Edited by Matthew Wears
The Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 is shaping up to be one of the year’s most talked about sporting events! It’s looking like it’s going to be some competition, one that will hopefully put Japan on the sporting world map, as well as bringing some much-needed attention to all the other the really cool cities that the country has on offer, outside of the mega-popular Tokyo. My hometown of Osaka is one of these cities, and although it’s probably one of the most visited places in the country, I think it still has so much to offer for anyone who is visiting for Rugby World Cup 2019. My city has a really unique vibe to it that nowhere else in Japan has, it takes its food super seriously and there’s pretty much endless things to do in Osaka. Add to all of this the fact that it’s one of the friendliest places in the whole country. So this is my ultimate Japan Rugby World Cup guide for Osaka, a place where you’ll find all of the tips that you need for your trip, as well as a list of my all-time favourite, unmissable Osaka attractions. So get your Rugby World Cup tickets booked and come and see my city!
Tips for the city
Osaka is one of the most popular destinations in Japan for tourists - I guess it offers a pretty similar experience to Tokyo in the way that you can see things like super modern shopping malls whilst still having the option to explore an ancient Japanese temple if you want to. For visitors coming for the Japan Rugby World Cup 2019, you’re going to be heading for the Hananzona Rugby Stadium on match days, a building that holds the title of being the oldest Rugby Union in the whole country! It’s also where the annual National High School Rugby Tournament takes place, a pretty fierce competition where Japan's youngest rugby stars battle it out in hope of making an impact. Osaka’s first of the four Rugby World Cup 2019 fixtures begins on the 22nd of September, when an improving Italian side will take on the not to be underestimated Namibia, what a way to start the fun!
Navigating the city
More on transport. I think Osaka is also in a great location because you can really easily get here by the Bullet Train from other Rugby World Cup 2019 cities like Tokyo, it’s surrounded by Kyoto and Kobe, and it’s also the perfect stopping destination if you’re thinking of going south to places like Fukuoka. When you’re in the city, you should definitely use the subway as much as you can because it’s fast and affordable, you can even get a one-day pass for just eight-hundred yen, which isn’t even the price of a couple of beers! If you’ve been up north in chilly Sapporo, the weather in Osaka is going to be a little bit different, in other words it’s going to much better! It should stay quite warm for the duration of the Rugby World Cup 2019, but it might be a little bit rainy on some days so bring your raincoat just in case.
Spend a day in Universal Studios Japan
I guess one of the most visited Osaka attractions would have to be Universal Studios Japan, and I really can’t disagree with this because it’s just so much fun, especially for kids, so if you’re coming to the Rugby World Cup 2019 with your family then you have to give this a look. Not only has it got some awesome rides, it’s got an almost endless amount of attractions and restaurants, so you could pretty much visit ten times and you’d probably still not see everything! It’s going to be a bit pricier than the other things on this list, but that’s to be expected really, but tickets do allow you to do everything in the park so it's totally worth it! It’s also so easy to reach, just hop on the Loop line from Osaka Station, then change at Nishikujo for the Yumesaki line, then get off at the Universal City stop and you’re there, it’s as easy as that.
Get city views at the Cosmo Tower
I don’t think any city visit would be complete without going somewhere with awesome views of the city, and in Osaka that place is the Cosmo Tower, a fifty-two story building which is pretty impressively the third tallest in the whole country! Taking the elevator all the way up to the fifty-fifth floor is such a cool experience at any time of day, but you should totally make the most of the late opening time and head up as it’s getting dark, it’s really one of the best things to do in Osaka at night I think! You can see for miles in all directions, but if you’re scared of heights then the all-glass elevator to the top might not be for you. One of my best local tips is to buy the Osaka Amazing Pass for two-thousand five-hundred yen, a card that allows you to get into most of the top Osaka attractions for free, including the tower.
Take a trip to Hiroshima
OK, I get that day tripping to Hiroshima isn’t necessarily one of the Osaka attractions, but I totally think it’s more than worthy of being on a list of the best things to do in Osaka because it’s just so incredible. I mean it’s one of only two places in the world that’s seen the devastating effects of nuclear war, so I think it’s a must visit place for anyone who’s even remotely close by. Make sure to go to both the surreal Itsukushima Shrine that stands in the water near Miyajima Island and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, they’re two of my favourite things to do in all of Japan. Also, if you take the high-speed Sakura Shinkansen you can get there in just an hour and a half, meaning a quick day trip is more than possible for those on a tight timescale! As I said before, no Rugby World Cup 2019 trip would be complete without visiting this beautiful city.
Walk the neon streets of the Namba District
When people think of Osaka, it’s probably something like the Namba District that they picture; streets upon streets of neon advertising signs, futuristic entertainment areas alongside cramped, traditional izakaya (standing bars) that make for an awesome night out. For a massive foodie like me, one of my favourite things to do in Osaka is to spend some time exploring the Kuromon Ichiba Market, a huge indoor space with stalls that sell pretty much anything you could imagine, including some truly awesome Osaka street food! If you really want to find the best places to eat in Osaka, there’s nowhere like Dōtonbori, a super vibrant canal area that’s pretty much a paradise for any kind of Japanese street food, such as takoyaki or gyoza. However, don’t be afraid to try somewhere that doesn’t have a huge queue, the food is good everywhere so find your favourites.
Bathe in Arima Onsen
Pretty much everywhere in Japan has its own local hot springs, but nowhere is quite like the Arima Onsen, a complex that is not only one of the oldest in the country, but I’d say it’s one of the best looking too. It’s small compared to other onsen towns, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing because it means you can walk anywhere you want in no time at all. The water here is either a silver or brown colour due to different mineral deposits in the ground, which is said to very good for your skin, so it’s pretty good place to just relax and recuperate after the madness of the Osaka Rugby World Cup. It’s located just a short distance outside of Osaka on Mount Rokko (which if you have the time is an awesome place to do some hiking!), so can be reached easily for a day trip via bus or train.
Visit Sumiyoshi-Taisha Shrine
Japan’s got loads of shrines, that’s for sure, it’s a very important part of the culture and religion here. The Sumiyoshi-Taisha Shrine which is one of Japan's oldest Shrines dating all the way back to the third century. There’s definitely not many prettier Osaka attractions, the vivid red paint of the woodwork and the traditional curved roofs are both beautiful, but it’s the incredibly graceful Sorihashi Bridge at the entrance that’s the star of the show. It’s easily reached by train by getting off at the Sumiyoshi-Taisha Station on the Nankai main line and the best thing of all? It’s completely free to enter. This needs to be part of your Rugby World Cup 2019 itinerary, it’s just an amazing, quiet place to come and appreciate the Buddhist philosophy, one of my favourite cultural things to do in Osaka, that’s for sure!
Get lost in Nakazakicho
Discovering this cool and quirky neighbourhood is quickly becoming one of the the most popular things to do in Osaka, it’s just fascinating to spend a day walking it’s narrow streets going from one cafe to the next. You can just feel the artistic vibe as you’re walking around, it’s a neighbourhood that’s full of artists and writers and it shows, the wacky bars have unusual decor and discovering each unique one is up there with the best things to do in Osaka at night. It’s not just cafes and bars though, you’ll find some of the coolest artisan shops selling all kinds of products here, some of which will be hidden just out of sight down an alleyway so make sure you explore as much as you can! It’s easy to reach as well, just catch a train to the Nakazakicho Station and walk north, but it’s still one of the quieter Osaka attractions so just don’t expect any signposts to guide you.
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