The Ultimate Guide to Osaka, Japan

osaka castle in cherry blossoms

Osaka is often described as the more relaxed and friendlier version of Tokyo. This vibrant city is all about its delicious food culture, shopping and friendly locals. Don’t be surprised to be stopped by a local for a friendly chat! Although there’s so much to see here, visiting Osaka is more about the whole experience. Just check out the Dotonburi District to see what I mean! There’s plenty of both modern and historical sites to keep you busy for a few days!

Check out my Tokyo travel guides Part 1 and Part 2 if you’ve missed it!

How To Get To Osaka

From Tokyo

Shinkansen Bullet Train (Your Fastest Option)

Price: 13,620 Yen for One-Way without a Japan Rail Pass. You can purchase shinkansen tickets online.
Journey Time: If taking the Nozomi train – 2 hours and 30 minutes with no transfers
Hikari Train – 3 hours (covered by the Japan Rail Pass). This route runs multiples times an hour.

Fly From Tokyo to Kansai Airport

Price: As low as 3000 Yen + Tax depending on the season
Journey Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Compare flights and prices on Google FlightsTrip.com, Kayak, and Skyscanner

Highway Bus

Price: 1,500 Yen – 9,800 Yen depending on comfort level and departure time. There are both day and night buses that operate from Tokyo to Osaka.
Journey Time: This trip can take from 6-10 hours, averaging hour hours.

city skyline in japan osaka

From Kyoto

Click here for my Kyoto blog post!

Shinkansen Bullet Train

Price: 1,420 Yen One-Way. The JR Pass will cover this cost.
Journey Time: 12 minutes

Special Rapid Service On The JR Kyoto Line

Price: 560 Yen One-Way
Journey Time: 28 Minutes
Departs: From Kyoto Station, Platform 4 & 5

Hankyu Railway Line

Price: 400 Yen One-Way
Journey Time: 40 Minutes
Departs: From Kawaramachi or Karasuma Stations

Keihan Main Line

Price: 410 Yen One-Way
Journey Time: 55 Minutes
Departs: From Sanjo Station

Where To Stay In Osaka

Regarding accommodation, I always recommend staying in a central area in order to save time and costs. Read this guide, which provides a detailed breakdown of each district in Osaka.

We stayed in this Airbnb apartment located in the middle of the popular Kuromon Market. It was close to public transportation, making it super easy to get around.

Use my discount code to get $38 CAD off your first Airbnb booking!

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How To Get Around Osaka

Public transport is indeed the easiest way of travelling around the city. There are so many different types of discount tickets that you can purchase. Just choose the one that fits your Osaka travel goals!

Visit the Osaka Tourism Website to see a description of each discount ticket. We purchased the One-Day Eco Card which allows unlimited rides on the Osaka Metro and City Buses. It costs 800 Yen on weekdays and 600 Yen on the weekends. You can purchase them at any Osaka subway or tram station.

What to Do

Osaka Castle Park

girl standing on edge in front of osaka castle

Castle Hours: 9am – 5pm (Last admission is at 4:30pm). Open until 9pm during the cherry blossom season
Admission: 600 Yen for Adults, Free for children 15 and under
*Large park is FREE

Osaka Castle is a Japanese castle situated in an extensive park. This historic building is surrounded by a moat canal and the famous Nishinomaru Garden. You’ll find 300 cherry blossom trees and more than 1,270 ume trees here. I highly recommend wandering through the park and relaxing under the beautiful trees. The park is free to visit, but will cost an additional fee if you want to visit the museum inside the castle.

osaka castle in cherry blossoms

Dotonbori District

Hours: Vary by store. Typically open from 10:00am -11:00am to around 6:30pm – 9pm

Dotonbori is undoubtedly Osaka’s most vibrant entertainment district. It’s famous for the flashy neon signs, lively atmosphere and the huge variety of bars and restaurants. You’ll also find some of the friendliest locals here.

dotonburi sign osaka
dotonburi district neon signs
neon signs dotonburi district osaka
dotonburi district osaka at night neon signs

Glico Running Man

The Glico Running Man in the Dotonbori District is the most popular sign! It’s an advertisement for Glico Candy and has been here since 1935!

glico man neon sign dotonburi osaka

Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda

Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm, Closed on Tuesdays.
Admission: FREE

The Cup Noodles Museum is dedicated to instant noodles, as well as its creator Momofuku Ando. This exhibition showcases the never-ending noodle flavours and history behind its invention. Furthermore, the mission is to encourage visitors to chase their dreams and stay persistent. We had so much fun visiting and learning more about this globally-loved food.

cup noodles on wall museum
cup noodles on wall museum osaka

Make sure to stop at the My Cup Noodles Factory to customize your own cup of instant noodles. This was definitely our favourite activity and it only costs 300 Yen! Follow these steps below!

1. Buy your Cup Noodles

cup noodles

2. Customize and Have Fun!

cup noodles next to markers osaka osaka
two customized cup noodles in front of cup noodles wall

3. Insert Noodles

4. Pick Your Soup Base & Toppings

cup noodles toppings

5. Package

package instant noodles

6. Shrink-Wrap Your Cup

Osaka Station

Osaka Station is surrounded by massive department stores that are linked by walkways. There’s a huge mix of entertainment, electronic stores, discount + luxury shopping, dining. Additionally, this is where you’ll find the Pokemon Center too!

osaka city
stuffed pokemon animal in pokemon centre osaka

Umeda Sky Building

Hours: 9:30am – 10:30pm
Admission: 1,500 Yen for Adults, 700 yen for Children

The Umeda Sky Building is an impressive high-rise skyscraper made of glass and steel. You can visit the Floating Garden Observatory at the top for a cityscape view too. The platform is on a distinct bridge connecting the Building’s 2 towers. On the other hand, you can also enjoy the view from the cocktail lounge and restaurant area. The indoor and outdoor architecture are enough to make a stop at this magnificent structure!

umeda sky building osaka

Admittedly, we didn’t feel like paying the admissions fee. However, we found that the views were just as stunning from the Souvenir Shop. Be sure to go to the washroom on this floor for a surprisingly awesome window view too!

osaka city
osaka city view from bathroom
Bathroom View!

Abeno Harakus 300 Observation Deck

Observatory Hours: 9am – 10pm
Admission: 1,500 Yen for Adults

The Abeno Harukas 300 Japan’s highest skyscraper! You can visit the Harukas 300 Observatory for another 360-view panoramic view of Osaka City.

osaka city view

We picked our Universal Studios Japan VIP tickets from here, which includes the admission fee. See details below.

Universal Studios Japan

Your Osaka trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting Universal Studios Japan! I’d highly recommend buying tickets in advance if possible. I’m not going to go into detail about the different types of tickets. However, this blog provides detailed information and an ultimate guide to visiting USJ!

universal studios osaka japan

Express passes can be quite expensive, so we purchased the VIP Special Entry Wristband. It allows you to enter the park 15 minutes earlier than the regular opening. You can hit up the most popular park ride before everybody else does! Obviously, we went on the Harry Potter ride first!

hogwarts castle osaka

Important VIP Special Entry Wristband Information

If you go with this option, you MUST purchase these tickets in advance. This is due to the fact that you have to physically pick up your wristbands from the Abeno Harukas Building 16th Floor at least one day in advance. You’ll be given a secret web link + password that tells you the exact park opening time the day before your visit.

studio west entrance universal studios japan

The times open every day depending on the season. Your wristband includes an admission ticket to the Harukas 300 Observatory, which must be used the day of redemption. Enter the park from the “Studio West” entrance. Make sure to visit during the weekday to avoid massive lines and overcrowding. We visited on a Wednesday during cherry blossom season and it wasn’t too crazy!

harry potter village universal studios
cup of butterbeer in front of hogwarts
Try Butterbeer! It tastes like sweet, butterscotch soda!
harry potter village universal studios osaka
harry potter village universal studios
Can you tell we spent most of our time in Harry Potter World?

Attend the Night Parade @ Universal Studios Japan

hogwarts castle light show
See the Hogwarts Castle Light Show
bumblebee transformers night parade universal studios japan osaka
harry potter night parade universal studios japan

What to Eat

Kuromon Market

Hours: 9am – 6pm

Kuromon Market is a lively market nicknamed “Osaka’s Kitchen.” It’s famous for its abundance of fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables wagyu beef and popular eateries. Kuromon is where many restaurant chefs purchase their seafood. This means they only sells the freshest, high-quality ingredients.

Make sure to stop at the storefront that sells fresh sashimi over sushi rice! Since our Airbnb was literally located in the middle of this market, we ended up strolling and eating here several days in a row! I’ve never had such delicious sashimi before!

kuromon
tuna and salmon roe over sushi rice
We ate this 3 days in a row! It’s so fresh and delicious!

551 Horai

Hours: Varies by location (10am – 9pm)
Osaka Locations

Stop by 551 Horai for Osaka’s most popular pork bun! They apparently sell an average of 170,000 pork buns per day.

Daimaru Department Store Food Hall

Hours: 10am – 8pm

Head to the Daimaru Department Store’s basement food hall for one of the most fun food markets. It has a spectacular selection of fresh foods, pastries, Japanese sweets, wine, tea and more!

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