Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city after Tokyo and Yokohama, may not be regarded as the prettiest city in Japan, lacking those big beautiful parks, Japanese gardens, and grand temples that we all love. But give Osaka a chance and you will be rewarded with a modern, energetic city filled with life, interesting sights, and friendly people.
Take a walk along the lovely river running through the city center, marvel at the dazzling neon-lit Dotombori area, and explore the stunning Osaka Castle and the surrounding Castle Park, before you end your day feasting on Osaka’s many culinary specialties. As this Osaka itinerary aims to show, whatever the city lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for it with its friendly and energetic atmosphere and excellent food.
Osaka is the neon capital of Japan. Walking through the streets of the central shopping area Dotombori in central Osaka almost feels like being in a colorful theme park. Huge dazzling neon billboards sparkle with every color, while giant lively plastic crabs, octopus, and blowfish hang from the walls welcoming hungry passers-by into the many specialty restaurants. This area really comes to life after dark when its many restaurants, street food stalls, and shops open up, and the locals and tourists flock to the streets for an authentic Osaka gastronomical experience.
Osaka is known as the food capital of Japan, with its unofficial slogan “Eat Till You Drop,” or “kuidaore” in Japanese, meaning that you can spend so much money on food that you are financially ruined. Osakans take pride in their food specialties, like Okonomiyaki (pancake with filling), Takoyaki (dumpling balls with octopus), and conveyor-belt sushi (an Osaka invention from the 1950s).
Osaka is a great place to go shopping for those unique Japanese souvenirs and snacks as the city has several long shopping streets/ arcades, kind of like street markets, although indoor.
Many choose Osaka as their base for exploring the central Kansai region of Japan as the hotels are cheaper here compared to, for instance, Kyoto. Osaka has a central location in the Kansai region. It is only a short train ride away from other famous places like Kyoto (30 min by train), Nara (50 min), Kobe (30 min), Himeji (50 min), and Koyasan (2 hours). Osaka is the perfect place to stay if you want one base to do day-trips from and avoid changing hotels.
Osaka also sees fewer tourists than Kyoto. When hotels in Kyoto fill up during peak season (for instance, Cherry Blossom season), and the room rates skyrocket, staying in Osaka and doing day-trips to Kyoto can really help that holiday budget stretch a little longer
We skipped Osaka on our first trip to Japan back in 2014. We had heard that Osaka was just another noisy and chaotic big city with no charm. Oh, boy, were those rumors wrong! We finally included Osaka on our itinerary for our Japan trip in November/ December 2019. Osaka took us by surprise in a hugely positive way! ♥ We liked Osaka so much that we went back to stay an extra couple of nights here at the end of our Japan trip before heading back home to Norway for Christmas.
We like the more relaxed vibe that Osaka has compared to Kyoto and Tokyo, and all its delicious and unique food. The people of Osaka are also fantastic and generally a little less formal and conservative, they easily stop for a chat on the street.
In short, there is never a dull moment in Osaka with lots to see and do. In the evenings, the shopping, nightlife, and dining areas Dotombori and Amerikamura pop to life after dark.
Here we give you our Osaka travel guide with what to do in Osaka for an amazing two days packed with all the highlights that Osaka has to offer. We hope you find it useful when planning your own Osaka itinerary! 🙂
What To Do In Osaka –
The Ultimate 2-Day Osaka Itinerary
The map above: What To Do In Osaka – A 2 Day Osaka Itinerary (Google Maps)
Day 1 = Violet, Day 2 = Yellow, Black = Other Things To Do In Osaka
Table of Contents:
This two-day Osaka itinerary takes you to the highlights of Osaka.
While we designed this itinerary as a do-it-yourselves tour, if you are short on time or would like to explore Osaka with a local and enthusiastic guide, then you should consider joining this Osaka Highlights Tour. On this tour with a guide, you get to visit most of the sights listed below in our itinerary. You choose the length of the guided tour (between 2- 8 hours) and you get to see highlights like Osaka Castle, Kuromon Market, Hozenji Yokocho shrine, Dotonbori, and Den-Den Town.
Day 1 – Exploring The Old & New Osaka
Day 1 of this two-day Osaka Itinerary first takes you to the pride of the city – Osaka Castle. After the castle, it is time to replenish your energy level at the most famous and best market in Osaka – Kuromon Market.
Then head up in the air for a splendid view of the city at Umeda Sky Building or Abeno Harukas. You will end your first day in Osaka in the city’s energetic and fun restaurant, bar, and shopping area – Dotonbori and Americamura.
So enjoy and have fun on your first day in Osaka!
The map above: Day 1 of this 2-Day Osaka Itinerary (Google Maps)
1. Osaka Castle
Start your first day in Osaka by visiting Osaka’s biggest attraction – Osaka Castle.
To get to Osaka Castle, take the JR Loop Line to Osaka-jo-Koen Station or the Chuo Line to Tanimachi 4-chrome (exit 9). To beat the crowds, try to be at Osaka Castle around its opening hour at 9 am.
If you haven’t had breakfast yet, you can pop by one of the many cozy cafes and bakeries in the Osaka Castle neighborhood. We had a pitstop at the nearby Boulangerie Gout Bakery & Cafe before walking over to Osaka Castle.
Gout (pronounced “goo”, it is French) is one of the best bakeries in Osaka. Here you can buy all sorts of delicious freshly baked pastries, croissants, baguettes, sandwiches, cakes, coffee, tea, and juices. They have seatings inside, but if the weather is good, you can bring your drinks and food to Osaka Castle Park and have a nice little picnic on a bench or on the grass. Opening hours Boulangerie Gout Bakery & Cafe: 07:30 am – 20:00/ 8 pm (closed on Thursdays).
Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s biggest and most famous attractions and well worth a visit. The eight-floor tall bright white castle with its golden ornaments and greenish cobber roof is a stunning sight! In the evenings, the castle is lit with floodlights making it loom dramatically above the ground and its surrounding moat, looking even grander.
The castle is surrounded by a huge park, Osaka Castle Park, covering approximately two km². Osaka Castle Park is Osaka’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spot/ Hanami in March/ April. The park is also beautiful and colorful during autumn leaves in November and a popular picnic spot.
The main castle building is built on top of a stone foundation and is surrounded by a water moat to make it difficult for intruders to attack. The castle ground houses thirteen buildings, including several turrets, a tea house, and several gates.
The castle consists of eight floors and functions as a museum. It has an elevator so that everybody can easily access it. The top floor is an observation deck from where you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of Osaka city.
Osaka Castle has a long, bloody, and painful history. It is was first constructed in 1583 as a center of the new unified Japan by General Toyomoti Hideyoshi (1537 – 1598). He wanted to show off his power, and at the time Osaka Castle was the biggest castle in Japan.
The Osaka Castle that you see here today is a rebuild from 1931, and the entire castle underwent a full makeover in 1997 after it got bombed during World War II by the Americans. It is now brighter and shinier than ever before!
- Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the Chuo Subway Line to Tanimachi 4-Chome Station (exit 9), or take the JR Loop Line to Osaka-jo-Koen Station.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm, last admission at 16:40/ 4:30 pm
- Ticket Prices: 600 Yen = US$ 6 (adult), free for children (under 15 years of age).
Skip the ticket line and buy your tickets to Osaka Castle here (Voyagin)
- Osaka Castle’s Official Webpage
After you have explored Osaka Castle and walked all the stairs (unless you opted for the elevator), you are probably a little hungry. Time to head to the biggest and best food market in Osaka – Kuromon Ichiba Market.
From Osaka Castle, walk back to Osaka-jo-Koen Station or Tanimachiyonchome Station and take the train to Nippombashi Station (you will have to transfer the train).
2. Kuromon Market
Kuromon Ichiba Market, known as “The kitchen of Osaka”, is an energetic and fun food market. It is like a landmark in Osaka and has been going on for over a century. It is a must-visit if you come to Osaka and like food (who doesn’t?! 🙂 ).
If you are a bit unfamiliar with Osaka’s specialties and food culture, it might be a good idea to join a food tour with a local guide (Get Your Guide). The guide will tell you all about the history of this market and will explain the food and give you different Osaka dishes to try out.
Here you can indulge in a 600 m long array of vendors selling all sorts of Japanese food delights, snacks, and odd specialties. The vendors sell fresh fish and meats of all kinds, some you eat raw as sushi/ sashimi or you can grill them on the grills set up on the street.
Ah, there is so much to try out at this market! I can assure you that you will not leave Kuromon Ichiba Market hungry.
Make sure to try out this food at Kuromon Ichiba Market:
- Fresh oysters – Yep, you just slurp it raw straight out from the shell
- Sea urchin/ Uni – Eh, they look a bit strange I must admit…and they are often eaten raw.
- Scallop – You can get them grilled or on a stick.
- Tuna fish
- Octopus – You can either buy one of those small octopus babies on a stick where a whole quail egg is stuffed in the octopus head. Or you can go for Takoyaki, grilled balls with octopus meat.
- Kobe beef
- Wagyu Steak
- Giant prawns
- Blowfish/ Fugu
- Sushi & Sashimi
And for dessert, try some Japanese sweets at Mitoya (I love the ones with fresh strawberries inside). Or try one of those tall artsy icecreams (I love the green ones with Matcha flavor).
If you love sweets, then this Osaka Market Food Tour with desserts and tea included might be just your thing.
Kuromon Ichiban Market is a foodies heaven and a must-visit! It is probably the best place to head to Osaka to try out a huge variety of Japanese food all in one place.
And if you are not that hungry, it is great fun just to walk around Kuromon Ichiban Market and look at all the weird and colorful food and take some photos.
- Address: 2 Chome-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the Sakai-suji Subway Line to Nippombashi Station. Head out of exit 10 to get to the market.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm
- Ticket Prices: Free to walk around at the market, but the food cost money of course 🙂
- Kuromon Market’s Official Webpage
After you have recharged your batteries, it is time to head up in the air and see Osaka’s impressive city skyline.
You can either visit Umeda Sky Building or Abeno Harukas Building which, both have an observation deck on the top. The main difference between the two is that Umeda has an open-air observation deck, while the one at Abeno Harukas has tall floor-to-ceiling windows. We chose the Umeda observation deck and it was great.
For Umeda Sky Building, take the train to JR Osaka Central Station (exit at the North Central Exit). For Abeno Harukas Building, take the JR Loop Line to JR Tennoji Station.
3. Umeda Sky Building OR Abeno Harukas Building
Umeda Sky Building
We felt like we were had entered a spaceship as we stood on the escalator, taking us up to the last five stories to the top of the Umeda Sky Building.
Already on the escalator up to the top, you get a fantastic view through the super cool see-through tube. Our expectations were sky high already at the escalator (hehe 😉 ), and the 360-degrees view at the top did not disappoint! The views are amazing at the top of the 40-story tall Sky Building.
Osaka’s landmark Umeda Sky Building was built in 1993, designed by the same Japanese architect that also designed the very cool Kyoto Station, Hara Hiroshi. Its futuristic style gives it a cool space-age vibe.
The building is 173 meters tall with two towers that are connected at the top by the Floating Garden Observatory (on the 39th floor). We particularly loved the open-air deck where you can feel the wind on your face and enjoy the spectacular sky view of Osaka. The views are breathtaking both day and night.
If you get hungry, head to the basement of the building where there is a restaurant. The rest of the floors house mostly offices.
We visited the Umeda Sky Building at the beginning of December, and there was a big outdoor Christmas Market (Snowman Festival, 22. Nov – 23. Dec) at the base of the building. The Christmas Market was great fun, although it was a European kind of market, so you could mostly find European food, drinks, snacks, and souvenirs. Who doesn’t appreciate a glass of gluhwein even though you are in Japan?! 🙂
- Address: 1 Chome-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the train to JR Osaka Central Station (exit at the North Central Exit). Umeda Sky Building is a 10-15 min walk from Osaka and Umeda Stations.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 22:30/ 10:30 pm, last admission at 22:00/ 10:00 pm
- Ticket Prices: 1500 Yen = US$ 14 (adult), 700 Yen = US$ 6,5 for children (age 4-12), free entry for children below four years of age
Skip the ticket line and save some money by buying your ticket upfront here (Voyagin) or here (Get Your Guide)
- Umeda Sky Building’s Official Webpage
Abeno Harukas Building
Tokyo Sky Tree is Japan’s tallest structure (634 m), but Abeno Harukas in Osaka is the tallest building in Japan, raging 300 m above ground. Abeno Harukas houses 60 floors above ground and five underground. It opened in 2014, and immediately became one of Osaka’s top sights.
Abeno Harukas houses Japan’s biggest department store (Kintetsu), has an open-air atrium, Abeno Harukas Art Museum, and Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel.
Its real star, however, and the main reason for heading here is the top-level Harukas 300 Observation Deck. From the 60th-floor glass-enclosed observation deck, you get an incredible 360 degrees view of the entire Kansai region. It is well worth a visit both day and night.
- Address: 1 Chome-1-43 Abenosuji, Abeno Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the JR Loop Line to JR Tennoji Station. Abeno Harukas is located just across the street from JR Tennoji Station.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 am – 23:00/ 11 pm
- Ticket Prices: 1500 Yen = US$ 14
Skip the ticket line and save some money by buying your ticket upfront here (Voyagin) or here (Get Your Guide)
- Abeno Haruka’s Official Webpage
Even though the Abeno Harukas Building is taller than the Umeda Sky Building, we chose to visit Umeda Sky Building since it has an open-air deck on the top. At the Abeno Harukas Building, you are inside and can only enjoy the city sky views of Osaka through glass windows.
After seeing Osaka from the sky, it is time to head back to the ground and check out why Osaka is called the neon capital of Japan. And to try out some more of the food specialties that Osaka has to offer.
Take the train to Osaka-Namba Station, and start the walking town of the famous Dotombori & Amerikamura area of Osaka (see below). These areas come to life in the evenings, so I recommend that you do the Dotombori & Amerikamura walking tour after dark.
4. Dotombori & Amerikamura Area Evening Walking Tour
Dotonbori/ Dotombori usually refers to Dotonbori Street and the sidestreets along the Dotonbori Canal. It is the most vibrant and colorful area of Osaka and a highlight when visiting Osaka.
Amerikamura is a more laidback, hipster-like, and cool area, just north of Dotombori. You can easily walk between these two areas.
Here we give you the ultimate walking tour of the Dotonbori and Amerikamura area of Osaka with all its highlights. See the map below (Google Maps).
The map above: The ultimate walking tour of Dotombori and Americamura Area of Osaka (Google Maps)
Osaka-Namba Station – The Start
To start this DIY walking tour of Dotombori & Americamura in Osaka, take the subway to Osaka-Namba Station. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from Osaka-Namba Station to the first highlight of this walking route – Hozenji Temple.
A. Hozenji Temple
Hozen-ji is a tiny temple tucked away down a narrow alley in the middle of the busy and chaotic neon nightlife district Dotombori of Osaka. You feel that you have stepped out of the modern Osaka and into the Edo period when Samurais and Geishas walked these streets.
It is a small but very atmospheric and peaceful temple surrounded by beautiful lanterns.
The Hozenji Temple was first built in 1637 and was much larger than what you see here today. Soon food stalls and teahouses were built around the temple to cater to the many pilgrims that visited the temple. This was the start of the food and entertainment area, Dotonbori.
Sadly, during World War II, the temple was destroyed in a bomb attack. Only one statue survived the bombs, and this statue is today the main figure of Hozen-ji Temple and a famous symbol of the temple and Dotonbori district.
The statue is moss-covered and represents Fudo Myo-o, one of five guardians of Buddhism. Usually, statues of the Fudo have a very fierce and angry face, but since this statue is all covered in green moss, it looks much happier. You cannot see if he is angry or not.
Fudo Myoo statues also often have a sword in his right hand a rope in his left hand, although it is hard to tell if it’s so with this statue. He also has two smaller statues by his side, Kongara and Seitaka.
There is a rumor that a woman once threw water over the Fudo Myo-o statue at Hozen-ji Temple, and her wish came true. You should join the line and pour some water over the statues and make a wish yourself. Who knows, your wish might come true, it doesn’t hurt trying…. 🙂
Due to all the water being poured on them, the statues are entirely covered in lush and green moss. The statues are even nicknamed “Mizukake-Fudo,” meaning “Splashing Water Fudo.”
- Address: 1 Chome-2-16 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the subway to Osaka-Namba Station. It takes about five minutes to walk to Hozenji Temple.
- Opening Hours: 24 hours
- Ticket Prices: Free
- Hozenji Temple’s Official Webpage
Walk past the statue (on its left), and you will enter the narrow alley Hozenji Yokocho.
B. Hozen-ji Yokocho Alley
The atmospheric narrow brick-covered alley Hozen-ji Yokocho, only 2,7 meters broad, is lined with traditional restaurants and bars. Its name means “street beside Hozenji.”
This is the quiet and old part of the entertainment district of Osaka, perfect for taking photos with its cozy and atmospheric lanterns lit after dark. Hozen-ji Yokocho Alley is one of the best places in Osaka to eat delicious traditional local food. Dive into one of the around sixty small restaurants and bars. Must-try dishes are Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake with different toppings), Kushiage (deep-fried skewers of meat, seafood, and vegetables), or teppanyaki. You will not regret it.
Hozenji Yokocho Alley is mentioned in several Japanese novels, films, and songs.
At the end of Hozen-ji Yokocho Alley, turn left, and you will soon enter the famous and legendary Dotonbori Street.
You are now in the middle of the famous neon-lit strip Dotonbori which is lined with restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars.
When you have seen photos of Osaka, they have most likely been of streets packed with extravagant 3D signs and colorful neon signs. Dotombori, or Dotonbori, is the neon heaven of Osaka and a must-visit area after dark just to watch the craziness and take urban and cool street photos.
If you are a foodie like me, a great experience of Dotonbori is to join a food tour with a local guide. An enthusiastic guide will show you all the food specialties that the heart of Osaka’s food scene has to offer. You get to taste 6-8 specialties selected by your guide, plus two beers, tea, or soft drinks.
The history of the Dotonbori area dates back to 1612 when the man Yasui Doton put all his money into this vast development project – make Umezu River into a new waterway connecting the network of local canals with the Kizugawa River. Then the war Siege of Osaka came in 1615, and Doton was unfortunately killed. His cousins completed his work and named the new canal Dotonbori (meaning Doton Canal) after its founder Yasui Doton.
The new canal became a huge success, and the trade bloomed, making this area of Osaka into a famous entertainment district. Lots of theaters and playhouses popped up, as well as restaurants and teahouses.
Sadly, during World War II, most of the theaters were bombed. You will only find one theater left – the Shochikuza, who still shows traditional Japanese kabuki plays, opera, dramas, and musicals.
Dotombori is the place to head to in the evenings to enjoy and check out Osaka’s famous food culture. Osaka’s main food specialties are:
Pancakes/ pizza filled with cabbage and different meats, topped with a special sauce
Dumpling balls with octopus (see picture below)
It is like Yakitori or skewered of grilled meat, seafood, and vegetables, although Kushikatsu is deep-fried. It is often enjoyed with a cold beer.
Conveyor-belt sushi/ sushi trains. This is an Osaka invention from the 1950s.
Posh, high-end dining. The menu varies with the season and consists of different small dishes. It is kind of like Kaiseki (traditional Japanese Haute cuisine), although it is not that formal. You sit by the counter and are handed the dishes by the chef directly. The atmosphere is rather laid-back and casual, but the prices can be quite stiff. So ask for prices before ordering if you are on a budget.
Turn left onto Dotonbori street and walk west past restaurants and food stalls. Check out all the creative and incredibly realistic plastic food models and decorations in the windows and on the facade of each restaurant, showing what they have to offer on their menu.
We had dinner at Ichiran Ramen in Dotombori; it was delicious! Ichiran is my favorite ramen (Japanese noodle soup) chain restaurant in Japan. You will find Ichiran all over Japan, as well as in New York, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. And you can even buy a pack of noodles in their shop to cook back home.
You can easily spot what each restaurant along Dotombori has on their menu, as there are usually plastic versions of their signature dish outside. Like huge plastic sushi, crab, octopus, and dumplings.
If you want to try the famous Osaka Okonomiyaki (pancake with different toppings), then I can recommend Okaru Okonomiyaki Restaurant (called Pancake One in English) in Dotonbori. It is close to Ichiran and Hozenji Temple.
We had dinner there and loved that the waitress makes the okonomiyaki at your table right in front of you. And it is great fun when they decorate the okonomiyaki pancake with mayo, like an artwork! 🙂 Our two okonomiyaki was decorated with a Christmas tree and Osaka Tower (we visited Okaru Restaurant in December). So cute! The restaurant is a bit difficult to find, however, as there are no signs in English, only Japanese. They have a red curtain outside above the entrance door.
As you walk west on Dotombori Street, you will see a giant bright red plastic crab. The famous restaurant Kani Doraku Honten is easy to spot due to its gigantic bright red plastic crab above its entrance. Of course, their signature dish is juicy, freshly cooked crab. This red plastic crab has become a local landmark for Dotombori, and it is lit up after dark.
Ebisubashisuji Shopping Street Arcade
At the corner of Kani Doraku Honten crab restaurant (with the big red crab on the wall), you will enter Ebisubashisuji Shopping Street.
Ebisubashisuji is one of the oldest shopping streets or “Shotengai” (covered shopping arcade/ street) in Osaka, dating back to the golden heydays of the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). Back then, the Ebisuibashi-suji street was lined with tea houses, ramen noodle shops, and other small restaurants catering to pilgrims to the nearby Imamiya Ebisu Shrine.
Today, you will find everything from high-end fashion, jewelry, bookstore, cafes, and restaurants, both Japanese brands and international brands (like Starbucks and Tacobell) in Ebisuibashisuji Shopping Mall/ street. The shopping street also houses a cinema, Toho Cinemas Namba.
- Address: Dotonbori Street is in the Minami area of Osaka, in the southern part of the city.
- How To Get There: Take the Mido-suji Line to Namba Station (exit 14).
- Dotombori’s Official Webpage
Right through the Dotonbori area runs the 400 years old canal Dotonbori-gawa, which has given the name to this popular restaurant and nightlife area of Osaka.
Restaurants line both sides of the canal Dotomborigawa, with huge neon-lit billboards on their facades.
The north side of the canal used to be the main geisha area of Osaka but now houses small bars and restaurants. The south side of the canal used to be the theater district of Osaka, but there are no theaters left and is nowadays the main center of the Dotonbori area.
Dotombori is usually pretty crowded in the evenings, especially on weekends and holidays. A great way to beat the crowds and get a more relaxed experience of Dotombori is to hop on a boat and do a Tombori River Cruise along the canal. The guide will tell you fun and exciting stories about the highlights of Dotombori as you drift along the canal.
The boat trips run on the hour and half hour and last for 20 minutes. They run from 13:00 – 21:00 on weekdays and 11:00 – 21:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, but I recommend that you make this boat trip after dark so that you can fully enjoy all the neon signs. The boat departs from the Tazaemonbashi Bridge Boat Dock. Tickets can be bought on the 1st floor of Don Quijote Dotonbori, north side of the Tombori Riverwalk esplanade.
There is a nice walking path along the canal, the perfect place to go for an evening stroll.
Turn right, and you are on the famous Ebisubashi Bridge that crosses the Dotombori-gawa canal.
D. Ebisu Bridge
Ebisubashi Bridge connects the two popular shopping streets Ebisubashi-suji and Shinsaibashi-suji.
The bridge was first built in 1615 when the Dotonbori River was dredged to make access to the Ebisu Shrine. The Ebisuhbashi Bridge you see here today was completed in 2007.
The bridge, which is for pedestrians only, has become the center of Dotombori and is a popular meeting point for both the locals and tourists. Stop at the bridge to take the legendary photo down the canal. Notice how all the neon signs reflect in the water.
The bridge is, however, most famous for being the best viewing point for seeing the famous Glico Running Man.
E. Glico Running Man
From Ebisubashi Bridge, make sure to look up at the one and only Glico Running Man, an icon of Osaka’s Dotombori.
Glico running man is an advertisement board of the candy brand Glico. Glico is one of Asia’s most famous confectionery companies. I simply L-O-V-E one of Glico’a products – Pocky. If you have not tried Pocky yet, you definitely should! My favorite is the one with almonds on top of the chocolate. 🙂
The Glico Running Man sign was first installed in 1935. It has been modernized and changed several times over the years and is now made of neon. It has been altered to celebrate different sports triumphs that Japan has achieves, like the Soccer World Cup that Japan hosted in 2002.
Today’s version of Glico, the running man, was installed in 2014 and is the sixth version of the sign. It shows Glicon Running Man running with the bright red sun as a background. Maybe it is the same kind of red sun as in the Japanese flag? Running Man is running on a track that changes between blue and pink.
But why is a running man displayed on a commercial poster for candy, you might ask? A running man was chosen because it was said that their first candy (a caramel, first produced in 1922) would give you enough energy to run 300 meters. It was launched as an energy product for sports activities where the glycogen in the caramel was derived from oysters. The sales campaign for this caramel was “300 Meters on a Single Piece”. Therefore a running man was the perfect mascot for Glico! Yep, makes sense…..eh…..not! 🙂 Glico’s candy became a big success, probably also because their candy boxes included small toys. Children will always be children – candy and a toy, the perfect combination! 🙂
Osaka is where the main office of Glico is located. And if you want to know more about Glico, its candy, its history, and Running Man, you should check out their museum. At the Glico Museum, you will get to see exhibitions of all the old packages and candy that they have produced over the years. You will also get a chance to see all the five previous versions of the Glico Running Man.
- Glico’s Official Webpage (only in Japanese)
Cross Ebisubashi Bridge and you are entering Shinsaibashi-suji Arcade.
F. Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade
Shinsaibashi-suji is a giant 600 m long shopping mecca. It is kind of like an indoor street market lined with shops on both sides. Here you will find big international brands like Lacoste, Lush, Polo Ralph Lauren, Disney Store, Desigual, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Zara, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, and lots of Japanese brands.
This is a typical Japanese “shotengai,” or a covered shopping arcade/ street that you will find in many cities in Japan.
The arcade street is usually packed with people, both locals and tourists, so it can be a bit overwhelming. It is, however, great fun to walk here even if you don’t intend to buy anything, just to look at all the people. You can also walk off to the side streets to explore some smaller shops selling more traditional Japanese goods like secondhand kimonos, woodblock prints, and small family-run restaurants and cafes.
Walk through the Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, and when you exit the street, turn left. You are now in Osaka’s famous hip and cool district, Amerika-Mura.
G. Peace On Earth Mural
The cool and gigantic Peace on Earth mural grasps the soul and vibe of Amerikamura perfectly. The street art was painted back in 1983 by the Osaka artist Kuro-da Seitaro.
When I first heard that there was an area in Osaka called America-Mura, I thought: Why the name America? Did a lot of Americans live here or what?! No, it simply got its international name Amerikamura because, after World War II, a lot of shops opened up in this area selling all kinds of imported popular American goods like T-shirts, Zippo lighters, jeans, record, and baseball caps.
Today, Amerika-Mura, or Ame-Mura as it is called for short, is the hip and cool youth area of Osaka. Amerikamura is the place to head to find the latest street fashion trends. Here you find lots of small independent shops selling all kinds of youth-focused clothes and gears, plus hip cafes and bars. If you fancy a tattoo or some piercing, you will also find some of those here and some cool hairdressers.
Amerikamura is the place to grab something to eat and drink as the area is full of fun and energetic bars and restaurants. This is also the place to shop and look at the latest street fashion and is Osaka’s answer to Harajuku in Tokyo.
- Address: Amerika-Mura is in the Minami area of Osaka, in the southern part of the city, next to Dotombori.
- How To Get There: Take the Mido-suji Line to Shinsaibashi Station (exit 7).
- Amerika-Mura’s Official Webpage
I. Triangle Park – Mitsu Park
Amerikamura’s center and most popular gathering point is the small Triangle Park or Sankaku-Koen as it is called in Japanese. And yep, the park is triangle-shaped. Its real name is Mitsu Park.
Although it does not look much like a park as it is not that green but all-concrete. You will find some benches here, a few trees, and an area in the middle which is popular for skateboarding.
Grab some street food, like must-try Takoyaki (grilled balls with octopus), at one of the nearby stalls or restaurants.
The most popular is Kogaryu Takoyaki, just next to Triangle Park. Sit down at one of the benches, enjoy your Takoyaki, and do some people watching to hook up on the latest fashion trends of Osaka’s fashionable hip, and trendy youth. And if you are lucky, you can enjoy a young comedian practicing their act, although you will probably not understand much unless you speak Japanese.
Walk through the Amerikamura area and stop by some of the many small hip boutiques selling the latest street fashions. You will also find some cool guitar shops here. So if you are like Espen and love guitars, then you should head to some of the guitar shops like the huge Miki Gakki Americamura Gitar Store.
This is a great area to go to for a round of bar-hopping. Why not join an Osaka bar hopping tour which includes both drinks and food? Together with a local guide, you will visit local bars and restaurants in hidden alleys.
J. Statue of Liberty At New America Plaza
This mini version of New York’s Statue Of Liberty is a famous landmark in Amerikamura. Peaking down on you from top of the tall building New America Plaza is one of Americamura’s landmarks – Lady Liberty, a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Like Tokyo has Godzilla in Shinjuku, Osaka has the Statue of Liberty in Americamura.
We walked around and around the New America Plaza Building, but I must admit, we could not see the Statue of Liberty. Therefore we, unfortunately, have no photos of it. 🙂
Shinsaibashi Station – The End
When you have had enough of the party life of Dotombori and Amerikamura, head to Shinsaibashi Station and take the subway back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.
This ends Day 1 of this Osaka Itinerary.
Day 2 – A Funky Shrine, Osaka’s Famous Cheesecake & Osaka Tower
The walking tour on day two of this 2-day Osaka itinerary takes you to the most famous sights in the Namba and Shinsekai areas.
Map Above: Day 2 Osaka Itinerary – Walking Route (Google Maps)
After breakfast, start your day visiting Osaka’s most funky shrine, the Namba Yasaka Shrine, also called Lion’s head shrine.
A. Namba Station
Take the subway to Namba Station. It takes about five minutes to walk from Namba Station to Namba Yasaka Shrine.
B. Namba Yasaka Shrine – The Lion’s Head Shrine
As you enter Namba Yasaka Shrine, you might wonder if you have arrived at a theme park as you are met by a gigantic greenish lion head with big scary eyes and a huge open mouth with golden teeth. But no, you have stepped into a Buddhist shrine!
The lion’s head is called Ema-Den, is 12 meters tall, and was built in 1975.
The big lion mouth is believed to bring you good luck by swallowing your evil spirits and bad luck. It is especially useful to come here to pray for luck and success in school or business. So it is a particularly popular place to visit among school children around exam time.
Surrounding the temple are some cherry trees that come in full bloom in March/April, making Namba Yasaka Shrine exceptionally beautiful.
If you happen to be in Osaka on the third Sunday of January, you should head to Namba Yasaka Shrine as they have their annual festival. You will then witness a giant tug of war ritual to celebrate the shrine’s deity Susano-ono-Mikoto who killed the big serpent god Yamato-no-Orochi shaped like a huge multi-headed snake, bringing peace to the people.
The huge rope is made to resemble the eight-headed, eight-tailed serpent, and is carried through the streets surrounding the shrine. They do the ritual to honor the gods and pray for prosperity, safety from diseases, a good harvest, and the family. It is great fun to watch.
- Address: 2 Chome-9-19 Motomachi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the subway to Namba Station. It takes about five minutes to walk to Namba Yasaka Shrine from Namba Station.
- Opening Hours: 06:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
- Ticket Prices: Free
- Namba Yasaka Shrine’s Official Webpage
After this peaceful and spiritual experience, it is time to try to increase your blood sugar and try one more Osaka specialty – Rikuro’s cheesecake! If you have a sweet tooth like me, you will love it. 🙂
It takes about 10 min to walk from Namba Yasaka Shrine to Rikuro’s Cheesecake cafe.
C. Osaka’s Most Famous Cheesecake – Rikuro’s
You have probably seen those tall, fluffy, and wobbly sponge-like Japanese cheesecakes on Instagram. I sure have, and when we decided to visit Osaka, I had Rikuro’s cheesecake on the top of my must-try list!
Rikuro Ojisan’s cheesecake is one of the most famous cheesecakes in Japan and the best and most popular in Osaka. Rikuro has been serving fluffy cheesecakes since 1984, and they import their cream cheese from Denmark! Since I’m from Norway (which used to be Danish a long long, time ago), it is kind of a fun fact. 🙂
Coming from Europe, I am used to those New York-style solid cheesecakes with a crushed digestive cookie bottom with a thick layer of creamy cheese-mix (I use Philadelphia cheese in mine).
The Rikuro’s cheesecake is completely different, however. There is no cookie bottom, just some raisins, so the whole cake is of a light, fluffy texture, feeling like a souffle. When you cut it, it makes a wibbly-wobbly bounce. The taste is also very mild; you can hardly taste the cheese.
My verdict: I like it! It doesn’t taste like a regular European or American cheesecake; it is also not that filling or sweet, which means that you can eat a lot. 🙂 I loved watching the cakes being taken warm out of the oven and each cake was stamped.
Rikuro Ojisan (meaning “Uncle Rikuro”) has eleven shops all over the Kansai region, but its main store is still in Namba in Osaka.
Rikuro’a cheesecake is super popular and world-famous, and he could easily have made a fortune if he expanded to all over Japan. But Rikuro still wants his cheesecake to be an Osaka specialty, which I think is kind of cool.
At Rikuro Ojisan’s main store in Namba, you can purchase a whole cheesecake (or two?) warm right out of the oven as takeaway (they will put the cake in a cute box). Or you can enjoy your cake at a stand-up cafe in the back of the store, or go all in and have a full cake + coffee/ tea experience in their Riku Cafe on the second floor. At the Riku Cafe, you can have original signature cheesecake, their special cheesecakes (with strawberries, and so).
- Address: 3-2-28 Namba, Chuo-ku, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the Midosuji Subway Line to Namba Station. It only takes two minutes from Namba Station (Exit no. 11) to R
- Opening Hours: 9:30 am – 21:30/ 9:30 pm
- Price: 725 Yen = US$ 7 for a whole cake (18 cm)
- Rikuro’s Official Webpage
Now that your energy levels are back on top, it is the perfect time to do some shopping! Head over to Namba Parks shopping mall, a 5-min walk from Rikuro’s.
D. Namba Parks Shopping Mall
Namba Parks is not a park as you would presume from its name. It is a trendy shopping mall with lots of cool shops, restaurants, cafes, and a cinema.
Although shopping in the two popular shopping streets/ arcades Ebisubashi-suji and Shinsaibashi-suji in the Dotombori area of Osaka are great; it is very hectic and stressful as the streets are packed with people. Namba Parks gives you a more peaceful and sophisticated shopping experience and is one of the best places to go shopping in Osaka.
You might wonder why a shopping mall has the word “Parks” in its name? The reason why is that it has a big outdoor rooftop garden where you can sit and relax and enjoy the sun. The whole shopping center is designed like a canyon and has lots of green plants, flowers, and trees. It is airy, and all the plants and windows make you feel like you’re in a park while you are shopping with lots of natural light coming in — kind of cool.
There are about 120 or so shops from the 2nd to the 5th floor. For dining, head to the 6th floor for casual restaurants and more fine-dining restaurants on the 7th and 8th floor. You will find all sorts of food here, from Japanese, Korean, to Italian. Namba Parks Cinema is located on the 8th floor, while the rooftop garden is on the 9th floor.
- Address: 2 Chome-10-70 Nanbanaka, Naniwa Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Namba Parks Mall is directly connected to Namba Station on the Nankai Railway. Or it is a 9-minute walk from Namba Station on the Osaka Metro Sennichimae and Midosuji Lines and Kintetsu Railway.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 21:00/ 9 pm (the restaurants are open until 22:00/ 10 pm)
- Namba Park’s Official Webpage
After all the shopping, it is time to wander back out into the streets and over to the geeky side of Osaka – Nipponbashi’s Denden Town. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from Namba Parks to Denden Town.
E. Denden Town – The Geek Area Of Osaka
Denden Town (or Den-Den Town), nicknamed “Denki Machi,” means “Electric Town” and is a neighborhood in the Nipponbashi area of Osaka. It can be compared to the Akihabara area in Tokyo, although smaller.
Denden Town is all about anime, manga, electronics, and maid cafes. You can read about our maid cafe experience here (I am still a bit embarrassed about it all…..). You will see young cute Japanese girls dressed in maid costumes on every corner. If you are interested in otaku – the Japanese geek culture, this is the place to come!
Here you will find everything from collectibles, retro toys, and games, to cheap electronics and manga cartoons. You can even try your luck at haggling about the prices on electronics, one of the very few places you can negotiate on prices in Japan. Several shops have tax-free and duty-free as well so it is a great area to go shopping for electronics.
If you happen to be in Osaka in March, Denden Town is an especially fun area to visit as the Nipponbashi Street Festa is on. During the festival, all streets in the Denden Town area are closed for traffic. Instead of cars, the streets are filled with costume parades, live music, and dance performances. Anime and manga fans from all over Japan come here dressed up as their favorite anime and manga figure. This is a fantastic opportunity to get some cool photos of the Japanese otaku culture.
After experiencing the geek side of Osaka, it is time to see the old Osaka in the Shinsekai area. It takes about 10 min to walk from Denden Town to the Shinsekai area.
F. The Old Osaka – Tsutenkaku Osaka Tower & Shinsekai Area
Shinsekai Area gives you a glimpse of the old Osaka. The most famous street in Shinsekai is Tsustenkakku Hondori Shopping Street – a 200 meter or so street that goes from Ebisucho Station (Exit 3) to Tsutenkaku Tower. This street is lined with small shops and restaurants. The area comes alive after dark.
Standing in the middle of the Shinsekai area, like a watchtower, is the 103-meter tall Tsutenkaku Tower. The Shinsekai area housed the National Industrial Exposition in 1903. It was a trendy exhibition that more than five million people visited during the five months it was on display.
When the exhibition was over, Shinsekai was developed and designed into an entertainment district and got the layout that you see here today. It opened in 1912 and was named Shinsekai, meaning “New World.” The northern part of Shinsekai has a layout that was influenced by Paris, while the southern part was inspired by Coney Island in New York. It quickly became a popular tourist attraction with the amusement park Luna Park as its biggest attraction. Luna Park closed after only eleven years.
Today, the Shinsekai area has a run-down carnival vibe to it, and its streets are packed with cheap shops and restaurants where rickshaw runners patroles the streets with tourists. You will find Spa World, a big bathing complex/ Onsen in Shinsekai (see further down in this article).
Shinsekai has, however, a darker side and is considered to be one of Japan’s seediest areas. It is worn down, and you will see some homeless sitting along the streets, which is quite uncommon in Japan. There is also prostitution going on in this area. Take care when wandering these streets, at least after dark.
Osaka’s Speciality – Kushikatsu
As you walk around in the Shinsekai area, you will notice that the big thing here is Kushikatsu, which is sticks with various skewered, battered, and deep-fried meat and vegetables. You can indulge in a wide range of different skewers, from chicken, beef, fish, asparagus, pumpkin, onion, mushroom, and so on.
To get a deep dive into the food culture of the Shinsekai area, consider joining this Shinsekai food tour. Here you get to try out different types of Kushikatsu, together with many other local Osaka dishes.
Many of the restaurants in this area has been serving Kushikatsu for decades, and most of them are open 24h. Beer is the most popular drink, together with Kushikatsu.
Kushikatsu is not my favorite Japanese dish. It reminds me of the fish in the British dish “Fish & Chips.” I much rather prefer tempura when it comes to deep-fried meat and vegetables as it is crispier and not battered. But you should try out Kushikatsu, as it is an Osaka specialty, and maybe you like it better than me. 🙂
You will also see several restaurants selling fugu (blowfish). Just look for big blowfish decorating the front of the restaurants, then you know you have come to the right place. 🙂
Sadly, the oldest and most famous blowfish restaurant in Shinsekai, Zuboraya was closed in September 2020. It had a huge 3D blowfish above its entrance, which was like an icon of the Shinsekai district.
Tsutenkaku Tower, meaning “Tower Reaching Heaven” or “Sky Route Tower,” is the main star of the Shinsekai neighborhood, an icon, and a landmark of Osaka. The Tsutenkaku Tower that you see here today is a rebuild that opened in 1956. It was designed by the same architect that designed Tokyo Tower, Tachu Naito.
The original tower was built in 1912, raging 64 meters up in the sky, influenced by the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was then the 2nd tallest structure in the whole of Asia.
Back then, Tsutenkaku Tower was connected to the nearby amusement park – Luna Park, by a cable car. It was T-H-E hippest place to hang around in Osaka, and people came from all over Japan to visit Tsustenkaku Tower and enjoy its cable car and the amusement park.
Sadly, Tsutenkaku Tower got struck by fire in 1943 and was so severely damaged that the whole steel structure was disassembled and its materials used to produce weapons for World War II.
Today the cable car and connecting amusement park are long gone, and only the tower itself is left. Here you can shop for souvenirs and enjoy the city view from no less than two observation decks, on the 4th and 5th floor.
The tower is lit by neon lighting, making it shine even brighter after dark. The lights change color with the season, which is kind of cool. Tsutenkanku Tower has a massive clock on its east side, apparently Japan’s biggest.
- Address Tsutenkaku Tower: 1 Chome-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the subway to Dobutsuen-Mae Station (a 2-minute walk from Tsusteknaku Tower), or Shinsekai or Shin-Imamiya Station (a 4-minute walk to the tower).
- Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 21:00/ 9 pm
- Ticket price: 800 Yen = US$ 7,55. 500 Yen = US$ 4,7 extra for the open-air deck.
- Tsutenkaku’s Official Webpage
Billiken – Shinsekai’s Mascot
When going for a stroll along the streets of Shinsekai, you cannot miss noticing a cute smiling figure with a big belly sitting with his feet out. This is Billiken, Shinsekai’s famous good luck mascot. You will see him all over the Shinsekai neighborhood, both on posters, stickers, and statues.
Billiken was, strangely enough, American. This is why the line “God of things as they ought to be” is written at the base of the Billiken statues.
The first and original Billiken statue in Osaka was put in the amusement park Luna Park back in 1912, but he sadly disappeared when the park shut down in 1923. When the Tsutenkaku Tower was rebuilt, a new Billiken statue was made and placed inside the tower for good luck.
If you visit Tsutenkaku Tower, make sure to say hi to Billiken on the observation deck and rub his feet. It is supposed to bring you good luck, so no harm trying. 🙂
Shinsekai area and Tsutenkaku Tower is the last stop on the second day of this Osaka 2-day Itinerary. You can drink beer and enjoy Kushikatsu in Shinsekai until the early hours, head back to your hotel, or wherever next is on your Japan itinerary.
That’s it, our recommended Osaka itinerary with all the highlights of things to do in Osaka, in our opinion. If you have more than two days in Osaka, you can, of course, spread out these sights over more days.
We hope you find this article helpful when deciding on what to do in Osaka. Feel free to pick and choose from what interests you most in this itinerary.
If you are short on time and want to fully experience the soul and highlights of Osaka, you should consider joining this Osaka Highlights Tour. On this private tour with a guide, you will visit most of the sights in this Osaka Itinerary listed above, like Osaka Castle, Kuromon Market, Hozenji Yokohco alley and shrine, Dotonbori, and Den-Den Town. You choose the length of the guided tour (2,4,6, or 8 hours), and the guide will customize the tour to your preferences and interests.
If you have more days in Osaka, make sure to check out these other things to do in this great city (listed below). Universal Studios do, however, require at least a full day as there is plenty to see and do at the amusement park.
Osaka’s central location, in the middle of the Kansai area of Japan, makes it the perfect base for exploring other famous and must-visit places like Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Kobe, and Koyasan. So you easily stay days and weeks in Osaka and not be bored at all. 🙂 See a list of our favorite day trips from Osaka further down.
Other Things To Do In Osaka
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
If you are into the creatures of the sea, and who isn’t, then Osaka Aquarium is a must-visit! It is one of the biggest and best aquariums in the world, and the best in Japan.
The aquarium has fifteen huge tanks housing all kinds of sea animals and fish like different sorts of sharks, otters, sea lions, penguins, seals, dolphins, rays, and jellyfish.
The super cool “Pacific Ocean” tank is the centerpiece of the aquarium, where you walk down a spiral ramp from the 8th floor to the 4th floor while you see through the glass of the huge 9 m deep tank housing the big animals of the sea like white sharks and manta rays. A visit to Osaka Aquarium is great fun for “kids” of all ages.
- Address: 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the Chuo Line to Osaka-ko (exit 1)
- Opening Hours: 10:30 am – 18:00/ 6 pm, last admission is at 17:00/ 5 pm. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays it opens at 10:00 (same closing time).
- Ticket Prices: 2300 Yen = US$ 21 (adult), 600-1200 Yen for children
Skip the line and save some money by buying your tickets to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan here (Voyagin)
- Osaka Aquarium’s Official Webpage
Universal Studios Japan
Just outside of Osaka city (about a 15-20 min train ride) is Universal Studios Japan. It is similar to Universal Studios in the USA, and you will find Hollywood-film-themed rides, shows, cafes, restaurants, and shops.
The highlight of Universal Studios Japan is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here you can shop for magic wands at the Hogsmeade Village and enjoy the ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” that takes you through Hogwarts School.
Expect huge crowds and long queues at Universal Studios, and try to avoid weekends and holidays when it is extra packed. Set aside a full day if you want to visit this amusement park.
- Address: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the JR Loop Line to Nishi-kujo Station, and switch to the JR Yumesaki Line to Universal Studios Station.
- Opening Hours: The opening hours vary a lot from season to season. Check their webpage.
- Ticket Prices: 7800 Yen = US$ 73 (adult), 5400 Yen = US$ 50 for children (age 4-11 years old)
Skip the line and save money by buying your tickets to Universal Studios Japan here (Voyagin)
Or buy this entry ticket where transportation from and back to your hotel is included (Get Your Guide)
- Universal Studios Japan’s Official Webpage
Spa World Onsen
I must admit that I have totally fallen in love with the Onsen culture of Japan. Soaking down in these hot spring baths is so refreshing and calming, especially during autumn and winter when it a fantastic way to get the warmth back into your body. You should definitely try Onsen (hot spring baths) when visiting Japan, it is mandatory, in my opinion.
Spa World in Osaka is a huge Onsen/ hot spring complex where the water is pumped up from far below the ground.
Here you find seven stories of pure Onsen bliss with everything from swimming pools, stone baths, and saunas to salt baths. There is also a kid’s water park/ pool and a gym. They have casual restaurants and a relaxing room where you can enjoy a rest in a comfortable armchair. You can basically spend several hours splashing and relaxing here. Men and women have separate bathing zones for the hot springs where you bathe in the nude (you get a towel). Swimsuits must be worn (you can rent if you don’t have one yourself) in the swimming pools.
If you have a tattoo, you are not permitted to enter Spa World.
- Address: 3 Chome-4-24 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka
- How To Get There: Take the Mido-suji Line to Dobutsu-en-mae Station (exit 5). Or take the JR Loop Line to Shin-Imamiya Station.
- Opening Hours: The different areas of the spa has different opening hours. The Onsen section is open all day and night: 10:00 am – 08:45 am (only closed one hour in the morning for cleaning). Check their webpage.
- Ticket Prices: 1300 Yen = US$ 12 (adult), 1000 Yen = US$ 9 for children (elementary school and below)
Skip the ticket line and save some money by buying your ticket to Osaka Spa World here (Get Your Guide)
- Spa World’s Official Webpage
Where To Stay In Osaka
Osaka offers a wide selection of accommodations, and at prices that are generally lower than more popular tourist destinations such as Kyoto. It is one of the reasons Osaka has become a popular base for exploring the wider Kansai region.
As with any Japanese mega-city, and Osaka is really big, staying in a well connected and central area can save you a lot of transportation time. Below are some of our favorites hotels at different price ranges.
Swissotel Nankai Osaka
If you want to stay at the heart of Osaka’s entertainment district then the Swissotel Nankai will let you do so in grand style. From here the famous Dotonbori district is just a few minute’s walk away and the Namba Nankai Railway station is right outside. You can take the train directly from the airport to the hotel, or use the well connected Namba subway station to explore the city.
The rooms are large and comfortable, the service professional and friendly, and if you feel like some in house dining one evening, you can choose between no less than seven restaurants! There is also an excellent fitness center, a spa, and even a full-size indoor swimming pool. Breakfast is served on the 36th floor with epic views across Osaka.
Click here for the latest prices
Located right in the middle of downtown Osaka, just steps away from Osaka’s famous Dotonbori neighborhood with its famous neon-lit restaurants’ streets, The Cross Hotel’s location is pretty hard to beat.
The modern, stylish, and comfortable rooms include amenities like a coffee maker, free wi-fi, flat-screen TV, fridge, and air-con, and the rooms are fairly spacious by Japanese standards. Breakfast is buffet style and quite excellent.
The hotel has its own restaurant, bar, and cafe, but with Dotonbori just outside your door, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Namba subway station is just three minutes walk away, making it easy to explore the rest of the city from here.
A brand new and shiny hotel (opened May 2019). The location is excellent, a little away from the busiest parts of downtown but still close enough to walk (15 minutes to Dotonbori), and very close to the well connected Hommachi station for the times when you don’t feel like walking
We loved our room and the huge comfortable bed, sitting area, large flat -screen tv and fridge. We had a nice view of Osaka city, and we slept like babies as the rooms are very soundproof. The free wifi is super fast, and the security safe was large enough to fit our laptops (which is pretty rare).
The hotel has a gym, and washing machines are available for use on the 6th floor. There is also an in-house bar and a restaurant, and just down the street is a large 7-11, a Starbucks, and a Hard Rock Cafe.
A super comfortable, modern hotel. Highly recommended.
Click here for the latest prices
Kamon Hotel Namba
A stylish budget hotel with basic but clean and comfortable rooms located in the heart of downtown Osaka, just a few minutes walk away from Dotonbori restaurant street. Several room types are available from twin rooms for two people to family rooms for larger groups.
There is a common area on the rooftop terrace for relaxing after a day of sightseeing, free coffee is served in the lobby, and breakfast is surprisingly good for the price.
⇒ For more hotel recommendations and tips on the best areas to stay in Osaka, read our complete guide to where to stay in Osaka.
How To Get Around Osaka
The best and easiest way to get around Osaka is by train (the JR Osaka Loop Line) and subway. There are a lot of railway lines and subway lines running to/ from and within Osaka city.
The main train stations in Osaka are JR Shin-Osaka Station (just outside the city), Osaka Station (the main downtown station), and JR Namba Station. Osaka Station was renovated in 2012 and is fresh and modern.
The main subway station is Umeda Station (downtown), which is conveniently located just next to Osaka Train Station (only a 1 min walk or so).
Most trains and subways stop running after midnight. So if you plan on staying out late in Osaka, you have to walk or grab a taxi.
There are several railway lines running through:
- JR – Japan Railways
You will most likely arrive and depart to/ from Osaka City from the JR Shin-Osaka Station, especially if you are using a JR Pass and take the Shinkansen bullet train. Shin-Osaka Station is located just outside downtown Osaka. From Shin-Osaka Station, you can get to Osaka Station (downtown) by a Rapid Express JR train (only takes 4 minutes one way on the Tokiado-Sanyo Line, which is included in your JR Pass).
There are several JR lines running to and from Osaka: Kensai Line, Yumesaki Line (has a stop at Universal Studios), Tozai Line, Kobe Line, Kyoto Line, Hanwa Line, and Kansai Airport Line.
- JR Osaka Loop Line/ Osaka Kanjo Line
The JR Osaka Loop Line loops through the downtown of Osaka. This train originates at Osaka Station and runs through 19 stations, of which 12 are connected with other train lines making it easy to get to/ from Osaka to all over Japan. The Osaka Loop Line is a JR line and covered on your JR Pass.
- Hankyu and Hanshin Railway Lines
Two private railway companies. Your JR Pass will not cover these trains. These are not that useful for exploring Osaka as they mostly go run between Osaka and neighboring cities like Kyoto, Kobe or Nara.
There are nine subway lines running within Osaka, where the red Midosuji Line is the one that will take you to most sights in the city. The green Chuo Line is also nice, as it will take you to Osaka Castle. The subway system in Osaka is fast, reliable, run on time, and gets you to all parts of Osaka in no time.
You have to buy a subway ticket before entering the subway system. The subway ticket is valid on all the nine subway lines. You don’t have to buy separate tickets for different lines. One ticket covers them all.
Train & Subway Passes For Osaka
There are several useful passes that also gives you discounted tickets to sights and transport in Osaka.
The most useful passes and special tickets to consider when exploring Osaka:
- ICOCA Smart Card
Prepaid cards (smart/chip cards) is the best way to pay for transport and other things in Japan.
ICOCA is the Osaka version and the most widely used prepaid e-money IC card in the Kansai region (Osaka ++). It also works across Japan.
With this re-chargeable prepaid transport pass, you can pay for city trains, subways, and buses without handling tickets or cash, and get extra discounts. You can also use the card to pay for goods at stores, kiosks, and vending machines, and or services like lockers, parking, and taxis. When you return the card at any station, you get refunded the deposit and any remaining credit.
⇒ Buy your ICOCA card online here (Voyagin)You can also use the Tokyo versions of prepaid smart cards in Osaka: Suica or Pasmo. It really doesn’t matter which one of these three you choose (ICOCA, Suica, or Pasmo), as long as you buy one (you will not regret it, will make your life so much easier). ICOCA, Suica, and Pasmo work on all trains, subways, and buses in Osaka (and all major cities in Japan).
- Osaka Amazing Pass
Gives you entry to 49 of Osaka’s major sightseeing spots, including Osaka Castle and the Umeda Sky Building. This pass also gives you free unlimited rides on all subways and buses. Choose between a 1-Day or 2-Day Osaka Amazing Pass. You also get a Toku-Toku discount coupon that can be used in lots of restaurants and sights.
⇒ Buy your Osaka Amazing Pass here (Voyagin)
- Osaka 1 Day Pass / 2 Day Pass — Osaka Metro & City Bus (Osaka Enjoy Card)
This card gives you unlimited rides on all Osaka Metro and Osaka City Bus lines. You get special discounts at more than 30 attractions in Osaka, like Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building, Tsutenkaku Tower, and Spa World.
⇒ Buy your Osaka 1 Day Pass/ 2 Day Metro & Bus Pass here (Voyagin)
JR Pass Kansai Area Of Japan
If you don’t have a regular JR Pass that covers the whole of Japan, you should consider buying a 5-day JR West Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass. This will save you a lot of money if you plan on visiting other places around Kyoto. With this pass, you can enjoy unlimited travel for 5 days on all JR West railways and buses throughout the Kansai region. This includes all the places listed below: Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Osaka, Kobe, Ise, and all the way down to Hiroshima.
If five days is not enough, you can opt for a 7-day JR West Railway Pass.
Day Trips From Osaka
Osaka is a great place to use as your base for exploring the Kansai area of Japan. It has cheaper accommodation than Kyoto, and lots of nice restaurants and cafes.
There are several awesome day trip options close to Osaka. If you are short on time, you should consider doing this day trip by bus from Osaka with a local guide that takes you to Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe (Get Your Guide). It is a full day where you get to see the best of Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, including meals.
Here are our favorites Osaka day trips:
Kyoto is a must-visit if you are heading to Japan. With its stunning shrines and temples, lovely gardens, and old quiet Geisha neighborhoods, Kyoto is probably the most beautiful city in Japan. It takes about 45 min by train from Osaka to Kyoto (one way).
⇒ Read next: Our recommended Kyoto Itinerary
Hiroshima, with its tragic history of being the first city in the world to be hit by an atomic bomb, is a 1 h and 20 min train trip from Shin-Osaka Station (one way, on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line).
⇒ Read next: Our recommended Hiroshima Itinerary
⇒ Read next: Our recommended Miyajima Itinerary
Nara used to be Japan’s capital back in the 8th century. Its streets are full of cute tame deer. The whole city is packed with beautiful ancient temples and shrines. The most famous is Tōdai-ji Temple, with the 15-meter tall bronze Daibutsu (Great Buddha) as the highlight. It takes about 1 hour and 5 min by train from Osaka to Nara (one way).
The main reason for visiting Himeji is its stunning Himeji Castle. Himeji is a 43-min train trip from Osaka one way.
Kobe is one of Japan’s most attractive and cosmopolitan cities. It used to be the gateway for trade with China and housed the first foreign European settlements after Japan reopened to the world in the mid-19th century. Kobe is, of course, also famous for Kobe Beef. It takes about 40 min by train to get from Osaka to Kobe (one way).
Another great day-trip option from Osaka is the coastal city of Ise. Ise is famous for Ise Jingu – a massive Shinto shrine. The city also has more than 100 other temples and shrines. It takes about 2 hours and 10 min to get from Osaka to Ise (one way).
We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):
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Have you been to Osaka, or are you planning on heading to Osaka? Have we missed something on this Osaka itinerary? What are you most looking forward to for your next trip to Osaka? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. We would love to hear from you! If you find this article useful, please share it on social media. Thanks! 🙂
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