A Quick Stop In Osaka: What To See And Do 

Osaka’s nickname, tenka no daidokoro, or ”the nation’s kitchen” and its motto kuidaore, which means something akin to ”eat ‘till you drop”, are harbingers of the amazing array of food options here. On top of this, Osaka has miles of shopping arcades, malls, and streets, so you can literally, shop ’till you drop’ and ’eat ’till you drop’. In fact, it’s crazy how many shops and restaurants there are here. Yes, exploring the food and shopping options is a must-do here, but there’s also more to see on a short stop. This post covers what to see and do in when visiting Osaka.

Visiting Dontonbori tops the list of what to do when in Osaka

Quick Stop In Osaka: What To See & Do

Exploring The Dōtonbori (道頓堀) Entertainment District

Dōtonbori, designated as the entertainment district of Osaka by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century, once had many theaters and playhouses, and many restaurants to feed its entertainment enthusiasts.

Four centuries later, Dōtonbori is Osaka’s main artery, with a mind boggling array of food and shopping options, and the many, many pulsating signs promoting them. While there is still some entertainment here, most of Osaka’s theaters were destroyed in WWII, and Dōtonbori is now referred to as a foodie capital.

Dōtonbori‘s Vibrant Signboards

Brilliantly lit with hundreds of thousands of neon and LED signs, Dōtonbori palpitates with light and color at night. One of its most iconic signs is the Glico man crossing the finish line (right). You can’t miss it in the center of the city by Ebusi bridge. Representing Glico candy, this sign, although updated, has been here since 1935.

They say that if you don’t take a selfie with the Glico man, you haven’t really been to Osaka. Like this one on #glicoman.

Glico Man | Schellack

Eat ’Till You Drop In Dōtonbori

There are so many restaurants vying for your attention here, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Here’s a few must-try Osakian dishes.

Takoyaki

One of the top must-try foods here is takoyaki, a snack of battered octopus dumplings brushed with, what else, but takoyaki sauce (a sweet brown sauce) and drizzled with Japanese mayo.

First popularized in Osaka, takoyaki is so pervasive here, locals even have takoyaki parties. You’ll find it sold as street food and in restaurants, so you can’t miss it. There’s even a Takoyaki Museum! Although it’s called a museum, it has 5 restaurants that compete with their own versions of takoyaki, along with takoyaki history, games, and souvenirs.

Blowfish

Fugu, or blowfish, although very pricey, is also popular here. Served sashimi style, or cooked in soups, it’s only prepared by highly skilled chefs that know how to cut out its poisonous parts and turn it into a delicacy.

Known as the most poisonous fish in the sea, its toxin, called tetrodotoxin, is 100 times more deadly than than the venom of a black widow spider and more than a 1,000 times more deadly than cyanide. It’s so popular here, they say there are 80,000 fugu chefs in Osaka. This is not something you can order every day, so definitely a must-try.

Okonomiyaki

A savory pancake of eggs, flour, and cabbage, that can also have pork, shrimp, cheese, tomatoes, and all kids of add-ons. Many restaurants in Osaka serve it, but it’s most famous one is Mizuno, which is about a 15-minute walk from the Glico man sign.

Other top dishes include kushikatsu, or deep fried kabobs, yakiniku, a barbecued beef, and, of course, ramen, which also has it’s own museum, The Instant Ramen Museum (see details below).

Shop ’Till You Drop In Dōtonbori

You can’t visit Osaka without doing a little shopping, and the options here are seemingly endless. Although Dōtonbori offers plenty of shopping, another top shopping spot nearby is Shinsaibashi-Suji Street, a giant covered arcade with a mix of local goods and top brand names. Technically north of Dōtonbori, but very, very close.

There’s also America Mura, a hotspot for the hippest international brands, Tempozan Marketplace, up north on Osaka Bay, and many, many more.

What did I shop for here? I bought some premium Asian cosmetics and skincare products, at a price much lower than in the USA. There are many salespeople in each store, more than happy to help you find what you need. And Asian women are so particular about their skincare, you really must explore the offering here.

I also tried a few of the many different flavors of Kit Kat bars here. They say there’s over 300! I fell in love with matcha Kit Kats (and basically everything matcha).

Top Sites Outside of Dōtonbori

Hōzenji Temple (天龍山 法善寺)

Hozenji Yokocho alley, a small quiet alley tucked behind the chaos of the main streets, just south of Dōtonbori, has Hozenji Temple and Fudomyoo, one of the five guardians of Buddhism. Fudomyoo, the kami of fury, scares people into enlightenment.

See the pot of water and spoon by his feet? It’s thought he grants wishes when you splash him with water (which is why he’s so moss covered).

Wondering why he doesn’t look scary? He actually does deep down under that mass of green moss

Hōzenji temple is top on the list of what to do when in Osaka.
Fudomyoo

Shitennō-ji Temple (四天王寺)

Shitennō-ji Temple, or the temple of Four Heavenly Kings, claims to be Japan’s oldest Buddhist temple. Built in the 6th century by prince Shotoku, who played a leading role in introducing Buddhism here, it has been rebuilt many times.

How To Get To Shitennō-ji Temple: This temple is a 5-minute walk from Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station, or a 15-minute walk from Tennoji Station.

Tsuyoten Tenjinsha Shrine

This Shine is famous for its tragic love story history. Star-crossed lovers, geisha Ohatsu, and a merchant, Tokubei, committed suicide near here when their love was forbidden. Today, many lovers visit this site, looking for ways to strengthen their bond.

How To Get To Tsuyoten Tenjinsha: This Shrine is an 8-minute walk from the Umeda metro station, about a 25-minute ride in the metro. Although a bit far from Osaka, it’s close to Kaiyukan Aquarium, the National Museum of Art, Osaka, and the Instant Ramen Museum.

Kuromon Market (黒門市場)

This covered market has around 150 shops, stalls, and eateries, with many specializing in fresh seafood. Known as naniwa no daidokoro, or “Osaka’s Kitchen” Kuromon Market has been in business for almost 200 years. This is the perfect place to try Osakian specialties, with some shops preparing your food right in front of you.

Of course, you have to try Osaka’s takoyaki here. Some of the best in the city. And this is the place to try fugu, or blowfish, as it’ll be cheaper then in a Dontonbori restaurant. Don’t worry, the chefs here are just as highly skilled, so it’s (supposedly) safe to eat.

Sea Urchin (Uni), suhsi, and fresh oysters, will be also plentiful here. And usually very, very fresh. There’s also grilled scallops, fatty tuna (toro), barbequed freshwater eel (Unagi), and crab legs. As well as a lot of stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, and some non-food items as well.

How To Get To Kuromon Market: About a 10-minute walk southeast of the Glico man sign in Dōtonbori, or a 3-minute walk south from Nippombashi Subway Station.

Osaka Castle (大阪城)

Osaka Castle | Luka Paternal

Built in the 16th century, Oasaka Castle later fell into the hands of the Tokugawa clan, the last of Japan’s feudal-era shogunates. Reconstructed many times, the version standing today was completed in 1931.

It’s offers great views of Osaka and is extraordinarily beautiful in spring when the cherry trees are in blossom.

How To Get To Osaka Castle: The closest metro station is Tanimachiyonchome Station. The closest JR station is Osakajokoen Station. The best entry is at the park’s southwest corner, through Otemon Gate.

Kaiyukan Aquarium (海遊館)

Kaiyukan Aquarium was the largest in the world when it opened in 1990, and although that prestige now goes to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Guangdong, it’s listed in the top 10 of the best in the world. Its highlight is recreating different natural environments, like the Pacific Rim and Antarctica, to showcase the aquatic animals at their most vibrant.

How To Get To Kaiyukan Aquarium: Kaiyukan is a 5-minute walk from the Osakako metro station, which is about a 25-minute ride north of Dōtonbori.

Summer Festival, Tenjin Matsuri (天神祭)

Osaka’s most famous festival, Tenjin Matsuri, held on July 24 and 25, is quite the spectacle. It’s one of Japan’s top three festivals, along with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Kanda Matauri in Tokyo, celebrated with a boat procession, fireworks, and a parade.

The event starts at Tenmangu Shrine early the morning of the 24th.

Top Museums In Osaka

National Museum of Art, Osaka (国立国際美術館)

This underground museum, known by the acronym NMOA, is located on Nakanoshima island, north of Dōtonbori. It focuses on Japanese and international contemporary art. The closest metro station is Higobashi Station, which is about a 15-minute ride north of Dōtonbori.

Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art (大阪市立美術館)

The Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art focuses on Japanese and East Asian art. Located south of Dōtonbori, near Tennōji Park, the closest metro station is Dobutsuen-Mae Station, which is about a 20-minute walk.

Instant Ramen Museum (カップヌードルミュージアム 大阪池田)

This quirky museum stands where instant ramen noodles were born. At the Cup Noodles Museum, you can create your own cup of Cup Noodles and taste special edition flavors designed for select countries.

The Cup Noodles museum is a bit far (it’s north of the Osaka airport), about an hour by metro and train, but if you’re an instant ramen enthusiast (like my niece), it’s worth it.

It’s a 5-minute walk from the Masumi-cho Homen exit at Ikeda Station. Note that you transfer in Umeda, which is where the Tsuyoten Tenjinsha Shrine is. If you’re into quirky stops, pair these two together!

Shopping, it’s what to do when in Osaka

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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