One Day in Osaka: 10 Fun Things to Do on Your Trip

Osaka is one of Japan’s most vibrant cities that’s rich in culture, history, and attractions.

Whether you’re looking for food or things to check off the bucket list, Osaka has what you need.

From its famous landmarks to the bustling shopping districts, here are some of the best things to do on your day trip to Osaka.

1. Check Osaka Castle Off Your To-See List

Brought into existence by the Toyotomi family then occupied by the Tokugawa clan before its unfortunate demise in the 1660s, Osaka Castle has weathered turbulent history.

A significant heritage site, its pastel-green tiles and tiered façade has become a postcard icon.

Wander the castle grounds to see the defensive moats, secondary gates and citadels.

These protective measures are now hemmed with cherry blossoms, transforming into a soft spring scenery.

Universal Studios Osaka Japan
harry potter world at universal studios, osaka

2. Experience Some Thrill at Universal Studios Japan

You’ll want to apparate into Harry Potter world first thing! Grab your wand and a butterbeer before embarking on your Hogwarts ride.

Universal Studios Japan brings together the magical and local ever-changing anime exhibits to lure in a diverse crowd.

The glittering universe within Space Mountain and wild water adventures are one of many attractions to keep you occupied as the staff prepares a firework-popping parade to end the day.

3. Revamp Your Wardrobe (& Home)

The only thing more famous than Japanese fashion is their upgraded home everything – this is your chance to revamp both wardrobe and house.

Start with the miles-long Shinsaibashi for indie boutiques and hole-in-the-wall accessory shops; hit up high-end Daimaru department stores along the way.

More street shopping is available at Tenjinbashisuji, Japan’s longest shopping arcade catering to every single demographic.

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Shopping mall studded Umeda is another shopping haven, from sky-bracketing empires to street-level shops.

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4. Conquer the Food Scene

Osaka is the land of foodies, whipping up Japanese bites with a twist.

Local favorites include okonomiyaki (delicious, layered ‘pancakes’) and takoyaki (grilled octopus balls), not to mention the usual slurp-worthy fare.

Hunt down the best eats at:

  • Dotonbori – food, food, food galore. Eat your way through street food stalls and standing ramen restaurants, maybe sign up for a Dotonbori Walking Food Tour while you’re at it.
  • Kuromon Market – best place to taste test. Think 150 vendors, centuries of history, specialty stores passed down between generations. Seafood and juicy skewers are two of many.
  • Yamazaki Distillery – producer of an overnight sensation: the Yamazaki single malt whiskey. Not exactly food, but it delights the taste buds.

5. Catch a Cultural Performance

Many overlook Japan’s performance arts because of the language barrier – don’t.

Pencil in a stop at Yamamoto Noh Theater for one of the country’s oldest performance art; read the English menu for its backstory.

The characterful stage set, music and dance make up a riveting tradition.

Instant Ramen Museum Osaka Japan
photo by instant ramen museum

6. Collect a List of Fascinating Museums

Instead of the usual museum shtick, look toward the quirky and inventive!

Learn about the cultural and practical – like making your own instant noodles.

  • Instant Ramen Museum – to celebrate everything about this budget staple.
    Osaka Museum of Housing and Living – see how the streets of Osaka have changed over the years.
  • Japan Folk Crafts Museum – exactly what it sounds like.
  • Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum – a cool traditional woodprint art gallery and museum in one.
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7. Pay Your Respects at Temples and Shrines

There’s a temple or shrine for seemingly everything…and they’re everywhere too!

While you might wander down an innocuous alley to find a vermillion torii gate, deliberate visits to these places of worship are a must:

  • Sumiyoshi Taisha – 3rd-century shrine that is purely Japanese. Pray for safe travels with the customary claps and bows.
  • Katsuoji Temple – invoke luck and victory in the face of excessive daruma dolls (they are luck’s mascot).
  • Shitennoji Temple – 6th-century temple loaded with statues, signature pagodas, period items and beautifully arranged Gokuraku-jodo Garden.
  • Namba Yasaka Shrine – step into the mythical lion head in which the shrine sits.
  • Senkouji Temple – bringing the afterlife and underworld to the mortal plane, this unusual temple will nudge you towards doing ‘good’.
Expo Commemoration Park Osaka Japan
Expo Commemoration Park, osaka

8. Roll Around Some Parks

Sometimes you just have to sit back and relax, or stroll through colorful blooms. Osaka definitely embraces nature.

  • Nakanoshima Park – a floating park with pretty rose bushes and romantic lights at night.
  • Hanahaku Memorial Park Green Land – scented with boundless patches of flowers, it was once the stage of the 1990 Flower Exposition.
  • Expo Commemoration Park – the grounds of the 1970 Japan World Exposition, it has become a recreational space lined with cherry blossoms and pleasant plazas. Also home to the National Museum of Ethnology and Japan Folk Crafts Museum.
  • Hoshida Park – a sprawling park that is more forest than manicured lawn. Hoshi no Buranko suspension bridge tops the trees to show off a panorama of red maples.

9. Meander Down Osaka River

Board an Osaka river cruise to see the city without taxing those feet.

It’s a nighttime endeavor, presenting the city in its illuminated glory.

Enjoy the light snacks and drinks as the cruiser rounds the bay and inner channels to pass by important landmarks.

Nara Japan Night Skyline
Night Skyline, Nara

10. Take Day Trips

Osaka is arguably one of the best bases for day trips.

Thanks to the nifty train network, characterful cities and towns are as close as 30 minutes away.

Schedule a day out to one of these destinations:

  • Kyoto – for the wooden pavilions, vermillion temples and historical estates.
  • Kobe – for the sloping streets and beef-mountain bowls.
  • Nara – for historic Todaiji Temple and the world’s largest Buddha statue. And many deer.
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