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Dotombori Canals in Osaka, Japan

The Perfect 1 Day Osaka Itinerary

Travel

Sarah Barthet

by

Tokyo may be the country’s technologically advanced and fast-paced capital, and Kyoto the cultural epicentre of temples and tea ceremonies, but Osaka… what can be said of the exhilarating adrenaline rush that is Osaka. It truly is a city unlike any other – a city of urban skyscrapers that light up in a kaleidoscope of colours, with a bustling food scene that comes alive during the night time. The truth is that 24 hours is nowhere near enough time to fully explore Japan’s third largest city, but this 1 day Osaka itinerary will be enough to wet your appetite and introduce you to a whole new world like you have never seen it before.

Before diving into this article, we recommend checking out our guide to Kyoto for some general information that also applies whilst in Osaka. It covers a couple of basics including the best time to visit Kyoto (and the same applies for Osaka), information about Osaka’s airports and why you need travel insurance when travelling to Japan.

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The Streets of Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Transport in Osaka

If you’ve returned here from our Kyoto article, you’re already up to speed on the two airports that serve Osaka: Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka International Airport (better known as Itami; ITM). Kansai operates as Osaka’s international airport, and Itami caters solely to domestic flights.

Arriving at Kansai International Airport (KIX)

If arriving at Kansai International Airport, travellers can use their Japan Rail Pass on the JR Haruka Airport Express to either Tennoji Ward or Shin-Osaka Station in Yodogawa Ward, depending on which is closest to your hotel. From either of these stations, catch the subway or a short taxi ride to your final destination. The link above leads to a 7-Day Japan Rail Pass and free 4G SIM card that can be collected from Kansai airport. This is a great purchase for anyone conscious of roaming charges whilst travelling in Japan.

Arriving at Osaka International Airport (Itami; ITM)

If arriving from a domestic airport in Itami (in fact, the recommended airport as it is closer to Central Osaka), the best way to get to Osaka is either through an Airport Limousine Bus or a regular private taxi. Airport Limousine Buses are first-come, first-serve, but are significantly less expensive than a private taxi.

Getting Around Osaka

With over 20 million inhabitants, the city of Osaka is staggeringly huge, yet surprisingly easy to use the city’s transport system! While taxis are well-organised and professional, it is well-known that they are expensive. Subways and trains are the best way to get around. For our own personal trip to Osaka, we bought tickets at each and every station as the process was quick and relatively painless. For others who would prefer to have a prepaid card to get around, we recommend the prepaid ICOCA card. ICOCA cards can be bought at vending machines at JR Stations in Osaka, as well as online for those that like to have everything organised before their trip.

Moat in Osaka Castle Park

The Best Luxury Hotels in Osaka

Although this is a 1 day Osaka itinerary, there are some locations that are worth checking out at night such as Dotombori and Abeno Harukas. For this reason, you might want to book a one night stay at a hotel. Unlike Kyoto which offers plenty of ryokans, Osaka is all about skyscraper hotels, so it’s the perfect spot to indulge in a little 5-star luxury for one night. Remember that Osaka is absolutely sprawling, so the location of your hotel will be important to save you travel time and ensure efficiency. After all, we’re working with a one day itinerary!

There are four main areas that are worth staying in: Kita, Minami, Honmachi (Central Osaka) and the Shin-Osaka area, and this article highlights the first two. Whichever area you choose to go for, access to transport is critical and we recommend selecting hotels that are close to the Midosuji subway line. Overwhelmed with options? Here are our favourites!

Kita is our most recommended location for one night in Osaka, and it is easily connected to other cities such as Kyoto and Nara. It’s Osaka’s most important transport hub and the perfect location for shopping, eating and exploring. It’s also within walking distance of several sights to see. Some of our favourite hotels include:

Following shortly behind Kita is the vibrant Minami, another of the city’s transport hubs. If your plan is to hit the town once reaching Osaka, then Minami might be the better option for you. It is packed full of bars, restaurants, shopping centres and overall entertainment options that the spirited traveller might enjoy.

The Dukes Avenue 1 Day Osaka Itinerary

Our 1 day itinerary can easily slot into any wider Japan itinerary. We personally recommend travelling to Osaka from Kyoto, as the distance between these two incredible cities is less than 60km. Use your JR Pass to catch a Shinkansen bullet train, with a total travel time of around 15 minutes. Just like our other Japan itineraries though, it stands true that it will take months to see each city in great detail, so it is important to go with the right expectations so as not to feel overwhelmed!

If travelling to Osaka the night prior to a day of exploring, you might want to split the itinerary. The bottom two attractions on this list can very well be done the night before, to ensure that all of your time spent in Osaka is maximised.

TimeExperienceNotes
9amOsaka Castle
10amOsaka Museum of History(optional)
10:30amTenjinbashisuji Shopping Street(optional)
11:00amOsaka Museum of Housing and Living(optional)
12pmKita Ward
1:30pmUmeda Sky Building
3pmMinami District
Dotombori
Kuromon Market
Hozenji Yokocho
(7:00pm)Shinsekai(optional)
(7:30pm)Abeno Harukas

Osaka Castle

Our 1 day Osaka itinerary kicks off at Osaka Castle, not too far away from Kita Ward. Osaka Castle opens for visitors at 9am, so it’s worth grabbing some breakfast before you head out on your day exploring. Early birds may want to arrive a little bit earlier than 9am, firstly to be ahead of the queues, but also to spend some time walking around Osaka Castle Park. This is open 24 hours a day and is the second largest park in the city!

In addition, the Castle also opens the doors to its luscious private garden that is popular during cherry blossom season, and offers great views of the castle itself. This is open from 9am, just like the castle.

The Mystery of Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan

Osaka Castle costs 600 yen to enter, and it acts as home to an eight-floor museum (although there is no sixth floor). The castle was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a samurai warlord, in 1597. Whilst the actual castle you see today is a reconstruction, the interior gives a great perspective of what life must have been like in Japan hundreds of years ago, with each floor telling a different story of Toyotomi’s life.

For history lovers, you’ll get the opportunity to learn all about the types of armour and weapons used by samurais all them years ago. For those that are more interested in the aesthetics, the eighth floor offers some spectacular panoramic views of the city. Whichever kind of traveller you are, you’ll be glad you added this to your itinerary.

Osaka Museum of History

If Osaka Castle peaked your interest in Japanese or Osakan history, you might want to check out the Osaka Museum of History after exiting the castle. It is conveniently located a few minutes walking distance away, and is worth seeing just for the interesting architecture. Open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesday), entrance to the Osaka Museum costs 600 yen at the time of publication.

Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street

From the Osaka Museum of History, walk for about 450m to Tanimachi Station and ride the underground for about 20 minutes until you reach Tenjinbashisuji Station. Exit the underground and walk over to Tenjinbashisji Shopping Street to experience your first Osakan shopping adventure, and the longest shopping street in Japan. Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street is a grand total of 2.6km long and will take around 40 minutes to walk through (provided you do not stop to shop or eat).

The beauty of Tenjinbashisuji is that it has remained very authentically Japanese, unlike some of the other mega shopping streets later on in this itinerary which are more international. If your plan is to stop and buy local delicacies, teas or books and kimonos, Tenjinbashisuji is worth checking out! It’s also the perfect spot to pick up a quick snack before continuing your sightseeing.

Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

This one is totally optional, but if you’re already on Tenjinbashisuji Street, you might want to walk to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living as it is just a few minutes away. The museum has re-created streets and houses of Osaka from the past, so that visitors truly get a sense of what Osakan life was like historically. Entrance is 600 yen, and it opens at 10am. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.

Kita Ward

Some travellers may prefer to skip the shopping street and museum in favour of exploring Kita (one of Osaka’s 24 wards), but there is time for both if efficient and diligent with this itinerary. Kita Ward is the main transport and business hub of the city. The heart of Kita is the newly re-built JR Osaka Station.

If travelling straight from Osaka Castle, hop on the Osaka Loop Line from Osakajokoen Station and ride it for around 20 minutes until you reach Osaka Station. If travelling from the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, the journey can be made on foot in around 15 minutes. Be sure to pick up a JR Pass with a free local 4G SIM card so that you are able to easily navigate the city using Google maps.

Between all the shopping options and restaurants, Kita is one of the highlights of any trip to Osaka. If arriving at around lunchtime during the week be aware this is a business district, and many restaurants will be packed with local businessmen and women popping out to grab some lunch. That said, food lovers can enjoy a whole host of different cuisines ranging from local eateries to Michelin-starred restaurants. Whilst in Osaka, we highly recommend stopping to try takoyaki – small dough-like balls filled with octopus that are absolutely delicious!

For travellers looking to do a spot of shopping, be sure to check out Yodobashi Camera, Grand Front Osaka, and Hankyu Department Store.

Skyscrapers in Kita Ward, Osaka, Japan

Umeda Sky Building

Once you’ve had your fill of exploring Kita Ward, take a short 15 minute walk over to the Umeda Sky Building. Our images were taken in the evening – if this is something you would prefer, this might be a site you want to visit the evening before exploring the city. Whether visiting during the day or at night, just be sure not to miss out on this. This magnificent building stands proud at 170 metres tall and is one of the most recognised buildings in Osaka. At the very top of the building is the Kuchu Teien Observatory (or Floating Garden Observatory) and it offers some of the best panoramic skyline views of the city.

To reach the observation deck, ride the lift up to the 35th floor and take the escalator up to the 39th floor. It is here that you will need to pay the 1,500 yen entrance fee to enter the observation deck. Admittedly, this is a little pricier that some of the other skyline observation decks like Osaka Castle, but it is well-worth the expense just to get the chance to see the Osakan skyline like you’ve never seen it before. Be sure to snap plenty of shots and don’t forget to take one from the bottom too!

Night time Osaka skyline taken from the Umeda Sky Tower

Minami District

From the Umeda Sky Building, it’s time to head south to the Minami District, another major hub in the city of Osaka. Stroll over to Umeda Station and jump on the Midosuji line to Shinsaibashi Station. Prepare yourself for a culture shock like no other, but it may just become one of your favourite places in Japan – just like it is ours.

Shin Sai Bashi- Suji Shopping Street in Osaka, Japan

Start your exploring with Shinsaibashi-suji, a buzzing, vibrant covered shopping arcade (shotengai), and spend some time wandering around shops – you’ll likely find some that are familiar, as well as some more obscure traditional brands. Continue walking through the arcade until you reach the Dotombori Canal. Stop on the Shin-Ebisu-bashi Bridge to take one of the most iconic shots that anyone can take in Osaka. The bridge cuts across the canal, and from its midpoint, travellers are given the most overwhelming view of hundreds of people roaming around, boats riding through the canal, bright and colourful adverts, flashing lights and just overall electric energy.

If your schedule allows it, we recommend purchasing tickets for the 20 minute River Cruise and riding all along the canal! At the time of publication, tickets cost 900 yen and the boats board from the Tombori Riverwalk, right next to the Shin-Ebisu-bashi Bridge.

It’s easy to get lost in the Dotombori area (and it’s very much encouraged!) but remember to stop at Kuromon Market to check out the street food (queue more takoyaki!), as well as fresh seafood and produce. The great thing here is that you can select and purchase fresh produce and have the vendors cook it for you there and then!

Shinsaibashi Suji - An essential stop on any 1 day Osaka Itinerary

From Kuromon Market, head over to Hozenji Yokocho – a stone-paved narrow street that has retained some of that classic Japanese serenity that perhaps the rest of Minami distract might lack. The street is lined with traditional Japanese buildings that are both quirky yet quaint, most of which are cafes and shops.

Hozenji Yokocho in Osaka, Japan

Shinsekai

From Hozenji Yokocho, travellers can continue walking south for 30 minutes until they reach Shinsekai, a very particular and eclectic area that was modelled on Paris in its northern part, and New York in its southern part! Alternatively, catch the Midosuji Line from Namba Station and ride 4 stops to Dobutsuen-Mae Station.

Whether walking or taking the train, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the Tsutenkaku Tower, based on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s not for everyone admittedly, and some locals might even argue that the neighbourhood isn’t very savoury, but if you do plan on visiting you might want to bring a swimming costume with you – Shinsekai is home to Spa World!

Abeno Harukas

To cap off your evening, stroll from Shinsekai over to Abeno Harukas. Once you arrive, take the lifts to the Abeno Harukas 300 observation decks and soak in the Osaka skyline from the tallest building in Japan! The observation deck remains open until 10pm, and an entrance ticket costs 1,500 yen. Travellers who are slightly short on time may want to select between the Umeda Sky Building and Abeno Harukas – whichever you choose, the views will not disappoint!

Cityscape of Abeno Harukas, Osaka

Additional Activities

If you have a little more time to spare in Osaka and want to book some additional day trips, consider booking an Osaka Walking Tour with a professional local tour guide, taking a short trip to nearby Nara, or spend the day exploring Universal Studios Japan and the Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN (one of the world’s largest aquariums)!


If this was helpful, be sure to check out more Dukes Avenue travel guides!


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