The Total Guide to Osaka, Japan: The Beautiful Food Capital of Japan with an Exceptional Futuristic Skyline
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Osaka is the capital city of Western Japan and the second largest cosmopolitan city after Tokyo. In addition to Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka falls in the category of must-visit destinations in Japan. This port city is considered to be the economic hub of the Kansai region for decades and is a thriving metropolis that attracts millions of visitors every year. It is one of the most modern cities in Japan and it takes pride in its futuristic and striking skyline which can be viewed from atop the monumental and stately architectural landmarks. Its cultural institutions and notable architectural markers have enabled it to cement a world-class status and become one of the dominant developed countries in the world.
The effervescent city is home to a magnificent traditional castle, a bevy of iconic landmarks among which the colossal shopping center, top-tier amusement park, museums, art galleries, and entertainment and music venues that cannot be missed when visiting Osaka in Japan. Below you will see a list of curated top attractions that you should add to your travel itinerary when visiting Osaka.
Best attractions to visit in Osaka
Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan in Osaka is one of Japan's most popular theme parks and rivals the significant and eminent Tokyo Disney Resort in Tokyo. USJ is home to thrilling and adventure-daring rides and attractions which are based on themes borrowed from blockbuster movies like Jurassic Park, Minions, Spiderman, and Harry Potter. The park is categorized into 9 distinctive zones, each premised to showcase a distinctive and enchanting theme. The park also hosts seasonal events such as Halloween and Christmas. Themed food and drinks and USJ themed merchandise is also popular amongst the visitors. You can purchase e-tickets instantaneously online if you have planned to visit the park for an electrifying and exhilarating adventure.
Amongst the heritage sites in Osaka, Osaka Castle is one of the most imperial castles in Japan and ranks number one on the bucket list of visitors. The castle was constructed by the samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi who was a famous warlord. This significant marker exemplifies the history of Japan during the sixteenth century. The castle is perched inside Osaka Castle Park which is prominent for the 3000 cherry blossoms or most commonly known as sakura which bloom in spring. During the sakura season, the park is flooded with tourists who gather to celebrate the hanami party and witness the magical beauty of sakura glistening pink and red with all their splendor.
You can find a personalized tour that will bring you to Universal Studios and Osaka Castle by clicking the link below.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is amongst the most colossal aquarium in the world and boasts of exhibiting more than 500 species of marine life which includes penguins, sea lions, dolphins, and a distinctive variety. It is situated in the Tempozan Harbor Village of Osaka's bay area which is quite near Universal Studios Japan. This walk-in aquarium preserves 15 fish tanks that retain an assortment of fishes including manta rays and two giant whale sharks swimming freely in a large reservoir.
This aquarium exhibition was introduced in 2013 and enables the visitors to come up close and upfront with the marine life and observe them with awe, incredulity, and luxurious leisure.
The grandiose and palatial Umeda Sky Building is one of the stunning landmarks in Osaka and it encompasses two grand offices linked together by a large platform edifice. The towering rooftop building with its rooftop observatory and garden compels the visitors to pay a visit and offers a resplendent view of the city.
The Umeda Sky Building is surrounded by an urban garden that is encircled by gushing fountains, pleasing pathways, and serene ponds and boasts of integrating a vibrant underground market too.
Dotonbori district is swarmed by visitors day and night because of its kinetic nightlife and bustling walkways. This shopping district is distinctively conspicuous with its photogenic billboards which are scattered all over the district and exhibit unique and out-of-the-ordinary signs.
Dotonbori is a popular landmark dotted with innumerable restaurants and eateries which serve local cuisine. This shopping mecca is a must-see spot for shopaholics because it offers plenty of opportunities to sightsee, shop, and dine out in traditional Japanese style.
Abeno Harukas is the tallest skyscraper in Japan and is a multi-purpose building that constitutes of shops, hotels, offices, restaurants, and museums. The Harukas Observatory located on the 58-60 floor is the phenomenal facet of this building where you can enjoy a bird's eye view of the entire city.
Eleven floors cover the shopping space and integrate all kinds of departmental stores and small stores. The restaurants are located on 12-14 floors which embrace around 44 restaurants catering to offer Japanese, French and Italian cuisines. You can visit the Abeno Harukas Art Museum which is located on the 16th floor and parades artworks from all over the world.
If you want to evade the bustle of the metropolitan city of Osaka and immerse yourself in the scenic landscape, then Minoo Falls located in Minoo Park is the perfect escapade for you. The park is located half an hour from the city and can be reached by train journey.
The majestic and tumbling waterfall can be accessed through mountain trail trekking. The maple trees and the attractive foliage hemming in the waterfall will beguile your senses and provide the perfect antidote that will alleviate your worries. You can also visit the Minoo Onsen Spa Garden which is situated just at the base of the mountain trail to let your stress be ebbed away by the hot springs.
Located in the city center and considered to be one of the best-known landmarks of Osaka, Tsutenkaku is the oldest observation tower that offers an all-extensive view of the entire city. The spellbinding view of the entire city can be observed from the fifth floor. The tower is lits up with neon lights at night and grants a flashy and extravagant atmosphere. The area of the tower is known as Shinsekai and is speckled with souvenir shops and eateries. You can relish the authentic Japanese flavor and the best of Osaka food here.
If you are visiting Osaka here are some of the most heavenly and soul-enriching day trips which you can look up during your visit.
Transportation Advice Before traveling
It is best to get a Japan Rail Pass to save money on train travel. If you don't have the Japan Rail Pass you can use the Special Rapid Service Trains which cost less but take longer to reach destinations. You can also get a Kansai Thru Pass for your travel.
Nara Day Trip from Osaka
If you wish for easy and convenient travel, then Nara is the best option for you. It is only half an hour train ride away from Osaka. Embedded with historical temples Nara was once the capital of Japan and still holds historic value. You can view many old temples and roam around the peaceful parks.
If you are visiting in December, be alert of the Nara Kasuka Wakamiya Matsuri Festival which lasts for four days and is one of the oldest Japanese festivals theming art and history.
If you are traveling on the local train, you will easily reach the Himeji castle in one hour. The looming luster and the profound beauty of the castle is still the most sought-after destination by tourists. The grounds, labyrinths of paths and alleys, and countless staircases and low ceilings have been mostly aptly preserved. It is one of the most famous and biggest castles in Osaka. The feeling of deep tranquility and peace resides in the castle's walls and despite the hustle and bustle of the tourists, the castle reins with all its might looking like a pillar of strength. You can stride along the castle grounds and view the most scenic cherry blossoms.
Barely 15 minutes away from Osaka by train, Kyoto is the former capital of Japan for over 1000 years and emanates a feeling of rich tradition, jolly moods, and resplendent culture. No trip to Japan can be considered complete till you take a walk down this awesome city. Hosting about 3000 shrines and temples and beautiful culture, Kyoto is a must-visit if you are in Japan. Feel the rich taste of Japan and its mouthwatering cuisines too when you are in Kyoto.
Just one hour's ride away from Osaka station, Uji is for food and drink lovers who love to eat and drink. Although Uji is smaller than Kyoto and Osaka, it is much more peaceful and happy without the wholesome crowd of tourists. Feel the ambiance and the cultural history of Uji and walk through its downtown streets and discover the Buddha temple, Myodoin, and mystical phoenix birds.
Uji is well known for its green foods so if you are there you ought to try their soba with ramen and their ice cream, parfait, and pancakes.
Learn the history of Uji with a traditional tea party with friends. Savor delicious bites from downtown food streets in Uji.
Just a one-hour bus drive from Osaka, Arima is one of the oldest towns with the oldest hot spring resort. The town is dotted with many hotels and private Onsen houses which are a little costlier but hold their traditional value. There are countless shrines and temples in this town also. All in all, the city reminds you of ancestral blood and generous spirits. Revel in the true beauty of Japan with the tribal vibes of the mesmerizing town of Arima.
Enveloped in lone and ancient pilgrimage routes and a waterfall nearby, Kumano Kudo is a set of hiking trails and holds spellbinding beauty and peace. If you are all set for an energetic day ahead, this day trip has the best surprises for you. Glide through the magic of Japan in the serene and soft atmosphere and let the soft chirping of the birds wash over your worries and depression.
You can plan on visiting all of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano if you have more time. The whole of Kumano would easily need three to four days to discover.
You can book a Shinkansen train from Osaka to take you to Kurashiki. It will take roughly one hour to reach your destination but it is definitely worth the ride. Much favored by Japanese tourists as well, Kurashiki has an old canal that goes through the center of the town. The temperature is chilly and the ambiance is peaceful and subdued. Get ready to sit back and relax and lose the troubled train of thoughts amidst the sanctity of the town and the composed air of wooden buildings and quiet streets.
If your interest resides in the technological side of Japan you can go on a two hour trip to the factory of Toyota Motor Corporation or go and visit the JR SC maglev and railway park where you can witness the world's fastest train. Nagoya has many more interesting locations such as shrines and Nagoya Castle if you are more of a cultural and heritage person.
In the city which has been nicknamed 'The Nation's Kitchen', it is naturally expected that there are award-winning restaurants and eateries at every corner. Food is an essential facet of Osaka's culture and dining gems in Osaka continue to lure connoisseurs of food to relish the gourmet meals. This culinary destination is speckled with great places to eat some of which are curated below.
Osaka Cuisine Asai
This one-star Michelin Japanese restaurant is famous for its 150 miscellaneous culinary creations. The ingredients for the recipes are freshly picked from the Kuromon Market every day. The restaurant is acclaimed for its various course meals and the specific a la carte menu. The hot pot dish is one of the most coveted dishes served by the restaurant. The restaurant is decked with counter seats which allow the visitors to view the chefs cooking right in front of them. Sizeable tables are also affixed to accommodate large groups. The staff is friendly and bilingual so visitors can comprehend the gist of the menu and the ingredients employed in the dishes served.
The massive moving crab on the shop's display is the elemental representation that sets this restaurant apart from the rest. Kanidouraku is the most renowned crab restaurant in Japan boasting of owning 40 stores all over Japan with its main branch perched in Osaka's illustrious Dotonbori district.
The myriad of crab dishes served by the restaurant is relished by all and varies in their price tag. Course meals can cost you between 5000 to 10000 yen while a crab sushi box is available for 1600 yen for takeaway. You can immerse yourself in the taste of Shiro Shoyu soup stock or relish the taste of Kani Kaiseki. This upscale crab restaurant enables you to succumb to the delectable crab taste that will leave a lasting impression on your tastebuds.
If you want to experience fine dining while seated in an elite and upscale restaurant then Honkogetsu is one of the most distinguished restaurants in Osaka. It has managed to earn two Michelin stars and is eminent for practicing exclusivity in kaiseki, which is a customary Japanese multi-course dinner. The dishes are created to delight the tastebuds and be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Creativity and artistic flair are employed to fashion dishes that are following the seasonal themes and are garnished to balance the taste and texture.
Taikou Sushi Osaka
If you are craving Japanese-style sushi, then head over to Taikou Sushi Osaka which is celebrated for its genuine and affordable sushi in Osaka. Feel the hunger mounting and tastebuds craving as you see the chefs preparing the portions of vinegared rice and raw fish with ease and alacrity right in front of you. Taikou Sushi is one of the most coveted and popular eateries amongst the locals because of its delicious flavor and unique taste.
Tsuki no Odori Chicken Dining
For Muslims visiting Japan, finding restaurants that serve halal food can be a real predicament and so, this restaurant comes as a great savior serving palatable grilled chicken skewers. Usually, tourists find it hard to comprehend the Japanese menus in eateries and this is why the menu designed by this restaurant is mainly based on chicken dishes, are tourists friendly, and easy to understand.
Its fried chicken with tartar sauce, smoked chicken skewers, and foie gras skewers are top-selling dishes available at an economical price. This charming restaurant is situated in the central district of Dotonbori.
Serving genuine Kansai style Sukiyaki for more than 100 years, Kitamura was established in 1881 and has earned one Michelin star for its exceptional performance over the years. The Kansai style Sukiyaki of Osaka differs from that of Tokyo in its recipe. The natural taste is invigorated by the simple seasoning executed by the ingredients like soya sauce, sugar, and mirin, and raw eggs are used to submerge the ingredients before eating.
The Sukiyaki dish is prepared by selecting the seasonal Wagyu beef from all over Japan, then slicing it into thick wedges, and finally cooking it in a special iron pan. Some locals also prefer to have their Wagyu beef prepared pan-fried with batter and veggies.
The customary Japanese interior décor magnetizes the tourists and the quintessential tatami rooms, courtyard garden, and the willow tree add a conventional flair to the restaurant.
Yotaro Honten was founded in 1921 and serves to provide the real Tempura taste in Osaka. It has earned two Michelin stars and is regarded as one of the best places to experience the original flavor of tempura. Using fresh ingredients and cooked with cottonseed oil, the Tempura is served moist, juicy, and hot immediately after deep frying it in the pot. Apart from serving the appetizing tempura, Yotaro is famous for its specialty dish known as Taimeshi (snapper rice). The simple yet homely Taisho-era era décor of the restaurant allows the visitors to enjoy the happy and pleasant ambiance. You can choose the counter seats if you want to witness the crafting of the exquisite dishes or you can unwind harmoniously in the spacious dining.
Ramen is a popular culinary achievement in Japan and this restaurant is acclaimed for its delectable flavor of Ramen in all Osaka. Kamakura has managed to blend the traditional flavor of Ramen with French cuisine. Since it was launched in 1986, the restaurant has conserved its conventional taste of the secret soup base and genuine fine noodles. The Ramen is created with a light flavored soya soup base and is an aromatic dish that is served with various toppings of Chinese cabbage, pork, and other garnishes. Side dishes prepared by the professional chefs at Kamakura are also popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
Osaka doesn't only overwhelm you with its sci-fi landscape but also tends to satisfy your hunger cravings and grant your tastebuds an unforgettable taste. Locals, as well as tourists, relish the continual hustle and bustle of cheerful people and soulful laughter amongst other attractions.
With its retro charisma, modern verve, and the sparkling nightlife, Osaka will take you on a rollercoaster ride of fun and shopping, eating and mingling with the locals, and witnessing the fusion of old with the new.
If you are an intrepid traveler, you are bound to be lost in the magical beauty and subdued elegance of Osaka. With its most modern and world-class architecture, competent cultural institutions, and unyielding futuristic skyline, Osaka is a much-visited tourist attraction.