Osaka is Japan’s gastronomical giant, and the third-largest city in the country. An economic powerhouse, it is also a transportation hub. There is a saying in Japan that pretty much summarizes it all – “Dress till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka.” Food is a passion here, and it shows. Besides its many culinary delights, this city has much to offer the curious traveler in terms of its unique culture and heritage. Here we introduce some of the top things to do in this dynamic city.
Visit the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
This sprawling aquarium is one of the largest public aquariums in the world and should not be missed. A beautifully presented walk-through display of marine life, the creatures and plants are taken from the Pacific Rim volcanic belt, Ring of Fire, and made to showcase the breadth and richness of the Pacific Ocean environment. There are sixteen stunning exhibits, including the introductory Aqua Gate, showcasing schools of fish; Antarctica, featuring the king penguin; and the Great Barrier Reef, a faithful reproduction of the world’s biggest coral reef located along the eastern coast of Australia. If not for its educational benefits, this site is a must-visit for purely being a visual spectacle.
Spend a day in Universal Studios Japan
Family-friendly and definitely entertaining, Universal Studios Japan is another top attraction for most tourists visiting Osaka. Visitors will be treated to a wide array of theme rides and shows derived from famous Universal Studios movies, such as Jurassic Park, Jaws, Spider-Man, Shrek, and Back to the Future. Besides the exhilarating rides, it also features several creatively themed restaurants and street performances. This wonderland is built to appeal to children and adults alike, and visitors going there during special periods like Christmas, Halloween, or New Year’s Eve, will get special programs lined up for an extra festive spirit.
Tuck into some great okonomiyaki
Translating to “grill what you like”, this dish is Osaka’s signature culinary creation. A savory pancake consisting of different varieties of flavors, the batter consists of flour, eggs, and other ingredients like meat, seafood, vegetables, or cheese. These are fried on both sides either on a teppan or a pan, and topped with a thick, sweet sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, fried seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes. Some popular okonomiyaki places include Mangetsu Nishi Nakajima Okonomiyaki. For travelers who want to try their hands at cooking the beloved Japanese pancake, Chibō is the place to go.
Visit Japan’s Oldest Temple – Shitennoji
This temple was built by a prince between the 5th to 6th centuries. It is an important complex as it symbolizes the victory of Buddhism in Japan. Beloved by the locals as the Buddhist altar of Osaka, many important events are held here, including the Shitennoji Wasso, which celebrates the cultural interactions and connections between ancient Japan and East Asia. The temple is located within the proximity of Osaka Bay, which played a vital role in trade. It was a strategic location that displayed Japan’s power and prosperity to the world. Travelers can visit this temple to learn more about the Buddhism roots in Japan.
Have a picnic at Osaka Castle Park
The second largest park in Osaka, spreading over a hundred hectares of land, consists of around 600 cherry trees and nearly a hundred different types of Japanese apricot flowers. Its chameleon-like seasonal changes have attracted scores of tourists from all over the world to take in its beautiful landscape, from the burnt orange brilliance of autumn to the pink sweetness of spring. This historical site contains the Osaka Castle Hall, a venue for open-air concerts and sports events; and the Osaka Castle, a sturdy castle with an impressive moat and massive stone walls as its prime highlights. Travelers can lay out their mats and join the locals in enjoying a picnic in the lush park, or take a stroll and appreciate the fine plum garden or peach garden.
Spoil yourself at the Dotonbori
Osaka’s liveliest nightlife entertainment arena, the Dotonbori is every foodie’s heaven – a single strip of restaurants and theatres that illuminates itself in a dazzling array of neon signs which fight for attention. Previously known for its historic theatres, it is now the heart of food travel in Osaka. Some famous restaurants include Kinryu Ramen restaurant and Hariju restaurant, which only uses Japanese beef in its preparation. Travelers can also entertain themselves by going to the Bunraku (traditional puppet shows) in the theatres or visiting one of the storytellers’ halls. They can also proceed to the Ebisu-bashi bridge to take in the glitzy, dazzling nightscape.