Are you planning an Osaka itinerary with your loved one and have no idea where to go? Don’t worry, I’ll show you the best attractions and things to do!
Osaka is an absolute treat to visit thanks to its vibrant atmosphere and the delicious variety of local foods. Also, we’ll take a quick detour to that most famous of Japanese castles in Himeji. So get ready for a blast of fresh air as I go through the list of attractions in Osaka!
The Osaka Itinerary
- Day 1 – Train to Osaka, Namba, Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura, Dotonbori.
- Day 2 – Osaka Castle, Shitenno-ji Temple, Shinsekai, Tsutenkaku and Abeno Harukas, Osaka Bay.
- Day 3 – Universal Studios, Umeda (ferris wheel ride).
- Day 4 – Train to Himeji, Himeji Castle, Sumiyoshi Taisha, Kitashinchi.
- I’ve put tour options on some of the places to visit as you might prefer a more exclusive experience.
- The total cost – about 250 USD. You can budget your food from a humble 500 yen rice dish to up to 6000 yen for a gourmet one. Mostly I ate within the 800 to 2000 price range. Transportation amounts to 800 yen per day thanks to the extremely handy one day subway passes you can buy in any subway station.
- This itinerary assumes you started in Kyoto from the first leg of our trip here. If you’re coming to Osaka directly, the first train on Day 1 is irrelevant.
Day 1 – Osaka Shopping & Local Food
8 am Train to Osaka
As Kyoto and Osaka are just 40 minutes away from each other by train. It’s a common route so you could catch the subway from a number of stations near Kyoto.
10 am Check in at Capsule Hotel Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi
This place is a must stay thanks to a few unique Japanese qualities.
It’s a capsule hotel which means that instead of getting your own room, you’ll be sleeping inside space-age-looking sleeping pods that offer all the benefits of a private room in miniature (except the bathroom) with even a TV inside it. It has a well stocked entertainment area with Japanese slot machines if you’re interested in wasting a little bit of time there.
Most importantly, this will be your first taste of an ofuro or a Japanese bath.
Ofuro are incredibly relaxing experiences. While being a little bit awkward in the beginning thanks to all the public nudity, it is ultimately very soothing. The simple steps of taking a proper ofuro are as follows:
- Leave your shoes.
- Put your clothes in the locker.
- Take the towel.
- Take the key and slip it on your wrist.
- Go take a seat inside the bath.
- Wash yourself and lounge in the giant tub for as long as you want.
Don’t forget, nudity inside the ofuro is totally cool but if you’re feeling a bit bashful, you can use your towel to cover yourself. The location of Capsule Hotel Asahi Plaza is conveniently located in Namba, close to Dotonbori, a premiere site for night life in Osaka.
10:30 am Namba
This entire area is so much fun to walk around. Everything is exceedingly modern, the entertainment options are virtually limitless and it’s absolutely bubbling with personality. Just a five minute walk will expose you to sights like:
- Famous local takoyaki shops.
- Balls of flour with squid on the inside and a MUST try in Osaka.
- Manga stores specializing from the relatively mundane to the positively perverse.
- Buskers busting out their latest songs.
- Canals lined with giant billboards flashing bright neon colors.
Namba are teeming with thousands of youth showing off the latest in fashion, sipping cans of beer in public and enjoying, of course, takoyaki. I even found myself acting as unofficial cheerleader for a group of university students who decided to have a friendly sumo match. We were all very loud, boisterous and had a good laugh. For specific sights to see in Namba I’d recommend:
- Shochikuza Theater where you can enjoy a traditional kabuki performance between 4000-15000 yen (show times vary).
- Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum where you can find traditional Japanese woodblock paintings for 500 yen
- The National Bunraku Theater where you can enjoy a puppet performance from 2000 to 5000 yen.
2 pm Shopping – Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura
Over half a kilometre long, Shinsaibashi is a behemoth of a shopping center. Its ceilings tower over everyone inside and the shops themselves offer a variety of items from designer clothes and bags to local produce and souvenirs. If you love shopping, I would recommend Shinsaibashi as the perfect place to splurge.
You’ll also see dozens of hole-in-the-wall type restaurants where you can get to experience more local Osaka food. I recommend trying out okonomiyaki, a flat dough made of eggs and cabbage.
Amerikamura (meaning “American village”) is the shopping area for youth. You’ll see many young people enjoying their day here in a huge variety of cafes and thrift stores looking for the latest “kawaii” (cute) piece of clothing. If you’re interested in purchasing clothes of a more youthful and risque look, this is the place to be.
Even if you’re not particularly interested in shopping, Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura are prime spots to see and understand Osaka life.
5 pm Dotonbori
There are two things that Dotonbori does incredibly well: offering you places to eat and drink. The street itself runs parallel to Dotonbori canal where you can find the famous Glico running man. Having a picture with him in the background is positively a rite of passage for all Osaka goers. In Dotonbori, you will also find the famous Kani Doraku animatronic crab sign that snaps its pincers and moves it legs from side to side. Simply walk along the street and look for whatever restaurant has the longest queue. That’s your best bet for a very special treat.
Day 2 – The Must See Osaka Attractions
10 am Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle was rebuilt in the last two decades so it’s quite new by Japanese castle standards. It even has an elevator on the inside. On the top level, take in the scenic view of Osaka, surrounding gardens that is an absolute treat in cherry blossom season, and buzzing festivities below.
|Osaka Afternoon Walking Tour with Osaka River Cruise
A personal guide will show you the streets of Osaka, escort you to Osaka Castle and finish the tour with a relaxing river cruise.
1 pm Shitenno-ji Temple
Shitenno-ji Temple is another one of Osaka’s more popular tourist attractions. A great photo shot would be the 5 story pagoda surrounded by a pebble courtyard.
The temple is a short walk from Shitennoji-mae-Yuhigaoka Station, but if you want to stick to your JR pass, get off at JR Tennoji Station and then enjoy a 10 minute walk.
4 pm Shinsekai – Tsutenkaku Tower and Abeno Harukas Skyscraper
Shinsekai (meaning “new world”) was developed after World War II as a symbol of Japan’s rejuvenation. However, it was sadly neglected and stands as an anachronistic yet idealized vision of the future. As per Osaka, you can shop and eat to your heart’s content in this area. You can even play retro video games in old arcade stores and have your future read by fortune tellers lining the streets.
I recommend a restaurant called Yokozuna here that offers ridiculous food portions for just 10 USD. Make sure to also try out kushikatsu, skewered pieces of meat and veggies.
Shinsekai is home to Tsutenkaku, an old radio tower that’s also a symbol of Osaka. A short walk away is Abeno Harukas, the tallest skyscraper in Japan.
7 pm Osaka Bay
Osaka Bay is a collection of island districts where you can enjoy sights like Osaka aquarium (be sure to get there before 7 if you want to see this as it closes at that time), Tempozan ferris wheel (it’s the city’s tallest but we’ll be going to a ferris wheel in Umeda later) as well as, um, Japan’s shortest mountain? It is literally just 5 meters above sea level. But anyway, you can find Naniwa food park here so that’s great.
|Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan Admission with Osaka Bay Cruise
See a giant whale shark in one of the biggest aquariums in the world and then enjoy a relaxing cruise around Osaka Bay.
Day 3 – Fun Day of Rides
10 am Universal Studios
You can enjoy almost a full day of fun here with multiple rides, parks and games. With rides from beloved franchises like Harry Potter, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Terminator, and Spiderman, you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Lines will be long, so if you can afford it, I’d recommend paying extra to skip the lines. You can also find famous characters like Hello Kitty and the Muppets to take pictures with.
6 pm Umeda
Umeda is the second downtown area in Osaka after Namba and Dotonbori. Here, you can find gourmet food, malls packed with more shopping to do and, my favorite, a large ferris wheel on top of Hankyu Entertainment Park. Enjoying this ferris wheel with your loved one is great fun especially if you’re able to catch the sunset. You can also find the Yodobashi Camera mall here where you can make any electronics purchases that you need.
Day 4 – Himeji and Wrapping Up Osaka
9 am Train to Himeji
The train ride will take you just over an hour to reach Himeji City. From the station, it’s just a 15 minute walk to the castle.
11 am Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is the finest castle in all of Japan and is rightfully the backdrop of many a tourist’s photo. With its gleaming white walls and soaring roofs, it stands like a beacon towering above the rest of the city. When you get the ticket, you’ll be guided on a tour throughout the castle from its battlements to its audience chambers. Depending on the time of year, there can be a lot of tourists and the interior spaces can get a little cramped. Also you’ll be walking the entire interior space of the castle without shoes so make sure to wear socks to ward off the cold wooden floor.
|Himeji Castle and Akashi Kaikyo Bridge from Osaka
Too scared to go on your own? No worries. A professional English speaking guide can take you there and share local knowledge on this 8 hour tour.
4 pm Sumiyoshi Taisha
This is one of the few shrines of note in Osaka and is a wonderful respite after the hustle and bustle of the city proper. I went here with my girlfriend on New Year’s eve (as Japanese families spend the eve at shrines praying for good fortune for the next year) and was astounded to find it positively overflowing with young people, food and game stalls. If you do go there at that time, make sure to bring 500 yen coins to offer to the altar.
6 pm Kitashinchi
We’ll spend our last night in Osaka at the famous night club area of Kitashinchi. In the olden days, Kitashinchi used to be a geisha district and it still possesses that aura of risque fun to this day. There are numerous high class restaurants and clubs in this area with notable ones including Kyabakara and Hostess Club.
If you’re interested in reading about the next leg of our journey in Tokyo, you can find it here.