Osaka is smaller than Tokyo, the capital of Japan but it has the same popularized vibe for almost everything starting from its interesting history to the warm outgoing locals, all harmonizing to create an authentic charm. So, why not fly into Osaka from Hong Kong this year (book through Cathay Pacific) to experience a different kind of vacation?
1. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle, one of the most popular landmarks in Japan is a place not to be missed on your vacation. The original Osaka Castle was constructed in the 16th century by the leader, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who unified Japan in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The castle was passed onto his son, Toyotomi Hideyori but it was captured by the Tokugawa clan. Then it was rebuilt with five stories on the inside, eight stories on the outside with an elevated tower adding to the beauty of the castle. However, the castle was destroyed by fires repeatedly and by lightning so what you see here today, dates back to the 1930s. A suggestion is to visit the Osaka castle in the evening as you can enjoy the lit-up premises and the park nearby filled with cherry blossoms.
2. Tsutenkaku Tower
Tsutenkaku Tower is also known as the Eiffel Tower of Osaka. But like the Osaka Castle, this too is not the original structure and it has been destroyed by a fire in 1943. The original tower was constructed to a height of 64 meters and at that time it was the second tallest structure in Asia. It was built in 1912 with a similar architecture to that of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe of Paris. However, the newly constructed tower has a different architectural style and dates back to 1956. It stands to a height of 103 meters and you can see 360 degrees panoramic views of the Osaka city at its observation deck situated at the height of 91 meters. You can also see the tower lit up at night with different colours depending on the celebrations in each month.
3. National Bunraku Theatre
If you are a fan of performing arts then you should not skip the National Bunraku Theatre of Osaka. The theatre was opened in 1984, has seating capacity for over 500 people and is primarily used for Bunraku performances. Bunraku is a traditional Japanese performing art done using puppets. It originated in the 17th century in Osaka. There are three types of performers here; the puppets, the chanters and the shamisen musicians. The puppets are handled by people to express the required emotions needed for the play, chanters are people who narrate the story while the shamisen musicians help in the narrations by making appropriate music to match the scene. And if you are worried about not understanding Japanese, don’t be because earphones with English narrations or English leaflets with the story summary is given to you at the National Bunraku Theatre.
4. Minoo Falls
If you are a nature lover, you can visit the Minoo Park in Osaka to see its highlight, the Minoo Falls. It is a thirty-minute ride from Central Osaka and can be experienced at its best throughout the year. But a suggestion would be to visit in autumn to see the yellow-orange coloured maple leaves which double the beauty of the surroundings. The Minoo Falls is a 33 meter tall and a 5 meters wide waterfall cascading slowly into the lush green environment. The trail is about 3 km from the Minoo Station and it will take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach the waterfall. The trail to the waterfall is well paved and there are hilly areas, but as an overall, the hike is really easy.
5. Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan which is also known as the USJ is also a thing not to be missed on your trip to Osaka. You have to purchase the tickets in advance because large crowds are here, 10 times more than that of the other Universal Studios all over the world. The shows and rides are arranged within 10 areas of the amusement park.
The attractions are arranged in nine areas of the park. The most popular attractions within the park are Space Fantasy- The Ride, Jurassic Park- The Ride, Minion Park and the newest addition (tenth area), which is known as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter along with the attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You can also see unique shows of Universal Studios Japan; the Black Lake and Hogwarts Express Photo Op.
If you love to hike, then Mt. Tempozan might be just the thing you need in Osaka. It is famous as the second smallest mountain in Japan but don’t be fooled it is more of a hill than a mountain. The summit is only 4.5 meters so it is an easy hike. Mt. Tempozan is located in Mount Tenpō Park and you can also see the stone memorial of the Meiji Emperor’s first sea-borne military parade near the mountain.
7. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in the world, located near Osaka Bay. It is a five-minute walk from Osakako Station. The aquarium Kaiyukan has many habitats in the 16 exhibits; Tunnel Tank (manta rays), Japanese Forests (salamanders, otters), Aleutian Islands (sea otters), Monterey Bay (sea lions, seals), Panama Bay, Ecuadorian Jungle, Antarctica (penguins), Tasmanian Sea (dolphins), Great Barrier Reef, The Pacific Ocean (sharks, whales), Seto Inland Sea, Chilean Rocks, Japanese Trench, Deep sea Zone and Jellyfish Area etc. You can also go to the ‘Interactive Area’ where you can touch marine animals like sharks! It has 3 zones- Arctic zone with ringed seals, Falkland Islands Zone with rockhopper penguins and the Maldives Zone with sharks.
8. Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Tempozan Ferris Wheel is located in Osaka, Japan, near the Aquarium Kaiyukan. It was opened to the public in 1997 and at the time it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world measuring up to a height of 369 ft and a diameter of 100 meters. It takes about 17 minutes to complete a single rotation. As you go up and down, enjoy the scenic views it has to offer- the Osaka Bay, Mount Ikoma and the iconic Akashi Kaikyō Bridge. It is also a great place to arrange a romantic night with your loved one as it is very beautiful at night when illuminated.
9. Expo Commemorative Park
The Expo Commemoration Park is located in the north of Osaka, therefore it will make the ideal day trip for families or couples. It is the former site of Expo ’70 fair which was held in 1970 but has been recreated into a lovely place with green laws, museums, and so on. Don’t forget to capture a photo of the most iconic structure of the Expo Commemorative Park, the Tower of the Sun, a 70 meters high tower made in 1970 by the artist Taro Okamoto. You can also take a walk through the Natural and Cultural Gardens, The Japanese Garden and visit the National Museum of Ethnology to learn more about the cultures of Japan.
10. Cupnoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda
CupNoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda is a museum dedicated to the creator of instant noodles and Cup Noodles, Momofuku Ando. The admission is free and there are no large crowds in the museum. It displays the history of instant noodles. Also, the CupNoodles Museum allows you to make your own instant noodles at the instant ramen workshop. But you must book in advance to get to this workshop.
11. Osaka National Museum of Art
The National Museum of Art in Osaka is a place not to be missed if you are an art lover! Designed by architect César Pelli, the museum is mostly made underground and contains both contemporary Japanese art and international art. The exterior of the building is also appealing and is an artwork itself. You have to enter through the B1 level, which contains a restaurant, museum shop, and the auditorium. The B2 level has permanent art exhibits, most of which are from the post-war era and you can also see the artwork done by Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Suda Yoshihiro etc. B3 is the lowest floor, and it is used for special or non-permanent exhibitions.
12. Spa World Osaka
The Osaka Spa World is a hot spring theme park located in the Shinsekai area of Osaka. There are internationally themed hot springs and saunas which are open 24 hours a day. Therefore, this is just the thing you need at last after the tiresome exploration of the Osaka city of Japan. There are two natural hot spring bathing zones in the Spa World Osaka; the European Zone and the Asian Zone. You should remember that they are divided into zones based on gender, for example, the European zone can be used by women in odd months and by men in even months. It also has swimming pool areas (wearing bathing suits is a must), water slides, a gym, spa services and a restaurant.