Osaka is the capital city of Western Japan, the second largest city after Tokyo. It is lovingly referred to as the Nation’s Kitchen. But Osaka is much more than food.
The rich history of Japan lies within the temples, museums, other structures and within the people themselves.
Osaka is considered to be a friendly and vibrant city. It boasts the largest shopping street in Japan, ancient temples, the tallest building in Japan, and several museums important to Japanese culture.
With a population of nine million people, there truly is no shortage of things to do while you are there.
Japan’s culture and history are rich, full of legends, spirituality, and much violence over the years. The people embrace their history going back centuries to the periods of the Shoguns.
Many of the traditions of historical Japan are still seen today in Osaka, and their legends and memories are colorful.
Some of the most important Buddhist and Shinto temples are located in the Osaka region. There are festivals to honor the deities that are believed to still inhabit the temples.
The ancient architecture is different from almost everywhere else in the world.
Ironically, most of the temples were burned to the ground due to their wooden structure but rebuilt; some temples were rebuilt more than once.
There are a lot of things to do in Osaka. It should not be a question of what to do in Osaka as perhaps which things to do first.
The following list is in no particular order. The traveler can prioritize their own list of the best things to do in Osaka according to their own interests.
Things To Do In Osaka:
For your visit to the Osaka, Japan region, you will want to put at least some of these things to do on your itinerary:
1. Osaka Castle
The Osaka castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan. It was originally built in 1583. The original castle wad burned to the ground several years later and was rebuilt.
The latest restoration was completed in 1997.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
2. Osaka Museum of History
Located across the street from the Osaka Castle, this modern museum hosts exhibits that mirror Osaka over the past 1350 years.
Address: 4 Chome-1-32 Otemae, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0008, Japan
3. Shitennoji Temple
First Buddhist Temple in Japan. The original structure was built in 593 AD. It was destroyed during World War II.
The rebuilt structures on the grounds show different styles of architecture over the centuries.
Address: 1-11-18 Shitennoji, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0051, Japan
4. Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai (Shopping Street)
At a length of 2.6 km, it is the longest shopping street in Japan.
Traditional Japanese medicine stores, restaurants, and specialty stops provide you with the ultimate Osaka shopping experience.
Address: Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka, 532-0011, Japan
5. Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
Originally built in 949 AD, this historic Shinto temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since then.
Dedicated to the deity of scholarship and education, the grounds of this beautiful shrine offer just the right amount of tranquility.
It is also the site of Osaka’s magnificent yearly Tenjin Matsuri Festival.
Address: 2 Chome-1-8 Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0041, Japan
6. Tenjin Matsuri Festival
If your trip takes place at the end of July, the Tenjin Matsuri Festival is nothing less than magnificent.
Shrines are built and carried through the streets in a parade of color and pageantry. Later in the evening, enjoy an unforgettable fireworks display.
This festival is considered to be one of the more important things to do in Osaka if you schedule your trip at the right time of year.
Address: 2 Chome-1-8 Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0041, Japan
7. Osaka Shochikuza Theatre
The traditional Kabuki theatre. Enjoy a showing of a traditional Japanese dance drama.
It is a combination of music, dance, and staging with spectacular costumes depicting various legends.
If you are interested in historical Japanese culture, then no visit to Osaka would be complete without taking in one of these shows.
Address: 1 Chome-9-19 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
8. Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
This open-air museum recreates Osaka as it has looked throughout history.
Detailed reproductions of architecture throughout the many periods of Japan’s history are shown in exquisite detail.
Address: 6-Chome 4-20, Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-0041, Japan
9. Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
One of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. It was originally built over 1800 years ago. It is the most famous shrine in Japan and is considered a national treasure.
It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times with the last rebuild taking place in 1810.
It is known for the long arched bridge at the entrance and is one site that should not be missed on your trip to Osaka, Japan.
Address: 2 Chome-9-89 Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka, 558-0045, Japan
10. Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
This is the only museum in the world to have a permanent exhibit of the Kunishige prints created from Kamigata wood blocks.
These delicate and highly detailed prints depict various aspects of Kabuki performances and have been treasured by artists around the world such as Edward Degas and Vincent van Gogh who both were known collectors.
Address: 1 Chome-6-4 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan
11. Osaka Aquarium
One of the largest public aquariums in the world, this 8-story structure has 16 primary exhibits depicting habitats from areas around the world.
There is also an ‘interactive area’ where you can get up close and personal with various sea creatures.
It has 27 large tanks depicting 16 different habitat areas including the Aleutian Islands, Antarctica, the Great Barrier Reef, the Tasmanian Sea, and the Ring of Fire area of the Pacific Ocean.
Address: 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, 552-0022, Japan
12. Umeda Sky Building
This architectural masterpiece is one of the top things to do in Osaka.
It is one of the most recognizable landmarks with two 40-story towers connected by bridges and an escalator at the uppermost levels.
The Floating Garden Observatory is located in the observation area on the 39th floor. The architecture is unique, and not just in Osaka, Japan.
Address: 1 Chome-1-87 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka, 531-6023, Japan
13. Cup Noodles Museum
Unlike any other museum in the world, this unique attraction tells the story of the invention of the concept of instant ramen and Cup of Noodles.
Instant ramen has become a mainstay of many kitchens around the world.
If you work up an appetite while you tour the museum itself, never fear. There is an authentic Ramen noodle restaurant on the premises.
Although very unique in nature, the Momofuko Instant Ramen Museum should definitely be on your list of things to do in Osaka, Japan.
Address: 8-25 Masumicho, Ikeda, Osaka 563-0041, Japan
14. Spa World
For a day of fun for the family and true relaxation for the weary traveler, although labeled as Amusement Park, Spa World has natural hot springs, traditional Spa offerings, and markets itself as ‘Hot Springs From Around the World.
There are also the traditional Onsen hot soaking tubs. These are not your usual bathtubs though.
You must be completely clean before stepping into the steaming waters. There is also a luxury hotel on the premises.
For family time, there are a number of water attractions and slides for the kids.
A day at Spa World can give you a relaxing break from sightseeing the many Osaka region’s offerings.
Address: 3 Chome-4-24 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002, Japan
15. Tsutenkaku Tower
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Japan, and a tribute to their rebirth following World War II.
The original tower was designed after the Eiffel Tower and built in 1912. It burned to the ground in 1943, and it’s rebuilding was a priority for the citizens.
Inside the tower, there is a statue of Billiken, the deity of happiness. Climbing into the tower and rubbing the statue’s feet is said to bring good luck.
Be careful though as it is not located in what is considered the safest part of Osaka.
Address: 1 Chome-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002, Japan
16. Dotonbori Shopping Street
Osaka’s nightlife at it’s finest. This very popular tourist attraction has a history as the local theater district.
The restaurants, shops, and arcades offer everything that one could be looking for.
During the day, take a walking and tasting tour to familiarize yourself with the numerous offerings. The street food is not to be missed.
Address: 1 Chome-9 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
17. Tempozan Ferris Wheel
When it opened in 1997, it was the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world. Colored lights on the Ferris Wheel itself serve as a weather predictor for the next day.
The views of Osaka Bay and the areas around it are breathtaking from the top.
Address: 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, 052-0022, Japan
18. Abeno Harukas
This is the tallest building in Japan. It has 60 floors, with the Abeno Harukas Observatory taking up the top three floors.
It also houses luxury stores, art galleries, hotels, and restaurants. The department store is the largest in Japan. No trip to Osaka is complete without a visit to Abeno Harukas.
Address: 1 Chome-1-43 Abenosuji, Abeno Ward, Osaka, 545-6016, Japan
19. National Museum of Ethnology
Considered one of the more major museums in Japan, it is the largest research institute in humanities and social sciences.
The primary museum collection consists of film, recordings, and other pieces that represent every diverse angle of life.
The building also houses one of the largest multi-lingual academic reference libraries in Japan.
Address: 10-1 Senribanpakukoen, Suita, Osaka 565-8511, Japan
20. Namba Yasaka Shrine
This shrine houses the deity of guardianship and is considered one of the most unique shrines due to its enormous lion head statue.
It is home to a yearly Shinto tug of war ritual.
The tug of war uses a rope resembling a snake with 8 heads and 8 tails, symbolic of the myth of an enshrined deity who killed a snake and purged the hardships of the people.
Address: 2 Chome-9-19 Motomachi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0016, Japan
21. Expo Park and the Tower Of The Sun
Home of the World Expo 1970, the Tower of the Sun statue was the symbol of that expo. The statue has three faces on its front and back.
During the Expo itself, the building was open to the public for viewing of a piece of art known as ‘the tree of life’. Due to deterioration, the structure is no longer safe to enter.
Address: 1-1 Senribanpakukoen, Suita, Osaka 565-0826, Japan
22. Katsuoji Temple
This Buddhist temple was originally built in 765 CE. It burned down in 1184 CE and was rebuilt in 1199.
Mythology holds that the Emperor at the time had fallen quite ill, and was made well due to a miracle brought about by the prayers offered at the time.
Since then, many shogun’s have donated extensively and is now the destination for those wishing for ‘Victor’s luck’.
Address: 2914-1 Aomatani, Minoo, Osaka 562-8508, Japan
23. Senkoji Temple
For a transformative temple visit, the Senkoji Temple offers visitors a glimpse of both heaven and hell.
Visitors proceed into the Jigokudo to be met by extensive artwork of the devil and the punishments that exist in Hell.
Visitors who proceed up the stairs to the ‘Realm of the Buddhas’, hold onto a handrail filled with sand gathered from a total of 88 sites of the Saigoku pilgrimage.
It is said that meditating before the Mandala upstairs can change your way of life.
Address: 4 Chome-12-21 Hirano Honmachi, Hirano Ward, Osaka, 547-0044, Japan
24. Osaka International Peace Center
The Osaka International Peace Center is a peace museum focused on the destruction due to the tragedy of war during World War II.
The exhibits remember the destruction of Osaka itself as well as the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It serves as a reminder of the importance of peace.
There are six exhibit areas focusing on the appearance of Osaka before and after the war, an explanation as to why Japan chose to declare war on the United States, and different phases of the city following 1945.
Address: 2-1 Osakajo, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
25. Ohatsu Tenjin
This 1300-year-old shrine is said to house the deity of relationships. Prayers offered at this holy place are for strong relationships.
The site of this shrine is purportedly the site of a tragic love story not unlike Romeo and Juliet.
Ohatsu and Tokubei were star-crossed lovers where Ohatsu was a prostitute who was not allowed to be with her love, Tokubei.
The couple committed suicide in the mountains close to the shrine. It is a legend brought to life through a bunraku drama.
The temple has long drawn couples and lovers to pray for luck for their relationships. Beyond the legend, the temple is considered to be a valuable relic of the Shinto religion.
Address: 2 Chome-5-4 Sonezaki, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0057, Japan
26. Isshinji Temple
This Buddhist temple has a bit of an odd history. Inside the grounds stand thirteen images of Buddha composed of the ashes of thousands of devotees.
In 1854, a popular kabuki actor chose to be buried on the grounds. Following his burial, thousands of his fans had their urns placed there as well.
By 1887, there were too many so the head priest commission sculptors to cast a statue of Amida using the ashes from the urns in combination with resin.
There is also a mural of deities welcoming the dying to the land of Buddhas.
Address: 2 Chome-8-69 Osaka, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0062, Japan
27. The Maishima Pottery Museum
This Osaka museum is built upon a man-made island in the bay in order to give the potters access to the rich marine clay below the waters.
There is a wide range of pottery pieces to view in the galleries and an onsite kiln.
One of the draws of this attraction is the ability to make your own pot using the pottery wheel and the marine clay.
Once you have made your pottery piece, you can glaze it and the instructors will fire it in the outdoor kiln and ship it to you.
Address: 2 Chome-2-98 Hokkoryokuchi, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0042, Japan
28. Hozenji Temple
Home of the Moss God of fury, it is believed that if you pour water on the moss-covered statue, your wish will come true.
So many wishes have been made in this fashion over the years that the statue is permanently covered in moss.
Near the temple itself, you can take a trip into the past with a visit to Hozenji Yokocho, with its stone-paved narrow streets.
Address: 1 Chome-2-16 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan
Other Osaka Experiences
Other than the obvious shrines, museums, and landmarks listed above, there are other truly Japanese experiences that, if you have the time, you should try not to miss.
A trip to Osaka, Japan truly leaves you with a large selection of things to do during your visit.
29. Theatrical Samurai Sword Fighting
One of the most unique of these might be the classes in Theatrical Samurai Sword fighting. These classes are taught by actors using swords made of bamboo.
Once they teach you the basic moves, you will perform a fighting scene with the professional actor playing the support role.
This might be one of the better souvenirs you can bring home from Osaka as your fight is photographed for you.
There are also Interactive Samurai Entertainment improv shows that have a comical twist to them.
Osaka is known for comedy, and this combines distinctive Japan culture with that comedy.
30. Street Go Kart Experience
For the child within, street-worthy go-karts made to resemble Mario Carts are available.
They drive just like a car, and as long as you can show proof that you can drive, either with an international driving permit, or even your own driver’s license that can be translated, you should take part in this experience.
Since your MarKarts are lead through the streets of Osaka, Japan so it is also another good way to sightsee.
Address: 3-chōme-1-10 Ōhiraki, Fukushima-ku, Osaka, 553-0007, Japan
31. Sumo Wrestling
Another inherently Japanese pastime is Sumo Wrestling. Sumo battles only occur 6 times every year, so make sure that you double check the dates to see if they will coincide with your trip.
32. Universal Studios
One of four of their locations in the world, Universal Studios Japan Amusement Park is actually quite similar to Universal’s Orlando, Florida location.
Complete with Hogwarts, if the family is with you, give them a day of fun at Universal Studios Japan.
Address: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031, Japan
33. Minoo Falls
If you decide that you need a day communing with nature, the Minoo Falls just north of Osaka can be exactly what you need to soothe your soul.
If you go, you should try an order of fried maple leaves while you are there. The park is located near the Katsuoji Temple.
Address: 1-18 Minookoen, Minoo, Osaka 562-0002, Japan
34. National Bunraku Theater
For true Japanese cultural experience, take in a bunraku play, or puppet theater at the National Bunraku Theater.
This is the vehicle that tells the stories of most of the legends of which Shinto deity worship is based upon. English translations are available during the shows.
If you have the time, this is a piece of Japan culture that should be included in your planning.
Address: 1 Chome-12-10 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0073, Japan
35. Osaka Science Museum
The Osaka Science Museum is an interactive museum which houses the fifth largest planetarium, and was also Japan’s very first planetarium.
The planetarium is located in the basement of the facility. In other areas of the museum, various interactive experiments and displays teach the wonders of science.
Unfortunately, the planetarium show is only delivered in the Japanese language.
Address: 4 Chome-2-1 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0005, Japan
What To Eat In Osaka
Since Osaka is known as the gourmet food capital of Japan, you should make sure that you try some of the local fare. Below are four famous local foods and where to go for the best of them:
Takoyaki is a popular Osaka snack made of dumpling batter filled with sliced octopus, ginger, and spring onions. More commonly known as octopus balls, it is the most popular of the available street food.
The most famous takoyaki stores can be found at the Dotonbori Konamon Museum. You cannot miss it as it can be easily recognized by the giant red Octopus on the storefront.
To go even further into the history of takoyaki, you might want to go to the restaurant called Aizuya which is where it was initially invented.
Address (Aizuya): 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, 552-0022, Japan
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake whose filling is customized to your taste. The name ‘okonomiyaki’ literally translates as ‘grilled stuff you like.’
Popular fillings include pork, squid, octopus, scallops, shrimp, cheese, and tomato, and is served topped with a brown sauce, mayonnaise, and powdered seaweed.
There are numerous okonomiyaki restaurants as it is one of the most popular dishes in Osaka, Japan.
The most famous okonomiyaki restaurant is Mizuno in Dotonbori whose signature dish, the Mizuno-yaki, will surely not disappoint.
Address (Mizuno): 1 Chome-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
Kushikatsu are kebabs of seafood, meat, vegetables or a combination which are breaded and deep fried to a beautifully crispy golden brown.
These are usually served with a variety of dipping sauces although occasionally they are served with flavored salt.
They are traditionally offered in pork, shrimp, beef, onion, pumpkin, sweet potato, asparagus wrapped in bacon, quail’s eggs, shiitake mushrooms, or lotus root.
While this delicious food is now popular everywhere in Japan, it originated at the Kushikatsu Daruma restaurant in Osaka.
Address: 1 Chome-6-4 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
Fugu, is a famous delicacy due to its reputation for being dangerous. Blowfish served raw, is only poisonous if prepared by one who is unskilled in its preparation.
To avoid any unnecessary deaths, fugu chefs are specifically trained in its special preparation for a period of three years before they are able to become licensed.
It is usually served as very thin sashimi slices that are arranged in a floral pattern. You will also find it available as tempura, in a stew, or deep fried.
The most famous fugu restaurants in Osaka, Japan are the two locations of Zuboraya restaurant. The restaurant is easily recognizable by the enormous inflated blowfish hanging outside.
Address: 1 Chome-6-10 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
Cultural Differences: What Not To Do
Japan has vast cultural differences from us, and things that we might take for granted are considered an insult in Osaka.
Here are some brief dos and don’ts for while you are visiting Osaka, Japan.
Do Not Eat/Snack while walking
Do not snack and walk while you are in Osaka. Food in Japan, and especially in the gourmand capital of Osaka, Japan, is to be enjoyed.
It is supposed to be the primary focus. Even if you are just snacking, sit down at a table until you finish your snack.
Do Not Tip
The Japanese people in the service industries are paid quite well, good manners and good service are a cornerstone of their culture. A tip is an insult to these gentle people.
Remove Shoe When Entering House
If you are invited into someone’s home, whether in Osaka or another region, remove your shoes before entering their home.
In many situations, you will be given a pair of slippers to wear indoors. This is a good rule no matter where you go in Japan.
Start Planning Your Trip To Osaka
Osaka, Japan has much to offer to tourists and locals alike. There is no limit on things that you can do, eat, see, and places to visit.
It is truly the best way to get a good look at Japan’s culture without the larger crowds found in Tokyo.
As you can see by the information above, there is no shortage of things to do during a visit to Osaka, Japan.
The question then goes from what should we do to what to do first. It all depends on what interests you the most.
A trip to Osaka Japan can be a fulfilling journey into the history and culture of Japan.
While it is said that a proper vacation to Osaka should be at least a week in length, there is no doubt that you will want to return to this famous Japanese city to get a closer look at many of these sites.
Planning to go to Kyoto as well? Check out our Things To Do In Kyoto travel guide!