Osaka City GuideOsaka City Guide
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Osaka City Guide

 

Osaka City Guide

 

Osaka, “Home of Japan’s Kitchen,” is known for its outstanding food, famous tourist’s spots, and happy-go-lucky people. The city hosts a great deal of the country’s most iconic and frequented attractions that you will not want to miss.  These attractions include the famous Osaka Castle, USJ, one of the nation’s most impressive aquariums, our favorite observation tower, and many many more.  The city has a lot to offer, but one of our favorite aspects about traveling to Osaka is that the city has provided a very affordable option to seeing the city.  Osaka has put together a special pass, called the Osaka Unlimited Pass that allows you to see 28 of its most famous attractions and unlimited subway rides, all for 2,000 Yen.  This will turn into massive savings that you will not want to miss.  If you are looking to come to Osaka, you are definitely going to want to pick up an Osaka Unlimited Pass.  Click the link to read more about the pass, continue reading our Osaka City guide to see what the city has to offer.

OSAKA TP

 

 

Osaka City Guide:

How to Get Here

 

Before you do anything in Osaka, you are going to need to know how to get here.  Fortunately this city has a plethora of options to choose from.  Osaka has one of the country’s largest international airports, is located along the Shinkansen, limousine busses, and even has several trains coming in from all of the surrounding major cities.  Getting here may not be cheap, but it sure is fast and convenient.

medium_4122286037From Kansai International Airport: (¥1,160)
Take the JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service to Osaka Station.  (75 minutes)

From Fukuoka (¥14,890)
Take the Shinkansen bound for Shin-Osaka. (150 minutes)
From Shin-Osaka, transfer to the Osaka Loop Line to Osaka Station.

From Kyoto (¥2,930)
JR Line: Take the JR Special Rapid Service (34 minutes)

From Tokyo (¥14,050)
Take the Shinkansen bound for Shin-Osaka. (150 Minutes)
From Shin-Osaka, transfer to the Osaka Loop Line to Osaka Station.

 photo credit: Jay@BTB via photopin cc

 

Osaka City Guide:

Attractions

 

Like we mentioned earlier, there is a lot to do in Osaka.  Our Osaka City Guide will talk about the city’s many museums, historical locations, modern wonders, and a couple of the city’s most famous foods for you to enjoy.  It would take days, if not weeks, to see and do it all.  We highly recommend checking out the Osaka Unlimited Pass to see the city on the cheap, but it certainly does not cover everything.  Take a look at some of the highlights.

 

Historic Osaka

The city is well known for it Osaka Castle and castle gardens, but did Osaka is also home to one of the country’s oldest temples.  This ancient temple, Shitennoji Temple, was built in 592 and is one super impressive piece of history.  Speaking of ancient sites in Osaka, you should also be sure to see the Sumiyoshi Taisha which is a rather unique looking shrine that was built in the 3rd century.  There are numerous other shrines and temples to see while in Osaka, but if you are short on time, we highly recommend checking these three out first.

Osaka Castle   Shitennoji Temple Thing   Shinseikai

 

Modern Osaka

Osaka is a very modern city with some incredibly unique attractions that seem to be something of the future.  Probably one of Osaka’s more famous modern attractions is Universal Studios Japan, or USJ.  USJ is one of the more popular theme parks in Japan and hosts a wide range of themed rides that are fun for the whole family.  You may also want to check out Namba area to see all of the beautiful lights and themed districts that make up nightlife in Osaka.

Namba again   USJ   Joypolis

 

Observation Towers

The city is a forest of skyscrapers that all offers some terrific views of Osaka.  There are numerous observation towers spread throughout the city, but three tower above the rest and make for excellent places to take in the city.  These are the Tsutenkaku Tower, the Osaka Prefectural Government Observatory, and the Floating Garden Observatory.  Of these three we are particularly fond of the Floating Garden Observatory and would highly recommend checking it out both day and night.  You want to know the best part?  All three are covered by the Osaka Unlimited Pass.

Umeda Sky Thing    Shinseikai

 

Museums in Osaka

One spectacular reason to come to Osaka is for its museums.  The city has numerous top notch museums that range in focus from history to ramen.  Majority of the museums are covered by the Osaka Unlimited Pass, including the Osaka Human Rights Museum, Osaka Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Oriental Ceramics of Osaka, Osaka Science Museum, Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, and the Osaka Museum of History.  Certainly more museums than you can see in a day or two, but if none of those peak your interest be sure to check out Osaka’s Instant Ramen Museum.

Osaka Castle   History Museum Osaka   Museum of Housing and living

 

Family Attractions in Osaka

Osaka is a great place to bring your family and includes numerous kid friendly attractions that you won’t want to miss.  The Tennoji Zoo is a world class zoo that will sure to impress you and your kids.  There is also the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which is one of the country’s most spectacular aquariums, and even has one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels outside.  If that is not enough, be sure to check out USJ (mentioned earlier in the Modern Wonders of Osaka) for a theme park experience you won’t forget.

Osaka Aquarium Thing   Tennoji Zoo Thing   Hep 5

 

Experiences in Osaka

Sometimes just visiting the attractions is not enough. You want to really experience Osaka in a completely different way. We’ve got your back. The city has numerous tours, classes, and shows that will be sure to help you experience the real Osaka. One of our favorite tours takes you to many of the best attractions in the city by bike. You can quickly zip through the city, and get a feel for the real Osaka. Biking not your thing? Why not try your hand at cooking some of the city’s most famous dishes. Eat Osaka is a brand new group that opens their house twice a day for cooking lessons for foreigners in Japan. We highly recommend taking advantage of these two experiences.

Cycle Thing   Eat Osaka Thing

 

 

Osaka City Guide:

Festivals

 

Japan is well known for their elaborate and frequent festivals, and Osaka is no exception.  The city has some of the country’s largest and most impressive festivals that you certainly won’t want to miss.  Going to a festival the day after the tourist spots is a great way to see more of a locals’ perspective and feel an enriched view of the culture.  If you have the time, be sure to plan your trip to Osaka during a festival.

Hands down, autumn season is the best time to come to Osaka. The damp humidity is gradually going away, but the bitter cold of winter is still far. Between the months of August to October, you will easily get a hefty amount of festivals. From Danjiri to Kyoto’s Daimonji, you will get to see traditional Japanese culture in perfect form.

 

 

Kishiwada’s Danjiri Matsurimedium_4582261445

Not only is Kishiwada’s Danjiri Osaka’s best festival, it is one of the most festive. Danjiri are large wooden shrines that people pull and race throughout the streets of Kishiwada. Most of the shrines are very detailed and ornate, each danjiri representing a neighborhood. Each neighborhood have craftsmen maintain the danjiri throughout the year. The festival is so big, it became a two-day event, usually during the second weekend of September.

When the festival draws to a close, the danjiri carts are decorated with flowers, gifts, and ornaments. At night, the shrines are pulled around the city, gleaming with a bright fire-like red.

photo credit: calltheambulance via photopin cc

 

Gozan no Okuribi / Daimonjimedium_4897616114

On August 16th, Gozan no Okuribi or Daimonji is Kyoto’s Obon finale. Five giant bonfire formations in kanji, or Chinese characters, are lit in the mountains surrounding the city. Obon is a holiday to honor those that have passed on and will soon be returning back to the spirit world. Thus the phrase, okuribi (送り火) translates “send-off fire.”

The origins of the fire traditions are not well known. Specific families have inherited the duties of organizing all of the logistics of the bonfires.

The bonfire lighting starts at 8 PM, each with a distinctive kanji or Chinese character.

The characters, their locations, meanings, and the lighting times are:

  • Daimonji (大文字), the character meaning “large” or “great:” on Daimonji-Yama/Higashi-Yama, Nyoigatake at 8:00PM
  • Myō/Hō (妙・法), the characters meaning “wondrous dharma” (referring to Buddhist teachings): on Matsugasaki, Nishi-Yama/Higashi-Yama at 8:10PM
  • Funagata (舟形), the shape of a boat: on Nishigamo, Funa-Yama at 8:15PM
  • Hidari Daimonji (左大文字), again, the character meaning “large:” on Daihoku-San, Hidaridaimonji-San at 8:15PM
  • Toriigata (鳥居形), the shape of a torii or shrine gate: on Toriimoto, Mandara-San at 8:20PM

Dai or 大, is the most popular and the first bonfire lit. The other fires are lit every 5 to 10 minutes. All fires can be seen by 8:30 with each fire lasting 30 minutes each. Staying in Kyoto for the night? Look for hotels in the Nakagyo Ward. Many hotels charge a fee for a spot to see the Daimonji. If you are looking for a free and great spot to see the fires, go to the Kamo River, between Sanjo and Imadegawa streets. Warning, since it is free, the area will be crowded. It is best to arrive early.

photo credit: sprklg via photopin cc

 

 

Osaka City Guide:

Food

 

Osaka is known for its spectacular food, and being home to many of the country’s favorite dishes.  There are dozens of spectacular dishes to choose from, but two stand out in particular as must eat foods while in Osaka.

 

Osaka Style Okonomiyakimedium_961780585

Okonomiyaki is one of the most popular and varying regional dishes in Japan.  This pancake like dish has two major styles one of which can be found in Hiroshima, the other here in Osaka.  Osaka style consist of shredded cabbage, a flour based batter, an okonomiyaki sauce, dried bonito, and any other ingredients you would like to add.  These add ons usually include meat, cheese, or any other ingredients that particular restaurant will add.  The okonomiyaki is then served on grill and usually topped with mayonnaise (but you can get it without).  The dish is often translated as “Just how you like it pancake” and can really include whatever you want.  We highly recommend trying it while in Osaka.

 photo credit: avlxyz via photopin cc

 

Tako Yakimedium_5845869072

One of Osaka’s most popular street foods, Tako Yaki is a must have while in Osaka.  Tako Yaki literally means “grilled octopus” but in reality what you are getting is a dozen or so of small balls of dough with grilled octopus meat tucked away inside.  The balls are covered then in a Takoyaki sauce and usually topped with mayonnaise and bonito.  You certainly need to pick up a box of Tako Yaki as you walk along the streets of Osaka.

 

 

photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc,

 

 

Osaka City Guide:

Lodging

 

The city has many wonderful hotels and hostels that range in price and quality of experience.  You can certainly check out Hostel World or any other site that will give you heaps of recommendations, but if you are looking for a unique hostel experience you have to go with Hostel 64.  The hostel is decently located and is fairly reasonably priced, but what makes the hostel great is its service and one of a kind rooms.  The people that work here are of the most helpful in all of Japan and we couldn’t recommend Hostel 64 any higher.

 

The Osaka City Guide was a joint collaboration between Dustin Henrich and Travel Panda.  Dustin is currently living in Osaka as a JET and makes websites for small businesses, enjoys writing, and of course travel.  You can follow him on Twitter at @dhenrich.