One of Japan’s liveliest and most vibrant cities, Osaka is known for its energetic atmosphere. To help you plan an exciting family trip to Japan in 2023, we’ve invited one of our writers, who has made Osaka her home, to share valuable travel tips and advice for parents traveling with children in the city.
Not only that, but she has also provided a 5-day Osaka itinerary that includes popular family-friendly attractions such as Universal Studios, the aquarium, the zoo, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
The itinerary strikes a balance between indoor and outdoor activities, and you can expect firsthand insights and strategies for a fantastic experience. So, let’s follow in the footsteps of a local and get ready for an exciting adventure in Osaka!
(*Cover image provided by the interviewee)
A New Mom's Guide to Osaka!
We interviewed Nini, a Taiwanese writer for LIVE JAPAN, who has lived in Japan for over eight years. She’s a new mom with a 2-year-old son. Nini initially came to Japan to study, and after graduating, she married an Osakan.
After living in Osaka for three years, she welcomed her child into the world. With the arrival of her little one, Nini now explores the familiar streets of Osaka with a fresh perspective. She is currently learning to travel and experience Osaka’s rich, vibrant charm with her son.
6 Tips for Family Travel in Osaka
1. Avoid Lengthy Trips
Nini: “To be honest, traveling with children can be exhausting. As a local, I find that 3 to 4 days of outdoor activities is the limit for me (laughs). Considering the energy levels of both parents and children, I recommend that tourists who are traveling with kids plan their trip for around 4 to 5 days, which strikes a good balance. Allocate three days for outdoor attractions and keep 1 to 2 days for a more relaxed and leisurely pace. This way, adults won’t feel overwhelmed and tired from all the fun.”
2. Prepare Snacks and Plan a Backup Itinerary
Many people might think bringing children to restaurants is as simple as ordering a kids’ meal. However, Nini suggests that parents should anticipate that children may not want to eat at the restaurant but suddenly feel hungry once they start sightseeing.
Nini advises, “It’s a good idea for parents to carry some bread or small snacks. If the child suddenly complains of hunger, you can take them to a park or any place with seating for a picnic.”
Nini also reminds parents to plan a backup option for outdoor attractions in case of unexpected rain. This ensures the trip won’t be dampened by sudden lousy weather and maintains a positive mood for the outing.
3. Ensure Sufficient Space and Mobility for Strollers
When traveling in Osaka, most tourists rely on trains to get around. If you have a child who still needs a stroller, the good news is that many railway companies in Japan now provide “Priority Spaces” near the priority seating area (known as “yuusen-seki” in Japanese). These spaces are designed to accommodate passengers with strollers, wheelchairs, or large luggage without inconveniencing other passengers.
Nini: “When I travel with a stroller on the train, I intentionally choose the fourth car because it usually has more spacious areas where the stroller is less likely to obstruct others. Additionally, some stations indicate which car to board to be closest to the elevators when getting off. I recommend that tourists with strollers or luggage try to do something similar.”
(*This is based on personal experience, and not every fourth car may have the same configuration.)
4. Consider Parents' Interests and Rest Opportunities
Based on Nini’s experience exploring Osaka with her child, she suggests picking attractions that cater to both parents’ interests and provide opportunities for adequate rest.
Nini advises, “Many young children need to take afternoon naps. When the child is asleep, it’s a good time for parents to relax and take a break. I usually check nearby coffee shops or similar places in advance to sit and unwind. And, if there are attractions that interest the parents specifically, they can take turns with their partner caring for the child, allowing one parent to explore while the other stays with the child, ensuring peace of mind before switching roles.”
5. Make the Most of Department Store Facilities
Osaka is renowned for its numerous department stores, which many tourists include in their itineraries. Nini suggests that parents use department store elevators for convenient movement between floors when bringing their children. It’s also important to locate the nursing rooms in advance.
Nini: “Generally, it’s most comfortable to stroll around department stores and enjoy the air conditioning when accompanied by children. Also, many department store nursing rooms are well-designed. For instance, the nursing room at Daimaru Department Store in Shinsaibashi even has floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing you to enjoy the view while caring for your child. And Japanese department store nursing rooms often have vending machines, so you can easily purchase refreshments. It’s incredibly thoughtful.”
Let's Have Fun! Sample 5-Day Itinerary for a Family Trip to Osaka
- Day 1: Kansai Airport → Check-in at Tennoji → Nagai Botanical Garden
- Day 2: Check-out → One-day Trip to Tennoji → Check-in at Universal City
- Day 3: Universal Studios (Harry Potter, Minions, Nintendo World, ONE PIECE SUMMER, etc.)
- Day 4: Check-out ¬→ Ferry to Tempozan → One-day Trip in Tempozan → Check-in at Namba
- Day 5: Namba, Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi → Kansai Airport
Nini has also recommended several Osaka attractions that she personally finds suitable for families with children. These include the must-visit Universal Studios, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, beautiful Nagai Botanical Garden, and family-friendly cafes perfect for great photos.
Now, let's put these attractions into a 5-day, 4-night sample itinerary that ensures everyone in the family has a fun and enjoyable time during their summer vacation in Osaka!
Day 1: Arrival at Kansai Airport → Check-in at Tennoji → Visit Nagai Botanical Garden
After arriving at Kansai Airport and going through immigration, you can conveniently take the JR train to Tennoji Station. The “Haruka” limited express train takes approximately 34 minutes (fare: 1,740 yen), while the rapid train takes around 53 minutes (fare: 1,080 yen). Once you arrive at Tennoji Station, you can proceed to check in at your hotel, drop off your luggage, and then start sightseeing right away!
The first destination is Nagai Park, which covers 66.3 hectares. It can be reached from Tennoji Station in around 9 minutes by taking the JR Hanwa Line (fare: 230 yen) or in about 6 minutes on the Osaka Metro Midosuji Line (fare: 230 yen).
Both routes require getting off at Nagai Station and walking a few minutes to the park. The park has outdoor plazas, swimming pools, sports facilities, museums, cafes, and restaurants, making it a popular leisure spot for locals in Osaka, especially on weekends.
One of the most popular attractions among tourists is the Nagai Botanical Garden, which has a history of nearly half a century. The garden showcases different flowers throughout the year, with the sunflower fields from late July to August being particularly popular.
In addition, in July 2022, the world-renowned art collective teamLab opened a permanent nighttime exhibition called “teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka” at the garden. This immersive and dreamlike art installation, combining neon lights and plants, has attracted many visitors who can't resist capturing its beauty in photos.
Nini: “Inside and around Nagai Park, there are many cafes, as well as educational facilities such as nature centers that introduce ecology. You can enjoy the flowers and breeze in the afternoon, take a break and cool down at a cafe, take your children to explore the nature center or natural history museum, and then visit the teamLab art exhibition in the evening. It's a simple way to spend a whole day, and it's perfect for parents to bring their little ones along!”
Recommended Hotels in Tennoji
Day 2: Check-out → One-day Trip in Tennoji → Check-in at Universal City
On the second day, after checking out, you can store your luggage at the hotel and start sightseeing near Tennoji Station. Nini recommends visiting the Tennoji Zoo, a must-visit for families with children.
With a same-day ticket, you can enter the zoo multiple times so you can grab some food nearby if you get hungry and then return to continue exploring. It is suggested to visit Tsutenkaku and the zoo during the day and return to the shopping area near Tennoji Station in the evening.
Nini adds, “Tennoji Zoo also provides children’s carriages shaped like animals, which children can ride around the park and have a great time. The proximity between the animals and the visitors is also quite close, and I’ve seen many parents bringing their kids to enjoy the zoo!”
Nini adds, “For parents who enjoy shopping, this area offers plenty of opportunities for a happy shopping experience!”
In addition to the zoo and Tsutenkaku, Nini highly recommends that families who want to go shopping explore the area. There are large Don Quijote stores near Tsutenkaku, and around Tennoji Station, you’ll find Abeno HARUKAS, Q’s Mall, Tennoji MIO, and other department stores.
Among them, Nini enthusiastically recommends Q’s Mall for visitors with strollers. She says, “Q’s Mall has a fantastic store called Akachan Honpo, which offers great baby and children’s products. There are also many free children’s facilities, nursing rooms, and play areas. The elevators are well-maintained, making it very convenient for strollers. You can easily leave your child with your partner and enjoy shopping on your own (laughs).”
Located in front of Tennoji Station, Abeno HARUKAS is home to many renowned stores. On the 58th to 60th floors, you’ll find HARUKAS 300, the highest observation deck in the Kansai region.
With large glass windows, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area, and when night falls, the streets light up with countless dazzling lights, creating a magnificent sight.
It is a famous and highly recommended scenic spot in Osaka, offering breathtaking views both day and night. Don’t miss the chance to experience the beauty of this cityscape!
After you’re done in Tennoji, you can return to the hotel to retrieve your luggage and proceed to the hotels around Universal Studios. To get there, you can take the JR Osaka Loop Line or the Kansai Airport Rapid Service train to Nishikujo Station. From there, transfer to the JR Sakurajima Line and get off at Universal City Station. The trip takes around 19 to 34 minutes. Once you arrive at Universal Studios, you can check in and rest before a full day of exploration at Universal Studios the next day.
Recommended Hotels near Universal Studios
Day 3: Universal Studios (Harry Potter, Minions, Nintendo World, ONE PIECE SUMMER, etc.)
Today is the long-awaited day for both kids and adults at Universal Studios! The park has various themed areas and attractions based on popular movies like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Despicable Me (Minions), Spider-Man, and more. The lively, immersive atmosphere will surely set everyone’s excitement soaring.
Nini says, “Bringing kids to Universal Studios is the best! There are plenty of attractions that are not restricted by height or age. The staff members also interact with children and even give stickers to cheer them up if they’re feeling down. It’s truly heartwarming!”
In addition, Nini has a secret tip to share with everyone about Universal Studios: “Universal Studios almost always opens earlier than the scheduled time! I’ve experienced this every time I’ve visited. The chances of them opening early are very high. So if you want to be among the first to enter the park, I recommend arriving 1 to 1.5 hours before the scheduled opening time to stand by and be ready to go!”
In March 2021, Universal Studios also opened its brand-new Super Nintendo World area, where the world of iconic video game characters, including Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser, comes to life. It’s one of the liveliest sections of Universal Studios, captivating visitors with immersive and interactive experiences.
Nini: “I personally think it’s tough to win the lottery for entry into Super Nintendo World. If you didn’t purchase an Express Pass but still want to experience Super Nintendo World, staying at a hotel within Universal Studios the night before is best. This way, you can be among the first to enter the park as soon as it opens!”
The daily entry rules for Super Nintendo World can change depending on the crowd conditions. Nini mentions that if you rush to Super Nintendo World within the first 10 minutes of the park opening, you can enter without a timed entry ticket.
However, shortly after that, they start distributing timed entry tickets, and you’ll need to wait until your designated time to enter. When the crowd becomes even larger, they may switch to distributing random lottery entry tickets. Unless you’re lucky enough to win one, you won’t have the opportunity to enter Super Nintendo World on that day.
Nini: “Based on my experience at Universal Studios, spending a whole day there with kids can be quite tiring. That’s why I recommend visitors with children stay at a hotel within Universal Studios the day before or on the same day. There are restaurants in Universal City Walk outside of Universal Studios with options like Sushiro, yakitori (grilled skewers), ramen, and more. So, if you want to grab a bite after leaving Universal Studios, there’s no problem!”
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
・Hours: Please check the official website for current operating hours.
・Official Website: https://www.usj.co.jp/web/en
Day 4: Check-out → Ferry to Tempozan → One-day Trip in Tempozan → Check-in at Namba
Today, we will visit Tempozan in Osaka, where the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is located. Tempozan is situated across the bay from Universal Studios, and you can take a ferry directly there from the Universal Studios' ferry terminal.
Be sure to check the ferry schedule in the morning, and after checking out of the hotel, you can take the 10-minute ferry with your luggage.
- One-way Travel Time: 10 minutes
- One-way Fare: Adults (Junior high school students and above) 900 yen, Children (Elementary school students) 500 yen, Toddlers (3 years and above) 400 yen
*Infants aged 1-2 are free when accompanied by an adult
*Round-trip tickets available for a 100 yen discount
*Combination tickets are available for the Aquarium and Santa Maria. Show your Captain Line ticket to receive a 100 yen discount on the Ferris Wheel ticket.
- Official Captain Line Website
After disembarking, you will immediately see major landmarks like Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and the Market Place shopping center in Tempozan. If you want to go straight to the aquarium, you can use the coin-operated lockers available inside the aquarium or the lockers at Tempozan Marketplace or Osaka Port Station to store your luggage.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in Japan, featuring approximately 620 species and over 30,000 marine animals. It showcases not only popular marine animals like penguins, polar bears, and dolphins but also whale sharks and offers interactive opportunities to touch some of the animals.
The aquarium provides a delightful educational, entertaining experience for families and attracts many visitors to Osaka.
In Tenpozan Market Place, located next to the Kaiyukan Aquarium, you can find popular stores such as the Lego Discovery Center, Seria 100 Yen Shop, Hokkyokusei Tamago Kake Gohan, and more.
There is also a nostalgic retro food street, a Sanrio store, and souvenir shops offering local specialties. Additionally, you can enjoy a ride on the large Ferris wheel and admire the bustling seascape of Osaka Bay.
Nini: “I highly recommend visiting the Lego Discovery Center in the Tempozan Marketplace! It’s designed specifically for families, and adults are required to be accompanied by children to enter. If the kids have a great time, you can even make a purchase on-site. If you have time after exploring the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Osaka, you can continue shopping at the market, take a ride on the Ferris wheel, or visit the Kaiyukan Aquarium. No need to worry about getting bored!”
Nini recommends a unique all-you-can-eat takoyaki restaurant called Takoyaki Okoku ('Takoyaki Kingdom') located between the Tempozan Market Place and Osaka Port Station. It's about a 4-minute walk from Tempozan Market Place and 3 minutes from Osaka Port.
At Takoyaki Okoku, you can enjoy the fun of making your own takoyaki with toppings and fillings of your choice. The restaurant has English and Chinese menus, and they also offer other delicious foods like french fries, fried chicken, fried takoyaki, and drinks. It's a great option for a satisfying meal.
Nini: “I see many tourists from Europe and America coming to this restaurant, as it allows you to make as many takoyaki as you want within the allotted time. Being able to make and eat 100 takoyaki is such a joyful experience!”
- Address 3-9-8 Tsukamoto, Minato-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka 552-0021
・Buffet Hours: Lunch Noon–4:00 PM (Last Order: 3:00 PM) / Dinner 5:30 PM–10:00 PM (Last Order: 8:30 PM)
・Closed on Mondays (excluding national holidays)
・Buffet Pricing: (Lunch) Starting from 1,550 yen for 70 minutes / (Dinner) Starting from 2,300 yen for 90 minutes
・Official Website: http://takoyakioukoku.com/
After you’re done at Tempozan, you can proceed to your accommodation in Namba to check in and rest.
Take the Osaka Metro Chuo Line from Osaka-ko Station to Hommachi Station, and then transfer to either the Osaka Metro Yotsubashi Line or Midosuji Line to reach Namba. The journey takes about 20 minutes. Choosing a hotel near the station area is recommended when traveling with children.
After returning to the hotel, you can explore nearby shops and establishments if you still have energy and interest.
Recommended Hotels in Namba
Day 5: Namba (Cafe Taiyō no Tō), Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi → Kansai Airport
On the last day, explore Namba, Dotonbori, and Shinsaibashi for sightseeing and shopping!
Several large shopping malls surround Namba Station, including Osaka Namba CITY, Namba SkyO, and Namba Parks. There are also large electronics stores like BicCamera Namba and Yamada Denki LABI1 Namba, as well as department stores like Osaka Takashimaya and Namba 0101 Marui.
These facilities offer a great shopping experience with a wide variety of products and also have facilities like nursing rooms and a broad selection of children's items. They’re perfect places to visit if you want to avoid sun or rain exposure.
Nini: “Inside Namba CITY, there's a retro cafe called Cafe Taiyonoto (Tower of the Sun). The cafe has free toys for children to play with, and also sells baby food. The decor and food are adorable, and there's even a shop that sells parenting supplies and miscellaneous products. Many moms were waiting outside even before the store opened. I made a reservation when I went, so I didn't have to wait in line. I recommend making a reservation in advance or visiting during non-peak hours, like avoiding lunchtime.”
Cafe Taiyonoto NAMBA CITYcafe太陽ノ塔 NAMBA CITY
- Address NAMBA Carnival Mall, Namba 5-chome, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0076
・Hours: 11:00 AM–11:00 PM (Last Order: Food 10:00 PM / Drinks & Cakes 10:30 PM)
・Closed: Refer to NAMBA CITY
・Official Website: https://taiyounotou.com/cafe/namba-city/
・Online Reservation Page (in Japanese): https://taiyounotou.com/cafe-reservation/
* Reservations are not available on weekends and national holidays.
You can reach Dotonbori, Osaka's most famous attraction, in less than 3 minutes on foot from Namba Station. The colorful and eye-catching signs along the riverside make for a vibrant and lively atmosphere.
The iconic Glico Running Man sign is a must-see and a popular spot for taking photos. There are also popular establishments like Don Quijote with its Ferris wheel and Ichiran Ramen that attract many tourists. Dotonbori also has a river cruise service, which can be a great way to rest and enjoy sightseeing if you're exploring with children.
Just about a 3-minute walk from Dotonbori, you'll reach another must-visit shopping spot: Shinsaibashi Shopping Street. There, you'll find numerous tax-free drugstores, making it super convenient for tourists to compare and shop. There are also budget-friendly stores like DAISO and UNIQLO, as well as family-friendly restaurants, yakiniku (grilled meat), and ramen shops. Additionally, you can enjoy shopping at department stores like Daimaru, which houses one of Osaka's Pokémon Cafés, and Shinsaibashi OPA.
Finally, head back to Namba Station and take the Nankai Electric Railway's limited express train (approximately 46 minutes, fare 930 yen) or the Rapi:t express train (approximately 37 minutes, fare 1450 yen) to Kansai Airport. It's time to catch your flight and bid farewell to Japan, concluding this 5-day-4-night summer vacation in Osaka with your family.
Exploring Osaka with the "Osaka Amazing Pass" for Families - A Convenient and Cost-effective Choice
If you plan your itinerary well, the Osaka Amazing Pass can be a cost-effective choice since many attractions, including Dotonbori River Cruise, Captain Line, Tempozan, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel, Tsutenkaku Tower, and Tennoji Zoo, offer free admission with the pass. It's definitely worth considering if you want to save money during your trip to Osaka.
*The information provided is based on an interview conducted in March 2023 and may differ from the current situation.
*For detailed information regarding the operating hours, closures, and other specifics of each facility, please refer to official websites for accurate and up-to-date information.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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