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Top 20 Things to Do in Osaka During Your First Trip!

Top 20 Things to Do in Osaka During Your First Trip!

Date published: 19 August 2020
Last updated: 11 September 2020

With so many things to do in Osaka, first-time visitors may find it a daunting task to plan a trip covering as many places of interest as possible. Here's a list of 20 of Osaka's most popular must-see attractions that we think will be helpful for your trip!

Main image: tkunited / Shutterstock.com

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Universal Studios Japan: You haven't been to Osaka if you haven't been here!
  2. 2. Osaka Castle: The pride and symbol of Osaka
  3. 3. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyūkan: Travel safely around the Pacific Rim's natural environment
  4. 4. Dōtonbori: Feel the Osaka vibe through the laughs and good food this street provides
  5. 5. Kuromon Market: Eat all the Osaka goodies you want on the go!
  6. 6. Grand Front Osaka: Shop and eat in one convenient stop!
  7. 7. Umeda Sky Building: Panoramic view of Osaka from 173 meters aboveground
  8. 8. Namba Grand Kagetsu: Osaka-style comedy stage
  9. 9. Abeno Harukas: Comes with a great view of Osaka's streets
  10. 10. Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel: Unbeatable views from the sky!
  11. 11. Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine: Head shrine of all Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan
  12. 12. Shitennō-ji: The oldest temple in Japan, established by Prince Shōtoku
  13. 13. Hōzenji Yokochō: The symbol of Minami Osaka, full of an olden Osaka charm
  14. 14. Amerika-Mura: Lively trendsetter of youth culture
  15. 15. Tsūtenkaku: Naniwa Ward's most prominent landmark!
  16. 16. Shinsekai: Dive deep into Osaka's famous old town cuisine
  17. 17. Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street: The longest arcade in Japan
  18. 18. Mozu and Furuichi Tombs: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  19. 19. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park: Commemorating steel with lush greenery
  20. 20. Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda: Instant ramen origin story

1. Universal Studios Japan: You haven't been to Osaka if you haven't been here!

1. Universal Studios Japan: You haven't been to Osaka if you haven't been here!
Photo credit: Universal Studios Japan

You can't mention Osaka tourist attractions without also mentioning its most prominent hotspot, Universal Studio Japan (USJ)! The theme park, made up of nine areas based on internationally known and loved movies and characters, opened in the year 2001 in Osaka's Konohana Ward to great success among domestic visitors.

Attractions in the park were designed to be fun for both the young and old, and you're guaranteed moving experiences that can only be found in Japan through thrilling rides and exciting live shows featuring popular characters. There's not a boring moment to be found here, that's for sure!

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Besides requiring all crew members to wear face masks, all facilities are cleaned and disinfected with alcohol or chemical solutions. Seats and safety bars of rides and attractions are disinfected regularly by crew members as well.

Visitors are requested to put on masks as well and undergo a temperature check at the gate before entry. When inside the park, wash and disinfect your hands regularly. Avoid crowding together and always keep a safe distance between yourself and others.

  • Universal Studios Japan
    ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン
    • Address 2-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana-ku, Osaka, 554-0031
    • Phone Number 0570-20-0606
    • Hours: Check the official website for updates
      Closed: Open daily
      https://www.usj.co.jp/

2. Osaka Castle: The pride and symbol of Osaka

2. Osaka Castle: The pride and symbol of Osaka
Photo_DDD / Shutterstock.com

Osaka Castle was the home castle of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a prominent military commander who was active during the Sengoku period (1467 to 1615 CE). The main keep of the castle was burned down twice due to war and natural disasters. In the year 1931, it was restored using funds contributed by local residents.

Between 1995 to 1997, the castle underwent major renovations that made it easier for visitors to tour and look around. The inside of the castle was converted into a history museum, an elevator was installed to bring visitors up to the observation deck on the eighth floor, and exhibits were installed to educate people about Osaka's history.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Increased ventilation, disinfecting of surfaces with alcohol, and mandatory mask-wearing for staff members have been implemented. The helmet and battle gear try-on experiences have also been suspended until further notice.

3. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyūkan: Travel safely around the Pacific Rim's natural environment

3. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyūkan: Travel safely around the Pacific Rim's natural environment

A world of blue greets visitors upon their entry into the Kaiyūkan - courtesy of the Aquagate, a tunnel-shaped tank that welcomes you to the aquarium. After passing through this intriguing gate, your trip around the Pacific Rim in miniature begins in earnest! The aquarium's zones have been designed after the ocean's natural environment and you're made to feel as if you're walking around on the ocean bed, encountering exotic marine creatures such as the aquarium's stars, a massive whale shark, adorable penguins, and sea turtles as you do. Through these majestic and beautiful aquatic animals, visitors are encouraged to ponder the preciousness of life and how important it is for all of us to preserve the earth's environment.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Only a limited number of people are allowed in the aquarium at once. Ticket reservations can be made online. The premises are ventilated and disinfected regularly. Staff members are required to wear a mask at all times.

4. Dōtonbori: Feel the Osaka vibe through the laughs and good food this street provides

4. Dōtonbori: Feel the Osaka vibe through the laughs and good food this street provides

Dōtonbori is a prominent and lively downtown area in Osaka Minami that catches the eye of many visitors because of its abundance of instantly recognizable signboards featuring giant replicas of crabs, octopus, and pufferfish.

Coupled with the neon lights in the area that turn on at night, the vibrant scene screams "This is Osaka!" from every nook and cranny. Dōtonbori has been the city's entertainment center since the 1600s, when small theaters and teahouses used to line the streets and draw large crowds.

Since then, even though the theme of its shops has changed from generation to generation, it remains a popular spot for people to gather together.

These days, you'll be able to find plenty of amazing food, from light eats such as Osaka's signature takoyaki (octopus balls), conveyor belt sushi, and ramen to proper meal options like sukiyaki (hotpot) and even some Western cuisine.

  • Dotonbori
    • Address 4–10, 1-chome, Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 542-0071
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Namba Station (Midosuji Line / Yotsubashi Line / Sen-nichimae Line)

5. Kuromon Market: Eat all the Osaka goodies you want on the go!

5. Kuromon Market: Eat all the Osaka goodies you want on the go!

Located about a 5-minute walk southeast of Dōtonbori is the large-scale shopping area by the name of Kuromon Market, where rows upon rows of food shops stand ready to satisfy your every craving.

Since times of yore, Kuromon has served as "Osaka's kitchen," as this was where professional cooks would come to get their supplies. Nowadays, the shops allow regular visitors to buy just one portion of fresh seafood, sushi, or grilled fish if they like, so don't be surprised to see a lot of people buying one small food item or another to eat on the go with!

Of course, shops do also offer eat-in spaces for customers who prefer to savor their meals slowly. Whatever your preference, Kuromon's wide variety of foodstuff ensures that all can find a taste of Osaka that suits their palate.

6. Grand Front Osaka: Shop and eat in one convenient stop!

6. Grand Front Osaka: Shop and eat in one convenient stop!

This massive commercial complex is directly connected to Osaka Station on the JR Lines. It's split into three main areas - North Zone, South Zone, and Umekita Square, and the building is designed with plenty of elements inspired from greenery and water, so much so that it could almost pass off as a small town by itself!

Inside, there are more than 260 shops dealing with almost everything under the sun from fashion to lifestyle and beauty products, along with a good selection of restaurants as well. When you're there, don't forget to check out the shops of some local brands that are opening in Osaka for the first time!

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Increased ventilation, disinfection, and cleaning of the building interior have been implemented. Initiatives to ensure staff wellness, such as mask-wearing and hand washing, are rigorously enforced.

7. Umeda Sky Building: Panoramic view of Osaka from 173 meters aboveground

7. Umeda Sky Building: Panoramic view of Osaka from 173 meters aboveground

This is the only building in Japan to make it into the list of top 20 buildings around the world, alongside other architectural heavyweights such as Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera House. Visitors ride on a see-through escalator to get to the floating garden for maximum surrealness. From the observation deck, all can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area. South of the building are the skyscrapers near the Osaka Station area, and towards the north lies popular sightseeing-related destinations like Yodo River, Jūsō Bridge, and Osaka International Airport (also known as Itami Airport). Down in the building's basement area is a restaurant section known as Takimi Koji, where the decor is made to resemble a traditional town from Japan's Showa era (1926 to 1989). The main offerings here are Osaka local food such as okonomiyaki (pan-fried batter), kushikatsu (deep-fried food on skewers), and general Japanese cuisine.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
All staff are required to wear masks. Only a limited number of people are allowed on the escalator leading to the observatory deck at any one time. Social distancing is stringently enforced in queues and seat layouts.

8. Namba Grand Kagetsu: Osaka-style comedy stage

8. Namba Grand Kagetsu: Osaka-style comedy stage

Because Namba Grand Kagetsu is operated by Yoshimoto Kogyo, a company well-known for their oodles of hilarious comedians, you can expect to see performances being held here daily, from manzai (Japanese stand-up comedy), to rakugo (traditional storytelling) and Yoshimoto theater comedy.

Being amused for days on end with popular comedians who often appear on TV is one of the biggest appeals of this entertainment spot, and throngs of people gather to enjoy the stage appearances and pick up souvenirs from one of the many shops here.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Staff members are required to use masks. Disinfection and sterilization are carried out after every live performance. During opening and intermission, the doors are left opened to ventilate the space. Thermal cameras have been installed and ushers are available to guide visitors at entrance and exit points.
- Ensure crowds do not gather at entrance or exit points by capping ticket sales at a safe number
- First two rows of seats are not used
- The seats to the left, right, front, and back of an occupied seat must remain empty
- The hall is ventilated once every hour and regularly disinfected; temperatures are checked regularly

9. Abeno Harukas: Comes with a great view of Osaka's streets

9. Abeno Harukas: Comes with a great view of Osaka's streets

Abeno Harukas is an impressive 300-meter (about 984 feet) tall commercial complex building that serves as one of Osaka's most prominent landmarks. Tenants of the building include a department store, art gallery, hotel, and even offices!

Occupying the top three floors of the building is the Harukas 300 Observatory, which offers a bird's eye view of the streets and buildings of Osaka city, including the beautiful Osaka Castle. On fair weather days, you may even be able to see Akashi Kaikyō Bridge in the distance!

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
All staff are required to wear masks and rubber gloves when handling items from visitors, such as when using their cameras to take pictures for them.

10. Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel: Unbeatable views from the sky!

10. Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel: Unbeatable views from the sky!

Constructed in 1997, the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Standing at a height of 112.5 meters (about 369 feet), it takes about 15 minutes for the wheel to complete one revolution.

Inside each gondola car, prerecorded narrations of the views in Japanese and English are played to help visitors understand what they're looking at better.

When the weather is amenable, passengers will see the Ikoma mountain range to the east, Akashi Kaikyō Bridge to the west, Kansai International Airport to the south, and the Rokko mountain range to the north, making the Ferris wheel one of the best view spots for these top sightseeing destinations in Kansai!

Eight of the 60 gondola cars are completely see-through on their sides or bases, adding a tinge of thrill to what would usually be a peaceful ride.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Staff and customers are required to put on a mask at all times and undergo a contactless temperature check before being allowed onto the Ferris wheel. The gondola cars are ventilated and disinfected regularly, and hand sanitizers have been installed at different locations for all to use.

11. Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine: Head shrine of all Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan

11. Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine: Head shrine of all Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan

There are about 2,300 other Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan, and Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine in Osaka is the head shrine of them all. Many in Osaka choose to visit this historic shrine during New Year's Day for blessings.

There are four main buildings here, each enshrined with different gods, and all four buildings have been designated as national treasures. The dreamlike sight of the nearby Taiko Bridge being lighted up at night has also earned it a place in the list of top 100 Kansai night scenes.

Every month, a ceremony by the name of Hattatsusan takes place on the first day of the dragon (determined based on an ancient Chinese ordering system called the twelve Earthly Branches), drawing many visitors to the shrine to receive blessings for business prosperity.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Acrylic boards have been put up at the front of the shrine. Staff are required to wear masks at all times and wash and disinfect their hands regularly. The enclosed spaces in the premises are disinfected with industrial-grade hypochlorite acid and alcohol-based solutions. Activities with the Omokaru, Godairiki, and Nadeusagi stones have been suspended for the time being as well.

12. Shitennō-ji: The oldest temple in Japan, established by Prince Shōtoku

12. Shitennō-ji: The oldest temple in Japan, established by Prince Shōtoku

This state-sponsored temple was built by Prince Shōtoku (574 to 622 CE) and it is the oldest temple in Japan. It is made up of a collection of halls, such as the Taishi Hall, which enshrines Prince Shōtoku, and the Daishi Hall, which enshrines Kōbō-Daishi.

The temple is also well-known for the Tennōji-style building formation, the layout which some of its buildings are arranged in, where the main gate, five-storied pagoda, golden hall, and lecture hall are lined up in a row and surrounded by a hallway connecting them.

The 22nd of every month is considered the death day of Prince Shōtoku, and a Taishikai (Prince Shōtoku memorial) is held in commemoration of him. A Daishikai (Kōbō-Daishi memorial) is also held on the 21st of every month, which is similarly considered the death day of Kōbō-Daishi. On these days, many booths are set up around the temple premises, attracting many visitors.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
At the moment, booths or activities are not allowed to be set up or held on temple grounds. Visits to certain facilities such as the five-storied pagoda and Kōshin Hall have been temporarily suspended. Other than ritual cleansing places, usage of all other equipment that will be touched by an unspecified number of people is forbidden.

  • Shitenno-ji Temple
    • Address 1-11-18, Shitennouji, Tennouji-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 543-0051
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Tennouji Station (JR Kansai Main Line / JR Yamatoji Line / JR Osaka Loop Line / JR Hanwa Line)
      12 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 06-6771-0066

13. Hōzenji Yokochō: The symbol of Minami Osaka, full of an olden Osaka charm

13. Hōzenji Yokochō: The symbol of Minami Osaka, full of an olden Osaka charm

Minami Osaka is the entertainment center of Osaka, and Hōzenji Yokochō is its most prominent landmark. It's probably best known for being the setting of one of famous author Sakunosuke Oda's literary masterpieces, Meoto Zenzai (Hooray for Marriage).

Despite being a thriving downtown area, the place has somehow managed to maintain an old-time Osaka vibe. Hōzen-ji, the temple of Mizukakefudōson that sees a regular flow of worshippers and visitors.

Two 80-meter (about 262 feet) alleyways stretching to the east and west are packed with well-established restaurants and light food stores selling quick snacks like okonomiyaki. When dusk sets in, paper lanterns are lit up to provide lighting, adding to the street's unique atmosphere.

14. Amerika-Mura: Lively trendsetter of youth culture

14. Amerika-Mura: Lively trendsetter of youth culture
TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com

Amerika-Mura, or America Village is a lively town that is at the forefront of youth culture in Osaka. It is located on the west side of Shinsaibashi Station on the Osaka Metro, stretching from Nagahori-dori all the way to Dotonbori.

Since the 1970s, the warehouses here have been converted into shops selling items procured from the west coast of America, such as vintage jeans and second-hand records, giving the area its nickname, America Village.

Performances by youths are being held here every weekend, especially around Sankaku Park.

  • Americamura
    • Address 1 and 2, Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 542-0086
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Shinsaibashi Station (Midosuji Line / Nagahoritsurumiryokuchi Line)
      1 minute on foot
    • Phone Number 06-6258-5002

15. Tsūtenkaku: Naniwa Ward's most prominent landmark!

15. Tsūtenkaku: Naniwa Ward's most prominent landmark!

Tsūtenkaku is a 108-meter (about 354 feet) tall observatory building. On the third floor is a garden with a modern Japanese design. On the fourth floor is the light observatory, decorated with plenty of flashy illuminations.

In the golden observatory on the fifth floor, you'll find a statue of Billiken, a charm doll designed by Florence Pretz, an American artist. Right on the rooftop is a special outdoor observatory deck called Observatory Paradise.

Each floor shows off an unforgettable view of the dynamic city of Osaka from a bird's eye view. Besides fantastic views, there's a miniature town model entitled "Shinsekai" depicting the area from about 100 years ago along with photograph exhibits of that era on the third floor for your viewing pleasure as well.

The ceiling on the first floor features a replicated version of the ceiling art that adorned Tsūtenkaku's ceilings when it first opened.

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Staff are required to wear masks at all times, and the premises are regularly ventilated and disinfected. Only a limited amount of passengers are allowed onto the elevator at once. Disinfectant solutions and vinyl curtains have been set up all around the building as well.

16. Shinsekai: Dive deep into Osaka's famous old town cuisine

16. Shinsekai: Dive deep into Osaka's famous old town cuisine
MADSOLAR / Shutterstock.com

The biggest appeal of Shinsekai is its old town atmosphere, framed by signboards using flashy electric illuminations. Tennо̄ji Park, the first Tsūtenkaku, and an amusement park called Luna Park (no longer in operation) were built when the Fifth National Industrial Exhibition was held here in 1903, and the area developed as a result.

Nowadays, visitors to Tsūtenkaku can look forward to enjoying a wide variety of Osaka local delicacies, such as kushikatsu and takoyaki from one of the many shops surrounding the tower.

  • Shinsekai
    • Address 2-4-15, Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 556-0002
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Ebisucho Station (Sakaisuji Line)
      4 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 06-6643-6322

17. Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street: The longest arcade in Japan

17. Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street: The longest arcade in Japan
twoKim studio / Shutterstock.com

Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street stretches from Tenjinbashi 1-chо̄me all the way to 7-chо̄me for a total of 2.6 kilometers (about 1.6 miles), making it the longest shopping arcade in Japan.

Needless to mention, visitors can expect to find a good selection of all sorts of shops here - about 800 in all! - from eateries to deli, souvenir shops, clothing stores, general stores, traditional teahouses, and even a small snack shop famous for its great-tasting croquettes! The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is located in the 6-chо̄me area on this street.

18. Mozu and Furuichi Tombs: UNESCO World Heritage Site

18. Mozu and Furuichi Tombs: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Photo credit: Sakai City Culture and Tourism Board

The site of Mozu and Furuichi Tombs, a cluster of more than 100 ancient tombs built between the 4th to 5th centuries, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2019.

One of the tombs located in this site is where Emperor Nintoku (257 to 399 CE) was buried. It is the largest mounded tomb in Japan and one of the third-largest in the world. Another well-known tomb in this cluster is that of Emperor Richū's, his tomb being the third largest in Japan.

In all, there are 44 tombs scattered around the Mozu cluster. Emperor Ōjin's tomb, the second largest in Japan, can also be found in the Furuichi cluster nearby, a cluster that contains 45 ancient tombs.

  • Furuichi Kofungun
    古市古墳群
    • Address Konda, Habikino-shi, Osaka
    • Free to walk *Only around the exterior of the tombs

19. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park: Commemorating steel with lush greenery

19. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park: Commemorating steel with lush greenery
Photo credit: Osaka Prefecture

This park was built on the venue of Expo '70, a world fair held in Osaka in 1970, and it contains a Japanese garden that was built back then to allow expo participants to take a breather among nature when they so desired.

After the expo ended, the site where the pavilions were situated was converted into what is now known as Natural and Cultural Gardens.

The Tower of the Sun, the symbol of the Expo, has also been preserved, and a memorial hall called Expo '70 Pavilion was opened in one of the steel and iron halls of the expo in the year 2010 as well.

The park was designed to let visitors feel the mood and excitement of the expo back then while enjoying a peaceful garden landscape.

From the year 2018 onwards, the interior of the Tower of the Sun was opened to the public as well, with entry priority given to visitors who have made advanced reservations.

20. Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda: Instant ramen origin story

20. Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda: Instant ramen origin story

It was in Osaka Ikeda that Momofuku Andо̄, the founder of Nissin Food Products created the world's very first instant noodles - chicken ramen, and Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda was built to commemorate that world-changing feat.

Walk through the history of the creation of instant noodles, from chicken ramen to cup noodles and even space ram, instant ramen created specifically for taking to outer space, via the innovative exhibits that will make learning more about this internationally beloved food item interesting and enjoyable.

My Cup Noodles Factory is a popular activity here that allows visitors to create their very own cup noodles with custom soup flavors and seasonings. Great for anyone who wants to bring a unique souvenir back home!

Preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19
Only a limited number of visitors are allowed into the museum and its attractions. For quicker entry, buy an "Entry Ticket With My Cup Noodles Factory Access" at Lawson Ticket before heading down. You'll also be able to select your desired time slot.
For the safety of staff and visitors, all staff are required to put on masks and undergo temperature checks. The premises are also regularly cleaned, disinfected, and ventilated.
*For an indefinite period of time, visitors are not allowed to enter the museum to only view the exhibits.
*Check for latest updates on the museum's opening hours in the website below before heading down to avoid disappointment.

As you can see, whether you're looking to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, bask in the electrifying vibe of a traditional downtown trendsetter, or enjoy the best local food in town, Osaka has something just for you!

Each sightseeing spot here is packed with so much to see and do that you may end up staying for longer than planned if you're not careful.

Besides the attraction itself, therefore, be sure to do research on the amount of time you'll need to get there too. We are confident this list will help you enjoy your Osaka tour!

Written by West Plan. English translation by Huimin Pan

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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