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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…