Planning a vacation in Japan this year? Why not stop by at Osaka, a place where entertainment and business come together. We have compiled information on ten things to do in Osaka, a mix of tourist attractions and historical sights, certain to add a boost to your itinerary. Read on for our Osaka sightseeing guide:
The Shinsaibashi area is inserted in the south between Minami-Senba and Nagahori Street. In its center is Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street which lines up traditional shops, department stores and specialty brand outlets. This street has a long history going back to the middle of the 18th century. From the Meiji Era, establishments such as small stores dealing in imported goods and fancy stores started increasing. During the Taisho and Showa Eras, there was a shift to dry-goods shops and department stores, and the street became a lively one for young people to enjoy shopping. Recently, seasonal events have been held to raise the profile of Shinsaibashi and the good old area has regained its luster. Traditional shops with several hundred years of history co-exist with stores dealing in the latest fashions, and a new charm is being felt.
On the west side of Shinsaibashi subway station, there is America-mura which is an area that spreads from Nagahori Street to Dotombori. It is the most active launching point in Osaka Minami for trends. Centering on the shopping building Big Step, starting from casual fashion, there are plenty of unique shops specializing in items such as old & used records, percussion instruments, and miscellaneous goods. You can feel the youth culture of the Kansai region there. In addition, you can discover “Peace on Earth”, a mural painted in 1983 by artist Seitaro Kuroda who hails from Osaka Minami. There are other original pieces of art and buildings where you can sense the pop culture everywhere. The center of America-mura is Triangle Park (Mitsu Park). It’s alive with young people performing and holding flea markets in the hopes of becoming artists or musicians.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Shinsaibashi
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Shinsaibashi
- Tours of Shinsaibashi
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Kaiyukan is an 8-floor aquarium with a large-scale indoor water tank. The entire building expresses itself as a Pacific Rim zone of life, and approximately 30,000 examples of sea life from 620 varieties can be seen. The regular route will first take you through the 3rd-floor tunnel-like “Fish Passage – Aqua Gate” and then on the escalator up to the 8th floor’s “Nihon no Mori” (Japan Forest). From here, you can view 14 aquaria as you descend a spiral slope. You can see the fish and expressions of the sea up close through the 10 regions of the Pacific Rim. Of particular note is the 9m-deep and 34m-long giant tank which holds 5,400 tonnes of water and resembles the Pacific Ocean. You can view migratory fish such as the popular whale shark (Yuu-chan), sharks, rays and horse mackerel swimming about calmly. The “Aleutian Islands” where you can see sea otters and the “Floating Jellyfish” tank where only jellyfish are placed are also popular. There are other various idea aquaria to interest visitors. If you visit after 5 p.m., we also recommend catching a glimpse of the fish in night mode.
You can’t miss the “New Interactive Area” which opened in 2013. You can see the animals up close and it’s possible to touch them. It’s also fun to experience the environment where the animals live including the smells and the cold. 3 zones are constructed in the “New Interactive Area”. In the Arctic Zone, you can see the sight of roundish ringed seals swimming from below through the world’s largest dome-shaped ceiling tank. You can also sense the cold of the Arctic Zone on your skin. In the Falkland Islands Zone, you can view rockhopper penguins in the open-air tank up close. Then, in the Maldives Zone, you can directly touch sharks and rays. The “New Interactive Area”, which overturns the image of existing aquaria, is extremely popular with both adults and children alike. You will want to strike a rapport with the animals.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 2,300 / Child: ¥ 1,200
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Osaka Aquarium
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Osaka Aquarium
- Tours of Osaka Aquarium
Osaka Science Museum
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Enjoyably learn in an easily understandable way about the mechanisms of science through the displays and experiments. You can also enjoy a trip through the beautiful starry heavens at a world-class planetarium with a light and music show. There are 200 interactive displays and science demonstrations under the theme of Space and Energy, and the realistic planetarium with the world’s largest domed screen at 26.5m in diameter is popular. Enjoyed by people of all ages, a café and museum shop are also available.
Various scientific displays are introduced from the 4th to 1st floors. On the space-themed 4th floor, there are displays of models and images featuring the mysteries of the Earth and Sun, and scientific discoveries from ancient times to the modern era are featured through various experimental devices. The 3rd floor has the theme of familiar science, and there are exhibits and experiments on substances familiar to everyday life such as minerals, gems, crystals, plastics, textiles, medicines and smells. On the 2nd floor which is geared toward parents and children, visitors can play at an interactive experimental area which utilizes balls, mirrors, wind and sound. And on the “Electricity and Energy” 1st floor, visitors can enjoy experimenting with generating, sending and using electricity. Furthermore, at the daily science shows, various demonstrations are given by the curators which relate the fun of science to kids.
Admission: ¥ 400
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Osaka Science Museum
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Osaka Science Museum
- Tours of Osaka Science Museum
National Museum of Art
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A museum exhibiting contemporary art in Nakanoshima, Osaka. Utilizing the Expo Museum of Fine Arts at Expo'70, it had collected, preserved and exhibited works of art from Japan and abroad for 30 years, but taking advantage of its aging, the current museum was constructed in 2004. It is a new museum of art that goes completely underground for 3 floors, something that is unusual even in the world. The exterior of the building was designed by Argentina’s Cesar Pelli to express the vitality of bamboo and the development and growth of contemporary art. Along with Joan Miro’s “Innocent Laughter” and Alexander Calder’s “London” as permanent exhibits, there are exhibitions of other collections and special exhibitions of various contemporary art works. There is also a restaurant, a museum shop, a kids’ room and a media corner.
Nakanoshima is an area that centers upon a sandbank squeezed in by a river which is the hub of business and administration beginning with Osaka City Hall. Along with the contemporary museum of art, while touring nostalgic buildings such as the Museum of Oriental Ceramics,Osaka which is famous for its rare items of beauty such as celadon and white porcelain, theOsaka Science Museum where you can learn and enjoy about science, the brick Osaka Central Public Hall and the stone Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library, you can leisurely stroll along the riverside. Rides aboard the water bus Aqua-Liner which tours around Nakanoshima are also popular. Along the riverside, there are al fresco restaurants and cafes where you can spend a relaxing time. From June to September, there are street stalls on the open terrace, and there is a green market with local vegetables and fruits which first started in the Metropolitan Osaka area. In December and January, the area has a projection mapping show and is illuminated by LEDs, and a lot of people enjoy the presence of street stalls.
Admission: ¥ 430
- Guidebook from Planetyze about National Museum of Art
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about National Museum of Art
- Tours of National Museum of Art
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Shitenno-ji is Japan’s oldest temple which was established by Prince Shotoku in his bid to create a new nation centered on the Emperor. It was erected to provide salvation for the world.
This was Japan’s first genuine Buddhist temple, built in 593, by Prince Shotoku to honor four heavenly kings. The central gate, the five-storied pagoda, the Kon-do main hall and the Kodo lecture hall are arranged in a line facing from south to north, all surrounded by a corridor, a precious architectural form seen in China and the Korean peninsula from the 6th to 7th centuries as the prevalent style in Asia brought to these times. As the site to put the fundamental principles of Buddhism into practice, four institutions were established: the Kyoden-in to practice Buddhism, the Seiyaku-in to dispense medicine, the Ryobyo-in to treat the sick, and the Hiden-in to accommodate the elderly and those with no family, facilities that were similar to current social welfare institutions. Many of the buildings within the temple were burned down due to war and other disasters, and the current buildings were rebuilt in 1963. There are many highlights such as the Taishi-den where Prince Shotoku is enshrined, the Gokuraku-jodo-no-niwa Japanese garden, the five-storey pagoda which is open to the public and the Ishii-no-torii stone gate which is an unusual structure for a shrine. Shitenno-ji is within walking distance from Japan’s tallest skyscraper, Abeno Harukas. Being able to view both the ancient construction of the temple together with the modern architecture of Harukas makes it a popular sightseeing spot.
Admission: ¥ 300
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Shitenno-ji Temple
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Shitenno-ji Temple
- Tours of Shitenno-ji Temple
Kids Plaza Osaka
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Kids Plaza Osaka is the first museum in Japan for “hands-on” children. There are plenty of displays for them to learn while playing and workshops where they can try out various things. In addition, there is a nursing room and a milk bar within the facilities, and for some of the washrooms, there are diaper-changing spaces and baby showers. There are also free rental baby carriages so you can bring your baby securely and enjoy yourselves. There are no restaurant facilities within the museum but there is a rest area where you can eat any lunch you have brought and enjoy a full day.
The museum has the Welcome floor (1st), the Creativity floor (3rd), the Adventure floor (4th) and the Discovery floor (5th). With 15 spots, the entire family can enjoy trying out many things. The Creativity floor is full of programs to realize the fun of making things. Things such as the computer workshops where you can produce animation, etc. on personal computers are popular. And then, on the Adventure floor, kids can play while getting a close-up on real-life experiences. They can try out various jobs such as delivering mail as employees of the post office or punching a cash register. Also going from the 4th to 5th floors, you can check out the athletic Kids Town. The town of all curves was designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Climbing up the walls and going down the slide, you can play to your hearts’ content. On the Discovery floor, there are plenty of areas where kids can learn about nature, science, society and culture while having fun. There are many thrilling displays such as the Wai Wai studio where they can experience the world of broadcasting and video, and the Soap Bubble Supreme area. Please consult our homepage before coming out since the programs in every area will change depending on the day.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 1,200 / Child: ¥ 600
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Kids Plaza Osaka
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kids Plaza Osaka
- Tours of Kids Plaza Osaka
Osaka Museum of History
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A 5-minute walk from Osaka Castle, this is a historical museum where you can enjoyably learn about the history of Osaka. The interior of the museum, devised so that even children can enjoy themselves, has many exhibits which can actually be touched. You can learn about history while experiencing it through things such as trying on the robes of ancient courtiers, competing for points in a game of throwing fans during the Edo Era, trying the money-exchange business and wearing kimono. Also, you can tour in order the ancient lifestyle at Naniwa-no-Miya Palace, the history of Osaka Castle, the middle ages and modern times of Osaka which flourished with the merchant areas during the Edo Era, excavation sites which re-create the digs of Naniwa-no-Miya Palace in actual size, and modern and current Osaka which developed rapidly following the Meiji Restoration. You can get a clear view of Osaka Castle from the 10th floor which is also a popular spot for photographs.
The biggest highlight of the museum is Naniwa-no-Miya Palace which was the ancient capital inOsaka. Emperor Kotoku moved the capital to Naniwa in 645, and the palace was built in 652. The palace was first discovered in 1954 through an excavation survey, and it is on that site where the museum has been constructed. Remains of storehouses and walls along with water facilities which provided water to the court have been found. Most of the palace has been filled and preserved, but there is one part which has been left in its excavated state, and you can visit that part in the basement. In addition, on the 10th floor that houses the ancient exhibits, the interior of the palace has been restored to actual size and in the conditions of that time, and you can find out about the lifestyle back in those days through items such as the artifacts.
Admission: ¥ 600
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Osaka Museum of History
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Osaka Museum of History
- Tours of Osaka Museum of History
Although Osaka Castle has twice been destroyed by fire, Otemon and Sakuramon, which are Important Cultural Properties, still remain, as does the castle tower, which is a registered Tangible Cultural Property. The castle tower, which was rebuilt 266 years after being burned down, is a 55-meter high, five-story (outer), eight-floor (inner) building. This is one of the foremost of the many post-Showa era castle towers, and it boasts an elevator so that elderly people and disabled persons can enjoy it too. One of the features of Osaka Castle is the glittering golden ornamentation, including the golden carp on the roof. Osaka Castle is situated inside OsakaCastle Park. Osaka Castle Park is a huge site of roughly 106 square meters. In addition to OsakaCastle, this park abounds with nature, including Nishinomaru Garden, where there are approximately 300 cherry blossom trees, and the plum grove, which has approximately 1200 plum trees across 100 varieties. Concerts also take place at Osaka Castle Hall, and it is the ideal tourist location for slow walks.
The museum in Osaka Castle Tower is where you can learn about the history of Osaka Castle. On the first floor, you can study the life of Toyotomi Hidetoshi and learn about the history of OsakaCastle in the theater room. On the second floor, you will be introduced to general information about the castle by means of panel displays and replicas of the carp and the tiger and other decorations. On the third and fourth floors, items and documents related to Toyotomi Hidetoshi are on display. On floor five, there is a display that includes a folding panel about the siege ofOsaka and the situation at the time, which served as a model for the current Osaka Castle, all of which is available in English. On the seventh floor, there are miniature models that tell the story of Toyotomi Hidetoshi’s life, while the top floor is a viewing area that takes in all of Osaka. After taking in the history from the first to seventh floors, and deepening your understanding of the history of Osaka Castle and the man known as Toyotomi Hidetoshi, the streets of Osaka as viewed from the viewing area will depict a different scene.
Admission: ¥ 600
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Osaka Castle
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Osaka Castle
- Tours of Osaka Castle
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Sumiyoshi-taisha is the main shrine for the nation’s 2300 Sumiyoshi shrines, boasting a history of 1800 years. The honden main hall is separated into four structures with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd main shrines built in a row, and the 4th built across from the 3rd, a highly unusual configuration. Called the sumiyoshi-zukuri style, the shrine’s buildings have been declared a National Treasure, and the special form is the oldest of its type in the history of shrine architecture. The Kakutorii stone gate has the feature of being a Sumiyoshi Torii with its square pillars. The Taiko-bashi Bridge has a grand arch and its purpose is to cleanse people of their sins before they approach the gods. It is reminiscent of a rainbow as a bridge connecting the lands of Man and Gods. The Important Cultural Property of Ishibutai (stone stage) is one of the three great stages of Japan, and every May, there is a performance of court dance and music held there. There is the Onda rice paddy which measures 2000 square meters where actual rice is cultivated without any pesticides in the hopes for a huge harvest. Aside from the honden on the grounds, there are many auxiliary and subordinate shrines that are related to Sumiyoshi-taisha.
The Goshogozen is a sacred area in the shrine. When Empress Jingu had searched for land to worship the great gods of Sumiyoshi, it is said that three white egrets landed in a cedar tree and it is this place where she worshipped them. There are small stones in the stone wall there which have the kanji characters for “five”, “big” and “power” written individually on them, and when they are collected and protected, the person will be endowed with strength, knowledge, wealth, fortune and long life and will have any prayers answered. At the conferment place in the honden, exclusive cases are sold
The Hattatsu Mairi, known as an original belief, is performed for prosperity in business and safety for the family. On the first Day of the Dragon every month, there is a customary pilgrimage to each of four subordinate shrines, and at the end of every 4 years, if the pilgrimage has been performed 48 times, prayers will be answered. At one subordinate shrine, Nankun-sha, the ornaments of shofuku neko (good luck cats) are popular as they raise their right paws on even-numbered months for wealth and their left paws on odd-numbered months to invite customers.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine
- Tours of Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine
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Osaka Tenman-gu is where Michizane Sugawara is enshrined. For the city of water, Osaka has the funatogyo (sea procession) and a fireworks competition at the 1000-year-old Tenjin Matsurifestival which are reminders of the Osaka summer.
Losing a bid for power at the Imperial court, scholar and politician Michizane Sugawara found himself demoted to the Dazaifu region but on his way there, he went to pray at Daishogun Shrine in what is currently the grounds for Tenman-gu. Following Michizane’s death in 949, Emperor Murakami heard rumors of a shining pine tree planted at that location and had Michizane enshrined at Daishogun which began Tenman-gu. At the time, with a trend of lightning strikes and epidemics occurring, it was thought that the ghost of Michizane was out for revenge, so in order to appease his spirit, he was deified as Tenjin-sama, the god of scholarship. Having been burned down 7 times in the past, the current honden main hall was reconstructed in 1843. The pelorus of the Chinese zodiac on the ceiling of the Daimon gate has the “tori” (bird) part not represented by a chicken as would usually be the case but by a phoenix. After a legend about Michizane being driven out by a chicken’s crowing came to light, the chicken was rejected from the pelorus. As the patron god protecting the Tenma area and as the god of learning and performing arts, the shrine has become a focal point for the local residents and the merchants of Osaka.
In 951, a kamihoko (sacred spear) washed up on the beach in front of the shrine, and later during a festival to hold a ritual at the funeral hall on that beach, there was a sea procession of boats (funatogyo) to see off the divine spirits which became the roots for the Tenjin Matsuri, and since then the 1000-year-old festival has become one of the three great festivals in Japan. Following the latter half of the 17th century, it has greatly flourished as a symbol of Naniwa prosperity. July 24th is the eve of the festival and on the 25th, the festival itself and the funatogyo are held. In the funatogyo, 100 boats traverse the Okawa River in a water parade. 5000 fireworks soar into the sky at the fireworks show during the festival which has also been called a festival of fire and water. Along the banks of the river, there are street stalls lined up and every year, the area is enlivened with many spectators.