The Japanese port city of Osaka, on the island of Honshu, is often compared to its big brother, Tokyo – but it is a thriving metropolis in its own right. Where to start? We curate must-visit attractions to add to your itinerary. Osaka is famous for its food – the Japanese call it “the country’s kitchen”, neon-lit nightlife, Nipponbashi, and traditional temples, plus the tallest building in the city. water, Abeno Harukas. There’s even a castle. This is our list of the best tourist attractions in Osaka, Japan for your better trip.
The Best Tourist Attractions in Osaka, Japan
This green park is located below Abeno Harukas, a skyscraper 300m (984ft) above Abenobashi Osaka Station, the tallest in Japan. Inside, there’s a host of family-friendly attractions, including the Tennoji Zoo, home to 1,000 animals of 200 different species, such as lions, chimpanzees, and koalas, plus Traditional Keitakuen Garden and Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. In the area around Tenshiba you will find restaurants, markets, futsal courts and Kintetsu Friendly Hostel, which offers affordable accommodation for families and groups of up to 8 people.
The Shinsekai neighborhood, next to the downtown Minami district, was established in 1912 to represent Osaka’s modern identity and is modeled on Coney Island and Paris. Though famous for being somewhat similar, it’s also one of the city’s most colorful areas and has a distinctive culinary identity. If you’re feeling daring, dine at one of the fugu (blown fish) restaurants or dine casually at one of the kushi-katsu shops, which sell deep-fried meats, fish, and vegetables.
Osaka Castle (Ōsaka-jō) was completed in 1586 and took only three years to build. Ordered to be built by the famous Japanese warrior and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi, it was the largest castle in Japan at the time. Almost all of Hideyoshi’s military commanders were required to contribute stones for its construction, the largest being the Higo-ishi stone, near the south entrance. Nearly six meters tall and 14.5 meters long, it was contributed by the famous Shogun Kato Kiyomasa from Shodo Island.
After Hideyoshi’s defeat in 1615, the castle was destroyed, only rebuilt by the Tokugawa shoguns for prestige reasons. Again destroyed after the fall of the shogunate, the castle was rebuilt in 1931.
Shitennō-ji is Osaka’s most famous temple and can be traced back to AD 59. It is also Japan’s first Buddhist temple. Although rebuilt many times over the centuries (the most recent reconstruction took place in the 1960s), this lovely temple remains the oldest officially managed religious site.
Standout attractions include the site’s five-story pagoda, along with several other exquisitely decorated buildings. The best of these is the Golden Pavilion (Kondō) with its beautiful statues and paintings, the Lecture Hall (Kōdō), and a lovely covered corridor connecting the three gates of the site.
Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium
Looking a bit like it’s made from giant Lego blocks, the Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka is well worth a try. One of the world’s largest attractions, this walking aquarium takes visitors on a fascinating tour of several marine habitats. These include the Pacific and Antarctic Oceans, along with the Great Barrier Reef and Monterey Bay.
A variety of Japanese marine life is also featured, including freshwater species, as well as native reptiles and mammals. All told, the area has 27 tanks, the largest being 9 meters deep and capable of easily housing large marine life including manta rays and sharks.
Tempozan Ferris Wheel and Harbor Village
The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is one of the best tourist attractions in Osaka offering some of the best views over Osaka, especially the port area and Tempozan Harbor Village where it is located. This giant ferris wheel is one of the largest attractions in Asia, over 112 meters high and 100 meters in diameter.
Open since 1997, this popular attraction offers a thrilling 17-minute journey that is especially enjoyable at night when the wheels glow with different colors determined by the weather (the color of the wheels). orange for sunny weather, green for cloudy weather and blue for rainy weather). Thrillers can opt for one of the special “see-through” vehicles for an incredible panoramic view of Osaka Bay.
Afterwards, be sure to visit Harbor Village’s other attractions. The best of these are the Santa Maria Cruise Ship, Legoland Discovery Center, and Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium.