Osaka Travel Guide and Itinerary

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This effervescent city — Japan’s second-largest metropolis — is so warm and welcoming, you won’t want to leave.

About Osaka 

First-timers in Osaka will no doubt be surprised (in a good way!) by the city’s vibe — it’s a world away from Tokyo. Osaka has a long and storied history of being a merchant city, and its entrepreneurial culture is evident in its residents’ friendly, fast-talking and straightforward nature. It’s where you’ll probably encounter more locals willing to speak to tourists and foreigners in general, and it’s also where you may pick up a local phrase or two. 

The Kansai region of Japan, which makes up the southern-central area of Honshu island, informs not just the food Osaka is famous for producing and consuming (takoyaki and okonomiyaki spring to mind) but also the unique Kansai dialect you’ll hear on the streets of Osaka. The informal way of speech with its unique vocabulary is just one of the many ways this city tears down barriers between tourists and residents — the other being food, and lots of it. 

 

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A phrase you may hear often is “Osaka no kuidaore, the eat-till-you-drop philosophy that this historic town’s well-known for. It’s easy to spend a week eating through Osaka’s famous food stops, like the Dotonbori district with its numerous side stalls selling seafood and piping-hot takoyaki; or Shinsekai, where you’ll find myriad shops hawking skewers of kushikatsu lining the neighborhood’s narrow alleyways. 

Not sure how to dress for your trip? Note that summer here lasts from June to September (with a high of 30°C in August), and you can expect the heaviest rainfall in June. And from July to October, you can even swim in Osaka Bay the waters are a pleasant 23°C during this period. 

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Photos on this page via Shutterstock.com

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

There’s plenty to see and do (and eat) in Osaka, but the best place to start is at the most famous landmark of the city — head to the popular food and shopping Dotonbori district (a four-minute walk from JR Namba station) and take that obligatory shot of the Glico Running Man from Ebisubashi, the bridge that arcs over Dotonbori Canal. This neon symbol of Osaka’s status as a thriving modern city was first installed in 1935 and continues to delight both locals and tourists today with its cheerful pose. 

Another eye-catching highlight in the city centre is the 106.7ha Osaka Castle Park, home to 13 Edo-period structures that make up this 16th-century heritage site, once the residence of the great politician Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The castle’s structures — from the impressive main Otemon Gate to the beautifully preserved gunpower storehouse — are all recognized as Important Cultural Properties by the government. In the spring, you’ll get to enjoy cherry blossoms and plum blossoms in the sprawling grove of 1,250 trees. 

For more history, check out the Unesco-listed Mozu-Furuichi mounded tombs, located in Sakai, a 30-minute drive south of the castle park. Explore the 49 conserved burial mounds known as “kofun”, that come together to form a charming keyhole shape when seen from the top. Beneath lie the resting places of those in the elite social classes dating back to the 3rd century. From nearby Sakai City Hall, take in a panoramic view of the site’s lush foliage peeking out from the midst of concrete buildings. And beside the Mozu tombs is Daisen Park, where you can visit a city museum as well as a gallery dedicated to bicycles — Sakai has a long history of bicycle manufacturing in Osaka prefecture. 

A trip to Osaka wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Universal Studios Japan, the 54ha international theme park that’s just 12 minutes by train from Osaka station (or a short 23-minute drive west of Osaka Castle Park). You and the family will love not just the old-school park rides based on Jurassic Park or Sesame Street, but also the Harry Potter-themed area that opened in 2014 to much fanfare. And a new “world” is scheduled to join the USJ family in 2020 — Super Nintendo World, where you’ll get to ride your very own Mario Kart! 

 


Recommendations list to be updated.

Recommendations list to be updated.

Recommendations list to be updated.

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