Time flies when you’re having fun, and if you’ve only got 48 hours in Osaka, it’s definitely going to fly! I moved here two years ago and the first thing I can tell you is that the locals of this city will welcome you with open arms, being as they are friendlier than anyone you’re likely to meet across Japan. Even with an abundance of friendly guides to point you in the right direction, the idea of exploring the third most populated metropolitan in Japan can be a daunting task. With so much good food in Osaka to get to and so much to do, you’ll want to have a clear idea of what to do in Osaka in 2 days. With the 2 days in Osaka itinerary I’ve laid out, you’ll be making friends, eating delicious blowfish at the best restaurants in Osaka and acquainting yourself with the everything the city and surrounds have to offer in no time. This 2 days in Osaka itinerary will help you get the most out of your 48 hours, but before you hit the platform of the nearest bullet train I recommend you brush up on some travel tips for Osaka to be fully prepared and help you get the most out of what will undoubtedly be an action-packed trip.
Day 1: The Island of Shikoku
Having only 2 days in Osaka, a limited amount of time in any region, it might seem counter-intuitive to leave the centre of the city—but if you are looking to get far off the beaten track to experience the heart of Japanese culture I suggest an adventure across the sea to my favourite location; Shikoku. A four hour trip by bus means you should get going fairly early (around 6am), but you can catch some extra winks on the bus ride over. If you find, with a day of exploring ahead of you, that you are too keyed-up to sleep—fear not—the views from the Seto Grand Bridge on the way to Takamatsu are spectacular! The island of Shikoku falls far from the tread of tourists; a secret lost in time. Surrounded by a buddhist pilgrimage route and dotted with ancient temples, hot-springs and cultural history, this is also the perfect place to take in Japan’s natural beauty in the form of rivers and mountains which can be marvelled at from a variety of hiking trails. Arriving there at around 10am means you’ll have ample time to explore. I recommend the Takamatsu side of Shikoku for a day-trip, where you can see the feudal castle, and (if you’re fit) Kompirasan shrine.
If you’re feeling a little worn out, make a revitalising meal of the regions’ famous Sanuki Udon noodles or Katsuo no Tataki, or perhaps indulge in one of the island’s fish dishes; among the freshest I’ve experienced. Afterwards, you could stay to explore the other marvels Shikoku has to offer, catching the last Sakura bus around 10pm, but if you’d prefer to return to the mainland for the evening to enjoy some delicious food in Osaka, head back to the bus for a long and well-deserved nap. If a day-trip off the mainland is not what you had in mind, there are plenty of things to do right here in the city! For the foodies an entire day exploring the taste sensations of Osaka might be in order and with this guide to Osaka’s must-eat-foods you won’t miss out on any of the flavour. You could even explore the city with a local for a truly authentic experience, without any of the hassles of planning!
Grab a Bite to Eat
Off the bus and back in the bustle of the city you might be feeling a grumble in your tummy and wondering what to eat in Osaka. You could grab dinner at one of Osaka’s tachinomiya–directly translated to “standing bars.” These are ideal for a quick bite and with no fixed menu you can always try something new and seasonal. The lack of seating means less tax on the owners, making these affordable places to wash down your dinner with sake, which goes hand-in-hand with the lively drinking culture in Osaka. Less conservative than other Japanese destinations, Osaka is an ideal destination for the solo-traveller; Osaka’s inhabitants love a new face and before long you will be exercising your drinking arm while shouting “kanpai!” (cheers!) with new friends. For an extremely cozy and truly authentic tachinomiya experience, visit Kohakuhako. The owners and regular patrons don’t speak English, but that doesn't mean they don’t try! They might not be able to tell you what to do in Osaka, but you will more than likely still find yourself chatting (or playing travel-charades) with your new acquaintances deep into the night; people here never stop talking! Don’t let them keep you too long; there is so much nightlife to experience in Osaka, and you’ll want to fit in as much as possible!
Day 2: Visit the "Island in the Canal"
After a big night out in the city, you might be in need of a good strong dose of caffeine to get you going again. Castle park boasts an array of great cafeś with excellent coffee to put the spring back in your step. Sit at one of the many quaint cafeś on offer while enjoying the serenity and the happy surprise of finding so much natural beauty in the midst of a metropolis. When you have perked up, why not make your way over to Nakanoshima–a mere ten minutes by metro from Tenmabashi station? Known to some as the “island in the canal” this sandbar island might sound small, but it is far from it. With some beautiful architecture on display, a peaceful water-fountain and a rose garden, this is the perfect place to escape the crowds and enjoy a quiet stroll, particularly if your visit happens to be in Spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. If you’re feeling peckish after your long walk, stop for some okonomiyaki; a delicious pancake with fried noodles and a favourite food in Osaka.
An Evening of Entertainment
After a leisurely amble you are probably ready for something a little more lively; perhaps an evening of entertainment is just what you need. I can definitely recommend the entertainment scene of Osaka and if you’re feeling cultured you could try Takarazuka; an all female musical theatre troupe. Or, if you are in the mood for deep belly laughs, Osaka is famous for top-notch stand-up comedy. The traditional style of Rakugo is my personal favourite–a style of comedy over a millennium old, which you get to enjoy in an evening of laughter. While the north of Osaka is more high-end and good for when you’re feeling fancy, South is a good opportunity to put on some comfy shoes and prepare for a night of bar-hopping. With streets and streets of places to choose from, I like to pick one area for the night and bar-hop with my friends. Where I live in Tenma one of my favourite bars is Zettai Karaage. The goodness is in the name which translates to “deep-fried chicken” (one of many Osaka food specialities) which they serve and which also happens to be the perfect late night party snack.
A Warm Welcome
When you only have 2 days in Osaka to absorb this much culinary and cultural richness, I suggest you try to talk to as many people as possible –the locals are an immediate way to immerse yourself and gain some extra tips on what to do in Osaka. The chances of meeting someone unfriendly are little to none, and if you do meet someone of that description perhaps you could try to point them in the right direction; they definitely aren’t from around here! If you need some extra tips on what to see in Osaka in 2 days, or for that matter, what other meals you could try squeeze in, take a look at one of our many guides.
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