Due to its size and similar vibe, it is often referred to as “Little Tokyo”. It is however also said that people in Osaka are more open than and not as private as people in Tokyo (東京).
Osaka is famous for its cuisine. Dishes like Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) or Takoyaki (たこ焼き) enjoy a huge following here. You should definitely try to have either of those in this city.
The city also played a big role in Japan’s history, being one of their very first capitals back then. Furthermore, it is the location where famous shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi resided and had his castle built (Osaka Castle).
In the case of tourism, Osaka is easily the third most visited city after Tokyo and Kyoto.
Things to do and see in Osaka
There are many things to see and discover in this enormous city and I’ll try to give you the best overview possible:
Popular trips from Osaka
How to get to Osaka
Osaka is located in Western Japan about 30 minutes (by train) south of Kyoto.
Similarly to Kyoto, you will most likely arrive here either from Tokyo or from Kansai International Airport (KIX).
Let me give you a quick rundown on your options:
This is the quickest and most comfortable solutions but also the most expensive. A one-way ticket to Osaka usually costs around 13,500 Yen (108€/$123; exchange rate as of February 2019) on an unreserved seat. A reserved seat costs circa 14,200 Yen (114€/$129). As you can read in my post about Shinkansen, there are 3 main types of this train.
Depending on which you go with, it will take longer to reach Osaka. The time needed can be displayed as follows:
Nozomi (のぞみ) (~2.5 hours) < Hikari/Sakura (ひかり/さくら) (~3 hours) < Kodama (こだま) (~4 hours)
This route (or the one from Tokyo to Kyoto) is the most populated Shinkansen route in all of Japan and also commonly used by tourists in combination with a Japan Rail Pass.
Be aware however that you cannot ride the Nozomi train with a JR Pass, only the other two types.
Luggage can be stored in the free space at the end of a wagon (or at your seat, legroom is usually enough unless you’re a giant).
There are multiple bus companies that offer connections between Osaka and Tokyo. The most popular/used one is most likely Willer Express.
The cheapest fares start at around 3,500 Yen (28€/$32) but can go all the way up to over 10,000 Yen (80€/$91) for premium buses with more comfort and service.
A trip with a highway bus takes about 8 hours. For budget travelers, it can be clever to use an overnight bus to save one night of accommodation cost. An overnight bus usually leaves at around 22:00 – 23:00 the day before and arrives at 7:00 – 8:00 on the following day.
If you’re not fond of trains and buses, you can also fly into Osaka from Tokyo. Here, you have two different possibilities:
“Normal” Japanese airlines like All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) offer flights from Haneda Airport (羽田空港) at usually around 10,000 – 12,000 Yen (80€/$91-96€/$109). These flights mostly land at Osaka’s Itami Airport (伊丹空港) which is closer to the city than Kansai airport is.
Budget airlines like Jetstar and Peach offer cheaper prices at about 7,000 – 8,000 Yen (56€/$64-64€/$75). The downside here is that most of these airlines operate from the farther away Narita airport (成田空港) and land in Kansai airport, which is also farther off from Osaka.
In the end, the cost will probably be around the same. Because of this and the time and stress you save, I recommend going with the first option.
For access information from Kansai International airport I recommend checking out my article about said airport here.
Osaka is amongst Japan’s biggest metropolitan areas. It is certainly a must-visit for anyone coming to the Kansai region (which I highly recommend if you have the time).
The highlight of this region will always be Kyoto for me but I’m a little biased on that opinion. Go see for yourself and decide what you like best!
The many possible things to do and the sheer size of the city clearly remind of Tokyo, although I feel that Osaka’s vibe is a little less disclosed and a bit friendlier.
Osaka’s central location and many surrounding places to visit also gives the city huge home base potential. From here, you can do multiple awesome day trips.
That’s it for Osaka, I hope you enjoyed!
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Next up we are going to take a look at neighboring Nara (奈良) and see what you can find there!
See you next time!