Osaka is a every food lover’s dream. Our Osaka travel guide will tell you which dishes to order and where to eat them, plus some sight-seeing spots for in-between food breaks
Don’t visit Osaka while you’re on a diet, be sure to delay it another week, because a trip to the Japanese city is a foodie’s ultimate dream. And even though Osaka has some beautiful sightseeing spots to offer too, tourists who flock to the city definitely don’t want to miss out on the famous Osakan delicacies.
Perfect for a long weekend, the city can be easily reached by direct flights from all major Asian cities. We were lucky enough to experience Asia Miles’ first-ever chartered flight between Hong Kong and Osaka, which was an absolute success. If you’ve missed the first special flight from Asia Miles, don’t forget to keep an eye on their channels for upcoming news.
Let’s take a look at where to go and what to eat if you plan to visit the city for three to four days.
POSE IN FRONT OF THE FAMOUS DOTONBORI BRIDGE
If you only had time to visit one spot in Osaka, this would be it. Look out for the LED Glico running man and pose for a selfie. Dotonbori is the epitome of Osakan culture. Neon lights, animatronic signs and packed with restaurants and bars, this place comes alive at night. Go bar hopping here and try some of Osaka’s best dishes, beer and sake.
1 Chome-6 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
MAKE A WISH AT HOZENJI TEMPLE
Go back in time and stroll down Hozenji Yokocho, a small, narrow alleyway preserved in the style of the Edo period, a stark contrast to the neon-lit Dotonbori area nearby. Head to the end of the street and make a wish at Hozenji, a Buddhist temple that dates back to the 17thcentury. Probably the last place where you’d expect to find serenity, right in the midst of crowded Namba, Hozenji is an oasis of calm, a place frequented by people who are looking to bless their business ventures. The Buddha at Hozenji is covered in moss, as visitors pour water over it to receive the blessings.
1 Chome-2-16 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan
TRY OSAKA’S MOST FAMOUS DISHES
Osaka used to be Japan’s main merchant town and therefore the first place all food came to before being shipped out to the rest of the country. Due to this amazing access, Osaka has always had this unshakable reputation as the ‘kitchen of Japan”. Up until this day, it is still considered to be the best place to eat in Japan. It is well known that people from Tokyo and Kyoto happily spend their savings on clothes, whereas Osakans will go all out on food. Some of the must-try dishes include takoyaki (battered squid balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancake), and kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered vegetables and meat). Don’t leave Osaka without trying all three delicacies.
There are plenty of streetfood stalls that offer takoyaki. It is the perfect snack to indulge in when strolling through the streets of Dotonbori. But it’s also easy to overdose on them, as they come in 8, 10 or sets of 12.
For the complete okonomiyaki experience, sit down and let the chef prepare it in front of you. The most popular okonomiyaki restaurant in the Dotonbori area is Mizuno. Rest assured that there will be a queue, so be prepared to stand in line. Make sure you order everything you want when the waitress takes your order in the queue. You won’t be able to ask for an extra helping once you sit down. The demand here is high.
1 Chome-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
For kushikatsu, head to Yokozuna Bekkan in Dotonbori. Like in many other Japanese restaurants you will be asked to take off your shoes before you enter. Have some drinks to go with your kushikatsu. In Japanese, kushi refers to the skewers, while katsu means a deep-fried cutlet of meat, such as chicken, pork or seafood. Veggie lovers can rejoice though, as there are plenty of vegetable options. The tonkatsu sauce is what makes all the difference, so don’t skip on that.
2 Chome-5-9 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Ōsaka, 556-0002, Japan
GO ON A SHOPPING SPREE AT SHINSAIBASHISUJI
Located near Dotonbori, and almost as famous, the 600-meter-long undercover shopping avenue has been Osaka’s most important shopping area for the last 400 years. Offering big department stores to small boutiques, the arcade is always packed with busy shoppers. From fashion, to cosmetics, to candy, there is something for everyone. And should you get hungry while shopping, try one of the restaurants or cafes in the alleys just off Shinsaibashisuji.
2 Chome-2-2 2 Shinsaibashisuji, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0085, Japan
ZEN OUT AT OSAKA CASTLE
Take a break from all the mouth-watering dishes and visit the picturesque Osaka castle, which can be easily reached by subway. Definitely a must on your itinerary, the castle is one of the most historically important landmarks in Japan. Originally built in the late 1500s, it was the site of one of the famous battles of Sekigahara. The castle has since been rebuilt, and the inside has been turned into a museum dedicated to the area’s history. The park around the castle is a place of relaxation where locals and tourists take a moment to catch their breath and revel in nature. Come at the beginning of spring when the cherry blossoms bloom and bathe the site in a sea of pink.
Mon – Sun:
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Osakajo, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
JOIN A BAR HOPPING FOOD TOUR
Are you traveling solo but want to enjoy Osaka’s night life? Don’t fret. Already popular in Tokyo and Kyoto, you can now join the Magical Osaka Bar Hopping Food Tour in this city too. A local guide will show you all the hidden local bars and eateries tucked away in the small alleys of Namba, Osaka’s liveliest nightlife district. Try the city’s most famous dishes paired with local beer and sake, and meet other open-minded adventurers. The tour costs US$48, lasts three hours and includes three local izakaya bars, some sake, as well as photos. Bring extra cash to order delicious dishes and more drinks.
1 Nanba, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan
TAKE A HALF/DAY TRIP TO NARA TO SEE THE DEER
Just a five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, Nara-koen Park is home to 1,200 free-roaming wild deer that live in the park. In Shinto, the traditional religion of Japan, the deer are considered to be messengers of gods and have therefore become a symbol of the city and a designated natural treasure. The deer are tame, and there are deer crackers for sale, should you wish to feed them. Some of the deer have even learned to bow to visitors in order to be fed. But do note that the deer can be aggressive to get food out of your hands, so don’t give the crackers to small children. The park is lined with beautiful pathways and ponds, and inside you will also find shrines and temples, as well as museums. Take the train on the Kintetsu Nara Line from Namba Station for 560 yen. The ride takes about 40 minutes. Get out at Kintetsu Nara Station.
469 Zoshicho, Nara, 630-8211, Japan
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See also: Penang Travel Guide