Osaka, Japan is a port city that blends the old with the new. It boasts both Japan’s oldest state temple and the tallest skyscraper in Japan. There are many attractions in Osaka, including the only Universal Studios outside of the United States.
If you are looking for the best places to visit in Osaka, look no further. Here are the top 5 things to do and see in Osaka, Japan.
1Visit the symbol of Osaka
Osaka Castle is the most popular sightseeing attraction in Osaka for a reason. It played an important role in Japanese history as being the stronghold of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the great unifiers of Japan. The castle’s origin dates back to the 16th century and features an impressive eight-story donjon that rises 130 feet (39 meters) into the sky with bird’s-eye views of the city.
Although the original castle has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times, the current reincarnation, from 1931, is still commanding with its massive stone walls, black and gold-leaf trim and copper roof.
Inside the donjon is a museum on the history of the castle and its creator, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The castle is surrounded by a double moat, situated within a beautifully landscaped garden.
2Cruise down the Dotonbori-gawa Canal
Dotonbori (also spelled Dotombori) is Osaka’s liveliest entertainment district. The street runs parallel to the Dotonbori-gawa Canal in the downtown area of Namba, and is filled with bars and restaurants.
It’s no surprise that the area is considered the Times Square of Osaka. All along the canal and streets, the building facades are covered in brightly-lit billboards.
The best way to experience Dotonbori is by taking a ride down the canal on one of the many canal cruises. The Tombori River Cruise company offers an affordable twenty-minute cruise for 900 yen that passes all of the photo-worthy spots.
3See the city from 173-meters up
The Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory is an impressive structure boasting an equally impressive observatory. The two towers are connected on the 40th floor and feature a completely open rooftop observatory.
Black lights and multi-colored LED lights illuminate the circular observatory. At night, the entire city sparkles below, making a romantic backdrop.
Osaka bears the nickname, “the nation’s kitchen”, owing to its historic role as a distribution center for rice and produce. Today, Osaka is known for many local specialities, including takoyaki (a flour and egg batter mixed with octopus, grilled into a ball) and kushikatsu (battered and deep-fried food on skewers). It is most well-known for okonomiyaki, a pancake-like dish with cabbage and other toppings like octopus, squid or pork, topped with green onion and dried bonito flakes. In some restaurants, you can cook the pancake yourself on a hot plate at your table.
5Take a spin in the (former) world’s largest ferris wheel
At the cusp of Osaka Bay is the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel, formerly the world’s largest ferris wheel (since trumped by the London Eye). From the wheel you can see a panoramic view of Osaka and the surrounding sea and mountains. At the bottom of the wheel is the Osaka Aquarium, one of the largest in the world, as well as Legoland and Naniwa Food Theme Park. The 15-minute ride costs 800 yen.
If you have at least 8 hours in Osaka, it may be worth it to get the Osaka Amazing Pass. For 2300 yen, the pass includes travel on the subway and buses plus admission to over 30 attractions including the Osaka Castle, Tsutekan Tower, Osaka Zoo, canal and bay cruises, and many museums. Plus, often times you can skip the ticket queue and head directly into the attraction.
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