Osaka Travel Blog – How to and How not explore Osaka, Japan.

Osaka travel blog cover image showing traditionally built osaka-jo with autumn leaves in the surrounding

Should I really Travel to Osaka? This was the fundamental question for a history buff like me. On paper, it looked like the child of Tokyo – a City of Skyscrapers and a highly developed metropolitan city. The typical me wanted to visit a historical place or a small town.

Somehow my beloved Ashrith convinced me to go to Osaka. He ignited the spark after talking about Jiggly cake. The foodie in me said it is worth travelling to Osaka for the social media-famous jiggly cake. And the man wanted to be a child in Universal Studio. So after much of this and that, we agreed to make a day trip to Osaka.

And I regret it!

Our Osaka Travel Blog shows why how not to make your Travel Plans and how beautiful Osaka is.

Osaka Travel Blog pinterest pin with picture of Dotonbori restaurant with a gian mechanical octopus on the signoard


Why should you travel to Osaka?

view of towering Osaka castle with a glass skyscraper behind it

Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and is well known for its nightlife and business districts. Well, this sounds exactly like Tokyo. I also thought the same. But Osaka’s vibe is different.

What is so great about Osaka?

group of skyscrapers lined with autumn foliage trees in the city of Osaka

It is a giant town that gives you a small-town vibe. There is history. And also Universal Studio with the world’s only Nintendo world. There are unique shrines. But also underground shopping malls. The city is full of business parks, and hence Osaka has a stunning skyline that is a mix of modern high-rise buildings and traditional architecture.

Is Osaka a beautiful city?

Osaka travel blog photo with dotonbori canal in the night with streets lit of neon lights

No doubt. The Japanese cities are ultra clean. So is Osaka. But it comes with a twist. The canal and parks dot the urban jungle. So you need not hunt for a quieter place to escape the city vibe. Osaka’s tourist attractions can go endless. But when you travel there, Osaka is more of local life than just mere tourist attractions.

Is Osaka an expensive city?

Another reason why you should travel to Osaka is it is less expensive than many other cities in Japan. Based on personal experience, Osaka is cheaper than Tokyo and even Kyoto.

Is Osaka nicer than Tokyo?

Cute mniature statues of children wearing woolen beanie at Zozoji temple of unborn children

Garden of Unborn Children, Tokyo.

Whether Osaka is “nicer” than Tokyo depends on your personal preferences and what you are looking for in a city. However, both cities have their own unique charms and attractions, and both are worth visiting to experience their different atmospheres and cultures.

We enjoyed Osaka’s vibe more than Tokyo’s. Tokyo, of course, is the epitome of modernity and the most developed city in the world. But Osaka is more relaxed than Tokyo. You find locals more comfortable here than elsewhere. Somehow it doesn’t rush you as much as Tokyo does.

Should I go to Kyoto or Osaka first?

A lady walking her shiba breed dog with leash at Osaka park full of green and yellow leaves on the path

Tokyo and Osaka share many similarities. While Kyoto is way different from the giant capital city. So go to Kyoto from Tokyo and then head to Osaka. You don’t want to have a continuous city vibe while travelling in Japan. Right?

How many days in Osaka is enough?

Welcome to the first mistake we made when making our Osaka Travel Plans.

A day trip to Osaka is the worst idea ever. Keep a minimum of 2 days solely for Osaka. If Universal Studios Japan is there in your Osaka Travel Plan, you will need at least 3 days in Osaka.

Can you make a day trip to Osaka from Tokyo?

men dressed as mario brothers charecters at Universal Studio Japan in Osaka at Nintendo world

You can if it is your last resort. Even if you take the bullet train from Tokyo, you will need 2.5 hours to get to Osaka. So making a day trip from Tokyo to Osaka isn’t practical. And I have already discussed why making a day trip to awesome Osaka is a bad idea.

Best Time To Go To Osaka.

We went to Japan in December to save money and witness the last few leaves of autumn foliage. But visiting Osaka in December was the best thing we did. The ease of connectivity and many tourist attractions within a small radius make Osaka one of Japan’s most visited places. So December is the best time to visit Osaka because of fewer tourists and better prices.

Osaka travel blog photo showing beautifully dried giant trees creating a pattern with branches infront of a skyscrapers

How to travel to Osaka?

Reaching Osaka By Air:

Osaka has two airports.

  • Kansai International Airport and -Kansai airport is connected with more international flights than the latter. It is located on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, 45km from the city.
  • Osaka International Airport – is closer to the city (20km) and serves more as a domestic airport.
an aeroplane flying above series of skyscrapers at Osaka

Both these airports are connected to the city by metro lines and buses.

You won’t need domestic flights in Japan unless you travel from the southernmost prefectures to central or fly from central to the northernmost Hokkaido. Because their train systems are bae.

Travel to Osaka by Train.

Osaka is well-connected to other cities, like Tokyo, Nagano, Hiroshima, and Kobe, by Shinkansen. Travelling from Tokyo to Osaka takes less than 3 hours.

How long is the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto?

Bullet train arriving at tokyo station

It takes less than 15 minutes to get to Osaka from Kyoto by bullet train. Using Shinkansen to reach Osaka makes sense if you have a JR Pass because the ride costs more than 1400 yen. On the other hand, Keihan Limited Express costs less than 600 yen and takes only 28 minutes.

What is the best way to get around Osaka?

JR Osaka station stairway to underground and a giant skyscraper in the background

Like anywhere else in Japan, you won’t need to use taxis to travel in and around Osaka. Their metro systems work perfectly, and there are also buses that connect various parts of the city. The metro lines are more than in Kyoto and less than in Tokyo and work as efficiently as in Tokyo. The buses run on a flat rate method – You pay 210 yen (in December 2023) for getting from any point to the other when you use the bus.

How many metro lines are there in Osaka?

Osaka Metro line travel map

You find this map at all the subway stations. Looks much simpler than Tokyo, as there are only 9 lines. IC Cards work perfectly for all the trains.

How late do trains run in Osaka?

Travellers walking on Osaka city pathway during night

Trains run from around 5am until midnight, 7 days a week, with reduced weekend and public holidays services. Post midnight, you really have to depend on expensive taxis. So when you explore the nightlife, mind this bitter fact to get to your room before the public transportation stops in Osaka or be prepared to sell a kidney to pay for the expensive cabs.

What are the top attractions to visit in Osaka?

two young boys with their mother wearing shark beanie joyously raising one hand in the air standing infront of red wall at nintendo world

There is fun, history, bizarre architecture, stunning landscape, shopping arcades and many more things to see and do in Osaka. So ensure your Osaka travel plans have a bit of something of everything. Here is the list of things you can do on your day trip to Osaka.

1. Eat the super delicious Jiggly cheesecake from Unle Rikuro’s.

Indian couple excited to eat japan jiggly cheesecake in Osaka

My whole idea of going to Osaka revolved around munching on the famous jiggly cake. Trust me; it deserves all the hype it gets on social media. When you eat that first bite of hot jiggly cheesecake at Uncle Rikuro, you may have a light food orgasm. I am not lying when I say make your Osaka travel plan that revolves around this jiggly cheesecake.

Where to buy jiggly cheesecake in Japan?

Indian man smiling and  holding box of packed Uncle rikuro jiggly cheesecake in the crowded street of osaka

You will find a lot of varieties of jiggly cheesecakes in 7/11. Out of curiosity, we tried one or two. Nothing matches Uncle Rikuro’s.

Their main store is located in Osaka’s Ebisubashi-suji Shopping Street at Namba. You get the hot cheesecakes right from the oven and stamped at this store. Besides the Namba main store, they sell cheesecakes at other stores. Mind that the other five stores don’t bake.

Why is it called jiggly cake?

japan's famous jiggly cheese cake with brown layer on top and soft beige layer at bottom cut into one piece

Because it jiggles like a Jello! It won’t exactly jiggle as much as slime. But this is the first cake I have seen that Jiggles to this extent. The jiggle comes with the highest taste. The egg-based cheesecake has raisins at the bottom. I am not a baker, so I don’t know what ingredient makes it jiggle.

Things to know before you go to Unkle Rikuro’s in Osaka.

To go to the main baker shop at Namba Main Store, board Midosuji Subway Line, get off at “Namba” station, and take Exit no. 11. A 5-minute walk from there takes you to the baker’s main store.

osaka travel blog with photo of busy mall street full of tourists

 The store opens at 9. Be sure to be there at least 15 minutes before. As this is the main store, expect a minimum waiting period of 45 minutes. Don’t worry; the Japanese know how to wait in line, and also they know how to discipline tourists politely so that everyone follows the line.

long line of people waiting infront of Uncle rikuro cheesecake shop

Can I see cheesecake making at Uncle Rikuro’s Osaka?

There will be two long lines in front of the store. One line takes you to the cafe at the top, where you will be served cheesecake with dripping coffee. The drawback is you won’t get hot and fresh cheesecake here. You get to sit, that is all.

If you want to see the making process that includes them stamping on the cake, choose the second line. They ring the bell while stamping. And almost all buyers get to watch the stamping of cheesecake – Watching them putting Uncle Rikuro’s stamp on a cake that jiggles are one of the most satisfying things to see. And you will agree with me why having Osaka travel plan revolve around Jiggly cheesecake makes sense when you watch this.

 You aren’t allowed to eat in front of the Namba Mian store. So walk to the right of the store just 25m. You will find Starbucks Edion Namba in a small outdoor plaza with seating. So you don’t necessarily have to buy something from Starbucks as the plaza is public.

2. Eat a lot and see weird things at Dotonbori Street.

Dotonbori Street: Where Food, Fun, and Folly Meet

This is where you can find anything from delicious street food to colourful neon lights and even a giant mechanical crab.

The street is named after the canal that runs through it, constructed during the Edo period. The channel was once used to transport goods and was an important part of the city’s commerce. Today, it serves as a backdrop for the many restaurants and shops that line the street.

Why is Dotonbori famous?

For those looking for a unique experience, Dotonbori Street offers the opportunity to dine with weird things. IN fact many tourists travel to Osaka solely to explore Dotonbori for at least two-three days.

The Kani Doraku restaurant features a giant crab statue that moves its legs and claws while diners enjoy their meal -A surreal and entertaining experience.

Glico Running Man is another weird and famous thing that has become the district’s symbol.

The weirds and cutes of Osaka.

Wandering in Dotonbori shows you how crazily- creative one can get with the signboards for their restaurants.

Then there is a giant man frowning in one of the restaurants.

Walking further, you find a gigantic octopus moving tentacles on the signboard.

There are dragons in some of the restaurants – For a second, I thought they cook dragon meat.

Totally this is the craziest plan in Japan. People are beaming and seem to be excited. Happiness and food smell fill the air. And you can spot vegetarians like me easily in Dotonbori. Because all we can do here is stare at those giant creatures like Spiderman grabbing meat on the signboard or signage of an eerie eel – There is hardly anything for vegetarians to eat in Dotonbori.

What food is famous in Dotonbori

The street food here is at another level. The Matsubura Dori street of Kyoto serves you traditional Japanese street food. While Osaka is awesome for contemporary street food.

You can find everything from traditional Japanese cuisine to international fare. One of the must-try dishes is takoyaki, which are small balls of batter filled with octopus, tempura scraps, and green onion. Osaka Sushi is different from what you get in Tokyo.

3. Visit the stunning castle of Osaka.

It is a sight to behold when you see a Japanese castle. Disney movies usually revolve around western world stories, and our brains are fed with an image of a structure with a tall tower. And Japanese castles are different from all of that. When you travel to Osaka, coming back without seeing Osaka-jo can be a crime!

What is the prettiest place in Japan?

I didn’t expect I would consider Osaka castle for this contest. But it is one of the prettiest places in Japan. Built on a moat in a vast area, there is something super calm about it.

Is Osaka Castle worth going to?

Yes. Himeji castle and Matsumoto are larger than Osaka-jo. But it isn’t any less in its beauty. It is strange yet beautiful to see the skyline full of skyscrapers behind a traditional structure built in the 1580s.

History of Osaka Castle?

What you see now at Osaka-jo is a renovated/reconstructed castle where the old castle was ruined in the 1660s by fire due to a lightning storm.

The castle was built in the 16th century by the warlord Hideyoshi. He is Nene’s husband – the lady who made the Todaji temple. The couple is considered Rome and Juliet of Japan for their love story. Mind that Hideyoshi had a mistress. But their love story is made to look romantic in Japanese history.

He got it designed to be a symbol of his power and authority and to protect his people from enemy attacks. The castle was built using traditional Japanese construction techniques, including wooden beams and stones, and was surrounded by a moat and high walls. The wall on which it sits high is a delight to see the pattern on the almost 8m tall stone base of the 55m tall castle.

What makes Osaka castle beautiful?

The castle tower stands five stories high and is surrounded by expansive gardens and parkland. The building is covered in a layer of white plaster, decorated with intricate gold leaf details, and looks royal.

It is indeed of the top Osaka Tourist Attractions. So you find many school kids on their group tours here. But don’t worry. Japanese are the most well-mannered. And Japanese kids are adults when it comes to manners. They are playful, cute and chatty without disturbing others.

What can you do inside Osaka Castle?

Inside the castle, visitors can explore the various rooms and exhibits that showcase the castle’s history and significance. For those feeling adventurous, there is the opportunity to climb to the top of the castle tower.

Are there entrance fees for Osaka-jo?

Walking around the castle is free for the public. You can get as close to the entrance door as possible. Touch the stone base of the castle without paying. But to enter inside, adults must pay 600 yen (as of December 2023). The interiors of Japanese castles aren’t as luxurious as you would see in the palaces of Jaipur, Mysore or Hofburgs. So think before it is worth going inside.

How long should I spend at Osaka Castle?

Without going inside the castle, we spent 3 hours wandering in the surroundings. The Park around Osaka castle is beautiful. We spent almost an hour in the morning at the park before going to the castle. The walk to the castle is a little, but you will need more time. Then there are several bridges where the castle shines like a gem, making it a famous spot for a couple of photoshoots.

If you are taking a boat ride around the castle in the moat water, add 30 more minutes. So you will need at least 2 hours if you don’t plan to walk much. And you can easily spend 4 hours wandering and looking for the perfect place for the best shot.

Where can I take pictures of Osaka Castle?

The castle is located in a large open area. So viewing it from different viewpoints shows a different view. Click on the map above to get the link of the exact spots.

Catle’s Plum Grove

Osakajo entrance


Gokuraku-bashi Bridge

Forest of Memories

Shinshigino Bridge

4. Lose yourself in Osaka Universal Studio.

Call me a fool – I thought Universal Studios wasn’t my thing. As a history buff and heritage admirer, I assumed man-made theme parks like Universal Studios aren’t my thing; we both are movie junkies. But I preferred spending more time in historical Kyoto than Universal Studio Osaka.

We both loved playing Mario games when we were kids. So, somehow my husband convinced me and allured me with Nintendo world. Then I agreed to half a day at the Universal Studio Japan – How wrong was I!

When we go to Japan again, I will spend 3 days in Osaka. And going to spend one whole day from the opening hours to the closing time at USJ.

Is Universal Studios Japan worth it?

From the moment you step through the gates, you’re transported to a different world. The park is divided into several themed areas, each with unique attractions, shops, and dining options (Dining here is expensive.) It isn’t just for kids but all – Wear costumes, smile, and cheer. It lets you be part of it rather than merely seeing it.

Why is Universal Studios Japan famous?

The highlight of USJ at Osaka is Mario Nintendo world (the world’s only Nintendo world ) and Hogwarts castle. Then the Spiderman ride is adventurous and fun; you will surely scream and cheer throughout your ride. Plus, Spiderman here speaks in Japanese – Haiyyyya.

Is Universal Japan crowded?

Of course, no story on Universal Studios Japan would be complete without mentioning the crowds. Yes, this is a popular tourist attraction in Osaka, and you will likely encounter long lines and wait times. But don’t let that deter you from experiencing all the park offers.

There are ways to maximize your time, like purchasing express passes or arriving early to beat the crowds. And honestly, the energy and excitement of being surrounded by so many enthusiastic fans is part of what makes Universal Studios Japan so much fun.

How to book Universal Studios Japan Tickets?

Talking about how merrier it was to be in USJ makes me delighted. But that confusion on when to go, how to book and what tickets to book to get to USJ still haunts me. There are a few things you should know about booking your USJ tickets. In a separate post here, we have everything you need to know about USJ.

Other things to do when you travel to Osaka.

We won’t lie – As someone with time constraints and part-time travellers; we can’t afford to revisit the same country. As of now, we want to revisit Egypt, Iran and Japan. In Japan, Osaka is going to be on our list. Because we realized we had missed a lot on our day trip.

A list of Osaka Tourist Attractions you can add to your travel plans are :

  1. Hozenji Yokocho: Narrow alleyway in the heart of Osaka filled with traditional restaurants and shops, and the centrepiece is the Hozenji Temple,
  2.  Kitashinchi: Known for its traditional geisha houses and nightlife.
  3.  Sakai City: This historical suburb of Osaka is known for its traditional Japanese cutlery and knives.

  1.  Namba Yasaka Shrine: This colourful shrine is famous for its giant lion head statue. It is weirdly beautiful and one of a kind in Japan.
  2.  Explore the network of underground shopping arcades: These arcades are a labyrinth of narrow, winding corridors lined with shops selling everything. It is a great way to see Osaka’s practical and efficient approach to urban planning – by building these arcades underground; the city could maximize its use of space in a crowded urban environment.

So, you found our “How not to Travel in Osaka” honest and inspiring? Let us know in the comment section below.

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