Written By Nguyen Manh Quoc Trung
Osaka is the second-largest metropolitan area in Japan after Tokyo, and is also one of the most visited cities not only in Japan, but also worldwide. However, it is possible to experience all the best of Osaka has to offer in just one day. Let’s find out!
Morning: Going shopping right in the heart of Osaka!
If you are starting from Okayama Station, the preferred (and arguably the cheapest) route to Osaka is to take the Ryobi night bus, which will take you to Osaka at around late morning. After a tiring bus trip, what is better than to just take a “chill break” and hang around some of Osaka’s most crowded and famous shopping malls, located right next to Osaka station?
Some famous names are Osaka Station City (which is basically the heart of Osaka station itself), LUCUA Osaka, HEP-FIVE Osaka and Grand Front Osaka. HEP-FIVE is highly recommended as aside from a fulfilling shopping experience, you can also get on the grand HEP-FIVE Ferris Wheel. At the height of 106m at its highest point, you can get a panorama view of the whole city, all the way to Mount Ikoma.
For lunch, drop by the Kuromon Ichiba Market, the famous seafood market which traced itself back to as early as the Meiji era. The market is marked for its wealth of street food and fish. Many restaurants can be found among its 150 shops, stands and venues, perfect for anyone who prefers a little bit of the sea in the middle of Osaka.
Afternoon: Exploring the historical and cultural sides of the city
Osaka is sometimes considered by both locals and tourists alike to be the perfect blend of modern and historical; that is, many historical attractions lie peacefully among the tall skyscrapers and glass buildings. The most famous and, of course, a must-visit destination, is none other than the famed Osaka Castle, used to be the seat of well-known feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi before being taken over by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The beautiful and unique architecture of the castle is sure to leave its tourists mesmerized, and the castle’s ground is a famous cherry blossom viewing place when spring hits. The castle itself is also a museum, exhibiting various items of cultural and historical importance of the Toyotomi and subsequence Tokugawa dynasty.
After a tour of the castle, another recommended cultural spot is Shitennoji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples and the first-ever to be built by the state. Kept in perfect condition ever since the year 593, when it was first established by Prince Shotoku, the temple is the perfect place for anyone who wants to feel the presence of Buddhism in a primary-Shinto country. Just a short walk away is Gokuraku-Jodo Garden, also a popular cherry blossom place, but even if you missed the cherry blossom season, the green and peaceful scenery of the garden should prove enough to charm any arrived tourists.
Evening: Night-life in Osaka is an experience unlike anywhere else.
After the tiring day-trip to all the Osaka landmarks, it is time to grab some dinner, and in nowhere else you could try signature Osaka dishes than Dotonbori, a food-court street located a couple meters away from Namba Station. The heart of Dotonbori is one of the most crowded places in the city, packed with restaurants and food courts lining up to form a whole street, each with their own specialties that sure to charm both visitors and natives alike. Some of the recommended delicacies are Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki and Kushikatsu, which is basically deep-fried meat and vegetables on a stick. Osaka was given the nickname of “Tenka no Daitokoro” (The country’s kitchen), way back in the Edo period, and it is only after visiting Dotonbori that you will actually know what it meant.
Having said as much, upon arrival in Dotonbori many will find out that it was not only famous for its food-court street, but also for the numerous illuminated signboards that stretched all through the length of Dotonbori River, giving the area a very distinct Neon vibe. Tune in for the famous Glico man sign and many others as you take a walk along the river bank, understanding why Osaka has another name of “the city that glitters”. Afterward, when dusk has settled and the city is plunged deep into the night, bar-hopping is another especially common activity around the area of Namba and America-mura that will surely leave an unforgettable experience.
Osaka in general has an easygoing vibe and a fantastic food culture that is a must-see if you want to start experiencing what Japan actually is like. A one-day trip in downtown Osaka will not only help you get to know one of the most beloved cities in the Land of the Rising Sun, but also give you a chance to experience Japanese culture unlike anywhere else. No matter where you are or where you come from, Osaka is always waiting!
The photos in this article are taken by and belong to Nguyen Manh Quoc Trung. The videos linked belong to respective owners.