On April 12th my boyfriend and I set off from Melbourne to begin our much-anticipated trip to Japan. I had been dreaming of visiting Japan for so many years and Osaka was definitely at the top of my list. We arrived in Japan in mid-April believing that we would be missing out on the iconic cherry blossoms but to our pleasant surprise, we caught the tail end when we arrived in Osaka!
It was a truly magical place, and it even exceeded my expectations of a being a fun tourist destination. It surprises me that other travel blogs only recommend one or two days in Osaka (sometimes recommending to skip it all together!). Osaka was the perfect first city in Japan to begin our trip because there are smaller crowds to navigate and an easy to use public transport system.
I recommend starting in Osaka to ease yourself into the Japan experience. If you are travelling during spring you can travel from South to North and catch the cherry blossoms.
Here are my top 10 reasons why I LOVE OSAKA
1. Cherry Blossoms at Osaka Castle
We were extremely lucky to catch the cherry blossoms out in full bloom at Osaka Castle Park (April 12th – 14th). The weather was quite warm and everyone was out enjoying the flowers. We walked through long avenues of beautiful cherry trees that filled the air with blossoms and enjoyed the endless photo opportunities the park provided. You could spend a good hour just taking photos! I was delighted when I saw food stands selling springtime festival food; Dango and daifuku! It was a special moment trying these desserts under the cherry blossoms.
Tip: Osaka Castle Park has a nighttime light festival which runs from the end of March to April 15th.
Approx time required: 1 – 2 hours
2. Samurai at Osaka Castle
We loved visiting Osaka Castle as there was a great mixture of history and fun. Trip Advisor recommended a cheesy photo set up where you could dress as a samurai in front of the castle. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy but I absolutely love it! The photographers will take a photo with their camera and then a free photo with your camera. We chose to buy the photo with the cheesy border as a keepsake (around 2000 yen).
Go inside the castle to see the wonderfully restored museum that explains the history and significance of the castle. They had a lot of antiques and artefacts from the Edo period such as armour and kimonos. Go all the way to the top to get a stunning view of Osaka Castle Park.
Tip: There is a long line to get a ticket into the castle and then get inside. Purchase the Amazing Osaka pass and you won’t need to line up and buy a ticket. To get inside the Castle there is a long queue to take the elevator to the top of the Castle or walk up each level to view the museum.
Approx time required: 2 hours
3. Dotonbori: Japan’s Kitchen
If you are foodie like me, then your trip will be planned around where you want to eat. How much food is physically possible for one human to eat? Dotonbori is a haven for food lovers! Dotonbori is a long street situated in Central Osaka and is lined with restaurant after restaurant. Do you want Ramen? They have it. You want a crab leg as long as your arm? They have it. Do you want about hundred different Takoyaki? Done.
I recommend coming on an empty stomach and buying one small snack from each restaurant. Try to come here multiple times to eat a bit of everything because you definitely won’t be able to do it one day. Gyoza was our absolute favourite and we couldn’t get enough! Even at 1 am after finishing a Pub Crawl we were delighted to find Gyozas sizzling hot – the Japanese equivalent of the late-night kebab.
4. VISIT one of the largest Aquarium’s in the world
Kaiyukan Aquarium features one of the world’s largest tanks which is home to whale sharks, manta rays and dolphins. Experience the splendour of huge whale sharks gliding past. I had a desire to visit the Aquarium as one of my favourite anime, Princess Jellyfish, involves discovering the magnificence of these huge tanks. There were so many exhibits to marvel at, my favourites being the seals and the jellyfish. One exhibit allows you to touch small manta rays (Finding Dory anyone?) which was fun and immersive. If you want a relaxing morning watching animals then this is the place for you.
Tip: The Osaka Kaiyu ticket includes entry and all day travel for 2250 yen. The Aquarium entry on its own 2300 yen so it’s definitely worthwhile.
Approx time: 1 – 2 hours. We spent three hours here because my partner was snap happy. Damn dolphin selfies!
5. Armoured Titans and Fighting with Evas FOR ‘Cool Japan’! – Universal Studios
Jayden and I were so pumped for Universal Studios because they were having limited edition rides for their ‘Cool Japan‘ theme. Cool Japan featured many new rides and photo opportunities with popular anime such as Attack on Titan, Evangelion, Monster Hunter, and Conan the Detective. We purchased the XR 7 Ride fast pass through JBT Travel which was around $250AUD. If you don’t want to miss out on any rides then the price is worth it.
The day was so much fun as we got to experience every single ride, our favourites being Evangelion and Spiderman. The Evangelion ride is a Virtual Reality roller coaster that made you feel as if you were in another world. I would come all the way back to Japan just to go to Universal again.
Tip: Arrive 30 minutes before opening as you will get free rein on a lot of rides. From opening to 10 am we managed to go on half of the rides at the park, so skipping on a fast pass can be an option.
Approx time: A whole day. We were there from 8:30 am to 10 pm.
6. The best cheesecake in the entire world!
Uncle Rikuro’s Cheesecake is hands down the most damn delicious cake I’ve ever had in my life! You may think what’s so good about this cheesecake? And I will tell you! It was like eating a light and fluffy cloud. The texture and taste were unparalleled to anything I’ve had in Australia. You can watch many videos on Youtube of this fluffy cheesecake wobble. After watching quite a few, Uncle Rikuro’s was on the top of my list. You can buy mini or regular sized cheesecakes, I opted for the regular and ate a piece every day. I honestly wish I could have brought this back home 🙁
7. A breathtaking night-time cityscape AT Umeda sky building
After visiting Osaka Castle we made our way over to the Umeda Sky Building which is famous for their Floating Garden Observatory. It’s a 360 degree view of Osaka with awesome escalators that take you to the top. We arrived just at sunset and enjoyed the breathtaking view from all directions.
Pitch up a spot and capture a beautiful sunset timelapse of the light-filled cityscape. It was nice to end our evening, snuggling up and watching the stars fill the night sky. Skip the queue and get free entry with the Amazing Osaka Tourist Pass.
Tip: Arrive around 5pm – 5:30pm (or just before sunset). There was virtually no queue for the elevator around this time and plenty of space to take photos at the top. As soon as it became nighttime there was a 30 min queue to use the elevator!
Approx time: 1 hour
8. Party hard and make new friends on OSAKA Pub Crawl
Osaka Pub Crawl was one of the most fun nights we had whilst travelling in Japan. Jayden and I were staying in an Airbnb which limited our chances of meeting other travellers. Going on a pub crawl was the perfect opportunity to meet new people. For around 2000 yen the pub crawl will take you to three different bars and one club with drinks. The Pub Crawl had a great mixture of both international tourists and Osaka locals coming along for the ride.
We met so many people from the USA, Canada, Sweden, France etc. There was a great social and unique vibe at each of the bars. Many of the people we met that night we caught up with later on our trip. It’s a great opportunity to make some lifelong friends.
Tip: If you pre-book your ticket online you will get a 20% discount.
Approx time: 7pm – 1am
9. Try Okonomiyaki aka Japanese Pancake
Okonomiyaki originated in Osaka and what better place than to try it at the sauce 😉 (get it? get it?)
It’s a savoury pancake consisting of slices of pork, cabbage, shrimp, spring onions and loaded with a thick tangy sauce. There are many Okonomiyaki restaurants in Osaka making it hard to choose just one! We went to a Teppanyaki restaurant across from Umeda Sky Building, where they will make it in front of you. The pancake is very large, I would recommend sharing one and getting a side of vegetables.
Tip: There is an underground restaurant street called Takimi Koji which is where we tried Okonomiyaki. The underground street is designed to look like an Osaka village in the 1920’s complete with old advertising posters and bikes.
10. Anime shopping in Den Den Town
If you are a dedicated anime fan then you will get your fair share of anime delights. I have to admit I went absolutely crazy in Den Den Town. There was shop after shop stocked full of anime figures and merchandise. We spent so many hours strolling through and picking out our favourite goods. Most importantly there were a lot of second-hand anime figure stores where you can get the best bargains. Some figures that normally retail around $100 – $150AUD, I got for $25 – $40AUD because they had a small scratch or the box was dented. If you are coming to Japan to buy figures I would recommend coming here. Vintage video game fans will find there are many shops filled with perfect condition games and consoles. Read more about my Ultimate Guide to Anime Shopping in Den Den Town.