23 Exciting Things to Do in Osaka, Japan

Known for vibrant nightlife, approachable locals, and a fantastic food scene, Osaka is a popular spot on most Japan itineraries. 

Truth time: When we plan trips, big cities aren’t usually the spots we most look forward to visiting. And honestly, we didn’t really expect to like Osaka (aka Japan’s third largest city!) all that much.

Osaka lacks the old world charm you’ll find in Kyoto, and it’s not as flashy as Tokyo. But what it lacks in glamour and beauty it makes up in character. Osaka is friendly and laid-back, and we ended up liking it much more than we expected initially.

We’re sharing all the best things to do in Osaka; from the famous must-see Osaka attractions, to tours that are absolutely worth the price tag, to some hidden spots you won’t find in the guidebooks.

We’re also going over where to stay in Osaka, and covering how to get around in this sprawling city. Hint: it’s easier than you may think!

Article Contents:

This Osaka guide packs in everything you need in one place. So whether you’re in the beginning stages of planning your trip to Japan or you’re in Osaka as you’re reading this right now (yay!), be sure to save this article for easy access during your trip.

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this article, which means we get a small commission on bookings. This is how we are able to continue running this website and create information-packed content for you, so we truly appreciate your support.

Things to Do in Osaka

If you’re wondering what to do in Osaka, we’ve gotcha covered with all sorts of ideas. Whether you’re looking for free things to do, spots off the beaten path, or things to do at night, you’ll find everything you need below.

We’re even sharing the cost of each activity so you know how much to budget for your Japan trip.

1. Explore Dotonbori at night

Known for its ever-glowing neon lights, thick crowds, and endless food options, a visit to this lively district should definitely be part of your Osaka itinerary. To get the full experience, be sure to get there after the sun goes down and the lights shine brightest. There is a palpable buzz to this place, and your senses will be on overdrive. Walk up the main drag, sample food along the way, sit down and people-watch.

While in Dotonbori, stop into Don Quijote, which is a famous Japanese discount store chain that sells literally everything you could ever need. Just walking inside one of these stores is an experience in itself, and the Dotonbori location even has a ferris wheel inside!

Oh, and do the Japanese thing and take a photo with “Glico Man”, the runner depicted on a neon billboard crossing a finish line. This iconic image was installed in 1935 by a candy company (Glico), and it is now the symbol of Osaka amongst Japanese people.

Insider Tip: While you’re in the area, wander off the main path and through narrow streets towards Hozen-ji Yokocho, an alleyway that still retains traditional charm and is much quieter than Dotonbori’s main drag. Be sure to pause at the lantern-lit Hozen-ji temple, for which this alley gets its name.

2. Take a Cooking Class

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you might know that we love taking cooking classes on our travels, and have taken courses in 12 countries around the world (and counting!). In fact, we took a sushi-making class the last time we were in Japan.

We think a good cooking class can give you a unique opportunity to spend time with a local, ask questions, and learn. Also, food is such an integral part of a country’s culture that taking a cooking class will give you a perspective you might otherwise miss.

Many of the cooking classes we’ve taken are half-day affairs, with visits to local markets and preparing multiple dishes from scratch. However, this ramen-making class took just 2 hours, which was fine with us considering we had a pretty packed schedule in Osaka.

Our hosts were very sweet and explained the different types of ramen (there are a lot!). We made three different types of ramen and made everything — from the noodles to the broth — from scratch.

Note for vegetarian travelers: This cooking class can be adapted for vegetarians and vegans.

One thing I will mention is that while it was really fun to make our own ramen from scratch, it is not a dish that average Japanese people will make for themselves. They’ll typically go to a ramen shop instead of cooking this dish from scratch at home. 

Do it yourself: Book the same ramen-making class we did, or browse other cooking classes in Osaka.

Note: We were hosted by Sakura Cook in our ramen-making class, but all opinions are our own.

3. Shiteno-ji Temple

One of the oldest temples in Japan and the most important Buddhist structure in Osaka, the Shitenoji Temple is a good place to get a glimpse into the country’s religion.

This temple was originally built in the 6th century by Prince Shotoku as a way to help promote the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. Over the centuries, Shitenoji has endured several fires and has been reconstructed to reflect the original design.

Cost: It’s free to enter the main temple grounds, but there are small fees for two of the onsite attractions:

  • Gokuraku-jodo Garden: 300 yen

  • Treasure House: 500 yen; you can see historic paintings and writings displayed

How to get here: Shitennoji is a short walk from Shitennoji-mae-Yuhigaoka Station on the Tanimachi Subway Line. Alternatively, it can be reached in a ten-minute walk north of JR Tennoji Station on the JR Loop Line.

4. Go Izakaya Hopping

Let’s start by defining what the heck an izakaya actually is.

Izakaya: small bar that serves drinks and small dishes in a casual atmosphere.

Sometimes izakayas have just a handful of seats, and other times they have a second floor with more seating. But one of their defining features is that they are cozy, they serve drinks and small dishes, and they are are good places to soak up local ambiance.

Izakayas are uniquely Japanese, and a fun thing to do in Osaka during your visit. You’ll be surrounded by locals and have the opportunity to absorb this special atmosphere.

Want some tips on what to order in an izakaya? The menus are often written in Japanese, which can make things a bit tricky. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a guide to ordering at an izakaya!

Magical Trip Bar Hopping Tour

If you’re traveling solo or want a local with you on your first izakaya experience, consider booking a bar hopping tour with Magical Trip.

Is it worthwhile?

Short answer: Maybe…

Long answer: We did a bar hopping tour with Magical Trips, and we’re gonna be honest: In our opinion, the tour was just okay. Our guides were nice, but didn’t give us all that much information that we didn’t already know, so we felt like we could have had a very similar experience on our own without paying the price of the tour.

That said, we’ve traveled in Japan before and feel confident stepping into izakayas on our own. And I will admit, it can be a bit intimidating entering your first izakaya because most of the time the menus are in Japanese.

So if it’s your first time in Japan or you’re traveling solo and want some company, having a local with you (and potentially some other travelers) can make the experience a bit more comfortable and fun.

Book your own tour: Check out Magical Trip’s different tour options in Osaka.

Insider Tip: Have you seen the Netflix series “Street Food”? Totally recommend checking it out if you haven’t already. If you have time, visit Toyo, the izakaya featured in the Osaka episode. Known for tuna cheek, crab, and fatty tuna rolls (amongst other seafood-based dishes), it’s a good idea to arrive early. We’ve heard that the tuna cheek often sells out within an hour of opening!

In addition to fantastic food (read the reviews!), the owner (and chef) is energetic, hilarious, and charming, and another reason to make the visit. Toyo is located in the Miyakojima area, which is northeast of the city center. It is just off the JR Tozai line, which is convenient if you have the pass!

5. Minoo Park

After a couple days of weaving through crowded city streets, we were craving some time in nature. We did a little research and found that just 45 minutes north of the city center sits a nature lover’s oasis.

With a paved walking path that leads through forested mountains to a waterfall, this park is a popular spot for local couples and families to escape city life for part of a day. 

The path is mostly flat(ish), and it takes around 45 minutes to get to the waterfall, which marks the end of the path. You’ll find stalls selling snacks as well as a few restrooms along the way.

We visited Minoo on a holiday weekend, and while it was busy with locals, it wasn’t too crowded. Plus, we only spotted a handful of other foreigners, so it felt 

Be sure to try the deep fried maple leaves, which you can only find in this park. The tiny maple leaves are covered in a slightly sweet batter before being plunged into hot oil. It’s kind of like eating a waffle cone: very crunchy and only a little sweet. The leaves don’t really have a flavor, but you can find of “feel” them… make sense? They’re fun to try!

You’ll find several small stands between the train station and the waterfall selling them for 200 - 300 yen for a small bag, as well as larger sizes. We’d recommend finding a stand where they are making them fresh instead of just buying a bag on display.

How to get there: From the Osaka-Umeda Station (near Osaka Station), take the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line (best if it is the Express Train because it will be less stops). Change trains at Ishibashi Handai-mae Station and get on the Hankyu-Mino Line heading to Minoo. The whole trip takes about 45 minutes. To get back, just go in reverse.

Cost: Free to enter the park, but the train to get to Minoo Park is not covered in the JRail Pass, and for a return trip from Osaka Station, it costs 540 yen per person. You’ll also want to budget a bit of money for lunch or snacks along the way.

How much time needed: 3-4 hours (including transport)

6. Play Pachinko

Imagine a snazzy Vegas slot machine got drunk and got friendly with a pinball machine… their baby (weird analogy, I know) would be pachinko!

Sparkly, loud, flashy, and a bit confusing, you’ll find these popular Japanese gaming machines all around the country. From small venues in rural towns to the ostentatious establishments in major cities, there’s no denying pachinko is a big deal in Japan. While its popularity is on the decline, pachinko is still a billion dollar industry

Even though it’s not actually gambling, the pachinko parlors have a similar atmosphere as a smoky Las Vegas casino. Gambling is actually illegal in Japan, so instead of winning money, you get… wait for it… SILVER BALLS! These metal balls can be used to continue playing or to “purchase” items like Pocky Sticks, Pringles, stuffed animals, plastic toys; and if you collect enough balls, even some electronics.

It kind of reminds me of the prizes at the roller rinks I went to in elementary school. Yet pachinko parlors are mostly packed with middle aged men. Strange, I know.

To be honest, I don’t quite understand the hype. But then again, I’m not really into slot machines or arcades, so I might not be the best judge. And while it’s certainly not a pastime I could see myself getting into, I am glad I tried it out. It’s just one of those so-completely-Japanaese things you just have to try. Plus, it’s cheap, so why not?!

Wander through the streets in Dotonbori and you’re sure to find a pachinko parlor (or 10), or stop into one while exploring some of the less touristy neighborhoods in Osaka.

Do it yourself: Round One is a spot that’s popular with locals, and is conveniently in the Dotonbori area. In addition to pachinko, you’ll find lots of other arcade games, bowling, and even ice skating. You can also find pachinko parlors all around Dotonbori; just look for large signs that say “pachinko”!

Oh, and while we’re on the topic, here are the instructions for playing this game. Hopefully you won’t be quite as confused as we were our first try!

Pachinko instructions:

  1. Insert money and press play (玉貸).

  2. Turn the round lever, which shoots out small metal balls. The further you turn the handle, the stronger the balls will shoot. Start by just barely turning the lever until you get a feel for it, and keep it turned so balls continue to shoot.

  3. Aim the balls at the gaps in the pegs. Your goal is to make them go into the small hole in the center of the game board. Tip: Many players claim that the top left corner is the best spot to aim.

  4. When you get the ball into the proper hole, you will be rewarded with a celebratory “ding-ding-ding” and more balls to play with (or cash in for prizes).

7. Explore the Retro Shinsekai Neighborhood

Stroll down the streets of the Shinsekai neighborhood, and with a little imagination, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. This is arguably one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Osaka, and exploring it will show you a different side of the city than you’ll find in the modern center.

Wandering around this area might feel oddly familiar, and there’s a reason for that. The centerpiece of this neighborhood, Tsutenkaku Tower, was modeled after the Eiffel Tower, and the southern part of the neighborhood was constructed to look like Coney Island. 

For the best atmosphere, arrive around dusk so you can see this area come alive as the sun goes down, with neon lights, loud pachinko parlors, karaoke bars, and cheap eateries.

To fully appreciate this area you have to understand the history, so we’ll give you a quickie history lesson.

History lesson brought to you by Two Wandering Soles:

At the beginning of the 1900’s, Japan experienced an economic boom, and in order to showcase this affluence for the rest of the world to see, Shinsekai was created in 1912, and crowds flocked to this modern neighborhood.

Literally translating to "New World", Shinsekai was built to imitate two of the world’s most famous cities at the time: Paris and New York City. There was even an amusement park in the neighborhood in case anyone was unaware of the prosperous state of the country.

However, it didn’t last long. After World War II, poverty was felt around the whole country, and the Shinsekai neighborhood was a shining example. The amusement park was closed and the Tsutenkaku Tower was scrapped for metal. This neighborhood was all but forgotten, except for those too poor to live elsewhere.

Today, Shinsekai has seen a resurgence of visitors and businesses are once again thriving. However, many of them retain the same look as they did in decades past, giving this area a palpable feeling of nostalgia.

Good to know: In years past, locals have referred to Shinsekai as being dangerous, however, that stigma is quickly changing. Although the neighborhood still retains its seediness (in a weirdly charming way!), there’s no reason to be worried about visiting Shinsekai.

Things to Do in Shinsekai

  • Spot the Billiken statues: You won’t have to wander far to notice statues of a cherub-like figure with a mischievous grin. Created by an American artist, Billiken became popular after being introduced to Japan, and has become a symbol or mascot of sorts of the Shinsekai neighborhood.

    • Known as the God of Happiness or “Things as they ought to be”, Billiken is said to bring you good luck if you rub his feet.

  • Eat kushikatsu: Shinsekai is said to be the place where kushikatsu was invented as an inexpensive yet filling food. There are tons of restaurants serving up these deep-fried meat and vegetable skewers for cheap (some starting at under 100 yen per skewer).

  • Play old school pachinko: If you want a unique place to try out pachinko, test your skills at Smartball New Star, which has a totally retro feel unlike the more modern machines you’ll find elsewhere in the city.

  • Soak at Spa World: This huge public bath is divided into Asian spas and European-inspired spas, separated by gender. Entrance costs 1200 yen on weekdays and 1500 yen on weekends and holidays.

  • Get a view at the top of the Tsutenkaku Tower: Entrance costs 700 yen, and at the top there are sweeping views of the city.

  • Glimpse the famous blowfish lantern: This neighborhood has a handful of restaurants that specialize in fugu, or pufferfish. It must be prepared by a highly-skilled chef because if not cut properly, it can be poisonous. This is a very expensive dish, but if your budget and curiosity allows, Shinsekai is a good place to give it a try.

How to get there: Shinsekai is a short walk from many train stations: Shin-Imamiya (JR Loop Line); Ebisucho (Sakaisuji Line); Dobutsuen-mae (Midosuji/Sakaisuji Lines).

8. Strike a pose in a Purikura (aka Japanese photo booth)

Just like many things, Japan does photo booths cuter than the rest of the world. Purikura, or Japanese photo booths, don’t just print off a strip of 4 photos and call it good. No, they go above and beyond.

After striking a handful of poses, you will exit the photo booth. And this is where the fun begins…

You’ll get to choose your favorite photos and edit them all with filters. You can enlarge your eyes, shrink your nose, or do whatever strikes your fancy. Add makeup (Ben got really into this part!) and stickers until you’ve had enough, or until the timer goes off! Yep, that’s right… this whole thing is timed, so part of this experience is rushing to get it all done before the time runs out!

At the end, you’re left with a fun (and cheap!) souvenir. Just be warned that the photos print out quite small, and you’ll only get one copy, so if you’re with a partner you may want to go back in again so you each get a keepsake!

After we were finished, it asked for our email address and I was stoked to get the photos digitally… or so I thought. It turned out I was sent a link to our watermarked photos and a place to pay (more money) for access to them. Womp womp.

Cost: Prices may range, but the one we did cost 400 yen.

9. Visit the Osaka Castle

Situated in the midst of this bustling city, the Osaka Castle is a must on most travelers’ itineraries. Cross over not one — but two! — moats to reach the castle grounds, which you can explore free of charge.

If you want to enter the castle, you’ll need to pay a 600 yen entry fee. The interior has been turned into a museum and, in our opinions, was a bit underwhelming.

The best part of the 600 yen admission (for us) was the observation deck on the 8th floor. It offers nice 360-degree views over the city.

Nishinomaru Garden

Surrounding the castle lies the Nishinomaru Gardens, which are one of the most popular spots in the city for cherry blossom viewing in the springtime. It also offers nice views of the castle and lots of green space that is nice any time of year.

  • Entrance fee: 200 yen (or 350 yen during the extended hours of the cherry blossom season)

Insider Tip: Next to the castle is the Miraiza building which has bathrooms and shops. On the top level is the Blue Birds Rooftop Terrace, which has great views overlooking the castle.

It costs 1000 yen to enter (which includes a free drink). Or if you show your Osaka Castle ticket (or a receipt from one of the stores in the complex below the restaurant), you can enter for free as long as you purchase one drink (500 yen).

After reading reviews, we’d probably skip the food and just order drinks here. Note that they are closed every day from 4-6 p.m. to prepare for diner service, so you’ll need to plan on coming between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. if you just want a drink and a view.

Cost: Free to enter castle grounds; 600 yen admission to enter the castle; 200 yen to enter the Nishinomaru Gardens (350 yen during cherry blossom viewing)

Hours: Castle and garden hours are the same — 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. (entrance until 4:30); extended hours on holidays

How to get there: The closest station is Tanimachi Yonchome Station along the Tanimachi and Chuo subway lines. And the closest JR station is Osakajokoen Station on the JR Loop Line.

10. Take a Food Tour

Osaka is known for food, and it would be a shame not to stuff your belly with as much as possible in this foodie paradise. You can try wandering around the streets and let your nose guide the way, but if you want to sample the best local dishes and learn all about local foodie culture, you’ll be impressed with Arigato’s Osaka food tours. We sure were!

We’ve taken a lot of food tours around the world and we love eating, so we kind of consider ourselves experts in this realm. And we can say that Arigato puts on one hell of a food tour. The price tag isn’t exactly cheap, but the amount of food and the quality of service was well worth it, in our opinions.

Not only did we get to sample a ton of different foods, but we learned more in this tour — about food, culture, and history — than we did in any other tour in Japan.

Do it yourself: Book the same tour we did with Arigato, or browse the rest of their Osaka tour offerings.

Note: We were hosted by Arigato on the Shinsekai Food Tour, but all opinions are our own.

11. Day Trip to Hiroshima

Hiroshima is just 1 hour and 40 minutes west from Osaka on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen train (which is covered in your JRail pass), making it a great place to visit as a day trip. You can definitely stay longer if you have the time, but this trip is also doable in just a day.

Things to do in Hiroshima

Once you arrive in town, make your way to Peace Park and see all the important sights:

  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: Newly renovated, this museum displays the devastation the atomic bomb had on Hiroshima and it’s people.

  • Hiroshima Peace Park: An open park with many monuments in the center of Hiroshima dedicated the victims of the atomic bomb.

  • Children’s Peace Monument: Filled with paper cranes, this monument is dedicated all the children who lost their lives due to the bomb.

  • Atomic Bomb Dome: Once a convention center, this structure was one of the only buildings still standing after the blast. The hypocenter of the bomb was only a few blocks away.

Touring the museum and walking around the park can take about half of the day and it’s totally doable on your own as there there are many signs in English.

Have more time? Here are some other things to do in Hiroshima:

  • Eat Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, which is quite a bit different than the traditional Osaka version

  • Explore the Hiroshima Castle

  • Take the ferry (covered in your JRail pass!) to Miyajima Island for a quick visit or to spend the night. Miyajima is known for its picturesque floating torii gate, wild deer, and beautiful views from Mount Misen which can be reached on foot or by cable car.

12. Day trip to Nara

Nara was actually one of the ancient capitals of Japan, and was the place of power during most of the 8th century. And while there are plenty of stunning temples and shrines to explore, the biggest draw for most visitors is undoubtedly the famous Nara deer that wander around this city.

Known as Sika deer, these friendly cuties can be found wandering the city’s parks, streets, and temples, and were once thought to be sacred messengers for the Shinto gods.

Nara is just 45 minutes from Osaka by train, making it a popular day trip. However, there are lots of things to do in the area, so if you have time to slow down you might want to consider spending the night.

Things to do in Nara:

  • Head to Nara Park where to you pretend you’re Snow White in the flesh and take selfies with the friendly deer. 

  • Get off the main walking street and wander further into the parks and temples, where you can find solitude from the crowds, and deer that aren’t surrounded by selfie sticks.

  • Explore shrines and temples in the area.

  • Crawl through “Buddha’s Nostril” at the famed Tōdai-ji Temple.

    • Note: It’s really just a pillar with a hole carved through, which is apparently the same size as Buddha’s nostrils on the bronze statue for which this temple is famous. Crawling through is supposed to bring enlightenment to anyone who can fit through in their next life. 

  • Try freshly-made mochi at the famous Nakatanidou.

  • Visit Japanese Gardens: There are actually a handful of beautiful gardens in Nara

    • Yoshikien Garden is a good choice, as it is free for all foreign visitors, and next to it lies the larger and more famous Isuien Garden, which is particularly beautiful in autumn.

  • Explore Naramachi, the area in town where streets retain their historic charm.

  • Have a delicious lunch. There are plenty of great places in town, but we really enjoyed this soba noodle shop that we stumbled upon. (It’s a bit out of the main part of town and the name is in Japanese). 

Ethical Travel Note: We decided not to feed the deer, as they are wild animals. That said, they have been living within the city limits for so long that they’re very used to being fed, and most tourists do choose to buy the “deer crackers” for 150 yen from various vendors around the city.

We preferred to observe and take pictures, but decide what you personally feel comfortable with. The deer are known to bow when presented with a cracker, though we did see some getting a bit aggressive. 

13. Relax at a Public Bath

If dropping your clothes in front of strangers sounds like something that would be out of your comfort zone, you’re not alone. 

However, public baths are a huge part of Japanese culture, and are part of most people’s weekly routines. So if you think you can handle it, visiting one is a unique (and maybe even enjoyable!) experience.

Once you get over the whole being naked in public thing — yeah, it’s one of my nightmares too! — you’ll find that nobody else actually cares that you’re naked. And after a while you might even find it relaxing — gasp! 

Here are a couple things to keep in mind at public baths: 

  • If you have tattoos, check their policy ahead of time. Some are lenient while others are strict.

  • Baths are typically gender-separated, with the exception of some foot baths. If you come with a partner of the opposite sex, come up with a meeting time.

  • You must shower before you get into the bath.

  • Some of the larger baths are open almost 24 hours. It’s not uncommon for them to close for a couple hours from 8-10 a.m. for cleaning, but to be open the rest of the night. 

There are a lot of public baths and onsens in Osaka. Each neighborhood has their own “local bath”. But if you want to have several different places to soak, Spa World is a good option!

14. Have drinks at a Speakeasy

We’re going to let you in on an Osaka secret, so listen up… 

There is a super cool speakeasy bar hidden in a residential building that you’d never know was there if you were just walking past. The windows are boarded up and the stairwell looks uninviting. 

But if you do make it to this spot, you’ll find a dimly lit space with just 20 seats and a hushed atmosphere that lets you know you’ve found something special.

There is no menu. Instead, you’ll tell the bartender what flavors you like (spicy, fruity, smoky, etc.) as well as your preferred liquor, and be prepared to be impressed.

We loved everything about this place. Except the cigarette smoke, which is pretty thick. But that’s just how it is everywhere you go in Japan.

We almost don’t want to spill this secret, but it’s such a cool spot that we couldn’t help sharing it with you!

How much does it cost? As we mentioned, there is no menu. So you’re kind of ordering blindly without knowing the price of the drinks. To give you an idea of what to expect, our total bill for 2 drinks (one with gin and one with whiskey) was 2700 yen ($25.50 USD). 

15. Kuromon Ichiba Market

This covered market is where chefs and home cooks come for the freshest local ingredients, earning it the nickname “Osaka’s kitchen”.

Not only will you find stalls selling fresh seafood and produce, but you’ll find shops serving up fresh food made on the spot, like noodles, curries and takoyaki.

Wander past the stalls, sample some dishes, and observe locals on their morning grocery runs.

How to get here: This famous market is a short walk from both Nippombashi and Kintetsu Nippombashi stations.

16. Stay in a Capsule Hotel

Capsule hotels were created in the late 1970’s as an affordable way for people — often times businessmen traveling for work — to spend the night in the ultra-crowded city centers of Japan. Now, staying in a capsule, or “pod hotel”, is a popular thing for tourists to do while traveling in Japan.

At their most basic, capsules are roughly just enough space for a bed, and have room for guests to crawl and sit, but not stand, which might make this a deal-breaker for anyone who is claustrophobic.

Capsule hotels also typically provide pajamas and toiletries, and are most often separated by gender. There are shared bathroom facilities as well as a common space, though they tend to be much less social than hostels.

With the popularity of pod hotels on the rise, there are much more luxurious, and dare I say spacious, options.

Fun fact: The very first capsule hotel in the world was in Osaka, so this city is the perfect place to try it for yourself.

Capsule Hotel: Hotel Cargo

Staying in a capsule hotel is one Japanese experience we figured we should probably try for ourselves. So even though it meant that we would need to spend the night apart — I know, I know, we’re gross and mushy-gushy! — we decided to book 2 separate capsules.

We opted to pay a bit more for one of the higher-rated capsules, and we were impressed with how comfortable it was.

The pods at Hotel Cargo are designed like tiny rooms: You can’t stand, but otherwise it seems like everything you’ll have in a normal hotel room: vanity, tv, trash can, even a mini closet. And the bathroom and showers have all the toiletries you could need.

17. People-watch in the Shinsaibashi shopping district

This shopping district is crazy busy at just about all hours of the day (or night!). To be honest, strolling down this covered shopping street gave me a bit of anxiety because of the thick crowds, but it’s just one of those places you need to see!

Pause for a moment and watch life undulating all around you. And this is a good chance to do a little souvenir shopping.

While you’re in the area, be sure to venture just off the main covered path to Amerikamura. This is another shopping district known for American brands, expat-run shops and a mini Statue of Liberty. This area is a popular hangout for young Osakans as well as foreigners.

More things to do in Osaka

Osaka is packed with so much to do that there’s no way you’ll be able to cross it all off your list during one visit. We certainly didn’t!

Here are some things that sounded fun, but we just didn’t have the time to get to during this trip to Japan. There’s always next time, right?!

18. Cup Noodle Museum

This museum is free to enter, and is one of those “only in Japan” experiences. Explore the different exhibits that range from the history of cup noodles, to the manufacturing process, to different versions you can find around the world, to a Cup Noodle theater!

And for 300 yen, you can even make your own Cup Noodle by designing the packaging and choosing your own toppings and flavorings.

While it’s certainly not the freshest ramen you’ll have in Japan, it is perhaps the only one that’ll make it home in your suitcase as an edible souvenir.

More info: For opening hours and directions, check out the Cup Noodle Museum website.

19. Drive a Go Kart around Osaka

Don’t forget your bunch of bananas! Go Karting in Japan.  Photo Credit:  Emily from  Travellers Horizons

Don’t forget your bunch of bananas! Go Karting in Japan. Photo Credit: Emily from Travellers Horizons

Can you imagine anything more ridiculously Japanese than dressing up in costume and jumping into a go-kart to drive around the city streets?! This experience turns your 1990’s Mario Kart dreams into real life, and is a unique way to see the city of Osaka, to say the least.

This is a popular thing to do in Tokyo, but if you’re short on time in Japan’s largest city, Osaka is another excellent place to have this quirky only-in-Japan experience. 

Book your own Go Kart experience here!

Important to know: Be sure to bring your international driver’s license with you, as you will not be allowed to do this experience without it. Ben had his, but sadly I didn’t have one on this trip, so we had to skip this experience. 

20. Visit Universal Studios Osaka

Let your inner child loose with a visit to Osaka’s very own Universal Studios. 

We’re kicking ourselves that we didn’t make it here because we’re huge Harry Potter fans! So next time we’re in Osaka and have a day to spare, we’ll definitely make it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

And while we’re there I suppose we should check out some other attractions, like Spider Man and Jurassic Park… that is if we can peel ourselves away from Hogwarts and butter beer! 

Cost of tickets at the door:

  • ¥7,400 ($68 USD) for adults

  • ¥5,100 ($47 USD) for children

  • ¥6,700 ($62 USD) for seniors (65 years and over)

Insider Tip: We’d recommend getting your tickets in advance so you can skip the ticketing queue when you arrive. Just show your e-voucher and pass right through the entrance! 

21. See a Comedy Show

We’re huge fans of comedy clubs, and had we known about ROR Comedy Club before our trip, we definitely would have made it here. (We’re kicking ourselves for missing it!)

This comedy club features local and international stand up comedians, and all shows are in English.

The reviews online are fantastic, and tickets are very affordable:

  • Regular ROR shows: ¥1,000 ($9.22 USD)

  • Open Mics: ¥500 ($4.61)

  • Dinner, 2 Drinks & Show Set: ¥3,500 ($32.26 USD)

If you’re visiting Osaka and love to laugh, do yourself a favor and reserve your tickets now (you pay at the door). And if you do go, shoot us a message and let us know how it is!

Shows are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights.

22. High Tea at the Conrad

If you want to experience a taste of the high life and budget isn’t too much of a restraint, book high tea at 40 Sky Bar & Lounge in the Conrad Hotel.

Like the name of the restaurant suggests, this establishment is on the hotel’s 40th floor and offers guests spectacular views of the city’s skyline below.

Choose from different tea sets, ranging in price from 3,400 yen to 5,800 yen per person, which include platters of sweet and savory bites made from highly-acclaimed chefs.

Afternoon tea is served daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Make reservations here.

23. View Osaka from above

Insider Tip: You can get this view from the Observation Deck in the Osaka Castle. See #9 for more info!

If you want to see Osaka from above, there are two very famous views of this city.

  • Abeno Harukas

  • Umeda Sky Building

At dusk you can watch the sun start to set and the lights turn on in the city, which would be a pretty spectacular site. Although, this is one of the more busy times from these viewpoints.

We decided to skip this as we got a pretty darn good view from the top of the Osaka Castle. Plus, we didn’t feel like paying 1,500 yen each for a view.


Things to Eat in Osaka

Osaka is known around the country for its food scene, and locals are known to be able to put down a LOT of food.

In fact, there is a saying in Japanese: “Osaka no kuidaore,” which literally translates to “the Osaka habit of eating until you drop”. But the true meaning is actually “the habit of eating until you go into debt.” Either way, I think you get the point that food is a BIG DEAL in Osaka.

There are endless food options in this city, but here are 3 of the most famous local delights you should try:

Takoyaki

These small balls of batter are filled with octopus and ginger (or other ingredients), and grilled to perfection.

Okonomiyaki

Sometimes called “Japanese pizza” this is essentially a batter mixed with lots of meats and vegetables of your choice, grilled, and served with special sauces.

Kushikatsu

Vegetables and/or meat on skewers, battered, deep-fried, and served with a tasty dipping sauce.

Related Reading: If you’re a foodie, you won’t want to miss our ultimate Japan Food Guide. It is packed with literally EVERYTHING you’ll need to know about Japanese cuisine and what foods you should definitely try.


Getting around Osaka

Osaka is a very well-connected city, and public transportation is affordable and efficient. It can be a bit overwhelming at first to understand how to get around and just what types of passes you’ll need. Fear not, we’re here with all the info you need!

JR Lines

If you have a JRail Pass, you’ll have free access to JR Lines in Osaka, which is great because the Osaka Loop Line is very helpful. However, the JR lines can be quite a walk from some of the attractions you’ll likely want to visit, like Dotonbori.

For this reason, we’d also recommend getting an ICOCA Card, which we will describe below:

ICOCA card

This is a prepaid metro card for the Kansai Region, which includes Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and the surrounding areas. You can even use this card in other places in Japan as well, like Hiroshima and Tokyo.

Comparable to the Oyster Cards in London, you can load these cards and use them to tap in and out of metro stations. You can even use them to buy items at 7-Eleven. You’ll need to buy one ICOCA per person you are traveling with.

Purchase the card from a ticket kiosk in most stations starting at 1,000 yen. There is a 500 yen deposit, but you can get this refunded once you are done traveling in the Kansai Region. You cannot get the ICOCA card refunded outside of the Kansai Region so be sure to get your deposit refunded before you leave.

The Suica and Pasmo cards work the same way, but those deposits can only be refunded around Tokyo Region.

Rent a bike

Osaka is actually pretty bike-friendly, and there are plenty of bike lanes through the city. HUBchari is one of Osaka’s city bike share programs and you can rent a bike for around 200 yen per hour. You could also find a local bike rental shop near your hotel and rent a bike for the day.

Getting to and from the airport

There’s a good chance you’ll be flying in or out of this metropolis, since Kansai Airport (KIX) is the third busiest hub in Japan. Located on it’s own airport island in Osaka Bay, the best way to get to KIX is by train.

If you have the JR Pass, you can travel from KIX to Osaka for free. If you don’t have the JR Pass it might cost you up to 2400 yen one way. Using JR Lines, hop on the Kansaikudo Line that connects KIX to Osaka Station, or you can use the Hakura Line and transfer at Tennoji Station to get on to the JR Osaka Loop Line.


Where to Stay in Osaka

There is no shortage of hotel options in Osaka. And unlike hotels in Tokyo, there are actually some pretty affordable options! 

We’re highlighting 2 unique hotel options as well as more traditional offerings:

Stay in a Local Neighborhood

If you like getting off the typical tourist path on your travels, keep reading because we think you might like this accommodation option…

Sekai Hotel was created to address a few issues that Osaka, and Japan in general, is facing:

  • Combat over-tourism in the crowded city center

  • Support local businesses that otherwise wouldn’t see the benefits of tourism

  • Reinvigorate neighborhoods that are seeing a decline of residents

  • Encourage local and tourist interactions in a more authentic way

Vacant apartments have been turned into places to guests to stay in a local neighborhood. It was kind of like staying in an Airbnb. The apartment we stayed in was basic, yet very comfortable and had everything we needed.

Guests receive a neighborhood “pass” of sorts that gives you free breakfast at a local mom-and-pop diner, and getting to chat with them was one of the highlights of our stay. It also gives you free access to the local public bath, free takoyaki at a local stand, and a few other perks. It’s a great way to explore the neighborhood and support businesses in the area.

We’d recommend this accommodation option for travelers who are confident in navigating cities, prefer to stay in an apartment over a hotel room, and are fairly self-sufficient. The main office is open during the day and if you need anything at night you can message and the staff responds quickly.

Good to know: The potential downside to this is that you’ll be based outside of the city center. To see the major attractions you’ll have to take the train about 20 minutes into town. If that doesn’t deter you, we think you’ll really enjoy this local stay.

There are two locations, one in the Nishikujo neighborhood and another in the Fuse neighborhood of Osaka. Check Booking.com for availability.

Stay in a Capsule Hotel

Each capsule comes with pajamas (athletic shirt and capris) and a bag of goodies: headband, loofah, brush, toothbrush and toothpaste, cotton swabs and slippers.

Didn’t love sleeping apart from Ben (yes, I know we’re obnoxious!), but it was an interesting experience, and the pod was much more comfortable than I was expecting. 

Other Osaka Hotel Options

Budget: Capsule Hotel - Hotel Cargo - It will be unlike another hotel stay you’ve ever experienced. Capsule hotels are typically gender seperated, and some are a cheaper option for women. Hotel Cargo is a little nicer than the common tube hotel and it has an onsen on the top floor.

Mid-Range: Kamon Hotel Namba - Great for couples, this hotel has standard rooms with private bathroom. But once you see the breakfast options, you’ll want to book now. It’s one block from a subway station and steps from Dotonbori.

Luxury: Hiyori Hotel Osaka Namba Station - Located the corner opposite from Namba Station, this highly rated hotel is close to all the action of Osaka. The rooms are quite spacious for Japan and the breakfast looks delicious.

Airbnb: Osaka really surprised us with the number of highly rated and affordable Airbnb’s, like this apartment. You can find entire apartments with a small kitchen and private bathroom just a few blocks from Dotonbori.

If you use our link, you’ll get $40 off your first Airbnb stay! No gimmicks.


We want to hear from you!

What do you think about this list of things to do in Osaka, Japan? What would you add to the list? Do you know of any other hidden gems? Do you have any questions about traveling in Osaka? Let us know in the comments below!