shrine during exams or the start and end of the financial year.

Closest station: Namba Station (Midosuji, Sennichimae, Yotsubashi lines; Nankai Main and Koya lines)

5. See the whale shark at Osaka Kaiyukan

Located in the Osaka Bay Area, the Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in the world. Its main feature is a huge, nine-meter-deep tank filled with 5,400 tons of water in which you can see a variety of Pacific marine life swimming surprisingly peacefully alongside each other. This tank holds the aquarium’s main claim to fame: their gargantuan whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world.

Opening hours: 10:00 – 20:00 (last admission: 19:00) / ¥2300 per person
Closest station: Osakako Station (Chuo line)

6. Join the crowds in Dotonbori

The famous Dotonbori neighborhood, now an eccentric mix of restaurants and hostess bars, was once the heart of the theater district of old Osaka. The Shochiku-za Theatre, specializing in Kabuki and dating back to 1923, is all that remains of the old district. Kuida-ore, literally “to eat oneself bankrupt,” has become a saying synonymous with the many Osakan culinary delights one can find in Dotonbori, like takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes). Don’t miss the wall of neon signs that stretch over the Dotonbori river, the most famous of which is the Glico running man.

Closest station: Namba Station (Midosuji, Sennichimae, Yotsubashi lines; Nankai Main and Koya lines)

7. Get dizzy at the top of Abeno Harukas

At 300 meters with 62 floors, Osaka’s shiny monolith Abeno Harukas is the tallest building in Japan. See the 360-degree view from the building’s observation deck, made up of floor to ceiling glass windows. Completed in March 2014, it was the central feature of a total renovation of the Abeno and Tennoji neighborhoods. Go there for the sweeping views of the city and stay for the shopping at the Kintetsu Main Store, the nation’s largest department store.

Opening hours: Open from 10:00 – 22:00 / ¥1500 per person
Closest station: Tennoji Station (Midosuji and Tanimachi lines; JR Yamatoji, Loop, and Hanwa lines)

8. See the roses at Utsubo Park

Utsubo’s long and narrow shape betrays its past: it was previously used as a runway for an American airfield. It was also home to Osaka’s largest wholesale fish market, Zakoba market, from the Edo period until 1931. Surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers of the Utsubo-Hommachi business district, it offers a lunchtime escape for busy office workers on weekdays. Weekends see families flock to its grassy lawns and tree-lined pathways for afternoon picnics. Its famed rose garden and man-made stream add to its charm.

Closest station: Awaza Station (Chuo and Sennichimae lines)

9. Visit Shitennoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in Japan

This grand Buddhist temple complex in the middle of busy Tennoji is sometimes regarded as the oldest official temple in Japan. Prince Shotoku, credited as the man who brought Buddhism to Japan, had the temple constructed in the late 500s by a group of Korean carpenters. The complex, which has been rebuilt over the centuries and is currently undergoing restoration, is quite grand. It is comprised of a golden pavilion, a lecture hall with a covered corridor, a five-story pagoda, and large south, east, and west gates.

Opening hours: Apr-Sept 8:30 – 16:30; Oct-Mar 8:30 16:00 
Closest station: Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station (Tanimachi line)

10. See all of Osaka from the Umeda Sky Building

Comprised of two 40-story buildings connected at the top by a circular roof from which you can see the entirety of Osaka and beyond, Umeda Sky Building’s distinct silhouette is a known landmark of Osaka. It features an inside observatory on the 39th floor from which to take in the view away from the elements. The 40th floor has an outdoor observation deck that offers a 360-degree view of downtown Osaka and its surroundings.

Opening hours: Open 10:00 – 22:30 (last admission 22:00) / Adults: ¥1000 / Children: ¥500
Closest station: Umeda Station (Midosuji line; Hankyu Kobe, Kyoto, and Takarazuka lines; Hanshin Main line); Osaka Station (most JR lines)

11. Take a spin on the HEP 5 ferris wheel

105 meters from the ground and 75 meters in diameter, a bright red ferris wheel sits atop HEP 5, one of Umeda’s hippest malls. Its glass-walled gondolas offer grand views of the city below and the surrounding metropolitan area – you can even spot Nara’s Mt. Ikoma in the distance on clear days. However, rider beware: there’s a local legend that if you take a spin with your significant other, you’ll break up soon after!

Opening hours: Open 11:00 – 22:45 (last boarding time) / ¥500 per person
Closest station: Umeda Station (Midosuji line; Hankyu Kobe, Kyoto, and Takarazuka lines; Hanshin Main line); Osaka Station (most JR lines)

12. Get schooled in Japanese history at the Museum of Housing and Living

Photo by OZinOH

This family-friendly museum has an observatory from which you can look down on a reconstructed mid-19th century (late Edo period) model of old Osaka. It’s the only one of its kind in Japan and even features lights that dim when the sun sets. You can then enter the town and visit old merchants’ shops including a kimono shop and cabinetmaker, a sento (public bath house), and a town hall.

Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:00 (last admission: 16:00) / Closed Tuesdays and every third Monday / ¥600
Closest station: Tenjinbashi-suji 6-chome Station (Tanimachi and Sakaisuji lines)

13. Walk down Tenjinbashi-suji, Japan’s longest shopping street

With its origins in the early Meiji era (1868-1912), Tenjinbashi-Suji is one of the first shopping streets in Osaka. At 2.6 kilometers, it’s the longest shopping street in Japan and spans the distance of nearly three subway stations. It’s a far cry from the fancy malls of Namba and Umeda – here you can shop like the locals do, poking into the approximately 600 small shops, exploring what the mostly independently-owned stores have to offer.

Opening hours: Vary by shop
Closest station: Tenjinbashisuji 6-chome Station (Tanimachi and Sakaisuji lines)

14. Go shopping at the futuristic Grand Front

Grand Front is the first in a series of projects planned to transform the abandoned freight rail yard by Umeda station into a commercial space for the public. Here you’ll find world-class restaurants, European-style cafes, name-brand flagship stores, international brands, and a futuristic version of the shopping mall that includes concept stores that offer interactive features and workshops. With 266 shops and 95 restaurants and bars, this is three hectares of shopping heaven.

Opening hours: Shops: 10:00 – 21:00; restaurants: 11:00 – 23:00; Umekita Floor: 11:00-16:00
Closest station: Umeda Station (Midosuji line; Hankyu Kobe, Kyoto, and Takarazuka lines; Hanshin Main line); Osaka Station (most JR Lines)

15. Buy some kitchen wares on Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping street

Photo by foomtsuruhashi

Where do those in the know get their kitchen essentials? Look no further than Doguyasuji (“street of cooking tools”) a playground for cooking hobbyists and professional chefs alike. 150 meters-long, Doguyasuji has everything you’d ever think of (and lots of things you wouldn’t) on offer. Kitchen wares have been sold in the general area since the 1880s, when traders pedalled their merch along the oft-visited streets between Hozenji Temple in Namba and Shitennoji Temple in Tennoji.

Opening hours: Vary by shop
Closest station: Namba Station (Midosuji, Sennichimae, Yotsubashi lines; Nankai Main and Koya lines)

16. Visit the grand Osaka Castle and park

One of Japan’s most famous landmarks, Osaka castle was first constructed in the late 1500s by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a samurai and politician who is known as Japan’s second “great unifier.” Designed to be a stronghold against attackers, it has a long history of being demolished and rebuilt and has survived multiple fires and attacks. During World War II, it was used as an armory and 90 percent of it was destroyed in a bombing raid. In 1995, construction was begun to restore the castle to its original splendor. The exterior is a copy of the original Edo-era castle and there is a history museum within. Osaka Castle Park contains some of the city’s best-landscaped gardens, including plum and cherry groves.

Open hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Closest station: Tanimachi 4-chome Station (Tanimachi and Chuo lines), Osakajo Koen Station (JR Loop line)

17. Visit Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine at the new year

Photo by Andrey Grushnikov

This Shinto shrine in the south of Osaka dates back all the way to the year 211. It is the main shrine of Japan’s three Sumiyoshi shrines and one of the most popular shrines to visit in Osaka, especially during hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the new year. It is well-known for its taiko bashi, a red bridge with a high arch that stands grandly at the entrance.

Opening hours: Apr-Sept 6:00 – 17:00, Oct-Mar 6:30 – 17:00
Closest station: Sumiyoshi-taisha Station (Nankai line)

18. Take a dip at Spa World

Photo by foomtsuruhashi

This huge seven-story establishment filled with baths from around the globe is open for a full day of pampering in a fantastically kitsch atmosphere. It’s divided into an Asian Zone and a European Zone, both featuring model baths and saunas from countries where bathing culture is prevalent. Far from authentic, the baths are delightfully cheesy in a Las Vegas-meets-Japan kind of way. It also features a large swimming pool with kid-friendly slides (wear your swimsuit here).

Opening hours: Open 24 hours / Adults: ¥2400 for 3 hours; ¥2700 for an all-day pass / Children: ¥1300
Closest station: Shin-Imamiya Station (JR loop and Yamatoji lines; Nankai Main and Koya lines)

19. Buy some vintage clothes in Amemura

This thriving neighborhood has its roots in the late 1960s, when a hip cafe opened, attracting young people and artists. A community quickly formed and over the years it expanded into the hotbed for vintage clothing and home decor shops, cafes, bars and clubs it is today. It has retained its international and alternative vibe and is a great place for people watching.

Closest station: Shinsaibashi (Midosuji and Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi lines)

20. Spend all your money in Shinsaibashi

For all the crowds and bright lights, you wouldn’t know it, but Shinsaibashi has a history that stretches all the way back to the 1600s, when a man named Shinsai Okada built a long wooden bridge across the Nagahori-gawa canal. The bridge was named after him (Shinsaibashi, or Shinsai bridge). Today, big international names like Uniqlo and H&M are found here, as well as Japanese brands United Arrows and BEAMS, and more budget-friendly shops like Spins and Berushka. The surrounding area is home to some of Osaka’s chicest brands, including Gucci, Dior, and Chanel.

Opening hours: Vary by store
Closest station: Shinasaibashi (Midosuji and Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi lines)

21. Take a boat tour with Kitahama Rumba

Kitahama Rumba is a romantic Spanish restaurant in Kitahama which overlooks the Tosabori River and Nakanoshima Park. They offer a special 60-minute nighttime river cruise from which you can see many famous sights of Osaka including Osaka Castle, Nakanoshima Park, and Dotonbori. A bottle of your choice of champagne or wine is included. They also offer a mini cruise on the Dotonbori river, an excellent way to see Dotonbori’s bustling nightlife from a unique perspective.

Opening hours: River cruise: from 18:00-, 19:00-, 20:00-, 21:00-; restaurant 18:00 – 25:00; last order 23:00 / River cruise costs ¥30000 for one boat; Dotonbori Mini Cruise costs ¥1000/adult, ¥800/child
Closest station: Kitahama (Sakaisuji and Keihan Main lines)

22. Spend all day at Expo ‘70 Commemorative Park

Located in Suita, Expo ‘70 Park (Banpaku-kinen-koen) rests on the former site of the 1970 Osaka World Exposition, the first world fair held in Asia. After the expo was finished, the pavilions were broken down and the park was built where they once stood. Today it is an expansive park featuring multiple landscaped gardens, well-manicured walking trails, two museums, and various pieces of modern art, including artist Taro Okamoto’s famous Tower of the Sun which stands grandly at the entrance.

Opening hours: 9:30 – 17:00 (last entrance 16:30), (closed Wednesdays) / ¥250
Closest station: Banpaku-kinen-koen Station (Osaka monorail) accessible by Hankyu-Senri line

23. Ride the roller coasters at Universal Studios Japan

USJ opened in 2001 and welcomes eight million visitors a year. All the rides are in Japanese (points for a cool cultural experience!) It features many rides featuring new technology, including the Hollywood Dream backwards roller coaster and the Spiderman ride that uses 4KHD technology. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which features a recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade as well as a 3D roller coaster, opened in 2014. Don’t miss it in October – all of the rides re-open with Halloween themes, and zombies roam the grounds when night falls.

Opening hours: 8:30 – 21:00 
Closest station: Universal City Station (Sakurajima line)

24. See otaku culture first-hand in Den Den Town

Photo by DocChewbacca

Osaka’s smaller version of Tokyo’s Akihabara, Den Den Town is paradise for otaku, or nerd culture. Here you can find hundreds of shops selling manga, anime, video games, and a selection of electronics (den den is an abbreviation of denki, or electricity). There are also a few record shops here, as well as a selection of maid cafes – yep, the waitresses are dressed as French maids. If you’re here in mid-March, you might catch the cosplay festival, when locals dress up as anime characters and pose for photos on the streets.

Opening hours: Vary by shop
Closest station: Ebisucho Station (Sennichimae line)

25. Make your own ramen at Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum

Definitely something you’d only find in Japan, this museum is dedicated to Momofuku Ando, the founder of Cup Noodles, and the product itself. This kid-friendly museum features a display of Cup Noodles from around the world as well as a tunnel lined with instant noodle packages from the past. The museum offers a ramen workshop where you can make your own fresh noodles (reservations required) as well as a noodle factory where you can get creative and make your own ramen cup from a selection of pre-made ingredients (¥300).

Opening hours: 9:30 – 16:00; closed Tuesdays / ¥500, free for kids up to 18
Closest station: Ikeda Station (Hankyu-Takarazuka line)


This is a sponsored article in collaboration with the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau.

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Likes getting lost (not always intentionally) in the backstreets of Osaka.

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