Osaka, the second largest city of Japan is the metropolitan of Kansai. This modern lively city of West Japan gives off an impressive amount of energy. With historical landmarks, fabulous night life, various kinds of entertainments, and most important (for me), extremely delicious food, Osaka is a city that you will never get bored of. Here are the top 15 things to do in the wonderful city of Osaka!
15. Have a Fantastic Time at Universal Studio Japan
Universal Studios Japan is one of Japan’s best amusement parks, and it is right there in Osaka. The park has its famous American-locations-themed sections, but the catch of USJ is the time-limited Japan exclusive instalments such as the Biohazard, Monster Hunter, Attack on Titans and One Piece attractions. By 2020, the new Nintendo-themed area will also open, bringing the beloved characters and worlds of Mario and Zelda to life. Fans of Japanese anime and video games who also enjoy theme parks will find something truly exciting for themselves here at Universal Studio Japan.
14. Experience Nostalgic Osaka from the Neon-lit Tsutenkaku
The 103m tall tower is a landmark of Osaka that resembles the once booming, now nostalgic and peaceful Shinsekai district of the city. Visitors can view the city from its beautiful 360 view panoramic observatory. Watching the Osaka sunset from this place is absolutely stunning. After dark, this tower stands glistening in the dark with its signature neon-lights, allowing tourists to enjoy the tower from both inside and outside. There are also many great restaurants nearby, making this an excellent visit location for a fun evening.
13. “Run” a Takoyaki Marathon
The popular Osaka street food, takoyaki is a grilled batter with a piece of squid inside. The outside is covered with delicious sauce and other toppings, while the inside is hot and gooey. This delicacy can easily be found on the streets of Osaka, and the best way to truly enjoy it is to travel with friends and have a Takoyaki Marathon. Dotonbori the famous food street is the ideal location for it. From one end of the street, stop by any Takoyaki shop that catches your interest, split an order with your friends and move on to the next shop until you’re all satisfied! At the Takoyaki Marathon, everyone is a winner!!!
12. Learn about Feudal Japanese History at Osaka Castle
One of Japan’s most historical castles is a major landmark of Osaka. This castle hosted the famous battle between 2 major warlords of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyori and Tokugawa Ieyasu, and played a significant role in Japan’s unification. Nowadays, Osaka Castle is one of the best museums displaying the arsenal and samurai life of the Sengoku War periods. The exhibitions of this major castle are also very language-friendly for tourists, so visitors won’t be missing out on the amazing bank of historical knowledge. If you are looking to understand more about samurai and 16th century Japanese history during your trip to Japan, Osaka Castle is an excellent choice.
11. Eat Deep-fried Skewers at a Kushiage Restaurant
Osaka is a city of delicious, and the kushiage (deep-fried skewers) is one of their best offerings. Kushiage are skewers of various ingredients including (but are definitely not limited to) pork, chicken, quail egg, bamboo roots, green peppers, fish and so much more. You can even find banana or ice-cream kushiage options occasionally. These affordable delicacies start from 80yen per skewer, and many restaurants offer an all-you-can-eat option for a cheap price so you can eat to your heart/stomach’s content. Some establishments let you fry the skewers at the table yourself, so you can enjoy them at their freshest and crispiest forms. Order a drink or two to go with the food, and you will have yourself a deliciously wonderful night.
10. Watch the Extreme Kishiwada Cart-pulling Festival
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is one of the most exciting and unique festivals in Japan. While there are other similar cart-pulling festivals everywhere in the country, this one in September stands out for being extreme as participants pulling the beautifully crafted 3000 kg+ floats through the narrow streets of Kishiwada at very high speeds and taking sharp turns. On each of the floats, there is one daiku-gata standing on top dancing while directing the cart. This festival is a testimony to courage and manhood. It is very important to the locals, and extremely entertaining for tourists to watch.
9. Eat Okonomiyaki – “Japanese Pizza/Pancake”
Okonomiyaki is likely to be the longest and most delicious Japanese vocabulary you will remember during your Japan trip. This “Japanese pizza” or “Japanese pancake” is a mixture of flour and other ingredients including cabbage, seafood, meat and others grilled on a hot plate. You can then cover it with worcestershire sauce and sprinkle bonito and seaweed flakes on top. This cuisine is considered an Osakan soul food, and great okonomiyaki shops can easily be found anywhere in the city (especially at Dodonbori). Devote a meal to this delicacy, and you will absolutely want more as you travel around Osaka.
8. Go High and Low at the Umeda Sky Building
The Umeda Sky building is one of Osaka’s best choices for a skyscraper view of the crowded city. Located in the popular Umeda shopping district, this uniquely shaped office building has an observatory on the 39th floor opened to the public to enter (for a fee). The “Floating Garden Observatory” connects the two vertical structures with bridges and an escalator, offering a true garden-in-the-sky experience with a stunning view of Osaka. Afterwards, travel down to the underground market that recreates the Showa Period of Japan (1926-1989). From the rooftop to the basement, you can enjoy two periods of Japan in one go at the Umeda Sky Building.
7. Otaku-shopping at Nipponbashi Dendentown
Nipponbashi, also known as Dendentown is a shopping district in Osaka that offers to the interests of otaku out there. This “Akihabara of West Japan” used to be a furniture and home-appliance sales location, but has since adopted its new identity for anime, manga, video-games and other otaku-related merchandise. Besides shopping for your collection, you can also visit one of the many maid-cafes for a special eating experience companied by cute waitresses in costumes. Whether you adore the otaku-hobbies yourself or just looking to see a unique Japanese sub-culture, Dendentown has you covered.
6. See the Marine Life at The Kaiyukan Aquarium
Osaka’s biggest aquarium and one of the best in Japan is located near the bay area of the city. It impressively displays the ocean life of different regions of the Pacific Rim in its 15 massive tanks. Penguin marches, whale sharks in the central tank, seals swimming by above your head, and a whole lot more will amaze you. The 8 floors high building allows visitors to witness marine life from multiple perspectives as you go through each floor and each tank.
5. Enjoy the Nature at the Expo Commemoration Park
The Expo Commemoration Park is the former site of the Expo ’70 World Fair. Nowadays, it is one of the more beautiful faces of nature in Osaka. The spacious park is a massive 264 ha with about 500,000 trees. Flowers bloom all over the park during warm seasons. For tourists from other countries, the meditative Japanese Garden might be particular to their interest. The famous 3-faced 70 meters-tall Tower of the Sun is also displayed in the park. Make sure to check out this strange looking symbol of Osaka too when you’re at the park enjoying some gorgeous nature.
4. Watch Manzai Comedy in Osaka
Osaka is a funny city. It is recognized as the humour capital of Japan. Perhaps that's due to the louder and bolder personalities of Osaka residents, or perhaps it traces back to the historic fact of having more merchants than samurai in the city who would also sell their humour performances. Manzai is an Osaka comedic staple, a style where a comedian duo tells a story together, while one plays silly and the other plays smart (and smacks the silly one, often with a paper wand). It’s very common on Japanese TV. There are many live Manzai shows in town happening every night. To fully enjoy one might be a lingual challenge for some, but the physical humour and the atmosphere of everyone laughing is an experience to enjoy.
3. Make Noodles at Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Fans of the worldly-popular lazy meal choice will love this one! The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is a proud exhibition of the history and the modern success of the packaged noodles. At the museum, you will learn about the invention and making-process of instant noodles, as well as the amazing various available in other parts of the world. For something more hands-on, you can experience making a pack of chicken noodles, or mixing and matching your favourite cup noodles to bring home. After a trip here, you will certainly appreciate the invention of these quick meals even more!
2. Take the Highway Through an Office Building
Here is one of the world’s most intriguing office buildings right here in Osaka. The Gate Tower Building (also known as Bee Hive) makes its name famous globally for having a highway going straight through the 5th to 7th floors of the structure! Somehow, this solution to a property right conflict was approved, and this amazing accomplishment was built. There are many tall buildings nearby for a good view of it, but consider driving or riding the bus through the building so you can check off “driving through a building” from your life achievement list.
1. Feel the Young Energy at America Village
America Village (America-mura) is Osaka’s spot for the gathering of youth and street cultures. Despite the name, you won’t be seeing a replica of an American town (besides a scaled-down Statue of Liberty), but rather displays of Japanese pop culture which is heavily influenced by Western culture. Some might compare it to Tokyo’s Harajuku because of all the youth energy, as well as second-hand fashion and music shops. This area also has a sparkling night life, with many Westerner-owned bars and clubs frequented by aspiring local artists. For a taste away from the Japanese traditions, come to America Village to see a modern side of Japanese culture.