A 3 Day 2 Night Travel Itinerary Guide to Osaka, Japan: The Best Attractions and Places to Eat29 January, 2018
Japan’s second largest city is both similar and very different from Tokyo. The energy of Osaka is much busier, louder, and festive, with attractions including historic castles, shopping arcades, ocean and sky. No wonder so many adventurers find themselves lost in the labyrinth of Osaka’s streets. Here is a suggested 3 Day 2 Night itinerary guide to the best Osaka has to offer, including attractions and where to eat.
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DAY ONE: Discovering the Past
Your first stop of the day should be the castle grounds, because they tend to get crowded later in the day.
Osaka Castle Grounds
When you think about a castle from Japan, chances are that Osaka’s majestic castle is going to be the one that appears in your mind. Osakajo is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan and was first constructed in the late 1500s by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. During WWII, most of the castle had been lost during an air raid, but since 1995, it has been restored to its original beauty. Inside, you can even check out a history museum. The castle park also has one of the best landscaped gardens in Osaka and is perfect for a picnic.
Get Wiser at Museums
Much like Tokyo, Osaka is filled with educational and historical institutions that will delight and inspire a mind hungry for knowledge. Some of the best museums to check out include the following:
- Osaka Museum of History – Located near Osaka Castle, this museum reincarnates the city’s vibrant 1400-year long history. Each floor is dedicated to a specific era and is as entertaining as the last.
- Museum of Oriental Ceramics – For art lovers who want to see something other than paintings, this museum is located in Naka-no-Shima Park and is one of the most distinguished ceramic museums in the entire world. Worth a visit, especially if you are coming from Osaka Castle.
- The Museum of Housing and Living – A family-friendly museum that schools you on how 19th century Japanese lived in Osaka. It’s a one of a kind setup that will delight children of all ages (and even those who are young at heart).
- Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art – Over 8000 works of classical Japanese art and lacquered works from the 12th through 14th
Don’t forget to purchase your “Osaka Amazing Pass,” a ticket that gives you discounted access to some of the above listed museums, as well as the Osaka Museum of Natural History and Nagai Botanical Garden, and a number of observation decks, cruises, and tours throughout the city.
Most museums are located around the castle, so you can easily walk to each of them. The only exception is Osaka Museum of Fine Art, which is closest to Shitennoji (so save that for Day 3 or 4).
DAY TWO: Discovering Dotonbori and Japan’s Kitchen
Get up early and head towards the harbor, where you will find the famous aquarium and Universal Studios Japan.
Visit The Kaiyukan
Though you might think that Osaka’s aquarium, known as Kaiyukan, is just another run-of-the-mill attraction, you’re wrong. There is a reason the Kaiyukan is featured on “Best of Osaka” lists all across the world. Aside from having over 30,000 animals inhabiting 15 exhibits, you see everything the Pacific Rim has to offer. There are exotic species of fish and sharks, but the real star is the magnificent whale shark, Yuna.
Now that you have spent the whole day at Kaiyukan admiring fishes, nighttime has begun to settle in over the city, head back to the main streets for lights, sounds, and food!
Next stop: Dotonbori
No, Dotonbori is not a food. It’s a place where food reigns supreme. First, you are going to need to take a selfie on Dotonbori Bridge with the LED Glico Man in the background. From there, you can scour the alleyways of restaurants, izakaya bars, neon lights, and loud voices. Dotonbori is where you can find seafood, ramen, udon, okonomiyaki, and kushiyaki lined up from start to finish. Come hungry, leave happy.
Booze and Theatrics at Osaka’s Kabuki Theater
The arrangement of Osaka’s only Kabuki theater, Shochiku, says something about the way Osaka denizens live. Tachibana is the name of a beer brewery located on the 2nd basement floor of the theater and serves up the rare Dotonbori craft beer. Be sure to also pair that tap beer with the restaurant’s second most popular item, the tofu. Sure, it sounds weird, but mixing beer, tofu, and Kabuki makes the experience all the more memorable.
When you are done with the Kabuki Theater, you should continue on visiting the bars and even the Takoyaki Museum found along Dotonbori.
DAY THREE: Temples, Shopping, and Souvenirs
Now it is time for some cultural appreciation at Osaka’s famous temples and shrines. Because of the shopping that is sure to take place, it is best to start early. Head first for Tenjinbashi-suji (off Tenjinbashi-suji 6-chome station). Once you’ve seen the shops there and picked up some snacks, ride down to Namba for another shopping street, Shinsaibashi, and the renowned Hozenji Temple.
Walking the Longest Shopping Street, Tenjinbashi-suji
Originating from the time of the Meiji era (1868-1912), Tenjinbashi-suji is one of the first and longest shopping arcades in Osaka. Spanning 2.6 kilometers, the street is the length of three whole subway stations. And while it may not be as fancy as the department stores in Umeda or Namba, Tenjinbashi-suji has 600 small, independently-owned shops filled with Japanese delights, souvenirs, and rare finds.
Slip Back to the Past at Hozenji Temple
Right at the heart of Namba district, Hozenji Temple is a small, serene pocket where you can hide from the overwhelming hustle and bustle of Osaka. Be sure to snap a picture of the Buddha that is kept here. Throughout the years, with all the water thrown in the statute’s direction and prayers, it is now covered in thick moss.
Savor Old-Style Kansai Sukiyaki
As mentioned earlier, Osaka is considered the food capital of Japan. There are treats you can only find in the city. One of those fine establishments, called Kitamura, happens to be tucked away in the alleyways surrounding the Shinsaibashi shopping arcade. Kitamura has a 140-year long history of serving the best Kansai-style sukiyaki in Japan. Though the food isn’t cheap, it is the tastiest splurge yet.
Shitennoji – The First Buddhist Temple in Japan
(Depending on how long you have in Osaka, you can either cram Shitennoji and the nearby Tennoji Zoo into Day 3 or make it your stop for Day 4) Built in 593 AD, Shitennoji is the first state-supported Buddhist temple to be constructed in Japan. Over 1400 years, the grounds around the temple have changed very little, even as the background changed from countryside to skyscrapers. Head to Shitennoji on the 14th of any month throughout the year to experience on of the largest flea markets in Osaka. You will find reasonably priced, high quality items such as pottery, antiques, and kimono robes.
Extending Your Trip – Visit 3 Other Japanese Cities Within an Hour of Osaka
One reason people love Osaka is because it is located within reach of three other popular destinations in Japan: Kobe, Nara, and Kyoto. Each is under an hour away by train, making day trips to other locations extremely easy! Here are some must-see attractions in Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe to consider if you have time left in your schedule:
Take the special rapid train from Osaka to Kyoto station for as little as JPY560. Once you get to Kyoto, be sure to make your way for Arashiyama Bamboo Forest for a chance to bathe in nature. From there, you are going to want to get zen at the Tenryuji Japanese garden or Kiyomizu Temple. Both are iconic locations in Kyoto. For a chance to see real, working geisha, you are definitely going to want to take time to see Kiyomizu Temple and the surrounding town.
It takes about 50 minutes to reach Kobe’s Sannomiya station by train from Osaka station. The main highlights of Kobe would be the beaches and onsen. Refresh your mind and body at the famous Arima Onsen (about 30 minutes from the city center) then return to Kobe for fun and games at Kobe Harborland or stroll Nankinmachi, Kobe’s Chinatown. If you are looking for a tasty treat, Kobe is the best place to savor Kobe beef.
From Osaka station, ride the Kintetsu line Rapid Express. It takes only 45 minutes and costs very little. Immediately upon arrival, you are going to want to make you way to the park, where Nara’s famous rice cracker eating deer will greet you. Once you have petted enough deer, make your way to Todai-ji Temple, one of the most prestigious in Japan. From there, you can walk the mystic setting of Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
With so much to see and do around Osaka, making a decision about where to go can be an agonizing decision. Hopefully, this list about the best attractions and places to find food will have given you some ideas about how to fill up a day-to-day itinerary for your first adventure in Osaka.
Getting to Osaka from Singapore
Singapore Airlines and Scoot fly non-stop routes from Singapore to Osaka and the flight duration is about 6 hours+. If you don’t mind a flight with a transit, you can consider Jetstar (transit via Taipei) or Xiamen Airlines (transit via Xiamen). Depending on when you fly, the flight duration (including transit) can be as little as 8 hours+.
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