This week’s post has kindly been written by Jess from Tripelio.
I want to start by saying a huge thanks to Emily for hosting me on her blog—I’ve been a fan ever since I read her list of 10 Job Skills You Gain from Backpacking and was sitting there like, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES. (Of course, I promptly sent that article to my mother as justification for why I do what I do, and she was a bit less impressed, but there you have it.)
But without further ado:
Osaka is Japan’s third-largest city, and although a bit overwhelming at times, it’s a great city to visit! Whether you’ve come specifically to Osaka or you’re just using Osaka as a base to explore the surrounding area, you’ll have a fantastic time checking out the sights in this lively city. Of course, you could spend weeks exploring Osaka and the surrounding area alone, so during your holiday, you’ll likely find that you don’t have time to see and do everything — and that’s okay! You’ll quickly find yourself planning a return trip.
You may not know this, but Osaka is one of the first cities in Japan to offer free WiFi across the city. There is a wonderful app you can download to give you maps of the area and even walking tours to enhance your visit to the following attractions. You’ll probably want to set-up a VPN first to encrypt your connection and keep your personal information safe while accessing public WiFi, but after that, you’re good to go! Have a great time, enjoy this fun city, and see all that you can during your time there.
In no particular order, here are the top ten not-to-be-missed sights and activities for your first trip to Osaka:
1. Osaka Castle – Osaka Castle is one of the city’s best-known landmarks. That being said, however, recognise that this castle is a modern reconstruction—many of Osaka’s historical buildings were demolished in World War II bombing operations. The recreated castle keeps mostly true to the original, but many tourists believe this castle lacks the charm of nearby Himeji Castle, so if you have a little extra time, it might be worth taking a trip outside the city to check out the castle there.
2. Osaka Museum of History – This museum, located near Osaka Castle, has a bunch of exhibits regarding Japanese history. Although there is a history museum located inside the castle, you’ll find that the Museum of History has many more relics on display and thus offers a much more interesting experience, especially for those who don’t know much about Japanese history prior to their travels.
3. Peace Osaka – This is another history museum in Osaka, but one that every traveller should visit regardless of their interests. The mission of Peace Osaka is to promote peace by showing the impacts of war on a society. It’s a chilling experience, but in the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
4. Umeda Sky Tower – If you’re looking to take that perfect picture of Osaka (or that selfie of you in Osaka!), head to the top of the nearly 60-story Umeda Sky Tower. From the gardens at the top, you’ll have an excellent view of the city stretching out beneath you. It’s especially spectacular at dusk, with all the lights of the city coming on down below!
5. National Bunraku Theatre – Interested in Japanese culture? Check out the National Bunraku Theatre. Bunraku is a type of puppet theatre that has existed in Japan for a long time, but it’s not just for kids! Bunraku shows require a lot of precision—in fact, larger puppets sometimes necessitate multiple people working in tandem to control them. It can be quite fascinating to watch.
6. Kaiyukan – This is a huge aquarium in Osaka—actually, it’s one of the largest in the world. If you’re travelling with kids, it can be a great place to go to break up some of the more historical parts of your trip. Or if you’re traveling without kids, you’ll probably still find yourself fascinated by the thousands of species of fish, sharks, rays, and all other sorts of sea creatures. Even if aquatic life isn’t your thing, there are often a bunch of musicians in the area outside the aquarium when the weather’s nice, so it can be fun just to come down and listen for a while.
7. Universal Studios Japan – Another kid-friendly activity is Universal Studios Japan. It’s a little smaller than Tokyo’s Disney Resort, but you still won’t be disappointed for choice; there’s plenty to do here. And hey, who said this isn’t a cultural activity? It can be interesting to see which movies are featured and how they’re dubbed.
8. Sumiyoshi Shrine – This is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines and is surrounded by a beautiful park that can be a nice retreat from the commotion of the city. In fact, many locals come to the park on warm days for a picnic or to partake in fitness activities. The shrine itself has some impressive, traditional architecture as well.
9. Shitennōji Temple – While we’re on the subject of religious sites, be sure to also not miss this Buddhist temple. As with Osaka Castle, most of the buildings are reconstructions of the originals, which dated back to the 6th century, but the reconstructions can still be interesting to explore.
10. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum – For something a bit more quirky, head to the Instant Ramen Museum. Here, you’ll learn about the invention of this popular food and even get the chance to try making some yourself. In the gift shop, browse through the hundreds of flavours available—many of which you aren’t able to find in stores.
In a city this large, there are, of course, a plethora of other things to do in Osaka during your time there. Although sometimes overlooked in favor of nearby Kyoto, which is often touted as having a more historical appeal, Osaka itself is a great city for the traveller, especially given its budget-friendly and kid-friendly choices. Have a great time!
Guest Author: Jess Signet
My name is Jess Signet. My parents were travellers since before I was born. Even in the womb, I was able to travel all over the place! Boy, did things NOT change as I grew older! Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble I live in made me want to travel even further. Traveling is my drug and I’m addicted. (Please, no intervention!)