Osaka is Japan’s western city, famous for its comedians, street food, and Universal Studios. It’s a must-visit for people travelling between Tokyo and Hiroshima who want to see as many of Japan’s vibrant cities as possible. Though still a large city and one of the most famous in the country, Osaka is very different from Tokyo. Locals have a different dialect, eat different kinds of food, and pride themselves on being famously more open and friendly than their capital city counterparts. So what do locals like to get up to in the wild and friendly Osaka? Here are ten great things to do in this city that both visitors and locals love.
Eat local street food
Kyoto has nama-yatsuhashi and green tea, Tokyo has yakisoba fried noodles and Tokyo bananas. What does Osaka have? Some of the best street food in the country! During festivals or in places such as the Kuromon Ichiba Market or Honke Ootako you can stroll and munch on some local delicacies. The two most famous must-try local foods are takoyaki, fried balls containing octopus smothered in (optional) brown sauce and mayonnaise; and okonomiyaki, literally meaning ‘fry what you like,’ a savoury pancake containing everything from seafood to vegetables to pork that became popular long ago during a rice shortage. Osaka is a foodie’s paradise, so get munching!
See a comedy
Osaka is the hometown of many of Japan’s comedians. With their unique sense of humour and amusing dialect, they provide joy and laughter to fans from around the country. So why not see a comedy show while you’re in the city? Those fluent in Japanese can enjoy traditional Rakugo – one-man storytelling – at the Theatre Tenma Tenjin Hanjo Tei, a theatre that was sponsored by locals to maintain the local tradition of Rakugo. If you don’t speak Japanese, there are still plenty of opportunities to see English comedy. The ROR Comedy Club is an exclusively English stand-up comedy establishment where you can enjoy stand-up comedy in English from around the world. Spending your evening dining and laughing until your sides hurt is one of the most Osaka things you can do!
Enjoy a drink (or three)
The Japanese love to drink after a hard week of work. So where is there to drink in Osaka? The answer is a tonne of places! Osaka’s downtown districts such as Namba and Minami are the best places for all the action, but there are also plenty of local bars, some just tiny rooms, that are frequented by local people. A couple of my favourites are Osakaya in the Kita area and Uotami near Osaka Station.
Attend a local festival
Japan is a country of festivals! Some are traditional celebrations that go back centuries, and they’re taken very seriously by local people. July 24th and 25th of each year bring the Tenjin Festival, an enormous celebration that is said to be one of the top three festivals in the country! Other festivals include the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri the weekend before Respect For the Aged Day (in September) with acrobatics and music, and the Aizen Matsuri at the beginning of summer.
The Japanese love to sing karaoke as a pastime, whether it’s for an afternoon or at the end of a wild night out. Why not give it a try? Osaka is full of great karaoke places that have private rooms for you and your group and plenty of songs in English, Chinese, and Tagalog as well as Japanese. Good karaoke brands include Big Echo and Karaoke-Kan, both of which can be found around Osaka. If you’re feeling social and brave, there is also a number of bars with public karaoke. A great one is the Drunken Clam, an American-themed establishment which serves cocktails.
Karaoke is cheaper in the daytime on the weekdays. Weekend evenings are generally more expensive. Larger karaoke chains offer all you can drink set menus and food as well If you’re interested in visiting the Drunken Clam, it is open from 8:00pm to 5:00am and it can be reached from Shinsaibashi Station on the Midosuji line.
Have an animal-themed treat from Floresta
This cute café offers adorable animal-shaped donuts that are baked fresh and in store. Locals and visitors alike love this place for the fresh, unique treats and Instagram opportunities! Try a cat, bear, or seasonal themed donut in this cosy and informal café.
This café is open from 11:00am to 6:30pm. It is closed on Tuesdays. Floresta is a two-minute walk from Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station on the Tanimachi line.
Learn some local lingo
Osaka has its own unique dialect and locals love it when you not only make an effort with Japanese, but well-known Osaka phrases and slang! Kansai is the name of the region in which Osaka and Kyoto are licated, and ‘ben’ means dialect. So why not study up on some Kansai-ben to talk like a local?
Here are some Kansai-ben phrases to take with you to Osaka.
Honma ni? - Really? [Regular Japanese = hontou ni?]
Hona ikoka? – Shall we go? [Regular Japanese = jaa, ikou ka?]
Akan! – Oh my god! [Regular Japanese = yabai!]
Wakarahen – I don’t understand/I don’t know [Regular Japanese = wakarimasen]
Ookini – Thank you [Regular Japanese = arigatou]
Discover a hidden shrine
Like most places in Japan, Osaka is full of ancient temples and shrines, each with their own gods, meanings, and history. A shrine can be a refreshing place to escape the city crowds and relax your mind for a short while, while you take in some lovely scenery around you. Nambayasaka Shrine is unforgettable for the large demon’s mouth shaped as the entrance! It also has a unique lion-shaped stage, an impressive bit of architecture that makes for cool photographs. Namba might be known for shopping and clubbing, but Nambayasaka Shrine might just be its best kept secret.
You can reach Nambayasaka Shrine in eight minutes from Nankai Station. The shrine is open to visitors from 6:00am to 5:00pm and admission is free.
Go shopping down a dazzling street selling local goods
Tenjinbashi-suji in Osaka’s Kita district boasts two and a half kilometres of shops where the locals love to go for clothes, medicine, groceries, and everything in between. There are some unusual fashions in Osaka – keep an eye out for purple hair and leopardskin prints among the older generation! You’ll find some truly unique items such as local tea, knife shops, kimono goods, and more here at Tenjin-bashi. Just be sure to keep an eye on your spending budget!
Different shops on this street open at different times on this street, but it is thought that between 10:00am and 6:00pm is the best time to go, save Monday, where many stores close. You can reach the street by taking the Subway Saskaisuji line to Ogimachi Station.
Try your skills at Round 1 Stadium Arcade
Good for whether you’re travelling as a couple, solo, or as a family and perfect for rainy days, the Round 1 Stadium Arcade in Namba offers hours of entertainment. Whether you want to play basketball, go bull riding, play darts, go bowling, or even curl up with a manga comic, this arcade has it all. It’s a really impressive entertainment centre that will keep you busy for hours. Contrary to most arcades where you would pay a couple of hundred yen per game, you can pay for packages for unlimited play for a certain amount of time. You’ll get a wristband telling the staff how long you’ve been there.
The arcade is a few minutes’ walk from Namba Station on the Midosuji line and is open 24 hours a day. If you want to go bowling or karaoke, which is also available here, you have to book the rooms in advance.
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