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Reasons to visit Osaka: Why it should be top on your bucket list

By Keiko Ikari

September 3, 2020

Reasons to visit Osaka: Why it should be top on your bu

Hey, I'm Keiko, an Osakan native with a love for dance, piano, and the vibrant heartbeat of this city. Having lived here all my life, I've seen every nook and cranny that makes this place so unique. Beyond the famed Osaka tours and popular attractions, there's a depth to Osaka that you won't find in any other major city in Japan.

Nestled between cultural legacies and modern delights, it's a city that seamlessly blends the past with the present, giving it a unique charm that's bound to leave an impression. Trust me, if you looking to visit Japan, you'll want Osaka to be at the top of your list!

  • The Osaka vs. Tokyo showdown
  • Historical landmarks and tales
  • A food lover's culinary dream
  • A thrill seeker's dream destination
  • Shopper's utopia: From vintage to high-end
  • Cultural resonance and urban vibrancy
  • Concluding thoughts: Why Osaka beckons

The Osaka vs. Tokyo showdown

Reasons to visit Osaka

Visit the Nation's kitchen, Osaka

Distinctive Osaka charm

While many travelers immediately think of Tokyo when dreaming of Japan, there's an electric, undeniable charm in visiting Osaka that uniquely captures hearts. Picture this: You've just arrived at Shin Osaka Station, and the very pulse of the city draws you in.

You find yourself wandering towards Osaka Castle, its grandeur reminding you of stories, warriors, and an Edo period rich with history. But, as the sun sets, it’s the irresistible aroma wafting from street stalls that beckons.

My personal favorite? The sizzling takoyaki balls, a city specialty that's an absolute must-try in this food capital! Then there's the glittering nightlife Osaka is known for – from Namba's shimmering streets to the breathtaking vistas atop the Umeda Sky Building, the tallest building in the city. And let’s not even get started on the whirlwind of fun waiting at Universal Studios Japan, one of the theme parks that make Osaka a thrill seekers paradise!

Tokyo has its sparkle, sure, but every visit to Osaka feels like coming home to a celebration, and it's no wonder why people visit Osaka Japan time and time again. A celebration of culture, culinary delights, and those little moments that make life special.

Reasons to visit Osaka, Japan

Lively warmth vs. metropolitan hustle

When I think about the contrast between visiting Osaka and Tokyo, I’m instantly reminded of the vibe you get from a cozy neighborhood café versus a bustling downtown coffee chain.

Sure, Tokyo is a whirlwind of skyscrapers and never-ending activity, but Osaka? It's a melody you can't help but dance to. As you weave through the modern marvels of Shin Osaka Station or gaze at the cityscape from the rooftop observatory, you'll feel a sense of connection, a tie to the city.

Our streets aren't just about the hustle; they’re about stories, memories, and the laughter of Japan's comedians echoing from distant comedy clubs. While Tokyo is famed for its sushi, Osaka serves comfort on a plate – be it the homely taste of kitsune udon or the hearty flavors of kushikatsu.

Tokyo might be the place to be seen, but Osaka? It's where you truly see, feel, and savor Japan, whether you're looking for hot springs like Spa World, planning a day trip, or considering an Osaka convention. You'll come to love Osaka for its lively warmth amid the major cities of Japan.

Historical landmarks and tales

Osaka Castle, Japan

Osaka Castle: Japan's architectural marvel

Stepping into Osaka Castle Park, I often find myself transported to tales of valiant samurai and ancient intrigue. Towering majestically over the cityscape, Osaka Castle isn't just an architectural marvel; it's a living testament to Japan's rich history.

As you approach the castle, its intricate designs and formidable stone walls tell stories of power, resilience, and artistry. Inside, the Osaka Museum unfurls the city's vibrant tapestry, weaving together moments from Osaka's illustrious past with relics and historical artifacts.

As you stand atop the castle's observatory, gazing out over the sprawling metropolis, the harmonious blend of modernity and tradition encapsulates the very essence of Osaka.

While Kyoto is undeniably romantic and Tokyo beams with neon lights, the quiet strength and tales whispered by Osaka Castle make it an unmissable chapter in any Osaka journey. So, if you're looking for reasons to visit Osaka, the captivating legacy of this castle ranks high on that list!

Enjoy the history at the Osaka Museum

Traveling through time at the Osaka museum

Navigating the museum's corridors feels like flipping through the pages of a riveting novel on Japan's rich tapestry. Every artifact and exhibit tells a tale, and as I've wandered these halls, I've journeyed from the grandeur of the Edo period to the city's modern-day bustle.

It's awe-inspiring to witness Osaka's transformation — from traditional tea ceremonies to downtown areas' neon glow, from samurai armor to chic department stores.

One moment, you're learning about savory pancakes from centuries ago; the next, you're diving into Osaka's reputation as the nation's kitchen. The museum isn’t just about objects, but about memories, dreams, and the city's journey.

So, for those eager to trace Osaka's evolution, from its historical milestones to its contemporary quirks, the museum is a time capsule waiting to be explored.

A food lover's culinary dream

Enjoy the great food options in Osaka, Japan

Enjoy some delicious food in Osaka, Japan

Osaka: The nation's undisputed kitchen

For every food enthusiast, stepping into Osaka feels like turning the pages of a gourmet menu. Picture neon-lit alleys whispering culinary tales: street food vendors showcasing age-old recipes alongside upscale restaurants curating modern gourmet dishes.

From the iconic allure of fried octopus balls to the artistry encapsulated in every sushi roll, Osaka's culinary prowess is evident in every bite. The Tenjinbashisuji shopping street is a mecca for foodies, but there's magic beyond it too.


Local department stores surprise with gourmet sections, and tucked-away eateries offer dishes that have won the hearts of generations.

The bullet train is your ticket to a culinary odyssey if you're eager to explore beyond Osaka's borders. Within hours, you can be whisked away to other regions, each with their own signature dishes and flavors, showcasing Japan's vast and diverse culinary landscape. It's more than just a journey, it's a taste adventure waiting to unfold.

Street food in Osaka, Japan

Street food adventures

Navigating Osaka’s bustling streets is akin to exploring a culinary wonderland. Every corner resonates with culinary stories, from tantalizing skewers being grilled to perfection to the inviting aroma of savory delights drifting along the Tenjinbashisuji shopping street.

The food capital transforms into a hotspot of culinary festivities as dusk descends. Pop-up stalls spring up, boasting dishes that summon both the locals and tourists. The magic isn't just in the food – it's in the atmosphere too.

Children laughing, couples sharing bites, and friendly locals recommending their favorite picks. Among the myriad of tantalizing options, there are some street foods that I personally believe one should not miss when in Osaka:

Takoyaki: These octopus-filled dough balls, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, are a staple of Osaka's street food scene. One of my favorite places is Aizuya (or Aiduya), located away from the main tourist hubs in the Tamade area. This long-standing shop has been serving delectable takoyaki to locals for decades and offers an authentic taste of Osaka's beloved street food.

Okonomiyaki: Often referred to as a 'Japanese pancake', this savory delight is made with a mixture of batter, cabbage, and various toppings, grilled right before your eyes. One of my favorites is Kiji, located away from the main tourist hubs in the Umeda area. Established in the 1940s, this place offers an authentic and traditional flavor profile that's been cherished by locals for years.

Kushikatsu: Skewered and breaded meat and vegetables, deep-fried to perfection. The Shinsekai district is famous for this dish, and Daruma Kushikatsu is a must-visit with its iconic mascot and delectable offerings. Another favorite of mine is Kushikatsu Jan Jan, tucked away from the main tourist paths in the Higashinari Ward. This local gem has been serving delectable kushikatsu to Osakans for years, maintaining a deep-rooted authenticity and traditional flavor that's widely cherished by its regulars.

Just when you believe you've tasted every delight, Osaka's nightlife unveils a mosaic of sensations and adventures eager to be discovered. And as you venture through these vibrant streets, you'll find my recommended spots as just the starting point in your culinary journey.

Osaka's signature dishes

Couple enjoying some traditional Japanese food

Living in Osaka has been a continuous culinary journey for me. The familiar embrace of Kitsune udon is a testament to simplicity, where fried tofu combines with a flavorful broth, highlighting its subtle contrasts.

As I navigate the city, unexpected okonomiyaki spots emerge, each offering its distinct interpretation. But Osaka's depth shines in its sushi offerings, spanning modest vendors to refined establishments, emphasizing freshness and craftsmanship.

The diverse array of dishes in Osaka is a culinary odyssey waiting to be explored. Many are steeped in tradition, while others challenge and redefine gastronomic conventions. This city is not just a food destination; it's an immersive experience.

Negiyaki Yamamoto: Situated away from the bustling tourist hubs, this eatery specializes in Negiyaki, a variant of Okonomiyaki but with a dominant green onion flavor. It’s a taste of Osaka that many tourists might miss but is an authentic delight.

La Cime: Pushing culinary boundaries, this modern restaurant offers French cuisine with distinct Japanese influences. Located in a quieter part of the city, it showcases how Osaka effortlessly melds tradition with innovation.

Harijyu: A historic establishment, Harijyu is renowned for its sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. While it has gained some recognition, its longevity and dedication to quality make it a spot cherished by locals.

Tsurugyu: If you're looking to experience melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef without the throngs of tourists, Tsurugyu offers a serene ambiance and unparalleled flavors that highlight Osaka’s rich culinary traditions.

Whether you're weaving through narrow alleys to find hidden eateries like Negiyaki Yamamoto or experiencing innovative fusions at places like La Cime, Osaka continually offers an evolving palate of discovery. Exploring these lesser-known gems provides a deeper appreciation for the city's vast culinary tapestry.

A thrill seeker's dream destination

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan: Beyond your imagination

Stepping into Universal Studios Japan (USJ) feels like diving headfirst into a whirlpool of excitement. Just a short train ride from Osaka's bustling downtown area, USJ unfurls a world where the enchantment of Harry Potter takes center stage.

Wander through the cobblestoned streets of Hogsmeade, taste an authentic Butterbeer, and feel the adrenaline as you soar above Hogwarts with the Forbidden Journey ride.


But the magic doesn't end at the gates of the Wizarding World. From the exhilarating rides that immerse you in blockbuster film universes to the tantalizing Japanese food options sprinkled throughout the park, every corner of USJ promises a new thrill.

While there are countless reasons to visit Osaka, the allure of USJ, with its fusion of cinematic wonder and Japanese culture, is undeniably compelling. Whether it's your first trip or you're revisiting the magic, USJ is a testament to Osaka's ability to both surprise and delight at every turn.

Nanba Grand Kagetsu Theatre, Osaka

Osaka's comedy extravaganza

After a thrilling day at USJ or meandering through the rich history of Osaka Castle Park, imagine unwinding to the heartwarming laughter echoing from Osaka's renowned comedy clubs.

Dive into the vibrant comedic scene at venues like Namba Grand Kagetsu (NGK), the flagship theater for the Yoshimoto Kogyo comedy conglomerate, and an institution in Osaka comedy.

ROR Comedy Club offers English stand-up comedy for a more intimate setting, drawing a blend of locals and foreigners. And let's not forget Lumine the Yoshimoto, another iconic venue that has been graced by many of Japan's comedic legends.


Experiencing Osaka's comedy scene is a delightful way to immerse oneself in the city's unique humor and culture.

The city is no stranger to side-splitting humor, boasting some of Japan's top comedians who have mastered the art of eliciting belly laughs.Set foot in Amerika Mura's bustling streets, and you might stumble upon hidden comedy gems nestled between vintage shops and savory pancake joints.

With humor deeply rooted in Japanese culture, comedy in Osaka becomes more than just entertainment – it’s a slice of the city's vibrant soul. From playful banter about Osaka Station's maze-like corridors to jests about the endless quest for the best okonomiyaki, the comedy reflects the city's unique quirks.

So, on your next trip, while you indulge in delicious food and soak in the neon lights of the downtown area, don't forget to catch a comedy show. It’s arguably Osaka’s most heartwarming way to immerse yourself in the local scene and see why people love and visit Osaka time and time again.

Shopper's utopia: From vintage to high-end

Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, Japan

Umeda Sky Building: Modern wonders and panoramic views

If there's one place in Osaka that seamlessly marries shopping with breathtaking views, it's the iconic Umeda Sky Building.

Just a hop away from Umeda Station and standing as one of the tallest structures in the city, this architectural marvel invites every visitor to not only shop but to gaze upon the sprawling panorama of Osaka from its rooftop observatory.

Imagine spotting the distant cherry blossoms of romantic Kyoto while picking up some unique finds from chic boutiques.


Just a half-hour away from the bustling Amerika Mura or the aquatic wonders of Kaiyukan Aquarium, the Sky Building offers an undeniably one-of-a-kind experience.

Whether you're an urban explorer fresh from Kansai International Airport or someone looking to capture the essence of Osaka Japan in a single location, this place promises unforgettable moments.

Experience shopper's paradise, Osaka's shopping streets

Tenjinbashisuji street: A shopaholic's dream

Picture this: a sprawling avenue extending for miles, with every turn revealing a hidden gem, ready to be uncovered. Welcome to Tenjinbashisuji Street, the cornerstone of Osaka's retail universe.

Renowned as Japan's longest shopping street, this lively passage offers everything from cherished vintage items to contemporary must-haves. And if you're an anime enthusiast, delve into the immersive world of anime tours Osaka offers.

Located not too far away, Denden Town beckons with its vast array of otaku treasures. Additionally, you're merely a stone's throw away from the peaceful allure of Sumiyoshi Shrine. While witnessing the cherry blossoms in picturesque Kyoto has its allure, navigating through this shopping mecca, especially during the vibrant Tenjin Matsuri festival, holds its own distinct magic.

As a newcomer to Osaka seeking fresh experiences, a stroll through Tenjinbashisuji Street guarantees a memorable adventure for every shopping enthusiast.

Tsutenkaku Tower, Osaka, Japan

Cultural resonance and urban vibrancy

The city pulsates with a rhythm that can only be described as uniquely Osakan. Beyond the major attractions lies the heartbeat of Osaka: its neighborhoods. Every alleyway resonates with stories, from the harmonious tunes of a hidden jazz bar to the gentle hum of a family-owned izakaya.

Venture into districts like Tsutenkaku, and you'll experience the city's old-world charm, where vintage theaters sit alongside contemporary art spaces.


Every corner, every street in Osaka is a symphony of past meeting present, creating a melody that you'll carry in your heart long after you've left.

Nature's embrace

Visit Osaka Bay when you are in Japan

Amidst its bustling urban aura, Osaka offers serene escapes that resonate with nature's tranquility. The Osaka Bay area promises a tranquil beach experience, while parks like Kema Sakuranomiya provide a lush landscape dotted with cherry blossoms, especially during the hanami season.

If you're seeking a quiet moment, the flowing waters of the Dotonbori River offer a gentle embrace. This juxtaposition of nature amidst urban sprawl exemplifies Osaka's balanced character, a city that thrives in modernity but finds its soul in nature.

Concluding thoughts: Why Osaka beckons

Reasons to visit Osaka, Japan

A City Like No Other: Osaka seamlessly weaves the old with the new, tradition with innovation, and flavors with memories. Whether it's the deep-rooted history that whispers tales of old, the culinary masterpieces that dance on your taste buds, or the vibrant streets alive with laughter and lights, Osaka invites you with open arms.

In the heart of the Kansai region, it stands as a testament to Japan’s enduring spirit and the promise of unforgettable experiences. So, as you plan your next journey, let Osaka be the adventure you didn’t know you were seeking.

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