Tokyo is the capital of Japan, but Osaka is where the comedy buffs and foodies flock for an alternative experience in this fantastic country. Located close to Kyoto and the third-largest city in Japan, Osaka is a must-visit for those looking for a friendly atmosphere, trendy and unique neighborhoods, and unique festivals and events. But since Osaka is such a popular city to visit, it’s easy to be swept up in the crowds in Namba or Umeda, especially during the weekend or holidays. There’s much more to Osaka, however, than Dotonbori and Osaka Castle! Many places in this exciting town are often overlooked by tourists. Check out these five hidden gems in Osaka.
Wait Less, Scream More at Hirakata Park
If you asked someone to mention a theme park in Osaka, most people would say ‘Universal Studios Japan.’ Although USJ is a great theme park, it’s almost always incredibly crowded and will cost you nearly 8,000 yen per adult. The lesser-known theme park Hirakata, known as “Hira-pa” by locals, is a better option which will take you off the tourist trail. Hirakata Park is the oldest theme park in Japan (except for Hanayashiki Park in Tokyo, which was reconstructed after World War II). It first opened in 1910 and has 43 attractions including rollercoasters, a Giant Drop Meteor, and a Ferris wheel. There’s a pool in summer and an ice rink in winter. If you visit in the week you can enjoy as many attractions as possible with fewer crowds.
For entry only, access to the park is 1,400 yen for adults and 800 yen for children. This option is good for people who don’t plan on riding many rides, such as elderly people or pregnant women. For entry and access to all the rides an unlimited amount of times, tickets are 4,400 yen for adults, 3,800 yen for elementary school children, and 2,600 yen for children up to two years old. To reach Hirakata Park, take the Keihan Railway from Yodoyabashi or Temmabashi if you are traveling from Osaka City. Get off at Hirakata-Koen Station. Hirakata Park is open daily from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. Hours may change on national holidays.
Appreciate Local History at Ikeda Castle
Everyone has heard of Osaka Castle, which is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and popular for its pretty views. However, you will find fewer people at Ikeda Castle, a little known yet just as lovely. The original building was constructed in 1334, and the castle was the center point for power struggles and wars for hundreds of years between various samurai. The current building was completed in 2000. There is also a Japanese garden here and various reconstructed defense structures that are fascinating to explore. Although not as large as Osaka Castle, it is nonetheless a significant part of Osaka Prefecture’s history and lovely for a walk, a picnic, and to learn some history. There is also a tea house here where you can try a Japanese tea ceremony and various concerts and performances throughout the year.
The area of Ikeda Castle is open to visitors from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm in summer and until 5:00 pm in winter. It is closed on Tuesdays and the New Year holiday. From Umeda Station, take the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line to Ikeda Station. Arrive early so you can relax and enjoy the eleven-minute walk to Ikeda Castle.
Explore and Shop in Orange Street
For shopping in Osaka, you may have heard of Dotonbori or Shinsaibashi. Orange Street, however, is the place to be if you’re looking for more creative and unique fashion, particularly streetwear. There are also shops selling pre-war traditional furniture and other home décor. You’re bound to find something you love on this impressive 600-meter street brimming with shops. If shopping isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy a coffee at one of the many cafes on Orange Street. There are French bistros, art and music cafes, and other styles that are fun to explore and take pictures of. Though everyone knows about Dotonbori and Umeda, Orange Street is more local and is full of unique and creative stores!
Orange Street is a five-minute walk from Yotsubashi Station, which can be reached on the Yotsubashi line. You can also take the Midosuji line to Shinsaibashi Station, and the walk to Orange Street from there is around ten minutes. Orange Street consists of various shops that have varying opening times. Most shops are open between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm daily, although Monday seems to be the day many places close. If there are particular stores you want to visit, check before you go.
Get a Taste of Traditional Japan in Hozenji Yokocho Alley
Behind Hozenji Temple is a group of small, traditional alleyways that has been popular with locals since the 17th century. Despite being just a few minutes’ walk from Dotonbori and Namba, it is often overlooked by tourists. Hozenji Yokocho is ideal to visit in the evening, not long before it gets dark. You can start with a quick visit to Hozenji Temple before finding a local izakaya (traditional pub) to enjoy a drink. If you have time, be sure to check out the statue of Fudō Myō-ō, the god of fury. Locals pour water over the statue, symbolic of purification, and say a prayer. There is a lot to do in this labyrinth of alleyways, so if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to give this lesser-known area a try.
You can reach Hozenji Yokocho Alley by foot from Umeda and also from Dotonbori. Most Japanese izakayas open at around 6:00 pm and are open until the early hours of the morning.
See Minoo Park Waterfall
Osaka is a busy and noisy city, so you may want to escape the hustle and bustle for a day and take a short trip. Many visitors tend to just stay in the city and not venture out to see more than Osaka Prefecture has to offer. Minoo Park is a gorgeous getaway north of the city that can be reached in less than an hour from Umeda by train. This forested valley is perfect for a refreshing walk. You’ll find the famous waterfall at the end of it, surrounded by red leaves that attract Japanese hikers in the autumn. If you wish to avoid the crowds, try traveling here in winter. You can also see Ryuanji Temple on the way. This is a great way to see another side of Osaka, escape city life for a day, and take some breathtaking pictures in a natural, traditional Japanese setting.
To reach Minoo Park, take the Hankyu-Takarazuka line to Ishibashi Station and then take the Hankyu-Mino line to Minoo Station. The journey takes about 45 minutes and costs 270 yen one way. It is recommended you visit in the morning to enjoy the sunshine for longer, giving you plenty of time to get back to the city and do something in the afternoon.
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