Osaka is a large port city and commercial center located on the Japanese island of Honshu. The city is well-known for its modern architecture and delicious street food. There are also many impressive shrines to visit as well as modern attractions.
Dotonbori Street is a pedestrian street where visitors can find lots of restaurants and theaters among flashing neon light with signage such as a giant 3-D crab, puffer fish and dragon among others.
Amazing as it might seem just a short walk from all of the hustle and bustle you’ll find a tiny temple known as Hozen-ji down a narrow alley.
The temple is built around a moss-covered Fudo-myoo statue. This statue is a favorite of people who work in the water trade and they stop by before work to throw some water on the statue. This tiny alley is also filled with traditional restaurants and bars.
To get a better look at all of the flashing neon lights on Dotonbori Street walk along the Ebisu-bashi Bridge.
The National Art Museum of Osaka occupies two underground floors on Nakanoshima Island in central Osaka. The museum highlights Japanese and foreign contemporary art with exhibitions from the museum collection and special displays. The current building was opened in 2007 and was designed to represent the growth and shape of a bamboo plant.
Enjoy nature by visiting Minoo Park, a forested valley on the outskirts of Osaka. This is a great place to see spectacular autumn colors and lovely fall foliage found at temples and gardens, usually in the second half of November. The park has hiking trails that stretch for three kilometers through a valley beside the Minoo River.
The trail begins near Hankyu Minoo Station and heads toward the Minoo Waterfall at a height of 33 meters. The trail from the station to the waterfall is paved and the first half passes through some shops, temples and other facilities.
During the autumn season you can find shops along the path that sell an interesting snack called momiji tempura (maple leaves deep fried in batter).
Along the hiking trail you’ll find the impressive Ryuanji Temple which is part of the Shugendo Mountain worship religious sect.
The Kita district which is also known as Umeda, is one of Osaka’s two main city centers. It is located around the large station complex, comprising Osaka and Umeda Stations. This is the city’s busiest transportation hub and vibrant business district. Here visitors and residents can find shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment.
Osaka Station City opened in 2011 and in this district is the transportation, shopping, entertainment and business complex that surrounds and includes JR Osaka Station. The station’s impressive new design has a giant glass roof high above the train platforms.
Grand Front Osaka opened in 2013 and consists of multiple, connected high-rise buildings. This complex also has many shops and restaurants as well as offices, residential space and small parks. You’ll also find the intercontinental Hotel Osaka here.
Northwest of Osaka Station you’ll find Shin Umeda City, a building complex that centers around the Umeda Sky Building, a fabulous 173 meter tall skyscraper that opened in 1993 with an open-air observation deck on the roof.
HEP is a large shopping and entertainment complex that consists of the HEP FIVE and HEP Navio buildings, east of the Hankyu Department Store. HEP FIVE features a giant red Ferris wheel emerging from its roof and the complex itself has more than 300 shops and restaurants.
At 300 meters high Abeno Harukas is the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The building stands on top of the Kitetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station. It is home to a department store, an art museum, a hotel and an observation deck.
Harukas 300 is the observation deck and occupies this building’s top three floors. The deck has large floor-to-ceiling glass panels all around and from the 60th floor you can get awesome 360 degree views of Osaka. On the 58th floor is a beautifully designed inner court with a wooden deck and cafe. There are also souvenir shops and restrooms.
Abeno Harukas Kintetsu Department Store is the largest department store in Japan with more than 100,000 square meters of retail space. It is comprised of two buildings, tower and wing. The tower building has many international brands and two floors dedicated to interior and furnishing. Two floors in the basement are food floors and there are also three floors of restaurants. The wing building has shops marketing the “Solaha” brand geared to the younger clientele. Shoppers will also find sports and travel goods and a bookstore for children. Both buildings are connected by passages and short escalators.
The Abeno Harukas Art Museum has found its home on the 16th floor. Even though the museum doesn’t have a permanent collection there are changing exhibitions of Western and Buddhist art every few months. Here you can also find a garden terrace where you can sit and relax.
A rooftop plaza is located above the Abeno Harukas Kintetsu Department Store and has a small vegetable garden and a small shrine.
Shitennoji is one of Japan’s oldest temples that the first to ever be built by the state. The temple was founded by Prince Shotoku in 593, who supported the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. Through many reconstructions the present buildings reflect the original 6th century design.
Visitors can enter the outer temple grounds for free but an admission price is charged to the inner precinct, the Gokuraku-jodo Garden and the treasure house. In the pebble covered courtyard in the inner precinct there is a five-story pagoda that can be entered and ascended and the Main Hall (Kondo) in which Prince Shotoku is enshrined as a statue of Kannon. The treasure house displays paintings, scriptures and other worthy belongings of the temple in periodic, themed exhibitions.
The Osaka Museum of History opened in 2003, just across the street from Osaka Castle. The museum building offers great views of the castle from its top floors. The museum exhibits chronicle the city’s history, beginning with ancient times when Osaka became Japan’s first capital. The upper floors offer the exhibitions while the lower floors have a restaurant, shop and spacious lobby.
One of Japan’s oldest shrines is Sumiyoshi Taisha, founded in the 3rd century before the introduction of Buddhism. It displays an unusual style of shrine architecture known as Sumiyoshi-zukuri. This type of architecture is characterized by straight roofs, decorated by two sets of forked finials and five horizontal billets. These kinds of buildings have their entrance under the gable and are surrounded by a fence. There are four main halls with the first three positioned in a straight line facing west, while the fourth stands just beside the third.
Leading to the entrance of the shrine is the lovely Sorihashi Bridge, creating a unique high arch over a pond.
Construction on Osaka Castle was begun in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple. The castle was intended to become the center of a new, unified Japan under Toyotomi rule and at that time was the largest castle. Then a few years after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615. It was rebuilt.
The present ferro-concrete reconstruction of the castle tower was built in 1931. The castle was given a new look in 1997 and the tower is completely modern now also featuring an elevator for easy accessibility. It is also home to an informative museum about the castle’s history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls and moats.
The Nishinomaru Garden encompasses the former “western citadel”. This is a lawn garden with 600 cherry trees, a tea house, the former Osaka Guest House and great views of the castle tower. The garden has an admission fee.
The Osaka Bay Area is a collection of new city districts on man-made waterfront islands and peninsulas. Here you can find many tourist attractions such as museums, theme parks, observatories and shopping centers.
The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is the city’s largest. It offers awesome panoramic views of the bay area and the city’s skyscrapers.
Naniwa Kuishinbo is a food theme park found inside the Tempozan Marketplace shopping malls. It showcases Osaka’s different native dishes and specialties.
Mount Tempozan is Japan’s smallest mountain with a summit at 4.53 meters above sea level. The area has been developed into a small park with benches, walkways and green space.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is located in the Tempozan Harbor Village in the Osaka Bay area. It shows visitors the various forms of life that inhabit the Pacific Rim. Marine life is displayed in 15 tanks with the central tank representing the Pacific Ocean and is home to a whale shark, the aquarium’s main attraction.
Visitors start their tour of the aquarium on the 8th floor and then spiral down floor by floor around the central tank. Some of the tanks stretch over several floors so it is possible to observe the animals from different depths.
You can also see Antarctic penguins, coral-reef butterfly fish, Arctic otters, Monterey Bay seals and jellyfish. The most impressive is the enormous central tank which is home to the whale shark, manta and thousands of other fish and rays. There are good English descriptions and if you prefer you can get the audio guide.
The incredible Sakishima Island is worth a visit. It has been designed to accommodate business conferences and trade fairs. There are some tourist attractions.
Cosmo Tower was formerly known as the World Trade Center. It is the tallest building on Sakishima Island. It has an observation deck on the 55th floor. Restaurants and shops are found on the tower and top floors while the floors in-between are occupied by offices and conference rooms.
Asia Pacific Trade Center is attached to a large mall with shopping and dining facilities. It was designed to hose business gatherings and has large conference facilities.
Nanko Bird Sanctuary was created to provide migratory birds with a stop-over location in the huge urbanized area of Osaka. It has a building from which visitors can watch and learn about birds.
The main attraction of Sakurajima Island is Universal Studios Japan, a popular theme park that opened in 2001. This was the first theme park under the Universal Studios brand to be built in Asia. It opened in March of 2001 in the Osaka Bay Area.
The theme park has eight sections – Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Water World, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are many amusement rides to enjoy and simulators based on popular movies like Spiderman, Back to the Future, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park.
Visitors can have their pictures taken with popular characters like Snoopy, Hello Kitty and the Sesame Street puppets. There are also different shows performed every day including a night parade that features illuminated floats.
Outside the gates you’ll find Universal Citywalk Osaka, a shopping mall with many official Universal hotels, different restaurants and shops. The Osaka Takoyaki Museum is actually a collection of popular vendors offering local dishes on the mall’s fourth floor.