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Best Things to Do in Osaka: An Essential Guide for Travelers

Osaka Castle: Best Thing to Do in Osaka #1

Osaka Castle: Best Things to Do in Osaka

Dive into Japanese history at the striking Osaka Castle, accessible via Osakajokoen Station. Surrounded by a moat and picturesque park, the interior museum showcases artifacts detailing Osaka’s rich past. Best visited during cherry blossom season for breathtaking sceneries.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Osaka Castle:

  1. Seasons of Visit
    • Attraction offers a different experience in each season: winter, spring, and summer.
  2. Weather Conditions
    • Weather conditions can make the visit to the attraction less enjoyable, especially during extra hot summers.
    • Ensure that you plan ahead and take into consideration the potential hot weather.
  3. Accessibility
    • The walk from the closest metro station to the attraction takes about 10 minutes.
  4. Ticket Purchase
    • Pre-buy the tickets online or upon arrival to skip the line at the ticket vending machine.
    • The tickets come at an affordable price of about $5.
  5. Interiors & Exhibits
    • Valuable cultural and historical artifacts, including Japanese national treasures, are stored in the lower levels of the castle.
    • Upper floors house an observatory deck offering a 360-degree view of Osaka.
    • The attraction can be crowded, especially during peak seasons.
    • The path to the top floor may be narrow and congested.
  6. Amenities
    • The attractions are designed with convenience in mind, featuring sizeable gift stores and an elevator for easy movement.
    • Air conditioning is provided on some floors displaying special artifacts.
  7. Enclosed Park & Shrine
    • An attached park and shrine in the proximity makes the attraction more pleasing.
  8. Historical Significance & Educational Benefits
    • The castle is an informative spot to learn about Japan’s past, from its beginning, destruction, and reconstruction.
    • An audio player in English language is offered to guide visitors through the sequences in the castle.

How do I get to Osaka Castle?

The most convenient way is by train. From Osaka Station, take the Osaka Loop Line to Osakajokoen Station. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the castle from there.

What are the opening hours?

Osaka Castle is generally open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with the last admission at 4:30 PM. Note that hours might vary during special events or holidays, so it’s wise to check in advance.

Is there an entrance fee?

Yes, there’s a fee to enter the main tower. As of my last update, adults pay 600 yen, while children under 15 enter for free. Remember, prices might change, so it’s good to check their official website before visiting.

Are there English guides or information available?

Absolutely! There are English audio guides available for rent at the entrance, and many of the exhibit signs inside the castle are bilingual, offering insights in both Japanese and English.

How much time should I allocate for a visit?

On average, visitors spend about 2 to 3 hours at Osaka Castle. This gives you enough time to explore the main tower, the surrounding park, and some of the secondary structures. If you’re a history enthusiast, you might want to allocate more time to delve deeper.

Dotonbori: Best Thing to Do in Osaka #2

Night view of the Dotonbori with the Glico man: Best Things to Do in Osaka

The pulse of Osaka’s nightlife centered in Namba. This lively district, a short stroll from Namba Station, captivates with neon lights, the famed Glico Man sign, and delectable street food stalls. Try takoyaki or okonomiyaki while enjoying riverside views.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Dotonbori:

  1. Popularity and Busy Atmosphere
    • Most popular and busy place in Japan.
    • Full of energy, similar to Times Square in NYC.
    • Very crowded, especially during holidays; may not be ideal for families with young children.
  2. Scenic River/Canal
    • Adds a wonderful touch to the atmosphere of the area.
    • Around the river are various stores, and places to eat and drink.
  3. Food and Entertainment Options
    • Endless food options, from local stands to restaurants.
    • An extremely large number of shops, including value bargain shops and arcades.
    • Street shows and side performances.
  4. Tourist Destination
    • Highly recommended for first-time visitors to Osaka.
    • Majority are tourists than locals.
    • Iconic glowing signs and the famous Glico man for photo ops.
  5. Considerations
    • Lack of public toilets; accessible only at eateries.
    • Can be harrased by drunk individuals.
    • Not very disability-friendly due to the crowding and lively environment.
  6. Best Time to Visit
    • Ideal to visit during the evening or night time.
    • Some eateries and stores close around 9:30 PM.

How do I get to Dotonbori?

Dotonbori is easily accessible by subway. The closest stations are Namba and Shinsaibashi on the Midosuji Line. From either station, it’s a short walk to the Dotonbori area. If you’re coming from Osaka Station, take the Midosuji Line direct to Namba or Shinsaibashi.

When is the best time to visit Dotonbori?

Dotonbori is lively throughout the day, but it truly comes alive at night with its neon lights and bustling atmosphere. Evening is a great time to enjoy the food stalls, entertainment, and vibrant street scenes.

What are the must-try foods in Dotonbori?

Dotonbori is a food paradise! Be sure to try takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), and crab dishes from the iconic giant crab sign restaurants. And don’t forget the street-side ramen stalls!

Is Dotonbori safe at night?

Yes, Dotonbori is generally safe at night. Like most places in Japan, the crime rate is low. However, it’s always a good practice to be aware of your surroundings and belongings, especially in crowded areas.

Are there English menus available in Dotonbori restaurants?

Many restaurants in Dotonbori cater to tourists and often provide English menus or picture menus. If unsure, look for display cases outside restaurants showing plastic models of their dishes – they’re a great way to point and order if there’s a language barrier.

Universal Studios Japan: Best Thing to Do in Osaka #3

Universal Studios Japan: Mario World

Film magic comes alive near Universal City Station. Dive into various themed zones, from Harry Potter to Jurassic Park. Buy tickets online to avoid long queues and consider visiting midweek for fewer crowds.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Universal Studios Japan:

  1. Tickets
    • Book your tickets in advance to ensure a smooth entry
    • Express passes can sell out, so buying them early ensures a shorter wait time at attractions
    • Consider purchasing additional tickets to access some attractions with less wait time
  2. Time of visit
    • Visiting during a weekday can result in a less crowded experience
    • An early morning arrival is advisable to avoid longer entry lines
    • A late afternoon entry and stay can provide a pleasant experience with less wait times at attractions
  3. Food & Drinks
    • There are various food stores outside Universal Studios which may offer a wider variety of meals than those available inside the park
    • Consuming outside food inside the park may be restricted
    • Water inside the park is comparatively cheaper than other theme parks
    • The Butter beer at the Harry Potter zone comes highly recommended
  4. Attractions
    • Attractions such as Harry Potter, Minions and Super Mario World are highly recommended
    • Expect longer wait times for popular rides
    • There’s a single rider option at some attractions that significantly reduces wait time
  5. Park Facilities
    • The park offers locker facilities for secure storage of belongings
    • Shade and seating options may be limited in some areas and in queue lines
    • The park is widely praised for being clean and well-maintained
  6. Weather
    • It can get very hot during summer with limited shade, so bring sunscreen, fans and water
    • Visiting during cooler seasons is suggested
  7. Park Staff
    • Staff are reported to be friendly, helpful, and courteous at all times

How can I reach Universal Studios Japan (USJ) from central Osaka?

The easiest way to get to Universal Studios Japan is by taking the JR Yumesaki Line (also known as JR Sakurajima Line) to Universal City Station from Osaka Station. The journey is approximately 15 minutes, and from Universal City Station, it’s just a short walk to the park entrance.

Do I need to purchase tickets in advance?

While you can buy tickets at the entrance, it’s highly recommended to purchase them in advance, especially during peak seasons, weekends, and holidays to avoid long queues. You can buy tickets online, at major convenience stores in Japan, or through authorized travel agencies.

Are there any must-see attractions or rides at Universal Studios Japan?

Absolutely! Super Nintendo World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Minion Park are among the top attractions. Also, don’t miss out on the seasonal events and parades, which Universal Studios Japan frequently hosts.

Is there a Universal Express Pass, and is it worth it?

Yes, Universal Studios Japan offers a Universal Express Pass that lets you skip regular lines for select attractions. It’s especially valuable on crowded days as it can significantly reduce waiting times. There are various types of Express Passes, so choose one that covers your desired attractions.

Can I bring outside food and drinks into the park?

Generally, bringing outside food and drinks into Universal Studios Japan is not allowed. However, there are numerous restaurants and snack stands inside the park offering a range of options. If you have specific dietary needs, it’s advisable to check the park’s policy in advance.

Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade

Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade: Best Things to Do in Osaka

A shopper’s haven! Starting from Shinsaibashi Station, indulge in over 600 meters of retail paradise, hosting both global brands and quaint boutiques. Refuel at its cozy cafés or sushi bars.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade:

  1. Night Life and Atmosphere:
    • Vibrant and colorful night scene with impressive light displays.
    • Bustling with activity and full of people for an energetic atmosphere.
    • Can be crowded, but many found the crowd part of its charm.
    • Recommended for evening visit during the summer to avoid heat.
  2. Shopping:
    • A mix of shops from top design brands to vintage, and from high-end to affordable.
    • Several drugstores, second-hand stores, convenience stores, and department stores located here.
    • Endless shopping options one could get lost in.
    • Stores typically close between 7 pm and 8 pm.
  3. Food and Dining:
    • Many options for street food and restaurant hopping.
    • Diverse range of tastes catered to, from local to international brands.
    • Snacks also available for on-the-go eating.
  4. Location and Accessibility:
    • Located right in the middle of Dotonbori, near rail stations for convenience.
    • Within walking distance from the Namba area.
    • Recommended to include Dotonburi in the itinerary while visiting this place.
  5. Safety:
    • Generally safe but caution is advised for late-night visits.

How do I get to Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade from central Osaka?

From Osaka Station, take the Midosuji subway line and alight at Shinsaibashi Station. The arcade is directly connected to the station. The journey should take about 15 minutes.

What kind of shops can I expect to find at Shinsaibashi?

Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade boasts a diverse range of stores. From high-end international brands to local boutiques, traditional crafts, and trendy pop-up stores, there’s something for every shopper. You’ll also find numerous cafes, restaurants, and snack stalls to refuel during your shopping spree.

What are the operating hours of the arcade?

Most shops in the arcade open around 10 or 11 am and close between 8 to 9 pm. However, times can vary by store. Restaurants and cafes might have different operating hours, often staying open later.

Is it a good place for souvenir shopping?

Absolutely! Alongside modern brands and trendy items, there are many shops that offer traditional Japanese goods, perfect for souvenirs. From local snacks, crafts, to unique Osaka-themed items, you’ll have plenty of options for gifts to take back home.

Are there any nearby attractions to Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade?

Yes, the iconic Dotonbori area, known for its neon lights, entertainment, and street food, is just a short walk away. You can also visit the Amerikamura district nearby, popular for its young and trendy vibe with numerous boutiques, cafes, and bars.

Sumiyoshi Taisha

Sumiyoshi Taisha main gate: Attraction in OsakaA harmonious blend of history and tranquility awaits at Sumiyoshitaisha Station. One of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, its ornate structures and symbolic bridges are a window into ancient religious practices.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited Sumiyoshi Taisha:

  1. Tranquility and Peacefulness
    • Visitors often commented on the serene and calm ambiance of the shrine.
    • The surroundings are quiet, offering a spiritual respite from city life.
  2. Nature and Scenery
    • The shrine grounds feature picturesque bridges, gardens, ponds, and trees.
    • Turtles swimming in the river can be seen, offering a pleasant diversion.
  3. Cultural and historical significance
    • Many visitors appreciated the historical significance and the traditional religious customs displayed at the shrine.
    • The shrine is one of the oldest and most important, with a unique architectural style, and represents the ancient style of Japanese shrine design.
    • It is a popular location for traditional weddings and ceremonies.
  4. Local Activities and Events
    • The site sometimes hosts local festivals and prayer ceremonies involving traditional Japanese dance.
    • Lucky cat and other specific purpose shrines are present
  5. Facilities and Services
    • There are no entrance fees for this attraction.
    • There’s a car park facility available.
    • There are small shops selling charms and amulets.
    • You can get the goshuin, a type of temple stamp, here.
  6. Accessibility
    • Walking or taking the JR rails is recommended as it’s a bit difficult to reach via the Osaka Metro.

How can I reach Sumiyoshi Taisha from central Osaka?

Sumiyoshi Taisha is easily accessible via public transport. You can take the Nankai Main Line and get off at Sumiyoshi Taisha Station. The shrine is a short 5-minute walk from the station.

What is the significance of Sumiyoshi Taisha?

Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, known for its unique architectural style called Sumiyoshi-zukuri, which predates the influence of Chinese architecture. It’s dedicated to the protective gods of sea and travel, making it a popular spot for sailors, fishermen, and travelers.

Is there an entrance fee to the shrine?

No, there is no entrance fee to visit the main grounds of Sumiyoshi Taisha. However, special inner areas or events may have a fee.

When is the best time to visit Sumiyoshi Taisha?

While the shrine is beautiful year-round, it’s particularly vibrant during the Hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the New Year) and during its annual Sumiyoshi Festival held in July. If you prefer a quieter experience, weekdays early in the morning or later in the evening are less crowded.

Are there any specific customs or etiquette I should follow at the shrine?

Yes, it’s customary to cleanse your hands and mouth at the purification fountain before praying. When approaching the main hall, you should bow twice, clap your hands twice, make a wish or say a prayer, then bow once more before leaving. It’s also respectful to dress modestly when visiting.

Tsutenkaku Tower

Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka

Located near Ebisucho Station, this iconic tower provides sweeping views of Osaka. The neighboring Shinsekai district entices with its nostalgic Showa-era vibes and tantalizing kushikatsu eateries.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited the Tsutenkaku Tower:

  1. Accessibility of the Attraction
    • Quick and easy transportation to the site with public transportation options nearby such as a subway.
    • Convenient proximity to shopping arcades and eateries, both long-standing and newly established stores.
  2. Observation Decks and Views
    • Two levels of observation decks, with the upper level being an open-air deck.
    • Additional features of the open-air deck, including a walk out overhang with a glass bottom.
    • Night views are particularly stunning across the city.
  3. Cost and Ticketing
    • Different fee structure for indoor and outdoor observation decks.
    • Consider buying an Osaka Amazing Pass for free entry.
  4. Attractions and Facilities
    • Slide for a thrilling ride down with a short waiting time.
    • Video footage available from the slide ride via Wi-Fi.
    • Option to purchase souvenirs and merchandises.
    • A museum with dioramas showcasing the tower’s history.
  5. Customer Service
    • Staff is friendly and helpful, providing clear instructions and assistance even to non-Japanese speakers.
  6. General Tips
    • Expect waiting times during peak travel seasons and plan to arrive early.
    • Use of translation apps may be necessary in the surrounding restaurants due to language barriers.

How do I get to Tsutenkaku Tower from central Osaka?

Tsutenkaku Tower is located in the Shinsekai district. The easiest way to get there is by taking the Osaka Metro. From Namba station, use the Midosuji Line and transfer at Dobutsuen-mae Station to the Sakaisuji Line, then get off at Ebisucho Station. The tower is just a few minutes’ walk from there.

Is there an entrance fee to Tsutenkaku Tower?

Yes, there is a fee to enter the observation decks of the tower. Prices may vary, but as of my last update, it’s around 700 yen for adults and 400 yen for children.

What can I expect to see at the top of Tsutenkaku Tower?

From the observation deck, you’ll get panoramic views of Osaka city. On clear days, you can even see as far as Awaji Island. The tower also offers displays about its history, and there’s a statue of Billiken, the “God of Happiness”, which is a popular photo spot.

Are there any dining or shopping options around Tsutenkaku Tower?

Yes, the surrounding Shinsekai district is known for its bustling streets filled with eateries and shops. Try kushikatsu, a local specialty, which consists of various skewered and deep-fried foods.

What are the operation hours for Tsutenkaku Tower?

Tsutenkaku Tower generally opens from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, but times can vary depending on the season or special events. It’s advisable to check the official website or local listings before planning your visit.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in Osaka

A marine odyssey at Osakako Station. One of the world’s largest aquariums, it introduces you to diverse aquatic habitats. Marvel at the massive Pacific Ocean tank, home to whale sharks and manta rays.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan:

  1. General Attraction/Size
    • There are many different types of aquatic animals to see.
    • It features a large center tank with a variety of fish.
    • The aquarium spans multiple storeys for varied views of animal enclosures.
    • Visitors can expect to spend around 2 hours exploring exhibits.
  2. Tickets and Admission
    • Wait times to enter the aquarium are minimal.
    • Advance purchase of tickets online is recommended and can save time and cost.
    • Special tickets for activities like whale shark feeding can be purchased.
  3. Exhibits
    • The exhibits are organized by region.
    • The aquarium houses unique exhibits such as playful dolphins, seals, penguins, whale sharks, and a stunning jellyfish collection.
    • Some visitors may find the variety of animals somewhat limited.
  4. Amenities and Facilities
    • There is a cafe midway through for refreshments.
    • Prams are not allowed inside the aquarium.
    • A toy shop is available onsite, though items may be slightly expensive.
  5. Visitor Tips
    • Visit as early in the day as possible to take full advantage of seeing all exhibits.
    • Purchasing a stamp book can enhance the interactive experience for children.
    • Visitors are advised to refrain from touching the aquatic creatures.

How do I get to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan from central Osaka?

The aquarium is located in the Tempozan Harbor Village of Osaka’s bay area. You can easily get there by taking the Chuo Line of the Osaka Metro to Osakako Station. Once you exit the station, it’s about a 5-minute walk to the aquarium.

Is there an entrance fee for the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan?

Yes, there’s an admission fee. Adult tickets are around 2,700 yen, while children’s tickets vary depending on age. It’s best to check the aquarium’s official website for the most recent pricing and any available discounts.

What are the main attractions inside the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan?

The Kaiyukan is one of the world’s largest aquariums, showcasing various marine life from the Pacific Rim. Highlights include the massive Pacific Ocean tank with a whale shark, the Arctic zone with seals, and the Maldives zone with bright coral displays. It’s designed for visitors to take a spiraling journey, mimicking the descending depths of the ocean.

Are there any dining or shopping options at or around the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan?

Yes, there are several dining options inside the aquarium, including cafes and restaurants. Additionally, the surrounding Tempozan Harbor Village offers various eateries, shops, and attractions, including the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel which provides breathtaking views of the bay area.

What are the operating hours for the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan?

Typically, the aquarium opens at 10:00 AM and closes around 8:00 PM, but the hours might vary depending on the day of the week and the season. Last entry is usually an hour before closing. It’s advisable to check the official website for the most up-to-date information before your visit.

Umeda Sky Building

View of the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka

Merely ten minutes from Umeda or Osaka Station, this twin-towered marvel boasts a 360° observatory. Known as the Floating Garden, its sunset hues beautifully juxtapose the urban skyline, creating an ideal evening retreat.

Summary based on multiple reviews from travelers who visited the Umeda Sky Building:

  1. Facilities
    • The attraction has cafe that serves drinks and simple foods.
    • There are facilities for families with kids.
    • There is a small museum section that explains the history and engineering marvel of the building’s construction.
    • There’s a locket area which you can purchase and get a note engraved on it.
  2. Admission and Access
    • Entrance fee to the top is 1500 yen per adult.
    • It is possible to skip paying the entrance fee if visitors only wish to take the famous escalator ride up.
    • A self-service machine at the entrance is available for ticket purchase.
    • The building is not directly accessible from the train station exit, it requires approximately a 10-15 mins walk.
    • Osaka ePass package also includes the adjacent art gallery.
    • It’s important to check about special days where Osaka Pass may not be applicable.
  3. Experiences
    • Offers an amazing view of Osaka, especially during the sunset and at night.
    • The elevator ride and floating escalator experience at high altitude are highlights.
    • There is a 360-degree city view and a sky view from the top.
    • Visitors can book a lock for “love lock” at the top of tower in advance.
  4. Miscellaneous
    • The place is perfect for couples and families.
    • Visitors can experience the peaceful Osaka nightlife.
    • The architecture of the building is remarkable, stunning, and worth a visit.
    • The overall experience is described as great and highly recommended by previous visitor

How do I reach the Umeda Sky Building from Osaka Station?

Umeda Sky Building is conveniently located about a 10-minute walk from Osaka Station. Once you exit the station, follow the signs directing towards the Umeda Sky Building or head northwest. The building is easily recognizable by its unique design and towering structure.

Is there an entrance fee to access the Floating Garden Observatory at Umeda Sky Building?

Yes, there’s an admission fee to access the Floating Garden Observatory, which offers panoramic views of Osaka. The entry fee is around 1,500 yen for adults. Always check their official website for the most current prices and available discounts.

What makes the Umeda Sky Building a must-visit attraction in Osaka?

Apart from its architectural marvel, the Umeda Sky Building’s Floating Garden Observatory offers a 360-degree view of Osaka, making it a prime spot for cityscape photography, especially during sunset. The building also has a unique escalator system that traverses between the two towers, providing a thrilling experience for visitors.

Are there dining or shopping facilities in the Umeda Sky Building?

Yes, the Umeda Sky Building houses a variety of restaurants, cafes, and shops. One notable attraction is the Takimi-Koji gourmet street on the basement level, which recreates a nostalgic townscape of Osaka from the Showa era and offers a variety of traditional Japanese dining options.

What are the operating hours of the Umeda Sky Building’s observatory?

The Floating Garden Observatory typically opens from 9:30 AM to 10:30 PM, with the last entry being around 10:00 PM. However, timings can change based on the season or special events. It’s recommended to check their official website for the most up-to-date information before planning your visit.