Spending a Day in Osaka

Osaka is the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo and one of the food capitals of the world. If you are a foodie, you shouldn’t miss Osaka. It’s said that Osaka residents spend more on food than on anything else. Obviously, they take their food very seriously, and that’s why Osaka is also known as the nation’s kitchen.

Getting There

Direct flights connect Osaka and Singapore through Kansai International Airport. So you don’t have to go through Tokyo if you only plan to visit Osaka and it’s surroundings.

Otherwise, if you are coming from Tokyo, a Shinkansen ride would get you here in 3 hours. The Shinkansen ride can be free if you have the JR Pass. To know more about the JR Pass, click here for my blog post on whether you should buy a JR Pass.

In this blog post I will try to list the things that you could do if you can only afford a short stay in Osaka, like a day. Although we did spend 2 days here, most of the sights can be covered in 1 day if you are in a rush.

Osaka Castle

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A classic shot of Osaka Castle with cherry blossoms framing the view.

This is the main attraction in Osaka. If you only have time to visit one place, make sure you come here. The castle is open only during the day, so I recommend coming here in the morning to avoid the main crowds and save the rest of the day for other activities. For more about Osaka Castle, click here.

 

Osaka Mint Bureau – Cherry Blossom Viewing

Ok, this one is really seasonal. Cherry blossom season starts in the beginning of spring and usually begins in late March to early April. However, in some years the cherry trees may bloom earlier, like it did this year in 2018. By the time we arrived in Japan, most of the cherry blossom season had passed. Fortunately, the cherry trees around the Osaka Mint Bureau are of the late blooming variety, and they bloom until mid April or later.

We managed to get our fill of cherry blossoms here. So, fret not if you are slightly late for the main cherry blossom season. The Mint Bureau is near Osaka Castle and you can walk here after visiting the castle. Otherwise, the nearest subway station is Temmabashi Station.

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The pathway going to the Mint Bureau is lined with hundreds of cherry trees forming a canopy of pale pink flowers.
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Entry is free and they open till late at night with a light up during cherry blossoms season.
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A bunch of cherry flowers in the twilight.

 

Shinsaibashi

This is Osaka’s main shopping street. It’s lined with hundreds of shops on each side ranging from fashion boutiques to convenience drug stores. If you just like to walk from shop to shop ad infinitum, then Shinsaibashi may be your thing.

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The long shopping street of Shinsaibashi will satisfy the serious shopaholic. The main tourist dollars seem to be coming from Chinese visitors who can be seen stuffing suitcases full of cosmetics and body care products from the numerous drugstores that line Shinsaibashi.
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Many streets branch out from Shinsaibashi, where you do see a less commercialized side of Osaka.
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One of the more interesting shops was this florist which had her whole shopfront covered in bouquets of flowers. It certainly attracted the crowds.
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Shinsaibashi also has small restaurants tucked in between shops, offering all kinds of local Japanese cuisine. We decided to try this okonomiyaki restaurant. It was decorated in a traditional Japanese wooden style and very cozy.
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Okonomiyaki is a pan cake like dish, topped off with seafood, meat and vegetables. We had to cook ours on a hot plate set into our table.

Dōtonbori

If you continue walking south along Shinsaibashi, you will soon find yourself at Dōtonbori, where the famous Glico Man billboard can be seen. This is also where you’ll find a host of restaurants to fill your stomach.

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If Osaka is known as the nation’s kitchen, then Dōtonbori must be the stomach. For this is where you go to find all kinds of food waiting for you in the numerous restaurants here. The Glico Man billboard can be seen on the bottom right. This sign has been here since 1935, although it has been updated with LED technology now.
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One of the more well known restaurants in Dōtonbori is this crab restaurant where you’ll find all things crabby. The giant crab has arms that move and has been here since 1960.
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Famous restaurants seem to feature larger than life replicas of their specialities, like this kiosk selling takoyaki.
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Be prepared to be visually assaulted by the numerous signboards featuring all kinds of weird and wacky stuff.
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Some of the more exotic foods that you can try is fugu or pufferfish. It takes a highly skilled and certified chef to prepare fugu. The poison from the pufferfish has no antidote and can kill a person within hours.

Dōtonbori comes alive during the night as all the billboards are lighted by neon and LED lights. It gets even more crowded than in the day. Make sure you make a night visit and be blown away by the colourful signboards and energetic crowds.

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Dōtonbori at night looks very different from it’s day time version.
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Dōtonbori gets it’s name from the Dōtonbori Canal that runs through it. In the evenings you will find lots of al fresco dining along the sides of the canal.
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This Don Quijote shopping mall has a ferris wheel that runs on it’s outside. It was closed in 2008 due to a mechanical fault, but has recently reopened in 2018.
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Reflections of the many lighted billboards along Dōtonbori Canal.

There are several other minor attractions which we didn’t go due to time constraints. Like in Tokyo, there are several animal cafes if you are interested in those. You can also find my previous blog post of the many types of animal cafes in Japan.

 

What If You Have 2 Days?

The other main attraction that draws visitors to Osaka is Universal Studios Japan (USJ). What makes this particular theme park so different from the other Universal Studios elsewhere?

For starters, this is the only Universal Studios outside of USA that features The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are a Harry Potter fan, and going to the USA is really too far and expensive, then visiting Osaka is the next best thing. For more about The Wizarding World section you can go to my earlier blog post.

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Everyday is a crowded day at Universal Studios.
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The Jurassic Park section is equally interesting with ‘live’ dinosaurs walking through the crowds.
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Of course who can miss out the exciting rides that will scared the hell out of you.

The other unique feature of USJ is the Anime World which is not found in other theme parks. If you are a anime fan, then this is really your thing.

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Sailor Moon welcomes you! Just one of the many anime themed rides and attractions in Anime World at USJ.

A visit to USJ will probably take you the whole day. But you still have the rest of the night to spend in Osaka, so another eating marathon at Dōtonbori isn’t a bad idea…

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Osaka skyline at night. This was taken from my hotel room. I must say it isn’t as interesting as Tokyo’s skyline though.
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As you walk along Shinsaibashi or any of the main thoroughfares, do take note of the intricately designed manhole covers that line the pavements. They are an art onto itself.
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5 thoughts on “Spending a Day in Osaka

    1. Yes you should visit Osaka. I feel that Osaka is a city that you need to dig deep.to find it’s attraction. It’s not like Tokyo or Kyoto where everything is laid out for you. 1-2 days is definitely not enough for a proper visit.

  1. Fortunately there’s a direct flight from Jakarta to Osaka, so I didn’t have to transit in Tokyo to visit Japan’s second largest city. I stayed in Shinsekai which had a reputation as a not-too-safe place in the past. But things have improved and it felt just like any downtown area in Osaka. I had okonomiyaki for the first time here and also takoyaki which tasted much better than any takoyaki I’ve tried elsewhere outside Japan.

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