Places to Visit in Japan: Osaka
Welcome to Japan! In this article we’re going to explore the city of Osaka, Japan and show how you can enjoy a fun-filled week for less than ¥80,000 (Japanese Yen) including accommodations, local transportation, and activities. This includes a couple of day trips to the cities of Kyoto and Kobe, and to beautiful Himeji Castle.
We chose Osaka for this article, rather than the more famous city of Tokyo, because it can be very expensive to visit Japan, and Osaka is somewhat less expensive to visit than Tokyo. Osaka is easy to reach from almost anywhere in the world, as it has a large international airport with excellent connections into the city.
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, and is a great choice for travellers who want to visit Japan. You will be able to experience Japanese culture and food, and enjoy a wide range of fun and inexpensive activities.
In Osaka, you’ll get to experience the fast paced, neon lit modern Japan, and you’ll also see the traditional Japanese culture that has fascinated visitors for many years.
Where is Osaka?
Osaka is located in central Japan in the “Kansai” region of Japan. Most visitors will fly directly to Osaka, and Osaka is served by three major airports with direct flights from all over the world. If you are starting your journey to Osaka in Japan, you also have the option of arriving by train or bus.
We’ll describe your transportation options in detail below.
Osaka: Places to Visit
Staying in Osaka, you are going to have a wide range of exciting places to visit. Here are some of the places to go and things to do:
- Visit the majestic “Shogun” era Osaka Castle
- Enjoy the nightlife in the Dotonbori neighbourhood, brightly lit with neon and packed with exciting sights, food, drink, and activities
- Visit a Shinto shrine
- Experience unique Japanese shops, malls, and markets
- Try some fantastic Japanese food
- Try an “Onsen Bath” which is a uniquely Japanese public bath experience
- Visit the “Cupnoodle Museum” where you’ll make your own personalized Ramen soup
- Take in a baseball game or special event at the Kyocera Dome
- Visit Tempozan Harbor Village
- Visit Tennoji Park, home to Tennoji Zoo, Japanese garden “Keitakuen”, and the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art
- Take a day trip (or two, or three) to the nearby cities of Kyoto or Kobe, or to spectacular Himeji Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the most iconic sights in the city of Osaka. Construction on the castle began in 1583. Inside the castle you’ll find a museum illustrating the history of Osaka and the castle. The top floor has an observation deck where you can view the city and surrounding area. Entry to the castle and museum costs ¥600 and you can try on a helmet, surcoat and “Kosode” kimono, and have your photograph taken for an additional ¥500 per person. The castle is surrounded by a large moat and stone embankments. Osaka Castle is located in a large urban park with 600 cherry trees and walking paths. You can also visit nearby Hokoku Shrine, a picturesque Shinto shrine.
Night life in Dotonbori
Dotonbori is Osaka’s nighttime entertainment district. It runs along both sides of a canal and is lined with huge neon signs. The streets and alleys are lined with dozens of small bars, shops, street food vendors, and restaurants. It is a very lively place at night!
Hozenji Buddhist Temple
This is a small Buddhist temple located in the bustling Namba area. The temple was built in 1637 and has stood here ever since. Worshippers come here to pray so please be respectful. There is a Buddhist statue inside that is completely covered with moss because visitors to the temple often splash it with water for good luck. The temple is surrounded by quaint alleys and illuminated by paper lanterns in the evening.
Ohatsu Tenjin Shinto Shrine
The official name of this Shinto shrine is “Tsuyu no Tenjinja” and it was founded some 1300 years ago. The shrine is famous as the setting for a double suicide by two star-crossed lovers in 1703, and so it has become a tourist attraction for young couples who come here to purchase “Ema” plaques bearing prayers for success in love.
The shrine is located at the end of a covered shopping arcade called Ohatsu-Tenjindori Shotengai, which is packed with shops, bars, and places to eat. On the first Friday of each month, the shrine is transformed into a lively flea market, and packed with stalls selling antiques and second hand clothing.
Kaiyukan Aquarium and Tempozan Harbor Village
Kaiyukan Aquarium is a world class aquarium with 15 large aquariums displaying a wide range of aquatic life. Displays include “Japan Forest,” which recreates a sunlit, beautiful Japanese forest; the icy, snow-clad “Antarctica;” and the centerpiece of the aquarium, “Pacific Ocean,” a 9 m deep, 34 m long tank containing 5,400 tons of water, serving as the home of whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world.
Tempozan Harbor Village is an entertainment center located next door to the Aquarium. It has a number of attractions that you may enjoy, including Legoland Discovery Centre, “Tempozan” giant Ferris wheel, and the “Santa Maria” cruise ship.
There is also a “food theme park” called Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho which recreates the nostalgic 1960s streets of Osaka and hosts about 20 well-known Osaka eateries.
Kyocera Dome is a large domed stadium that hosts a wide range of sports, concerts, and special events year round. It is the home stadium for the Osaka Orix major league baseball team. The Dome also hosts concerts by local Japanese and international entertainers.
Namba Parks is an unusual urban shopping mall with a rooftop garden so that locals and tourists can enjoy some green space in the midst of Osaka’s dense urban landscape.
Namba Parks is nine storeys tall, with a wide range of stores and restaurants and a movie theater on the lower seven floors. Parts of the upper three floors make up “Namba Parks Garden”.
Umeda Sky is a 40 storey skyscraper with some unique attractions for visitors. On the very top level you will find “Kuchu Teien Observatory” which is an open air viewing platform to take in the views of the city below. You’ll ride from the 35th to the 39th floors on a breathtaking open air escalator. There is also a lounge where you can enjoy a drink, some shops for souvenirs, and a restaurant.
“Takimi Koji”, on the ground floor, is a collection of restaurants with a “retro” 1920’s theme.
You can also tour the “unseen” side of Umeda Sky with a guided tour through the mechanical parts of the building.
Kuromon Market is a covered, open air market where you can see and try a wide range of Osaka “street food”. The market is 580 meters long and there are at least 150 shops and stalls selling fish and turtles, vegetables, fruits, meat, pickles, dried foods, Japanese and Western sweets, and of course tea.
Osaka has a number of fantastic “shopping streets” which are long, covered arcades of small shops and restaurants. We recommend visiting several if you have the time, as it is always fun and free and the “people watching” is great.
Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street is the most modern shopping street with a number of high end retailers. It has a flashy website and even has a concierge to help you spend your money!
Hankyu Higashi-Dori Shopping Street is an older shopping street, where the merchandise is a little less flashy and the prices are lower. It is connected to the Hankyu department store which is also great fun to visit.
“Cupnoodles” refers to the instant noodle “meal in a cup” that you can find in many grocery stores around the world. You simply peel open the top, pour in some boiling water, wait a few minutes, and then enjoy a delicious meal. The Cupnoodles Museum is a fun place where you can see the history of cupnoodles, try some new varieties, and even make your own custom cupnoodles to keep as a souvenir or bring home as a souvenir.
“Onsen” Public Bath
Japanese “Onsen” is a style of public bath that is very popular in the Osaka area. Onsen bathing is considered to be a purifying ritual in Shintoism, which is Japan’s indigenous religion, as well as being good for your health. Here are some Onsen baths located in Osaka that you may want to consider.
Please be advised that you may not be admitted into the baths if you have any tattoos.
|Spa World (click for website)||Onsen Hot Springs, saunas, and swimming pools|
|Niji-No-Yu (click for website)||Indoor and outdoor (rooftop) baths|
|Nobeha no Yu Tsuruhashi (click for website)||Japanese and Korean style hot springs, massages, saunas, salt scrubs|
|Naniwa no Yu (click for website)||Indoor and Outdoor (rooftop) baths|
|Kutsurogi-no-Sato Yuraku (click for website)||“Rubber Duck” tub, “Dead Sea” (salt) bath|
|Minoh Onsen Spa Garden (click for website)||Rooftop spa offers great views of the city day or night|
Day Trip to Kyoto
Kyoto is a spectacular city with a number of worthwhile places to visit. In fact, there are so many sights to see in Kyoto, and it is so easy, quick, and inexpensive to travel between Osaka and Kyoto, that you may want to make two day trips to Kyoto. But we’ll leave that decision to you. Here are our “Top Four” places to visit in Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a beautiful forest of tall bamboo trees. There is a paved trail that allows you to walk amongst the tall, cool trees. It is highly photogenic, but the large crowds may make it difficult to capture the “perfect” photo.
Kinkaju-Ji “Golden Pavilion”
Kinkaku-Ji, also called the Golden Pavilion, is likely the best known temple in Kyoto. It is an iconic image of Kyoto, with it’s golden colour and set in front of a tranquil pond. The grounds are beautiful to visit as well.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine (Taisha) is the shrine of the Kami Inari, Deity of Rice. This shrine is famous for its endless rows of red “Torii” gates. Trails going up mount Inari pass many smaller shrines, with a panoramic view of Kyoto on top.
Gion Historical District
Gion is one of the oldest parts of Kyoto, but may be best known as the “Geisha” district. Geisha are Japan’s professional entertainers, usually female, and are dressed in elaborate “kimono” dresses and iconic white makeup. You may see “Geisha Girls” walking around the Gion neighbourhood on their way to an appointment. In fact, we recommend hanging out around Gion’s photogenic “Tatsumi Bridge” so you may be able to capture a photo of the Geishas walking across the bridge. Hanimakoji Street has a number of shops and restaurants worth a look.
Day trip to Kobe
Kobe is another city that is very close to Osaka and easy to visit as a day trip. Kobe is most famous for “Kobe Beef” but it has a number of other attractions that you might enjoy.
Himeji Castle is an easy day trip from Osaka
Himeji is a town on Osaka Bay that is quite easy to visit as a day trip from Osaka. The main reason to visit is “Himeji Castle”, a magnificent hilltop fortress that is walking distance from Himeji train station. The original fort was built in 1333, and the current structure was built in 1618. It is the largest and most visited castle in all of Japan.
Here are some practical and economical ways to travel and stay for your trip to Osaka. Later, we’ll also show you a budget for your trip.
Let’s start with some maps to get you oriented………….
Arriving by plane
Osaka is served by three airports:
- Kansai International Airport (airport code: KIX) which handles both international and domestic flights
- Osaka International Airport, also known as Itami (airport code: ITM) which handles only domestic flights, despite it’s name
- Kobe Airport (airport code: UKB) which handles mostly domestic flights
Most readers of this website will arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX), so we are going to focus on that airport and show you how to travel from KIX to Osaka quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
Getting from the Airport to your hotel in the city of Osaka
Most readers of this website will arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX), so we are going to focus on that airport and show you how to travel from KIX to your hotel in Osaka quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
KIX is located about 45 kilometers from downtown Osaka. To get from the airport to Osaka, you can travel by Airport Bus or by Train. Taking the bus is likely to be simpler and less expensive, but we’ll describe both options and you can choose the one you prefer.
By “KATE” Airport Bus
If you prefer traveling by bus, the Airport Bus service is provided by Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise, known as “KATE”. When you buy your ticket and board your bus, you’ll see the KATE logo.
By “Rapi-T” Train
If you prefer traveling by train, the Airport Train service is provided by Nankai and the name of the train service is “Rapi-T’.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Japan can be very expensive. To save money without sacrificing comfort or safety we are going to focus on affordable Japanese “business” hotels. These are well known hotel chains in Japan, and they operate hundreds of excellent hotels throughout Japan. You shouldn’t have any concerns about staying in one of these hotels.
These are mostly rated as “Two Star” or “Three Star” hotels so the facilities and services will be rather basic. Nonetheless, you should be able to find a nice, clean hotel with a private bathroom and free breakfast that is significantly less expensive than the well known international hotels.
You may experience some small challenges when staying at one of these hotels. We’ll describe them here and then you can be prepared!
First, you may have some difficulty conversing with the hotel staff, because the staff mostly deal with Japanese speaking guests. Just remember to be patient and friendly and the staff will certainly get you checked in without too much difficulty.
Second, you may find that the food served in the hotel is not what you expect. This is especially true if you reserve a hotel room that includes a complimentary breakfast service. You may find that a Japanese breakfast isn’t at all what you were expecting.
Third, be careful when selecting the room and beds for your stay. Both the rooms and the beds in Japan are small. You may find that the bed is too small if you are tall in stature.
Fourth, smoking is still very popular in Japan and hotel rooms are often sold as “smoking” and “non-smoking” rooms. Be sure to choose the type of room that you prefer.
We have more information on these chain hotels below, but first let’s talk about where to stay in Osaka.
For your visit to Osaka, we recommend that you choose a hotel that is close to transportation, restaurants, shopping, and tourist attractions. Osaka has two such areas: Namba and Umeda! We’ll describe both of them and let you decide which one is best for you.
Staying in Namba
Namba may be the most popular location for tourists. The stations for the “KATE” Airport Bus and “Rapi-t” Airport Train are located in Namba, so getting here from KIX Airport will be easy. Namba is a main transportation hub served by multiple subway lines so travelling around the city should be easy. Namba has great food, shopping, and nightlife, and it’s close to several tourist areas. Namba is in the “Minami” part of Osaka.
Staying in Umeda
Umeda is also a popular location for tourists. There is a station for the “KATE” Airport Bus in Umeda so you can easily get here from KIX Airport. Please note there is no station for the “Rapi-t” train in Umeda. Umeda has even better local transportation opportunities than Umeda, as it is served by two major transportation hubs, Umeda and Osaka. Umeda is the main business district for Osaka, so it has a “big city” feel to it, whereas Namba has more of a “Japanese city” feel to it. Nonetheless, Umeda has great food and shopping as well. Umeda is in the “Kita” part of Osaka.
Affordable Japanese Business Hotel Chains
We recommend five Japanese business hotel chains. All five chains operate several hotels in Osaka, and all five have English language websites. You can use their websites to do some comparison shopping to select the best location, room, and price for your stay.
The five chains that we recommend are:
- Toyoko Inn
- Dormy Inn
- APA Hotel
- Super Hotel
- Smile Hotel
These hotel chains have many hotels in the Namba and Umeda areas, so you should be able to find one that’s just right for you! We’ve provided some lists of their hotels below for your convenience.
The prices vary quite a lot, depending on the chain, location of the hotel, and season. The hotels often charge more during “cherry blossom” season (late March to early April). For a single room in low season, you may be able to find a room for as little as ¥3,500 (3,500 Japanese yen). For a larger room suitable for two people, expect to pay ¥6,000 to ¥8,400 per night if you shop carefully. By comparison, the well known international hotels will charge ¥17,000 or more for a room in the same area, so the savings are substantial!
Toyoko Inn hotels in Namba
- Toyoko Inn Osaka Namba Nippombashi, 4 Chome-11-4 Nipponbashi
- Toyoko Inn Shinsaibashi West, 1 Chome-9-22 Kitahorie
- Toyoko Inn Osaka Tsutenkakumae, 2 Chome-3-4 Ebisuhigashi
- Toyoko Inn Osaka Abeno Tennoji, 1 Chome-1-7 Sanno
- Toyoko Inn, Osaka Nihombashi Bunraku Theater Front, 1 Chome-13-21 Nipponbashi
- Toyoko inn Osaka-semba 1, 2 Chome-3-6 Kitakyuhojimachi
- Toyoko inn Osaka Semba 2, 2 Chome-5-14 Minamikyuhojimachi
Toyoko Inn hotels in Umeda
- Toyoko INN Osaka Umeda Higashi, 5 Chome-3-25 Nishitenma
- Toyoko INN Umeda Nakatsu 1, 3 Chome-20-4 Toyosaki
- Toyoko INN Umeda Nakatsu 2, 4 Chome-12-13 Toyosaki
- Toyoko Inn Osaka Tenjimbashi-suji, 2-3-17 Ukida
Dormy Inn hotels in Namba
- Dormy Inn Premium Namba, 2 Chome-14-23 Shimanouchi
- Dormy Inn Shinsaibashi, 2 Chome-17-3 Nishishinsaibashi
- Dormy Inn Premium Osaka Kitahama, 1 Chome-6-7 Koraibashi
- Dormy Inn Osaka Tanimachi, 2 Chome-1-9 Uchihonmachi
Dormy Inn hotel in Umeda
- Dormy Inn Umeda Higashi, 3 Chome-5-35 Nishitenma
APA hotels in Namba
- APA Hotel Namba-ekihigashi, 4-29 Nanbasennichimae
- APA Hotel Namba-Shinsaibashi, 2 Chome-7-12 Nishishinsaibashi
- APA Hotel Namba-Minami Ebisucho-Eki, 5 Chome-6 Nipponbashi
- APA Hotel Osaka Tanimachi, 1 Chome-3-12 Uchihonmachi
- APA Hotel Midosuji Honmachi-Ekimae, 4 Chome-5-12 Honmachi
- APA Hotel Midosuji Hommachi-Eki Higashi, 2 Chome-3-6 Kawaramachi
- APA Hotel Osaka Higobashi Ekimae, 1 Chome-2-1 Tosabori
- APA Hotel Sakaisuji-Kitahama-ekimae, 2 Chome-3-10 Koraibashi
APA Inn hotels in Umeda
- APA Hotel Higashi Umeda Minami Morimachi Ekimae, 2 Chome-4-36 Minamimorimachi
- APA Hotel Osaka Umeda, 5 Chome-4- address #25. Fukushima
Super Hotel hotels in Namba
- Super Hotel Namba Nipponbashi, 1 Chome-20-5 Nipponbashi
- Super Hotel Lohas, 1 Chome-5-10 Nishihonmachi
- Super Hotel Osaka Tennoji, 2 Chome-3-3 Osaka
- Super Hotel Osaka, 3 Chome-6-35 Edobori
- Super Hotel Osaka Tanimachi-yonchome, 2 Chome-2-29 Tokiwamachi
Super Hotel hotel in Umeda
- Super Hotel Umeda Higobashi, 1 Chome-20-1 Edobori
Smile Hotel hotels in Namba
- Smile Hotel Premium Osaka Higashi-Shinsaibashi, 2 Chome-13-17 Shimanouchi
- Smile Hotel Premium Osaka Hommachi, 2 Chome-8-6 Minamisenba
- Smile Hotel Namba, 3 Chome-3-9 Saiwaicho
Smile Hotel hotels in Umeda
- Super Hotel does not have any hotels in Umeda
Osaka and the Kansai region has a superb public transportation system. It is safe, comfortable, and economical, so we recommend that you use public transportation to travel around the region.
Local Transportation within Osaka
The subway (Osaka Metro) is best for local trips within Osaka. Osaka Metro operates nine subway or tram lines in Osaka. One of them (or maybe two, if you need to connect) will take you where you want to go quickly in safety and comfort. Osaka Metro offers a number of tickets and passes for tourists.
If you prefer buying your tickets one at a time, you can buy tickets from a machine at the station where you board. This type of ticket costs between ¥180 for a short ride (less than 3 km) to ¥380 for a long ride (over 19 km).
If you prefer buying a reloadable pass, you can purchase the “ICOCA” card. ICOCA is a reloadable pass that you can use to pay for rides by “tapping” the card on a special reader on the turnstile. The ICOCA pass costs ¥500 but this cost is refundable at the end of your vacation.
If you prefer buying a one day pass that allows unlimited travel, you can purchase the “Enjoy Eco Card”. This pass costs ¥800 on weekdays or ¥600 on weekends. In addition to unlimited rides, this pass includes discounts on certain tourist attractions.
Be sure to visit the Osaka Metro website for information on routes, stations, tickets, and passes.
Transportation within the Kansai Region
If you’re planning to enjoy some day trips to Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, or anywhere within the “Kansai” region, there are several railway operators that provide excellent and affordable transportation. We’ll describe the “Top Three” Kansai railways; one of these is sure to be the best choice for you.
Japan Railway West (JR-West)
Japan Railway West (JR-West) is the largest railway operator in Kansai with services from Osaka to Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, and many other destinations.
JR-West offers a number of different service levels at different prices. If you would like to experience the famous Japanese “Bullet Train”, JR-West offers “Shinkansen” bullet trains from the “Sin-Osaka” station. This service employs the “N700” series Shinkansen train. Remember, riding the Shinkansen costs more than riding the regular train so if you have no interest in riding the bullet train, just use a conventional service and you’ll save some money. JR-West offer a number of “Limited Express” trains which will save you time at little or no additional cost.
If you prefer buying your tickets one at a time, you can buy tickets from a machine at the station where you board. This price for this type of ticket depends on the distance, day of the week, and service level.
If you prefer buying a pass that allows unlimited travel, you can purchase a 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, or 4-day “Kansai Area Pass”. These passes that allow you to enjoy unlimited travel anywhere in the Kansai region. The 3-day pass (5600 yen) would allow you to take day trips to Kyoto, Kobe, and Himeji Castle so we’ve included one in the budget. Keep in mind, you need to purchase this type of pass before you travel to Japan.
Be sure to visit the JR-West website for more information on routes, stations, tickets, and passes.
Keihan Railway is a smaller operator that offers services from Osaka to Kyoto.
Keihan Railway also operate the “Randen – Arashiyama Electric Tram Railway” (also known as the Keifuku Electric Railroad) which is a tram that takes a scenic surface route direct to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Keihan Railway offers 1-day and 2-day passes for visitors to Japan that include transportation between Osaka and Kyoto, local transportation within Osaka or Kyoto, and sightseeing discounts. Look for the “Sightseeing Pass” on the website.
Be sure to visit the Keihan Railway website for more information on routes, stations, tickets, and passes.
Hankyu Railway operates services from Osaka to Kyoto and Kobe. Hankyu Railway trains are decorated in a nostalgic design which you may enjoy, and their fares are low.
Hankyu Railway offer 1-day and 2-day tourist passes for visitors to Japan. These are excellent value as a 2-day pass costs only 1200 yen. Look for “Hankyu Tourist Pass” on the website.
Be sure to visit the Hankyu Railway website for more information on routes, stations, tickets, and passes.
Here’s our budget for your week in Osaka and the Kansai region of Japan. Including 6 nights accommodations, local transportation for a week, and a wide range of fun activities, this trip to Osaka will cost you only ¥77,440! We think that’s good value, and ¥2,560 under budget so you could splurge on some other day trips or fun activities.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our article about Osaka and the Kansai region of Japan. Happy travels!