Osaka is a large prefecture covering a huge area so to explore all its attractions in a short period of time might not be possible. The key attractions include Osaka Castle, Dotonburi shopping landmark, Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium and the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel. If you are interested in Japanese history, make sure you pay a visit to the Osaka Prefectural Museum of Yayoi Culture. For those who appreciate traditional arts, a Sumo wrestling match as well as Noh and Kabuki stage performances are a must.
All Attractions in Osaka
Osaka Castle, like many old Japanese castles and temples, has been damaged and rebuilt several times throughout its history and is actually one of only a dozen extant castles left in Japan nowadays. Osaka Castle was founded in 1583 on the grounds of an old temple complex by Hideyoshi Toyotomi and later was fall under the rule of Tokugawa Shogunate. The current castle was rebuilt only in 1931 after it was badly damaged during a war between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa families. Its top floor offers splendid views of the city. Parts of the Osaka Castle’s attractions are the original moats and massive defensive stone walls which surround the castle and the beautiful golden rooftop dolphins can be seen from a distance. Every spring, travelers from near and far visit this sight to admire the beautiful cherry blossoms as well as for the vividly coloured leaves in autumn. The castle’s museum located inside the main building has a massive collection of about 10,000 historical items such as swords, armour, portraits, lacquerware, multi-coloured woodblock prints and folding screens. The large museum is spread out from the second to the eighth floor. You might want to allow a bit of time to explore it all.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Location: Central Osaka about 15 min walk from Osakajo-koen Station
This famous landmark is the most well known commercial district in Osaka. It features countless shops, restaurants and entertainment centres. Many Japanese tourists go there at nighttime mainly for the food as well as having a look at the popular ‘Glico Man’ (Glico is one of the biggest Japanese snack companies) which is a large neon advertising sign in Dotonbori, as well as other interesting adverting signboards.
- Highlights: Dotonburi District
- Opening Hours: All year round
Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan is a fun place to be with your family, especially for the little ones. Meet all your favourite characters such as Woody Woodpecker, Snoopy, Shrek, Sesame Street characters and Popeye. Enjoy many exciting rides based on famous movies including Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Jaws and Spiderman and the latest of all ‘Space Fantasy, the Ride’ which was introduced to the park in March 2010.
You will never go hungry while at this theme park. Food selections range from Japanese to western and light meals as well as desserts and ice creams and alternatively you can use the picnic area outside the main gate as food and drink are not allowed inside the park. Credit cards are accepted only at certain of their facilities. Expect to queue about 20 minutes per attraction, longer for the more popular rides/attractions. See also Universal Studio in Florida.
- Opening Hours: Daily, but hours vary each day.
- Location: 2-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana-ku
The dome-roofed Imax Osaka is home to the largest Imax movie screen in the world and is located in the Suntory Museum (next to Kaiyukan). English-language translation headphones are available for no extra cost and if you plan on going to both Kaiyukan Aquarium and Imax you can purchase a discount ticket at either ticket office.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 20:00
- Location: 4-2-1, Nakanoshima, Kita-ku
- Tel: + 81 (0)6 444 5656
Kaiyukan Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world. Its theme is partly based on the new Gaia Hypothesis advocated by Dr. James Lovelock, focusing on the Ring of Fire (the Pan Pacific Volcanic Zone) and the Ring of Life (Pan Pacific Life Zone). The aquarium is located in Tempozan Harbor Village and is surrounded by many leisure activities including a giant Ferris wheel and the Market Place which is full of shops and restaurants.
Kaiyukan Aquarium features all kind of interesting marine creatures ranging from whale sharks to sea lions and penguins, jellyfish, sea otters, turtles, manta rays, Japanese giant spider crabs, harbour seals and the aquarium has a tropical reef exhibit. The aquarium tank is made from acrylic glass sheets, giving visitors the impression that they are also underwater, along with the creatures exhibited. English-speaking audio guides are available for rent. It’s best to avoid visiting on public holidays and weekends as the aquarium can be very crowded.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 20:00
- Location: Tempozan Harbor Village, Osaka
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
This giant Ferris wheel is run by the same company as Kaiyukan Aquarium and is located in the Tempozan Harbour Village. It was first opened to the public in 1997 and is 100 metres in diameter and 112.5 metres high and takes about 15 minutes to complete a full turn. Made up of 60 cabins, each has room for eight people and it is wheelchair friendly. Tempozan Ferris Wheel is a fun way to catch panoramic views of Osaka Bay and surrounding areas, such as the Ikoma Mountains to the east, Akashi Strait Pearl Bridge to the west, Kansai International Airport to the south, and Rokko Mountains to the north and you will hear commentary in both Japanese and English on the sights. On the wheel itself are coloured lights that announce the weather forecast for the next day.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 20:00
- Location: In Tempozan Harbour Village
- Tel: +81 (0)6 6576 6222
Osaka Prefectural Museum of Yayoi Culture
This interesting museum features Japanese culture of the Yayoi Period which started 2,300 years ago and lasted for approximately 600 years. The museum successfully recreates the general aspects of Yayoi culture by means of many media including a model of Himiko's Mansion (the first queen in Japan history), a model of Yayoi’s rice fields in autumn, earthenware, vessels and pottery.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 – 17:00, closed on Mondays
- Location: In Izumi City, Osaka
This temple was built in 1557 by Nagayoshi Miyoshi, the warlord who ruled Sakai at that time. The temple is well known as the place where Sen no Rikyu, the country’s top tea master, created and started the Tea Ceremony. Nanshuji was burned down and eventually rebuilt in 1617. Visitors will find a beautiful Zen garden, a teahouse and a pagoda in the temple grounds.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:00
- Location: In Osaka about 8 min walk from Goryomae Station (Hankai Line)
The oldest officially established temple in Japan, founded over 1,400 years ago, Shitennoji Temple is regarded as the spiritual heart of Osaka. It was constructed in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Japan. Throughout the ages its wooden buildings have been ravaged by war and by fire and every time they were destroyed locals would faithfully reconstruct them according to the original plans. Major draws are the Main Gate, the five-story Buddhist Pagoda, the Main Golden Hall, and the Lecture Hall – all on a north-south axis. Locals go to Shitennoji in great numbers to pay respect to Prince Shotoku, who remains a revered, popular figure even today. There's also a turtle sanctuary. But the best thing to do here is to stroll through the temple's Japanese landscape garden, first laid out during the Tokugawa regime as it is a peaceful haven with its manicured bushes, meandering streams, and waterfall.
- Opening Hours: 08:30 – 16:30
- Location: Shitennoji 1-11-18, Tennoji-ku
Floating Garden Observatory
This futuristic project hanging between the twin towers of the Umeda Building affords fantastic views out over the cityscape. At 170 metres high and on the 39th floor it’s quite an experience to be up there. Even going up towards the 360-degree view is an event in itself as the elevator and escalator are both see through. Not for those afraid of heights.
- Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 22:30
- Location: Umeda Sky Building, Kita-ku, near Osaka Station
Sakai Hamono Museum
A trip to Sakai Hamono Museum is like visiting a knife shop and a cutlery museum at the same time. It is a good place to learn more about the Japanese traditional knife-making industry as well as to shop for top-quality knives and more. It is said that the majority of kitchen knives in this country come from this area. Don’t miss a chance to learn why Sakai knives are so popular.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 closed on Tuesdays
- Location: In Sakai City (take the JR Hankai Line and get off at Myokokujimae Station. The museum is only about a three-minute walk.)
Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament
If you plan to be in Oaska in the last two weeks of March, try to catch the impressive Japanese sumo wrestling. It is a popular traditional sport and has been part of Japanese culture since ancient times. There are many fights in the course of one day and each fight lasts only a few seconds, or on rare occasions, for about a minute.
- Opening Hours: In March for 15 days each tournament
- Location: Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium near Namba
Noh and Kabuki Theater
Out-of-town visitors can witness the richness of Japanese traditions through artistic performances like Noh and Kabuki. Noh dates back more than 700 years and is probably the only traditional show that is still performed in its original style. Kabuki has colourful costumes, interesting dances and music and stories that deal with many subjects, including wars, loyalty and love affairs. The shows not only present stories dealing with war lords or samurais but cover a variety of characters and also focus on the lives of common people like farmers and merchants. While in Osaka, check out the Noh and Kabuki theatres as listed below.
- Location: In Kita-ku, Osaka City
- Tel: +81 (0)6 6373 1726
Ohtsuki Noh Theatre
- Location: Located near Osaka Castle
- Tel: +81 (0)6 6761 8055
Shochikuza Kabuki Theatre
- Location: Not far from Namba Subway Station
- Tel: +81 (0)6 6214 2211