Things to Do in Osaka: 10 Outstanding Ideas for Your Trip
Known as the nation's kitchen, you will get an experience of the taste of wonderful Japanese cuisine in Osaka. But there is more to the city than just food.
Osaka -- a multicultural multinational city harboring a growing population and home to wonderful food, sights and things to do. With so much happening around and so much progress made, it is indeed lovely and inspiring how Osaka has maintained its historical and cultural roots. Known as the nation's kitchen, you will get an experience of the taste of wonderful Japanese cuisine but there is more to Osaka than just food. What should you do here for a lifetime memorable trip? Read on!
1. Tenjin Matsuri
The Festival of Gods
A festival that has been celebrated as early as the 10th century, Tenjin Matsuri is currently one of the top three festivals in Japan. Tenjin Matsuri, translated as the festival of Gods, is celebrated every year on the 24th and 25th of July. This two day festival includes both a land procession and a river procession followed by a stunning display of fireworks which forms a lovely spectacle when the reflections of the fireworks and illuminated boats on the river form a lovely sight!
Tenjin Matsuri is a festival that honours the deity of Scholarship, Sugawara Michizane. The deity is taken out of the shrine, the various festivities are conducted as a means to entertain him and then taken back to the shrine. I would personally recommend you not to miss getting a glimpse of the unique sights that this festival will allow you to experience and lay your eyes on. Among the wonderful sights are red hatted drummers leading those gathered in the procession, lion dancers, umbrella dancers and even Sarutahiko -- a long nosed goblin that rides a horse!
You can check http://www.visitkansai.com/sightseeing/tenjin-matsuri-festival/ to get more detals and they also help you get a volunteer guide should you want one.
2. Universal Studios Japan
Your fantasy kingdom!
Where can you get your fix of Harry Potter and gang, a dash of Jurassic Park, exciting simulators and roller coasters based on Terminator, Spider Man and Back to the Future? Here in Universal Studios, of course! Built in March 2001, this 15 year old theme park was the first Universal Studios theme park to be opened in Asia and eventually it also became the second most visited theme park in Japan.
If you are a Harry Potter fan (who isn’t?!) then this is just the place for you. There is Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment and Gladrags Wizardwear for all the shopping the wizard in you wants to do. You can then head over to Honeydukes and Hog’s Head to eat food that muggles don’t even know of! You should DEFINITELY try Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour bean. Apart from enjoying the magic that Harry and his friends bring to our life and the thrilling rides, you can also enjoy taking lots selfies with the many mascots there. Yes, Snoopy, puppets of the Sesame street, and Hello Kitty -- they are all here.
Depending on how busy they are from season to season, the Universal Studios Japan’s hours vary from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in off season to 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in peak season. You can get more details from their official website https://www.usj.co.jp/e/. Go have fun!
3. Osaka Castle
A beautiful touch of history
If ever you wanted to see a historic symbol of power and fortune, then visiting Osaka Castle is an absolute must. Warrior and samurai, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, seen as Japan’s second great unifier, was so fascinated with gold that under his command, the precious metal was applied to weapons and armoury and even furniture. The history that preceded him and followed him is stunning and you should look forward to knowing and seeing it when you visit the Osaka Castle museum that is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
There is also an observation deck, 50 metres from the ground, and you should definitely check the lovely panoramic views of Osaka Castle park that you can get from here. In addition to that you get to see the beautiful Osaka plains, modern high rise buildings and mountains at a fair distance. Nature, history, and man-made designs that compliment each other in the most picturesque of ways. Do check it out.
Oh, and for just 300 yen you can have pictures of yourself and your loved ones taken wearing a helmet, surcoat, and a kimono! That's a picture that will not only transport you to back in time but also remind you of a lovely visit to a lovely place. More information and details can be obtained from their website: http://www.osakacastle.net/english/index.html. Osaka Castle one of the many spots in Osaka where you can lay your eyes on the stunningly beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. More about this below!
4. Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots
Nurture nature and watch the wonders
The first thing that you need to know about viewing cherry blossoms is that they can only be seen from early to mid April, most years. The next thing you need to know about Cherry Blossoms is that there are a wide range of places from where you can see them. Some parks will charge you but a lot of them are free. Here we'll mention the freebies -- just because they are free, it doesn't mean they are not awesome!
As mentioned previously, you can have a view cherry blossoms from Osaka Castle. And when I say look, I am somewhat understanding it. Here there are over 4000 trees planted, and for a quiet picnic there is the very scenic Nishinomaru Park nearby. Osaka Mint Bureau is yet another place you can view cherry blossoms. What differentiates this place is the variety they have. Yes the number of trees are comparatively less at just 300 trees but they have more than 100 varieties. Definitely worth checking it out. Finally, my favourite spot to check out the Cherry Blossoms would be Kema Sakuranomiya Park. With an astounding 5000 trees planted and lined up alongside the Okawa River, this is a view worth travelling to Osaka for. There are cherry blossoms for several kilometres and also humongous lawn spaces which are just about perfect for picnics and outings.
The Osaka Mint Bureau is open during the month of April from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The same goes for Kema Sakuranomiya Park.
5. Sumiyoshi Taisha
Enjoy the shine of the Grand Shrine
Among the oldest shrines in Japan is the Sumiyoshi Taisha, which came into existence in the 3rd century, prior to the advent of Buddhism. What stands out most about this shrine, apart from its historical significance is that architecture of the shrine which is very unique compared to the architecture of temples you are bound to find in mainland Asia.
Make sure to take pictures of the Soriyashi Bridge -- which is at the entrance of the temple. This shrine is amongst the most visited of religious places during "hatsumode," or a person's first visit to any shrine or temple in the new year.
Entrance to the shrine is free of charge and you can visit it year around as they're open every day. The hours for the shrine is from 6:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. They do have a website that you can check but it is in Japanese: http://www.sumiyoshitaisha.net/
6. Abeno Harukas
Clear your schedule and brighten up your day
At 300 metres tall, Abeno Harukas is currently the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The name Harukas comes from the Japanese term indicating ‘to brighten or clear up’. Brighten up your trip by visiting Harukas 300, the observation decks providing 360 degree views of Osaka.
Apart from Harukas 300, Abeno Harukas is also famous for being a retail paradise. This is Japan's’ biggest departmental store so you can literally shop till you drop. Oh, and for the not so materialistic among you, do check out the beautiful rooftop plaza and garden terrace. Abeno Harukas captures the right spirit of Osaka by providing something for just about anyone and everyone.
Abeno Harukas is open every day from 10:00 a.m. in the morning to 10:00 p.m. in the evening. You can get more information about Abeno Harukas on their website http://www.abenoharukas-300.jp/en/
7. Minoo Park
The worst thing about Minoo Park is probably its spelling! Minoo, Meno, Menoh, are all correct. What’s in a name after all? The best thing about Minoo park is the lovely explosion of colour that surrounds you. It's a feast for the eyes. Based in a forested valley just on the outskirts of Osaka, Minoo Park is quiet popular among hikers and getting to see the Minoo Waterfall is a tremendous incentive.
While you feast your eyes on the natural beauty of the park and waterfall, make sure you don’t forget to try momiji tempura. This snack is VERY popular here and the roadside shops provide top quality of momiji tempura. Momiji tempura is deep fried maple leaves in a batter of flour and eggs. It's an interesting dish to be eaten during an interesting trip.
The best time to visit the Mino Park and see it in all its glory is late November. While they do have a website, it is mainly in Japanese: http://www.mino-park.jp/
8. Peace Osaka
Lessons to be learned from history
Peace Osaka is a museum that documents the incidents involving Japan in the Second World War. There are pictures that document the pain and atrocities committed during the war both by Japan and on Japan.
Visiting Peace Osaka will raise your moral conscience and make you ask, “Why war?” The presence of school children every so often highlights the importance Japan puts upon to history and how it hopes the future will be different.
Peace Osaka is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except for Mondays. They are also closed on the last day of every month. You can get an overview of Peace Osaka over here: http://www.peace-osaka.or.jp/pdf/pamphlet_en.pdf
All-in-one entertainment district
Dotonbori is a crowd favourite. It is the one place you really shouldn’t miss, regardless of whether you are a tourist or local. It's a shopper's paradise but there is more to Dotonbori than just shopping. In short, it has what everyone wants, be it shopping, entertainment, or mind numbingly delicious food.
This is THE place to check out for its nightlife and it's home to quite a lot of neon lights. The illuminated billboards are not just creative but they also really do their job in drawing in the crowd. When you are here, make sure you take a picture with the six plus meter mechanised crab placed right in front of the Kani Doraku restaurant.
While you can visit Dotonbori whenever you want to, it is at night that the place comes to life with all its eccentricities and everything that it has to offer. Your visit to Osaka will be incomplete if you haven't been to Dotonbori. Make sure this is in your must visit places whenever you decided to visit Osaka.
Live to eat
There are two types of people in this world -- the first ones who eat to live. Then there are those who live to eat. If you fall under those who live to eat, then Osaka can be quite a treat! The city, after all, is known as the nation's kitchen! It has been voted among the world's top food cities multiple times in multiple publications.
The Japanese term Kuidaore is loosely translated as, “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food.” And while we don’t ask you to ruin yourself or be extravagant, make sure you are trying a whole lot of food here for mainly two reasons. One, the food is as authentic as it can get. And secondly, being known as the nation’s kitchen, Osaka maintains a high level of competence when it comes to making and serving food. Quality, over here, matters. So not only will you be eating scrumptious meals, but also you will be served the best food that your money can buy.
It will be a rather difficult task for us name all the places which serve excellent food, because that would add 20+ more names to this list. Instead what we will do is name a few dishes that you DEFINITELY must try. First and foremost is Okonomiyaki, a Japanese version of the pancake, if you will. You can choose any number of toppings from the extensive range they have. From green onions to regular meat, to more exotic squids and octopus, this pancake cum pizza is a must try!
Feeling foxy? Then you ought to also try Kitsune Udon, which gets its name from foxes (Kitsune is Japanese for Fox). Why fox though? Well Kitsune Udon is actually a very simple dish to begin with. Comprised of thick noodles that are made from wheat and served along with hot soup with the addition of fried tofu. Apparently it is understood that foxes love fried tofu! That is where it gets the name from.
Last, but definitely not the least, you have to give takoyaki a try. While not everyone will be brave enough to try the exotic dish made from octopus, you will have to eat it to know what you're missing. Made in a special Takoyaki pan, these flavorful ball shaped delicacies contain octopus, tempura, a hint of green onions and pickled ginger, all mixed together and covered in a wheat flour batter and served with toppings ranging from mayonnaise to dried bonito.
A Final Word
Friendly people, great places to visit of historical and cultural significance, scenic picturesque views that will add colour to your life and delicious food that are flawless -- Osaka has it all. Come here for a visit of a lifetime that will be as memorable and as exciting as any other city on the planet.
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