7+ Fun Things To Do In Osaka Japan

Japanese buildings with a river between them - Text: A Ling guide: Things to do in Osaka

Are you wondering what kinds of things to do in Osaka, Japan? Whether you have a trip coming up, or you are thinking about making the journey out there, or just plain daydreaming about going to that beautiful city – you have to keep reading!

Osaka is a spirited metropolitan city, the second-largest after Tokyo. Vibrant and bustling with a charming mix of both popular attractions and hidden gems, visiting Japan should equal visiting Osaka. There’s delicious food, shopping, impressive aquariums, and other attractions, so day trips just might not be enough. The entire city is sparkling with a special atmosphere.

So, check out this Ling guide on how to make the most of your visit to this city and learn some Japanese vocabulary along the way.

Things To Do In Osaka Japan

Here are the top seven things to do in Osaka, Japan. And while you are at it, don’t miss going out on a food tour as per Ling’s suggestion!

1. Visit Osaka Aquarium

Osaka Aquarium or Kaiyukan (海遊館) is a sprawling state-of-the-art aquarium, well-renowned all over the world for its huge size and how it wonderfully displays the wonders under the sea inhabiting the Pacific Rim. Located in the Tempozan Harbor Village in Osaka’s man-made bay area, the Osaka Aquarium was built to impress and educate, and it succeeds at doing both!

When you enter the Osaka Aquarium, you surprisingly start on the eighth floor! Don’t worry because you are where you are supposed to be. The aquarium is set up in a spiral shape where visitors descend floor by floor, getting to know more and more fascinating creatures corresponding to specific regions in the Pacific Rim. At the very bottom – the star of the whole experience – is the central tank representing the Pacific Ocean which is the home to a whale shark.

Buildings with signs in downtown Osaka Japan

2. Hang Around Minami

The term Minami means south (ミナミ) and that’s exactly where you’ll find this mecca of entertainment. In downtown Osaka is the entertainment district teeming with covered shopping arcades, street food stalls which present to you excellent people-watching opportunities. Located around the Namba Station, Minami is a major city center that really makes it feel like the center of Osaka City with all the neon lights and energy that flows around it.

3. Swing A Ride To Universal Studios Japan

Proudly standing at Osaka’s waterfront is the vibrant amusement park of Universal Studios Japan. This was the first Universal Studios amusement park to be built in Asia in 2001 and it hasn’t slowed down since, attracting millions of visitors every year! After all, who can resist the magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the exhilarating Jurassic Park exhibit? And who wouldn’t love to stop by the overflowing with goodies souvenir shop that proves you were here at all? I know I would!

Universal Studios Japan is the second most visited theme park in Japan right after Tokyo Disney Resort. There’s a reason why it’s so popular, too. With ten park sections spanning American cities like Hollywood, New York, and San Francisco and beloved franchises like Minion Park and the brand new Super Nintendo World, visitors go nuts for visiting this park even if its just for a quick day trip!

Universal Studios is awesome for the whole family, from wild thrill rides (my personal favorite) to the calm child-friendly carousels to the ultra high-tech simulators based on Minions and Jurassic Park, there is definitely something for everyone at this theme park.

Just in case you’re a little too busy screaming your head off at the tippy top of a roller coaster peak and don’t catch what lies just beyond the walls of the park, I’ll let you know now there’s actually Universal Citywalk Osaka – a shopping mall loaded with multiple hotels, restaurants, shops, and street food.

4. Attend Tenjen Matsuri

Osaka’s own Tenjen Festival has earned a top spot ranking position for being one of the most popular festivals in Japan, sitting along the likes of Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri. Beginning in the 10th century, the Tenjen Festival has cemented its spot every year between July 24th and 25th, with a majority of the celebrations being held on the second day.

Tenjen Matsuri celebrates the Tenmangu Shrine and honors its principal deity, Sugawara Michizane, the deity of scholarship. To kick off the festival, the deity is “invited” to participate in the festivities by getting carried out of the shrine by helpful volunteers and paraded through the city. While the deity is on a mini tour of Osaka, extravagant celebrations pop off to entertain him, before ushering him back into the shrine.

5. Step Into The Umeda Sky Building

In the Kita district of Osaka is a soaring skyscraper measuring 173 meters tall that is impossible to miss. This high-rise building consists of two looming towers that are connected to each other by what’s dubbed as the “Floating Garden Observatory” on the shockingly high 39th floor. The observatory is a gift to those who enjoy dizzyingly high heights and spectacular views of the city alike, seen through its windows and open-air deck.

For those that rather stay near the ground, the basement offers a great restaurant floor reminiscent of a town from the early Showa period. So, what’s in between this sandwich of restaurants and a floating garden? A bunch of offices! Who would be able to get any work done with such incredible views right outside your window? Especially during cherry blossom season!

6. Get A Feel Of The Osaka Station City

In Osaka’s Umeda district lies Osaka Station City, a major railway station that loyally serves commuters using the local and interregional trains, but not the uber-popular shinkansen, which only cuts through Shin-Osaka Station. This station is bright, shiny, and modern after undergoing a makeover in 2011 and is now considered one of Japan’s most attractive railway stations.

Osaka Station City’s crown jewel is a large glass roof that shields the railway tracks and opens up the station to natural light in the daytime. The north and south sides of the station are connected by a huge bridge that goes by the name of Toki no Hiroba which means Time and Space Plaza. So, whether you’re there to catch a train or just there to observe the busy atmosphere, you can watch it all go down from the bridge.

Crossing over both sides of the tracks are an array of options for travelers to choose to wander into, including places for shopping, dining and recreation. This station sure is well-equipped. With department stores (including a Uniqlo and a Pokémon Center), a rooftop terrace to soak up some sun and a unique green space where a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits are grown, it’s worth stopping by Osaka Station!

Osaka Castle in Japan

7. Visit Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle or Osakajo (大阪城) is a popular site whose construction began in 1583. It is built on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple which was sadly destroyed by Oda Nobunaga 13 years prior. Additionally, Osaka Castle also faced lots of tragic events. After being rebuilt, it was again attacked and destroyed in 1615 by the Tokugawa troops. Not one to be razed easily, Osaka Castle persevered again, and was rebuilt in the 1620s by Tokugawa Hidetada. However, in the year 1665, the main castle tower was strangely struck by lightning and was burnt down.

Nowadays, Osaka Castle happily stands proud with its modern castle tower with an elevator inside that was put in to provide easy accessibility to visitors exploring the ferro-concrete architecture. Surrounded by moats, majestic citadels, large gates, and enclosed by stone walls, the castle tower sure is a sight to behold. And it isn’t just for the show – the tower also features an informative museum all about the castle’s extensive history.

You can get a beautiful view of Osaka Castle from the Nishinomaru Garden – a lawn garden that stretches wide with greenery. It houses 600 cherry trees that rain pretty pink cherry blossoms (hanami) during the peak spring season in early April. More stuff that you can find in the garden includes a tea house – perfect for a cute tea ceremony, and the former Osaka Guest House that has a splendid view of Osaka Castle from below. Be alert, though – the garden area does require an admission fee and an Osaka Castle ticket will cost you 600 yen (around $4 USD).

8. Go On A Food Tour

If you’ve never been on a food tour, Osaka is a wonderful option to try one out for your first go and check out the local food fare. What is a food tour? Well, it’s eating your way through a destination, of course!

Local myth says that the people of Osaka spend more money on food than on anything else. The food culture here is so prominent that there was a term coined to describe it: kuidaore which means to “eat until you drop!” While native Osaka residents love to eat, that means they also hold the food they eat to impeccably high standards.

Osaka City is well-known for cooking up a bunch of dishes you’ve probably heard before and others you’ll probably hear about for the first time! Good news – a lot of Osaka’s famous local fare is on the budget-friendly side. Let’s get into them!

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

A pancake? A savory pancake? Absolutely! Okonomiyaki is super popular all around the world for that umami-rich flavor profile. In Osaka, this dish is packed with shredded cabbage and sometimes: meat, squid, prawn, or octopus in the mix to add some protein power into the batter. Once it’s cooked, all the toppings come out to play like that signature okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, green laver (fine-ground seaweed flakes called aonori in Japanese), and dried bonito flakes.

Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Tako means octopus in Japanese. Yaki means “to grill.” So, put those together and what do you get? Grilled octopus balls! The takoyaki is an iconic staple snack of Japan and of course, Osaka slings these babies by the truckload day in and day out. With a batter that consists of tiny octopus pieces and bits of ginger and green onion, takoyakis are made with a special spherical mold by a masterful chef that quickly spins the quick-cooking balls so as to not burn them. Here’s a pro tip from a takoyaki lover who has watched many a takoyaki be prepared: listen carefully when chefs butter the empty molds to hear a satisfying POP sound.

Kitsune Udon (きつねうどん)

Kitsune udon is about as simple as it comes: thick wheat noodles called udon are dunked in a piping hot soup of flavorful broth with a deep-fried piece of tofu (aburaage). Fun fact: the word kitsune means fox in Japanese, and the dish is named after it because it is believed that fried tofu is a fox’s favorite little snack!

Next time you’re in Osaka and you have plans to try out some street food, make sure to arrive hungry, eat all the yummy stuff you come across, and remember that calories don’t count on vacation!

Helpful Japanese Words For Tourists

You know the places, but do you know how to say them? Don’t fret. I’ll give you a quick and easy way to pack all the tourist information you need to know while you’re in Osaka to track down these famous landmarks and sights yourself.

Check out the table below for a complete gathering of pronunciations, spellings, and romanizations of the names of places you should check out while in Osaka City.

Kansai Airport (Kankū)関空 Kansai-kuko
Umeda Sky Building梅田スカイビルUmeda sukaibiru
Osaka Station大阪駅Osaka-eki
Train stationsEki
Osaka Castle大阪城Osakajo
Tenjin Festival天神祭Tenjin Matsuri
Minoo Park箕面公園Minō Kōen
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan海遊館Kaiyūkan
Souvenir shopsお土産屋Odoson-ya

Learn Japanese With Ling

Can’t wait to visit Osaka? Be it a day trip or a long-term vacation, this is the place to be. Whether it’s exploring Osaka City through your stomach by taking bites of fresh food, marching down a huge covered shopping street to bring back some souvenirs, or basking under the fluttering cherry blossoms with a castle in the distance, this will feel like a whole new world if visiting for the first time.

If taking on Osaka sounds like something you want to do, it would be a good idea to learn basic Japanese phrases before you get there! You can learn what you need to know by checking out the Ling blog post on how to speak Japanese. The blog is all about learning handy phrases and vocabulary for a super easy travel to Japan.

While you’re at it, make sure to download the Ling app on the App Store or Google Play Store to make learning Japanese even easier with lessons at your fingertips. Get started for free today!

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