A heady blend of neon, history, and a gut-busting array of sensational food, Osaka is a fabulous city to explore. If you only spend the one day in Osaka, you’re in for quite a ride.
A restless modern metropolis, there is plenty to see and do in Osaka, a city that lives at full throttle. Our one day Osaka itinerary will take you on a tour of the highlights of one of Japan’s most vibrant cities.
Absolutely! Osaka is often overshadowed by both Tokyo and Kyoto, it’s more illustrious neighbour just a few miles up the road. In many ways Osaka and Kyoto could not be more different.
Whereas Kyoto is famous for its ancient traditions, temples and shrines, Osaka is a no-nonsense party town that never sleeps.
While there are a number of historic temples here, as well as the city’s iconic castle, shopping, socialising and eating are always the top priority in Osaka. There’s a reason why Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen.
The best way to spend one day in Osaka is to arrive early and bring a healthy appetite.
To be honest, no it’s not. Japan’s third largest city is somewhat under-appreciated by tourists. There is plenty to see, do and eat here that means you could easily spend three or four days in Osaka.
However, if you’re travelling through Japan and pushed for time, then it’s still a great idea to spend at least one day in Osaka, especially as a day trip from Kyoto. Even spending just 24 hours in Osaka will be a wonderful introduction to this amazing city.
To help you see the very best of the city our one day Osaka itinerary stops in at all of the must-see sights as well as the best places to eat.
Start your one day Osaka itinerary at the city’s most famous landmark. Osaka Castle is the symbol of the city, originally constructed in 1583.
The castle has been modified and restored several times due to damage from a number of fires and wars, most recently after World War Two.
Take a stroll through the vast grounds of Osaka Castle, now a huge public park which is surrounded by a magnificent walled moat. The castle’s grounds are particularly beautiful in spring, when huge crowds flock to admire the hundreds of cherry trees when they’re in full bloom.
Inside the castle’s main tower is the Osaka Castle Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of the castle, including its construction by the feudal lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
The museum also displays various exhibits, such as antique body armour, helmets and swords used by samurai warriors during battle.
The highlight of Osaka Castle’s main tower is undoubtedly the views from the observation deck on the top floor. From here there’s a panoramic view of the surrounding city and the chance to fully appreciate the grand scale of Osaka Castle’s grounds.
After exploring Osaka Castle you’re likely to be a little peckish, so make your way to Kuromon Market just outside Nippombashi station.
Osaka is one of the world’s greatest food cities and Kuromon Market is a wonderful place to discover some of it’s vast array of gastronomic delights.
Seafood for sale and a bowl of salmon donburi and cod roe at Kuromon Market in Osaka
Established over 170 years ago, Kuromon Market is a sprawling covered market of over 150 stalls selling all sorts of fresh meats, fish, seafood, fruit and veg.
There’s also a variety of small stalls and shops where you can try all kinds of Japanese street food. Osakan staples such as piping hot octopus balls (takoyaki), flame grilled meats (yakiniku) and deep-fried skewered meats (kushikatsu) can all be found here.
As well as the many street food stalls you can also pop in to one of the many small restaurants found in the market. Some restaurants are more like traditional Japanese izakayas, tiny stalls with only space for a handful of customers at a time.
Others are more simple affairs, where a few tables and chairs are set up inside some of the market stalls. With so much on offer Kuromon Market is the perfect place in Osaka to pick up some of the city’s best food at very reasonable prices.
Once sufficiently fed, head to one of the oldest and most important temples in Japan. Osaka’s Shitennoji Temple was founded in the 6th century and is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in Japan.
A huge site consisting of numerous shrines, Shitennoji has been devastated by fires, typhoons and war over the centuries, each time being faithfully restored to the original 6th century design.
Shitennoji Temple is centred around a grand inner complex where a beautiful five storied pagoda faces the Kondo, or main hall. The dimly lit interior of the main hall is deeply atmospheric.
Large statues of Buddha stand at the centre of the hall and decorative paintings depicting the life of Buddha cover each of the walls.
One of the entrance gates and the five storied pagoda at Shitennoji Temple in Osaka
Just to the north of the inner complex is the magnificent Rokujireisando hall, whilst immediately to the east is the Homotsukan, or Treasure Hall, where many sacred Buddhist statues and artworks are on display.
In the north-eastern corner of the temple complex is a beautifully manicured Japanese garden called Gokuraku-jodo. A secluded and serene spot in the middle of the city, this is also popular in the springtime, when the garden’s cherry blossoms are bursting with colour.
Whilst the main grounds of the temple are free to enter there is a small entry fee for the inner complex, the Treasure Hall and the Gokuraku-jodo garden.
A ten minute walk from Shitennoji Temple is another of Osaka’s most famous landmarks, the Tsutenkaku Tower. Surrounded by the glitzy neon lined streets of Shinsekai, the Tsutenkaku Tower is another symbol of the city.
The first Tsutenkaku Tower was built in 1912 but burnt down in 1943. The current tower was rebuilt in 1956 at nearly double the height of the original.
Osaka’s Tsutenkaku Tower, and the tower’s grinning good luck symbol, the golden Billiken
Whilst there are higher viewing platforms in the swanky modern skyscrapers at the Umeda Sky Building and the nearby Abeno Harukas 300 (the tallest skyscraper in Japan), you can’t spend one day in Osaka without visiting the Tsutenkaku Tower.
Noticeably retro, Tsutenkaku harks back to the era in which it was built. A narrow lift slowly crawls to the viewing platforms at the top of the tower.
The tower’s two lower floors are crammed with souvenir stalls with the viewing areas found on the fourth and fifth floors.
Also on the fifth floor of the tower is the grinning golden statue of Billiken, the impish good luck emblem of the Tsutenkaku Tower and the Shinsekai area.
Statues of Billiken can be found in various sizes all around the streets of Shinsekai, and rubbing the feet of the statue in the tower is said to guarantee good fortune.
Once on the top floor of the Tsutenkaku, it’s well worth paying the extra ¥500 to reach the small open air viewing area at the very top of the tower. From here there are spectacular unobstructed 360 degree views of Osaka’s skyline.
Try to arrive just before early evening to see the city beneath a breathtaking sunset.
From Tsutenkaku, wander along the glowing neon-lit streets of Shinsekai immediately outside the tower. An assault on the senses, Shinsekai is a phenomenal sight.
The alluring aromas of an endless variety of food pour out from the myriad of restaurants that are crammed into Shinsekai’s streets, each one featuring a hugely audacious display hanging over it.
Japan on steroids: the streets of Shinsekai around Tsutenkaku Tower
Though it may seem a little touristy, the dazzling streets of Shinsekai are popular with locals and are a great place to eat.
Every kind of Osakan speciality can be found here, particularly kushi-katsu, the deep fried skewered sticks of meat, fish or vegetables that are dunked into a dipping sauce.
Shinsekai is said to be where kushi-katsu first originated, and there are dozens of kushi-katsu restaurants in the streets beneath the Tatsukaku Tower.
From Shinsekai take the Metro to Osaka’s most famous area, Dotonbori. Another explosion of neon and light, Dotonbori is fantastically frenetic and at its very best after dark.
This is when what seems like all of Osaka pours in to Dotonbori’s endless array of shopping arcades, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
The neon lights and famous Glico Man in Osaka’s Dotonbori
From Namba station begin at another of Osaka’s most recognisable landmarks, the Glico Man, who has stood in this spot overlooking the Dotonbri canal since the 1930s.
If you can manage anymore food pick up some piping hot takoyaki from Acchichi Honpo, and gobble them down underneath the glittering lights of Dotonbori canal.
Afterwards, cross to the south side of the river where Dotonbori becomes even more sensational. Wander beneath the eye-popping gigantic octopus, gyoza, puffer fish, dragons and much more that line the streets.
Look out for the famous six meter moving mechanical crab that hangs over the entrance to Kani Doraku.
A couple of minutes’ walk away, hidden amongst a network of alleys, is Hozenji Temple, a tiny reminder of old Osaka. Hozenji Temple originally dates from the 17th century.
Along with the rest of the area the temple was completely destroyed during the Second World War, except for the statue of Fudo Myoo which survived unscathed. Now covered in a thick layer of moss, splashing the statue with water is said to bring good luck.
The moss covered Fudo Myoo statue at Hozenji Temple and beers and takoyaki at TakoTako King
If you’re staying overnight in Osaka then continue to explore the delights around Dotonbori. If you get hungry later in the night, head to TakoTako King for drinks and a delicious modern take on takoyaki.
If you’re staying overnight before moving on the next morning and need a hotel for the night you can search for accommodation in Osaka here.
If you’re heading off early the next day then you’d be wise to stay close to one of Osaka’s main stations, such as Tennoji, Osaka or Umeda, depending on where your next stop in Japan is.
We can highly recommend the Sonezaki Luxe Hotel, where we stayed, which is a short walk to Osaka and Umeda JR and Metro stations.
If you’re only spending one day in Osaka then the easiest way to get around is by subway. Osaka’s underground system is extensive and incredibly efficient.
The best way to get around on Osaka’s underground system is with a prepaid travel card (also called an IC card). Osaka’s version is the Icoca card, which can be bought and topped up from ticket machines at any JR stations and also at Kansai Airport.
All of the many different types of prepaid IC cards that are available in other cities in Japan – such as Pasmo or Suica cards – can also be used on all of Osaka’s trains and buses.
Alternatively, you may want to pick up an Osaka 1-Day Pass instead. Costing only ¥800, the Osaka 1-Day Pass allows you to travel on any Osaka Metro line or bus on the day of purchase.
The Osaka 1-Day Pass also gives a small discount on entrance fees to various tourist sites throughout the city. The Osaka 1-Day Pass can be bought from ticket machines inside any Metro station.
As already mentioned, most people visit Osaka on a day trip from Kyoto. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, it’s only a fifteen minute journey from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka by bullet train.
The cheaper and slightly slower option is to take the JR Special Rapid Service from Kyoto to Osaka. This still only takes between 20-45 minutes depending on the route.
If Osaka is your first port of call in Japan then you’re most likely to arriving from Kansai International Airport. The easiest way to get to central Osaka from Kansai Airport is by train, and there are a few different options available.
The JR Haruka Express is the quickest and most direct train into central Osaka, taking 30 minutes to reach Tennoji station and 50 minutes to arrive at Shin-Osaka station.
You can use a Japan Rail Pass on the Haruka Express, otherwise single tickets range from around ¥2,000-3,000 depending on whether you’re arriving at Tennoji or Shin-Osaka.
The cheaper option is JR’s Kansai Airport Rapid train, which takes 15 minutes longer and makes a number of stops along the way. The Kansai Airport Rapid train calls at Tennoji and Osaka stations and costs around ¥1000-1200 depending on the final destination.
The third rail option is the privately owned Nankai Rapi:t train service which connects Kansai Airport with Namba Station in central Osaka. The Nankai Rapi:t takes around 45 minutes to reach the centre of Osaka and costs around ¥1450 one way.
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