If you’re considering visiting Osaka during your trip to Japan, you might find that two days in Osaka is the perfect amount of time to cover many of the attractions in Osaka without rushing through this Japanese metropolitan city. This Osaka travel guide covers the best things to do in Osaka, foods to try in Osaka, and general travel tips for Osaka. Thanks to Alyse from the Invisible Tourist for her insights into traveling to Osaka.
- How many days to spend in Osaka Japan
- Unique things to do in Osaka
- The best museums in Osaka
- Food and drinks that you must try in Osaka
- Where to stay in Osaka
- Transportation in Osaka
- Should I purchase a JR Railpass or Suica card for train travel in
- How to get to Osaka from other Japanese cities
- Should I purchase a JR Railpass or Suica card for train travel in
- General travel tips about Osaka Japan
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How many days to spend in Osaka?
Spending two days in Osaka will be the perfect amount of time to see most of the sights she has to offer. Despite being Japan’s third-largest city, it’s very easy to navigate around the neighbourhoods in a short timeframe using the metro or on foot.
Unique things to do in Osaka Japan
Eat your way around the city. Shinsaibashi-suji Arcade and Kuromon Ichiba Market are great places to start! Indulge many of the local specialties and maybe pick up a few locally-made souvenirs while you’re at it. (You can read more about food to try in Osaka below!)
Visit Osaka Castle Museum. Learn about Osaka’s history at this wonderfully preserved castle. Be sure to check out the 360° view over the city from the observation deck and wander the beautiful grounds. More info below.
Explore Dotonbori by night. Watch the Dotonbori River become brightly illuminated by the surrounding colourful billboards at night.
See the Glico Man. This famous billboard has been hovering above Dotonbori since 1935. The Glico Man lit up at night is a solid favourite amongst locals as well as tourists. Don’t miss this iconic sight in Osaka!
Hozen-ji: Located a street behind bustling Dotonbori, this narrow stone-paved laneway appears to have been frozen in time for centuries and is home to traditional Japanese shops and cafes. Hozen-ji temple, decorated with lanterns, is worth a visit and the Mizukake Fudo moss-covered statue is also nearby. This is one of the most unique things to do in Osaka.
Amerika-Mura: After World War II, some stores in this area began to sell Americana items, resulting in its catchy name. Today, this offbeat neighbourhood is known for bars, cafes, second-hand fashion and record stores targeted at the youth. Although many people talk about Harajuku in Tokyo, Amerika-Mura is often considered the birthplace of new Japanese fashion trends. I think that experiencing the Amerika-Mura is one of the most unique things to do in Osaka that a visitor can see.
Osaka Manholes: Keep an eye out for these beautifully artistic drain coverings beneath your feet as you explore the streets.
Find the miniature shrines around the city. In Osaka (as well as the rest of Japan), you’re likely to stumble upon a number of shrines spread out throughout the city. I loved how hidden some of them were.
Which museums to visit in Osaka with two days in Osaka?
Allocate spending the majority of one day at the Osaka Castle Museum, arguably Japan’s best-preserved castle. Osaka Castle is absolutely gorgeous and is a pristine example of the level of detail and care that was put into traditional Japanese architecture. Built in the late 16th century and a hub for trade at the time, the castle was chosen to be built in Osaka by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who is considered one of the great unifiers of Japan.
The castle houses an impressive collection of over 10,000 artefacts ranging from portraits, armoury, swords and other weapons to dioramas with intricate hand painted figurines that demonstrate wars of the time, especially scenes from the Summer War of Osaka. There are also TV screens showcasing re-enactments of related events with English subtitles to help you gain a better understanding of Osaka’s history.
I found one of the most enjoyable experiences at Osaka Castle was gazing over the city from the observation deck. With 360° views, it’s easy to see how the past and present buildings blend together so seamlessly in Japan. Wandering around the beautiful grounds should also not be missed. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the cherry blossom season, you’ll be in awe of all the stunning trees blooming surrounding the castle!
Getting to Osaka Castle: Approx 30 mins. From Namba station on Sennichimae line, travel to Tanimachi 9-chome station and switch to the Tanimachi line. Alight the train at Tanimachi 4-chome Station. Exit north past Hotel Primrose and then head east onto Hommachi-Dori street. You’ll be able to enter the castle grounds by the Otemon Gate.
Opening Hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm daily (last admission 4:30pm). Hours may be extended during certain times throughout spring and summer.
Have some extra time? You can also visit the nearby Osaka Museum of History.
What to eat in Osaka?
The saying in Osaka “kuidaore” literally means “eat ‘til you drop”, which is very appropriate considering the number of places eat in Osaka…and your delicious choices. Consider eating one of your top things to do in Osaka. Keep reading for tips for authentic local cuisine in Osaka!
Takoyaki (battered octopus shaped into balls) are Osaka’s famous culinary delight. There are loads of places to find them, from local street vendors scattered throughout the city to restaurants along Dotonbori and in the arcades.
Another thing you must try in Osaka is a Kobe beef BBQ where you cook small steaks yourself at your table (TIP: the “haneshita” variety is to die for!)
I highly recommend Showa Taishu Horumon on Dotonbori, it was packed with locals which is always a good sign! If you’re up for something different and a bit more adventurous, these BBQs also serve cow’s innards (horumon) like intestines.
Be sure to try okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake made with seafood that has its own delicious sauces and is deeply satisfying. It can be easy found in Osaka.
What to drink in Osaka?
Try all the different sakes – Japan’s traditional rice-based alcoholic beverage, which can be enjoyed either hot or cold. The flavour range is very broad, including sweet, dry, fruity, aged, rich and mellow. I personally love the sakura (cherry blossom) flavour, as well as sparkling sake. Mio Sparkling sake is my absolute favourite! Kirin and Asahi are popular beer options.
Should I purchase a JR Railpass or Suica card for train travel in Osaka?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to purchase a JR Railpass before you visit Osaka if you’re travelling with a mid-range budget and want to maximise your actual time at your destination. If you’re travelling by shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka, the fastest trains (Nozomi) that reach speeds of over 300 km/h are not covered by the pass, neither are the Mizuho shinkansen (second fastest). As I researched the neighbourhoods I would be visiting prior to my trip, I personally found buying single tickets for the Osaka metro was easy and inexpensive rather than paying for a pass upfront that I knew I wasn’t going to make full use of. Osaka metro tickets only cost a small handful of yen each way.
How to get to Osaka
From Tokyo, Kyoto or Hiroshima
Times below are to Shin-Osaka station and based on travel using the Nozomi shinkansen:
- • 3 hours from Tokyo (Shinagawa)
- • 1.5 hours from Hiroshima
- • 15 mins from Kyoto
From Kansai Airport
- • 50 minutes on Haruka Limited Express train from Kansai Airport
Where to stay in Osaka
I can highly recommend Cross Hotel Osaka, in the centre of Osaka’s beating heart. Just a few steps away from the famous Dotonbori Arcade, dozens of restaurants and only a few minutes walk to Namba station, which is a very easy walk with luggage. As a business hotel it also means there are many power points for charging devices which is handy.TIP: Be sure to ask for a room facing Mido-suji (street entrance) side for a super quiet sleep!
Editor’s note: If you’re looking for something different, Osaka is (in)famous in Japan for its quirky love hotels that are often themed. NSFW link: This love hotel in Osaka has rooms with carousels (!?), karaoke machines, and cars if you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping in a pick-up truck.
How to get around Osaka
Like all Japanese cities, Osaka is very navigable by metro. It’s inexpensive with tickets. Metro signs are in both Japanese and English so it’s not difficult to find your way.
Osaka is also quite simple to get around by foot, especially in the Dotonbori neighbourhood where there are kilometres (yes, you read that correctly!) of shopping arcades where you’ll be able to stop off and eat many new treats along the way as you explore.
Things to do before you travel to Osaka
It’s best to learn a few Japanese phrases and likely responses so you’re able to approach locals if you happen to need assistance. Kindly ask them in Japanese if they’re able to speak English and if they can help you with your query. Downloading Google Translate offline for Japanese is also a good idea.
Also, study a map of the areas you plan to visit. On your arrival you’ll have a rough idea of the directions you need to travel in order to reach your hotel and the sights you wish to see with minimum fuss.
Is English spoken in Osaka?
Much like Tokyo, it is possible to find English-speakers in Osaka. Many hotel staff speak English as well as some staff at metro stations. As mentioned above, learning some basic Japanese phrases will go a long way. In my personal experience, a friendly local actually approached me when I was exiting Namba station with my suitcase to see if I needed directions to get to my hotel. She said she loved practising her English! You can read tips for using Google Translate for reading Japanese menus as well as asking directions.
Thanks to Alyse for her tips! She has a helpful two week itinerary for Japan along with more tips for visiting Japan on her website, the Invisible Tourist!
Have you been to Osaka? Any questions about visiting Osaka?
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