With so much to see and do in Osaka, deciding where to go on your visit there can be a torturous task, especially when you have only a few days to stay there and not much time to linger. To help you decide where to go in Osaka, we have compiled a list of the twelve attractions you must see so you can maximize your trip in this first-ever capital city of Japan.
The area of Dotonbori is considered to be the most popular representation of Osaka. A commercial district known for its neon lights, its collection of restaurants marking Osaka as a foodie destination, its traditional puppet show theaters, and the presence of the Hozenji Temple at the end of the Dotonbori Canal, Dotonbori symbolizes an Osaka that has fully embraced modernity without shedding its ancient past.
Located south of Osaka, Koyasan is the headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon, a sect of Japanese Buddhism. The mountain temple complex is built on a valley surrounded by Koyasan’s eight peaks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex boasts of 120 temples, a religious university, rock gardens and other religious sites.
Minoo Park is where the people of Osaka go to enjoy nature. This park is famous for its rich autumn foliage and the lovely Minoo Waterfall. A stroll down the Takimichi walking trail, a trail that follows a stream and offers a lot of selfie opportunities, will take you to the waterfall. If you want to challenge yourself, you can head on to the Katsuoji Temple four kilometers past the waterfall.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Kaiyukan is one of the largest public aquariums on the planet. It boasts of 27 fish tanks in 16 exhibits, each of which represents marine and freshwater habitats found on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Osaka’s bay area is perhaps the most modern part of the city, where you will find numerous theme parks, shopping centers, museums, and business districts, including Kansai International Airport, as well as the city’s international and domestic sea ports. Additionally, Osaka Bay is where you will find the Setonakai National Park, a collection of 3,000 protected islands in Japan’s Inland Sea; as well as the Nanko Bird Sanctuary.
Osaka Castle, the subject of thousands of postcard-perfect and Instagram-worthy pictures, is one of the most famous landmarks not just in Osaka but of Japan itself. The five-storey castle and its parklands are popular destinations for picnics and other outdoor activities, especially during cherry blossom season.
Osaka Museum of History
Osaka Museum of History is a modernist edifice that houses exhibits documenting the history of Osaka from its days as the first established capital of Japan up to contemporary times. Standing across the street from Osaka Castle, the upper floors of the museum also serve as observation decks looking over the castle.
Shitennoji Temple possesses the distinction of being the first state-built Buddhist temple in Japan. It’s also among the oldest temples in the country. Built by Prince Shotoku in 593, the temple complex is famous for its five-storey pagoda as well as the otherworldly Gokuraku-jodo Garden, a garden based on what paradise is supposed to look like according to Amida Buddha.
One of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, Sumiyoshi Taisha was built in the 3rd century, just before the arrival of Buddhism in the country. Sumiyoshi Taisha is known for its uniqueness in that it was built in an architectural style that is distinctly Japanese, free from Chinese influences. Among the temple’s most popular features is the picturesque Sorihashi Bridge.
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is one of the many highlights of the Osaka Bay skyline. This Ferris wheel was once the largest and tallest of its kind in the world. It’s still a popular venue for dates and for viewing the cityscapes around Osaka Bay.
Umeda Sky Building
Counted among Osaka’s most famous landmarks, the Umeda Sky Building is a set of twin 40-storey towers connected by a bridge and the doughnut-shaped Floating Garden Observatory on its roof. The Observatory offers unobstructed views of Osaka, and farther away to Awaji Island on a clear day. In its basement is the Takimi-koji gourmet street, reminiscent of Osaka of the 1920s.
Universal Studios Japan
A sister theme park to Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Japan features themed attractions based on popular Hollywood movies, including Despicable Me, Shrek and Jaws. The latest themed attraction to open here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Maximize your holiday to Osaka by visiting these twelve must-see attractions of the city. If you haven’t booked your trip to Osaka yet, book it now.