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Is Osaka worth visiting in Japan? What you’ll miss if you don’t go

Guest contributor Tiffany Cu has visited Japan at least 10 times; she’d visit Japan over Paris in a heartbeat! Here, she shares what she loves about Osaka.


Why do you want to visit Japan?

To see bustling Tokyo?

Or romantic Kyoto, heart of Japan’s geisha culture?

Or maybe you want to explore Japan off the beaten path?

What about Osaka? Is Osaka worth visiting? 

Is Osaka worth visiting? You bet! The delicious Takoyaki balls are worth it alone!
Takoyaki balls (one of the top food dishes in Osaka) being prepared at food stall

Well, don’t overlook the city.

There are plenty of good reasons to visit Osaka!

Is Osaka worth visiting?

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan (population 2.7 million) behind Tokyo and Yokohama.

It has a rich history dating back some 1,500 years.

Popular for its nightlife, food and shopping, Osaka should definitely be on your list when planning your Japan itinerary.

Is it worth visiting Osaka, Japan?
There are many great reasons to visit Osaka, Japan!

Things to do in Osaka

There are too many things to do in Osaka to cover everything in a short trip. But you can certainly get a good taste of the city in a few days.

Here are some of the best things to see in Osaka (and do) – and why you must visit Osaka on your next trip to Japan…

Osaka food

Let’s first talk about the food.

There are many who say Osaka has the best food in Japan. Simply put, it boasts tantalizing, tempting, downright tasty food.

The food in Osaka is some of the best in the world!
The food in Osaka is some of the best in the world!

Known as the “Nation’s Kitchen,” the city lives up to its reputation with restaurants and food guaranteed to tickle the tastebuds of even the most discerning of foodies.

There are so many Osaka restaurants, you could eat out once a day for three years – and still never hit the same place twice!

You’ll love the food in Osaka!

So, what to eat in Osaka?

Sample soups like Miso soup or Kitsune Udon (a thick classic Japanese noodle soup topped with seasoned, fried tofu).

Delicious food is one of the reasons to visit Osaka
Miso ramen noodle soup is a national obsession

Do you love sashimi and sushi?

You won’t want to leave Osaka – it has some of the greatest fresh sushi restaurants in the world.

Fresh sashimi and sushi in Osaka

And don’t miss trying takoyaki.

One of Osaka’s most famous food dishes, takoyaki (octopus fritters) is a fried ball-shaped Japanese snack with diced or minced octopus inside.

Takoyaki balls are seriously delicious!

Restaurants in Osaka

Creative, healthy, delicious - you'll be drooling over the food in Osaka!
Creative, healthy, delicious – you’ll be drooling over the food in Osaka!

Some of the best places to eat in Osaka include the following:

Mizuno:

It’s the oldest known Japanese pancake restaurant, and its signature dish, yamaimo-yaki (pancake stuffed with pork, scallops, vegetables and the like) is a Japanese soul food that lures in the crowds.

The dough is made with yam instead of flour, making it crispy on the outside but soft and slightly sweet inside.

Soba Takama:

Check out the affordable Michelin-starred restaurant’s cold soba (buckwheat noodles dipped in a sweet sauce), served on a bamboo plate and topped with seasonal veggies.

Fujiya 1935:

This restaurant’s signature dish is spaghettini made with locally caught crab, beans and mimoretto. Seriously delicious…

Love Indian food? Get curry happy and check out these 20 popular Indian dishes!

Places to see in Osaka

National Bunraku Theater:

Osaka’s downtown area, or Kita, is the business area.

But Minami, uptown, is Osaka’s famous entertainment district – and where you want to be.

Osaka is the birthplace of Bunraku, traditional Japanese puppet theater.

The National Bunraku Theater in Minami is a good place to watch the creative performances of the “little humans” set against a backdrop of music and storytelling.

You’ll definitely want to put catching a show here high on your list of things to see in Osaka!

Bunraku puppet theater is one reason why it's worth visiting Osaka
Half-lifesize Bunraku puppets have almost lifelike facial expressions as the puppeteers can move the puppet’s eyelids, eyeballs and mouths (Credit: Wikimedia)

Each puppet for a major character is manipulated by three puppeteers.

One puppeteer controls the head movements (sometimes opening and closing of the eyes and mouth too) and movements of the right hand. Two assistants maneuver other parts of the puppet.

You even see the Bunraku puppets as you walk down the streets.

While in North America, puppetry is mainly geared to children, in Japan, the historical or romantic plays performed by the eerily lifelike Bunraku puppets appeal to adult sensibilities.

Kaiyukan Aquarium:

Jelly fish – so pretty, so ethereal…

Over at the Kaiyukan Aquarium, gape at some 30,000 sea creatures – from Pacific dolphins, manta rays, penguins and jelly fish to giant whale sharks.

One of the biggest public aquariums in the world, it’s noted for how it recreates the natural environment of the various species.

It’s a real crowd pleaser – also consistently rated one of the best things to do in Osaka.

If traveling as a family, visiting the aquarium is one of the best activities to do in Osaka with kids.

Universal Studios Japan:

Visiting Universal Studios Japan is one of many fun things to do in Osaka

And don’t forget Universal Studios Japan.

One of four such theme parks in the world, its attractions include the hit “Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

Enter Hogwarts, then fly on a broomstick as you’re strapped to a bench in a floating candle-lit room.

The state-of-the-art 4K3D technology makes it a magical ride for muggles of all ages.

Umeda Sky Building:

is osaka worth visiting
The Umeda Sky Building is one of the city’s most striking buildings

That striking high-rise structure of glass and steel you see rising in the north part of the city – actually two 40 story-high skyscrapers joined at the top – is the Umeda Sky Building.

Many of the floors are designated as office space, but you can take in splendid views of the city from its rooftop observatory.

To get there, you take a high-speed elevator up to near the top, then a glass-enclosed escalator which stretches diagonally across the wide open space to the observatory.

Not for those with a fear of heights…

Things to do in Osaka at night

Dance, dance, dance - there are lots of clubs in Osaka
Dance, dance, dance – there are lots of clubs in Osaka

The nightlife in Osaka is busy, fun and bright.

Many bars, clubs and restaurants stay open late – whether hip-hop or swing, you can dance the night away. Club Joule is wildly popular.

For karaoke, head to the Moonshine Bar Osaka, which mixes Southern American and Japanese-style karaoke.

For a belly full of laughs, check out a comedy show.

Osaka is renowned for its comedy clubs.

ROR Comedy Club offers English-language weekly standup shows; it’s about a five-minute walk from the main tourist area of Dotonbori (famous for its flashy neon lights, restaurants and bars).

Osaka shopping

Your credit card’s going to get a workout if you love to shop.

Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street:

Tenjinbashisuji shopping street in Osaka
Tenjinbashisuji is the longest covered shotengai (shopping street) in Japan (Credit: Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau)

Said to be the longest street in Japan, the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street is a covered arcade stretching for over a mile-and-a-half.

More than 600 stalls and shops tempt you with their colorful wares – everything from fresh produce and kitchen utensils to books and tourist knick-knacks.

Department stores:

Fashion boutiques are concentrated in department stores like the Hanshin Department Store and Hankyu Men’s Osaka.

The Hankyu Department store focuses on luxury goods.

Popular souvenir to take home?

Bâton d’or – a chocolate-covered pretzel. Be forewarned: It’s highly addictive!

Cultural places to visit in Osaka

Museum of Housing and Living:

Make like a local and rent a kimono at the Museum of Housing and Living; you’ll really feel like you’ve traveled back to the Edo Period

Travel back in time to the Edo Period at the Museum of Housing and Living in Kita.

The Edo Period between 1603 and 1868 is when Japanese society was organized around castle towns ruled by shoguns.

Rent a kimono at the museum and wander through recreated buildings and alleys – public bathhouses too – showing everyday life at the time.

The museum is one of the best places to visit in Osaka if you’re interested in Japanese culture and history.

Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses:

Another interesting museum on the history of Osaka and Japan is the Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses.

Here you find 11 old farmhouses with displays showing how the farmers lived; you can learn about silk worm farming and see cooking demonstrations.

Check the event schedule to see when there’s a tea ceremony or story-telling session.

Osaka Castle:

Osaka Castle in autumn
Osaka Castle in autumn

One of Japan’s most famous landmarks, Osaka Castle was built in 1583 by a powerful warlord who ruled the country at the time.

Inside is a museum, where you can see samurai costumes and other historical artifacts.

Outside, the castle’s extensive gardens bloom with over 600 cherry trees in springtime.

Cherry trees paint the sky pink outside Osaka Castle
Cherry trees paint the sky pink outside Osaka Castle

People in Osaka: Friendly locals

You’d think that with Osaka being so crowded, the locals would be cranky and annoyed. Wrong.

They are not only helpful to tourists, but are friendly, open and have a great sense of humor. They’re interested in where you come from and what you think of their city.

They truly hope everyone who visits has a good time and they go out of their way to make sure your experience is memorable.

The people enjoy life in their city – and they want you to love it too!

Dotonbori Canal in Osaka
Night view of the Dotonbori Canal

Best hotels in Osaka

Wondering where to stay in Osaka?

What I like:

One of my favorite hotels is Fraser Residence Nankai Osaka.

Fraser Residence Nankai Osaka

Check rates and availability here

It has very pleasant rooms for a good price and is ideally located across the street from the Namba Nankai Station.

It’s also only a 10-minute walk from picturesque Dotonbori, which has great shops and restaurants running alongside the Dotonbori canal.

5-star hotels in Osaka:

Luxury hotel options include the St. Regis Osaka (its outdoor rooftop garden terrace is very Zen and a tranquil spot to look out over the city) and the Ritz-Carlton.

So, why go to Osaka?

Are you convinced now that Osaka is worth visiting?

Osaka packing list

1) Layers | Bring a sweater and light jacket. It can get cool, even in summer.

2) Cute and comfy walking sandals | Do your tootsies a favor and check out these fab travel sandals for both men and women that we’ve sussed out!

3) Suntan lotion | The sun can be strong.

4) Water bottle | You can drink the tap water anywhere in Japan. This refillable (collapsible) water bottle is handy.

5) Cool shades | We’re a fan of Ray-Bans.

6) Good camera | You won’t want to miss those great shots of Osaka’s architecture. We love our Sony A600 mirrorless camera – it’s small enough to throw in your purse or backpack, but it takes awesome photos!

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Is Osaka worth visiting in Japan?

Photo credits: 6, 8 Tiffany Cu


About the author:

A digital marketing ninja and travel blogger, Tiffany Cu (aka “Tiffy) launched Asia Travel Bug in 2008 to help visitors travel better in Japan and beyond. Check out all her Asia articles on her blog!

An Osaka local

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

Another major hub to fly in and out of Japan, you bet Osaka is worth a visit. It’s full of history and food... and is a great city to have a night out with friends.

Janice and George

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

You have reasons to be proud of your city :-). Thanks for writing in.

Joseph S Peachey

Tuesday 29th of October 2019

My wife and I plan to be in Osaka in January 2020. From there we go to Tokyo; do we visit Mt. Fuji on our way or do we do a trip to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo?

Joe

Janice and George

Tuesday 29th of October 2019

Mt. Fuji is between Osaka and Tokyo, so if you're visiting Osaka first, then it would make sense to visit Mt. Fuji from Osaka (if you're staying overnight in Mt. Fuji), and then go on from Mt. Fuji to Tokyo. If you're just doing a day trip to Mt. Fuji, it's easier to do that from Tokyo. Travel time from Tokyo is about 2 hours. From Osaka, it takes about 4 hours to reach Mt. Fuji, so you can't reasonably visit Mt. Fuji on a day trip from Osaka.

Victoria

Tuesday 29th of August 2017

Do I want to visit Osaka? Absolutely! Our teenage son is a Manga freak, so Japan is already on the cards. We're going to India (again) next year, so Japan will probably be a present when he's 18. He's 15 now....!

Irene Levine

Thursday 24th of August 2017

Tiffany sure has made a compelling (and appetizing) case for visiting Osaka!

Janice and George

Thursday 24th of August 2017

We like Asian food -- all the interesting dishes Osaka serves up would tempt us :-).