Osaka is located in the Kansai region of Japan, and with a population of over 8 million, is the center of the Western Japan region. Historically, it has been the political, economic and cultural center of Japan, and is home to famous buildings such as Osaka Castle, which reflects its long history. In Osaka, you can take a dream trip to the USJ, enjoy the modern, illuminated night view from the tall buildings, or see a little bit of history through the white walls and tiles of Osaka Castle.
Osaka has been known as the “kitchen of the world” since ancient times. To this day, Osaka’s takoyaki and okonomiyaki are enjoyed by tourists from all over the world. The people of Kansai are known for their hospitality, so whether you are already living in Japan or planning a trip to Japan in the future, Osaka is a destination worth visiting.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best places to visit in Osaka, with a sample itinerary at the end of the article. If you are planning to visit Osaka in the future, you may want to take a look at this article.
When to visit Osaka
The northern and southern parts of the Japanese archipelago have their own distinctive customs. On the largest island of Honshu, each region has its own distinctive spring, summer, autumn and winter.
In Osaka, spring and autumn are the more suitable seasons, while summer is sultry and winter is dry and cold. However, due to its location, Osaka’s summers are more sultry than those of other regions, and the lack of rain throughout the year is also a characteristic. In winter, it hardly ever snows, and when it does, it only snows a small amount. In Osaka, you can enjoy cherry blossoms in the spring, autumn leaves, indoor scenery and activities in the summer, and the clear, bright lights in the winter due to the low moisture in the air. No matter what time of the year you visit, you can always find the seasonal fun and atmosphere.
Access to Osaka
Osaka is the center of Western Japan, and public transportation is exceptionally well developed. From the airport, shinkansen, ordinary trains to buses, you can get to Osaka by any means.
If you want to arrive in Osaka directly from outside Japan, your first choice of transportation is by air.
In Osaka, in addition to the well-known Kansai International Airport (KIX), there is also Itami Airport, which is known as Osaka International Airport (ITM). From Kansai International Airport, it takes about one hour to take the Nankai Express train into the center of Osaka, while from Osaka International Airport, it takes only half an hour to enter the city center, both of which are very convenient.
If you are traveling to Osaka from other cities in Japan, for example, Tokyo, there are many flights to Osaka from both Haneda Airport and Narita Airport, so you can choose from a wide range of flights. If you are traveling from the center of the city to the center of the city, we recommend the Haneda Airport-Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) route, where you only need to allow half an hour each for a tram ride after the flight time. Fares vary depending on the time of day, but generally range from 10,000 yen to 20,000 yen.
If you live in Japan or have traveled to another city in Japan, you can also take the Shinkansen to Osaka. If you are traveling from Tokyo, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station and arrive at JR Shin-Osaka Station in about two and a half hours.
The fare for a single trip on Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka is approximately 13,870 yen for a free seat, 14,520 yen for a reserved seat, and 19,390 yen for a green car. There are some fare increases during the peak travel periods each year.
Another lesser-known method of transportation is the night bus.
The best thing about night buses is that they are cheap and save you a night’s accommodation. Generally, you can travel from Tokyo to Osaka for as little as 3,000 yen each way.
The most common and cheapest bus is the 4-row bus, while the 3-row and 2-row buses have higher fares but are also more comfortable. The higher-end buses also have individual space and amenities, but the fare can be as high as 15,000 yen.
Transportation in and around Osaka
JR, subway, and private railways are all available in Osaka City, so you can quickly get to the spots you want to visit. You can access various places by public transportation without having to rent a car.
It is similar to the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo, which is a circular train line, and is used in conjunction with other subway lines such as the Midosuji and Tanimachi lines running north-south, the Chuo and Sakaisuji lines running east-west, and the Kintetsu Namba and Nankai lines in the private railways.
Also worth mentioning is the JR Yumesaki Line. I believe that many people will go to USJ for a day of fun when they visit Osaka. In this case, you can take the JR Osaka Loop Line or Hanshin Namba Line and transfer to the JR Yumesaki Line at West Kowloon Station.
If you want to visit a variety of sightseeing spots, we recommend using the economical “Osaka Round Trip Pass. For example, the “Osaka Round Trip Pass” issued by the city of Osaka includes a card ticket with a barcode that allows free admission to facilities, a guidebook with coupons, and an app, making it possible to save on sightseeing. The pass covers all major tourist spots, including the Hanging Garden Observation Deck, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Osaka City, the Tombori River Cruise, where you can enjoy a cruise ride on the Dotonbori River, and a visit to the Osaka Castle Keep.
Access to the surrounding areas (Kobe, Kyoto, Nara) from Osaka
In addition to the JR lines and private rail lines in Osaka that we have just introduced, there are also JR lines and private rail lines in the peripheral areas of Osaka that are indispensable if you want to travel to these areas.
For example, you can take the Hanshin Electric Railway and Hankyu Kobe Line to Kobe Sannomiya and Himeji, while the JR Kobe Line and Shinkansen are other options. However, Kintetsu Nara Station on the Kintetsu Line is closer to Nara Park, where the deer are fed, than JR Nara Station, so if you plan to feed the deer, consider the Kintetsu Line.
Major Attractions in Osaka
USJ (Universal Studios Japan)
If you ask what is the most popular attraction in Osaka, I believe many people’s first reaction will be to say USJ.
USJ is worth a full day of fun. In addition to the standard amusement facilities, there are some new and popular attractions that have recently been opened, so both adults and children can have a great time.
If you don’t go to Universal Studios Japan often, or don’t like to wait, you can use the Universal Studios Japan website. Or if you don’t like to wait, you can use a fast pass. This pass can be purchased separately from the tickets to shorten the waiting time.
Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi
One of the most popular areas in Osaka for foreigners is the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi areas. You may not have heard of Dotonbori, but you must have seen the following billboard.
Dotonbori is famous for its magnificent billboards. These large billboards are rarely seen in other parts of Japan. Many tourists pose in front of this billboard to take pictures, and I’m sure you will be infected by their enthusiasm and let yourself go with them (laughs).
The Shinsaibashisuji shopping street starts from “Ebisubashi”, which is located in the middle of Dotonbori. You are standing in front of the “Glico”, which is the signboard with hands up, and behind you is the Shinsaibashisuji shopping street. Here you will find a wide variety of stores and Osaka specialties, including drug stores, 100 yen stores, stores specializing in anime characters (such as Disney and Sanrio), craft stores, clothing stores, cafes, izakayas, sushi, skewers, and other gourmet foods. If you are planning a shopping trip or need to buy Osaka souvenirs, why not visit Shinsaibashi?
If you are planning to visit Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi, you can also make a stop at Kuromen Market. Kuromen Market is also a popular spot for foreigners in Osaka, located near Dotonbori and in the Namba Station area.
Kuromen Market is also popular with Osaka locals, as it sells fresh seafood and vegetables. It was originally a market where professional chefs stocked up on fresh ingredients, so there is a great selection. You can buy a variety of cooked food at Kuromen Market and take it back to your hotel, or if you can find a store with a dining space, you can eat directly at the restaurant. You can enjoy Osaka’s specialties such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki, as well as teppanyaki and sushi.
The next stop is Osaka Castle, one of the landmark buildings of Osaka. It is the site of the Battle of Osaka, a battle between Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s troops and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Visitors can tour the interior of Osaka Castle. There are many highlights, including documents related to Osaka Castle and exhibits about the Warring States period. There is an observation deck on the Tenshukaku (keep tower), from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of Osaka City.
There is a park around Osaka Castle, which is a place for people to relax and unwind. Osaka Castle Park is also famous for its cherry blossoms, so it is highly recommended to visit this park in spring.
Located in Shinsekai(“New World”) Shopping Street, the name means “the tall building that reaches to the sky”. The tower is 100 meters high, or 103 meters if the lightning rod is included. The tower is made of 350 tons of iron and is a symbol of “New World”, a major entertainment facility.
Since its inception, the tower has been a popular landmark in Osaka City. The 103-meter-high observation deck is also popular with couples. Since 1979, the neon lights at the top of the tower have been used as a weather forecast, and by observing the colors of the neon lights at night, one can get a weather forecast for tomorrow. For example, white means sunny day, orange means cloudy day, blue means rainy day, and pink means it will snow tomorrow. The weather changes are indicated by observing the color of the neon signs on the upper and lower levels. If the upper floor is white and the lower floor is orange, it means the weather is changing from sunny to cloudy. If you come to New World, we recommend you to visit Tsutenkaku.
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