Though Osaka is the second biggest metropolitan area in Japan, it’s typically overlooked for popular Tokyo or historical Kyoto. However, Osaka itself has plenty to offer besides having one of Japan’s main international airports. For starters, it’s known as the best place to eat in the entire country, has plenty of sights to see and things to do, is central to many of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is close to some incredible hiking opportunities. This guide will help give you a brief overview of a city less traveled.
Even though Osaka Castle is a reconstruction after being destroyed in war, it still remains Osaka’s most popular site. It’s a beautiful building to look at and during cherry blossom season it provides a great backdrop from neighboring Naniwa Palace Site Park, which offers plenty of green space to have a picnic and ponder the ancient past. While there, visit the Osaka Museum of History as well and learn about Osaka’s unique history.
Umeda Sky Building
The Umeda Sky Building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city and offers visitors one of the best views of the city and the sea. Though the building itself is beautiful, with two 40-story towers connected at the top with bridges and escalators, the real thrill is the 360-degree vistas offered at the top.
This museum is dedicated to the promotion of peace and offers some horrific insight into the damage caused by war. In particular, this museum focuses on war displays from the bombings in Osaka during WW II but also displays the atrocities committed by Japan on countries such as China, Korea, and parts of Southeast Asia.
With a history dating back over 1800 years, Sumiyoshi Shrine is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. With unusual architecture and natural surroundings, this shrine is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Osaka.
If you’re up for a little childlike fun, head over to the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel, which also has a neighboring mall including the Suntory Museum along with many shops. You can also catch a ferry that will bring you over to Japan’s Universal Studios where you can enjoy all your favorite characters and movies dubbed in Japanese.
Try Osaka’s Food
Osaka is known for having incredible food and the areas of Umeda and Dotombori have the widest selection of restaurants. Typical Osakan foods include Battera (block type sushi), takoyaki (fried Octopus dumplings) and kushikatsu (meat skewers). If you want a unique Osaka experience, opt for Okonomiyaki Osaka style, which is a do-it-yourself food. You’ll be given a bowl of ingredients and are responsible for cooking it yourself at the table. Staff are always willing to help but don’t dress too fancy as the grease can splatter all over the place.
Whether you’re coming to Osaka for business or for pleasure, there are plenty of things to do in the city. Besides finding a cheap hotel in Osaka, look into buying a Kansai Travel Pass, which will save you money on transportation as well.
This article was written as part of the hipmunk #citylove project. As a paid writer for hipmunk city guides, I have written about the best things to do in Canada as well as Japan, Hong Kong and France.