We went to Osaka last week and we had an amazing trip! We spent four days in Osaka and one day in Kyoto and Nara. Thanks to Google Trips, Google Translate, Google Maps, and Google Search, we were able to travel, communicate, and search for whatever we fancy quickly and without the hassle. We didn’t even had to hire a translator or a tourist guide because in most places, the Japanese locals and the staff in train stations, restaurants, and shops can communicate in English, Chinese (Mandarin), and basic sign language (pointing here and there). 😉
Where to Go in Osaka
Osaka has a vibrant streetscape with friendly people and delicious food. While its origins date back to the mythological early days of the Japanese Empire, today it is undoubtedly one of the most modern cities in Japan. If you’re wondering where to go, here’s a list of top-rated tourist attractions in Osaka. It can be tricky to select which ones to visit especially if you only have a few days. On the flip side, regardless of what you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a good time! Check out these places we visited in this glittering Japanese metropolis, and view my Instagram Story Highlights to get a glimpse of our travel experience.
Top 11 Places We Visited in Our First Time in Osaka, Japan
1. Shitennoji Temple
Shitennoji Temple (四天王寺) was our first stop on Day 1. The reason why I thought it’s interesting is that it’s the first Buddhist temple in Japan. Founded by Prince Shotoku in AD 593, Shitennoji Temple was built under Emperor Suiko, but like many buildings in Japan, it was destroyed during the World War II. Despite repeated fires over the temple’s 1,400-year history, the grounds remain the same.
There are some parts with ongoing reconstruction, but the temple compound still offers a good stroll and some great examples of Japanese religious architecture. We went on a Sunday and were fortunate to see and purchase items from the temple’s flea market. Different vendors sell accessories, plants in pots, jewelry, food, Japanese pottery, and more.
2. Osaka Nipponbashi Denden Town
Located in the southern Minami district of Osaka, Nipponbashi is known for offering cheap electronics and appliances. This is also famous as a center of otaku (or geek) culture. Nicknamed Denki Machi which means “Electric Town” or just Denden Town, this area is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s famous Akihabara electronics district. My husband is a fan of so many Japanese anime, so we decided to include this in our travel plan.
The area was quiet in the morning and got busy only in the afternoon. Along Otaku Road, we entered some stores that sell manga comics, anime music and videos, retro toys and games, cosplay costumes, and collectible models and figures.
In Denden Town, we also visited Maidreamin, a maid cafe where girls in maid costumes serve drinks and chat with customers. Note that there’s a required entrance fee of 500 yen per person (as of June 2019), aside from the bill for food and drinks.
3. Kuromon Ichiba Market
Near Denden Town, we followed Google Maps and walked to Kuromon Ichiba (黒門市場) for a food trip. This place is a must-visit destination for those who want to eat a lot of fresh seafood, Japanese kobe beef, wagyu beef, and other authentic Japanese street food. With over 190 years of history, Kuromon Market is also called “Osaka’s Kitchen.” It started raining when we arrived, but the good news is that the market is covered by plastic roof.
Kuromon Ichiba is travel-friendly and you don’t need to speak in Japanese to order food. There’s also free Wi-Fi, currency exchange machines, and coin lockers, so you can shop and dine worry-free. Furthermore, it has an information center where you can get a brochure featuring the best food to try. There are approximately 180 shops lining this marketplace, so you won’t leave hungry for sure. 🙂
4. Hozenji Temple
A temple with a dreamy atmosphere right in the middle of crowded Namba is Hozenji Temple. It’s a very small temple but you can still expect to find solitude. This was where I first experienced cleansing in the purification fountain using the wooden dipper, scooping water, and washing my hands following traditional Japanese etiquette. The alleyways surrounding Hozenji hark back to an older Osaka, with cobblestone streets and noren-cloth-covered entryways.
Located in Minami area, Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the most must-see attractions in Osaka. It’s Osaka’s most touristic neighborhood, and it’s easy to see why. If you love Japanese food, this place is definitely for you. Dotonbori is your heaven as it offers superb okonomiyaki, takoyaki, kushikatsu, ramen, and more than you can imagine. We stayed here for hours and we didn’t get bored for a sec!
The top attractions in Dotonbori include the photogenic billboards (don’t miss the Glico Running Man), the moving gigantic crab, flashy neon lights everywhere, and restaurants with captivating front displays. The crowd gets thicker by the hour especially at dinnertime, the pace is frantic, almost like a scene in a movie.
Just a few steps away from Dotonbori, you’ll land in Shinsaibashi (心斎橋), the best district for shopping in Osaka. It’s the place to shop till you drop, literally! Luxury brands, fast fashion retailers, drugstores, cafes, and souvenir stores offer countless of clothes, accessories, bags, household items, snacks, handicrafts, office supplies, etc. If you’re searching for gifts or mementos for your friends, family, or yourself, Shinsaibashi is right up your alley. We also spent hours here and enjoyed every minute. 🙂
7. Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
On Day 2, we reserved the whole day for our Universal Studios Japan (USJ) visit. If you’re a kid at heart, you can’t miss this place! USJ is the most visited amusement park in Japan along with Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea). It has fun and thrilling attractions in different zones of Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Jaws, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland, Minion Park, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (our favorite!). There’s also a Japanese twist that we really appreciated. You’ll find some of the most popular Japanese entertainment like Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan, Neon Genesis Evangelion and even Godzilla.
Tips: Book your ticket in advance (we got ours from Klook) to skip the long line. Buy an express pass to avoid waiting lines in the rides. Definitely stay until 8-8:30pm for the night parade and have a magical experience meeting your childhood superheroes and characters in action.
On Day 3, we went to Shinsekai (新世界), Osaka’s old downtown district where the nostalgic atmosphere strongly remains. We were happy to discover that food and items in this place cost way cheaper than in Shinsaibashi, Dotonbori, and others we’ve been to. Hence, we grabbed the chance to eat lunch two times: in a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant and in a kushikatsu pub. Two full meals = more reason to walk for hours to burn the calories. 😛
What’s most famous in Shinsekai is probably the Tsutenkaku Tower, one of the biggest/tallest landmarks of Osaka, as it closely resembles the Eiffel Tower which it’s modeled after. The observatory deck is a great spot to view the charming city.
9. America Mura (American Village)
In the afternoon, we rode the train to America Mura or American Village (アメリカ村) to have a peek of the “young culture” in Osaka. Per my research, America Mura is compared with Harajuku district in Tokyo, and it’s also lined with shops selling trendy and fashionable clothing (vintage, second-hand, unique, Japan street fashion, you name it). We got into most of the stores and found many fashion trends. We also didn’t pass up the chance to try the delicious takoyaki in Kogaryu, listed in ‘Michelin Guide Kyoto Osaka 2016,” near Sankaku Koen, the triangle-shaped park.
10. Osaka Castle
On Day 4, we explored the Osaka Castle (大阪城). Inside the castle is a museum which tells mostly about the great history of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the man that unified Japan. Osaka Castle today is a symbol of Osaka and is one of the top castles in their country. Visitors can rent out an audio guide for free for a guided educational learning while walking through the exhibitions inside the building.
11. Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street
Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street was our last stop before going to Kansai International Airport (back to Manila). Stretching for over 2 km, it’s the longest shopping street in Japan where you can find a huge range of items for sale just like in Shinsaibashi-suji. However, unlike Shinsaibashi, this place sells more local and not internationally branded clothes, household items, shoes, books, and other souvenirs.