Osaka is the second-largest city in Japan, right after Tokyo, and is located on the island of Honshu. Together with Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka is one of three must-visit cities in Japan for everyone visiting Japan. Osaka is a vibrant city with rich history and fantastic food.
We didn’t have much time to check it out, though, as we mainly focused on Universal Studio Japan. However, we have run a little bit around discovering the most popular tourist destinations, and we probably will be back again to see more of off-the-beaten-path Osaka next time.
Osaka Castle is a symbol of Osaka and one of the most splendid castles in Japan. It was built in 1583 by order of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and since then suffered from many fires and was repeatedly rebuilt. Inside the castle, there is a museum where you can learn more about Hideyoshi and samurais of that period. From the 8th floor, you can see a panoramic view of the autumn-covered Osaka.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Kaiyukan is a spectacular aquarium offering tourists an insight into marine life. When it first opened, it was the largest public aquarium in the World and left a deep impression on both of us. Tanks are spread over several floors, and when you descent, you can observe various animals from different perspectives.
Initially, it wasn’t on my to-see list, but my boyfriend insisted, and I am glad he did. It is a spot not to be missed if you like animals.
Check the official website for details.
Cruise Ship Santa Maria
It is a sightseeing ship sailing around the most famous spots in the Osaka bay area. You sail for around an hour on a recreation of the ship on which Columbus reached the American continent, only twice as big, while enjoying great views.
There are two kinds of cruises: day and night. You don’t need a reservation for day one (45 min); just show up before the ship starts another round. You need a reservation for the night sail (90 min), beginning at 19.00.
The cruise begins the journey in Tempozan Harbour Village, right next to the aquarium.
We really enjoyed the tour looking at the industrial part of the city, peering into Universal Studios, and sailing around. If you have time, I can recommend it thoroughly.
And when you wait for your turn, take a look around the harbor. You can notice a little mermaid in a corner, a replica of the one located in Copenhagen, Denmark. It surprised my Danish boyfriend so much that we ended up taking a lot of selfies with the Japanese version 😛
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Next to the aquarium, you will notice a giant Ferris wheel. Take a ride for some lovely views, or check it out at night when it is illuminated.
Streets of Osaka
Wherever you will venture in Osaka, I am sure you will like it. The city is full of life and colors. We walked around the neighborhood of Dotonbori street, and I had a total blast 🙂
Dotonbori is Osaka’s most touristic neighborhood, located in the Minami area. It is vibrant, full of life, and colorful neons. I loved strolling down the streets and checking out food on small stalls on the road. I was dragged by the backpack out of the area by my very hungry boyfriend, who was desperate for food and less into running around and sightseeing on an empty stomach 🙂 It was so hard to decide what we felt like eating – we ended up trying Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), but the competition was fierce!
Shinsekai is an old downtown area and lies close to Dotonbori. Shinsekai is filled with bright and colorful shop displays. The symbol of Shinsekai, Tsutenkaku Tower, was built in 1912, and it’s a great viewpoint to the area.
Kuromon Market is located close to Shinsekai and Dotonbori. The market is over 190 years old and is known as “Osaka’s Kitchen”, offering various food products and authentic street foods.
During Christmas time, Osaka is lit up with illuminations in several places all over the city. I only had one night to roam around when my boyfriend was dying from fever in the hotel, so I didn’t manage to see most of it. But from what I saw, it looked terrific, and it is definitely worth checking out if you are in Osaka during wintertime.
Read more here.
Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan, or USJ in short, is currently the 4th most attended theme park in the World, with a staggering 14.5 million visitors a year. Some of the attractions are unique to Japan and aren’t available in other Univeral Studios parks, including a new area of Super Nintendo World that opened in 2021.
We were lucky enough to visit during the Christmas period, which enabled us to see fantastic decorations and Hogwarts at night.
Navigating through the best times to visit, crowds, and the complicated Express Pass system might be a little challenging, so I wrote a short guide with the best tricks and tips for making the best out of your stay in Universal Studios Japan! Read more here.
There are many more places to visit that you could check out. I only had a day and had to pick up what was most interesting for us. I read about many exciting trips from Osaka to nearby temples and hiking areas. If we get to Osaka again, I will update. Promise! 🙂