Must-See Osaka Attractions: 3 Things You Must Do in Japan's Third Largest City

From thrill rides to an explorable hilltop ancient castle, and immersive museums and postcard-perfect scenic sights, Osaka undoubtedly ticks all the boxes when it comes to Japanese travel.
Must-see Osaka attractions: 3 things you must do in Japan's third largest city

Fuel your spirit and enliven your senses with a getaway to Osaka, Japan’s bustling economic and vibrant entertainment center. Brimming with must-visit restaurants located throughout buzzy Dotonbori, ancient sites, and unmissable theme parks, The City of Kuidaore (which translates to eat-till-you-drop), offers unique experiences for every taste. 

So, where is Osaka? This cosmopolitan city is located on the main island of Honshu and is practically at the center of Japan. Osaka is the second most-visited city in Japan after Tokyo, and its prime location makes it a hub city, offering travelers easy access to Nara, Kyoto, Kobe, and Hygo. 

But don’t skip town just yet. Osaka is the perfect place to discover new food, ancient history, and theme parks.  

Journey to Old Osaka at the Museum of Housing and Living 

Journey to Old Osaka at the Museum of Housing and Living 

What can you see in Osaka, Japan? History-loving travelers can begin their journey through Osaka at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. 

Located in the northeastern area of the Kita region, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living provides visitors with the opportunity to see and experience what life was like in Osaka in the past. The popular museum features an impressive life-size model of the entire city of Osaka, which is notably the only one of its kind. 

The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is brimming with innovative recreations of aspects of city life that are based on tireless academic research. From the streets to the ornate buildings, no attention to detail is spared. By using the technology that is available today, the immersive experience even simulates the transition from morning to evening as a soundscape of the noises you would commonly hear in the past in plays throughout your visit, giving life to the captivating experience.  

The museum is complete with recreations of a fire watching tower, sento (otherwise known as a public bathhouse), and traditional merchant shops of the time. Experience what living in Osaka was like by stepping into the townhouses. Marked by their beautiful design, these time-honored living spaces are outfitted with tea rooms, tatami mats, and traditional kitchens. The engaging museum also offers a variety of interactive exhibits that allow guests to touch and feel objects on display. These educational exhibits allow visitors to truly experience the old way of life that once was in Osaka, Japan.  

When visiting, you can explore the museum at your leisure. You also have the option to explore the museum in traditional Japanese garb. Yukatas, also known as summer kimonos, are available to rent and wear as you journey through Old Osaka for a small fee. While the life-size recreation is the museum’s main draw, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is also home to a series of miniature models that show visitors the typical housing and living conditions found throughout historic Osaka. 

Address: Osaka Museum of Housing and Living 

8F Sumai Joho Center Bldg. 6-4-20  

Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, 530-0041

See Scenic Sites at Osaka Castle

See Scenic Sites at Osaka Castle 

There’s simply no shortage of Osaka attractions to experience. That includes Osaka Castle. 

Positioned against a backdrop of modern-day skyscrapers and city buildings, Osaka Castle stands out from its contemporary neighbors and is marked by its traditional architecture and immense size. Built in 1583 and regarded as an emblem of the fortune and power of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most notable landmarks. And it’s no wonder why. Both history buffs and architecture aficionados will undoubtedly delight in the tales that this age-old castle tells.

Osaka Castle is perched atop a stone wall foundation and is surrounded by a moat that extends around its perimeter. In its entirety, Osaka Castle spans 61,000 square meters and features thirteen structures, all of which have been deemed as important cultural assets. There is so much to discover here, including five indoor and eight outdoor floors. Trek over the Gokuraku Bridge, making your way across the moat and into the castle. Find serenity in Nishinomaru Garden. And journey to the castle’s tower, Tenshukaku, where you can take in far-reaching scenic views of the picturesque Osaka skyline. Osaka Castle and its grounds are quite expansive, and you will likely want to spend a few hours here to see it all.  

During the spring season, this cultural travel destination comes alive as thousands of visitors flock to Osaka Castle to see the soft pink cherry blossoms in bloom throughout the lush grounds. Nearby, Kema Sakuranomiya Park also provides prime views of the iconic Japanese cherry blossoms in the spring and is located within walking distance from Osaka Castle.

Experience Universal Studios Japan

Experience Universal Studios Japan

Japan theme parks offer fun for everyone. From Hello Kitty to Hamtaro and Spiderman to Sailor Moon, attractions at Universal Studios Japan are seemingly endless, spreading across different areas of the far-reaching park. 

Leave the muggles behind at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Leave the muggles behind at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the newest and most popular areas of Universal Studios Japan. Fans of the iconic books and movies can experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a scenic dark thrill ride based on the series. The magical experience takes visitors on a flight around the unmistakable Hogwarts castle, with adrenaline-inducing drops, spins, twists, and turns. There is also an encounter with the Whomping Willow and a horde of frightening Dementors. And the rest, well, you’ll have to experience it for yourself.  

Make the world your playground at Super Nintendo World Japan

The world’s first Nintendo-themed Park recently opened at Universal Studios Japan. A gamer's dream, Super Nintendo World brings your favorite games to life. Popular aspects of the Mushroom Kingdom are on display, including recognizable locales from the classic video game like Princess Peach’s Castle, Mount Beanpole, and Bowser’s Castle  — all of which are done in the iconic and colorful game design style — punch blocks included. 

And, get ready to rev your engines, gamers! Super Nintendo World debuted the first life-size Mario Kart ride. With a little help from augmented reality technology, Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge takes visitors on a wild ride through classic courses, including Rainbow Road and Mario Kart Circuit. There are underwater and lava-themed worlds to explore, too. Strap-in and go for the high-score, yippee!

Visit Minion Park for themed treats, trendy merch, and photo ops

Visit Minion Park for themed treats, trendy merch, and photo ops

The unmistakable little yellow dudes from the Despicable Me movies can be spotted across Universal Studio Japan’s Minion Park. The largest of its kind, Minion Park draws in big crowds for its larger-than-life shopping areas, food stands that dish out noshables that range from sweets to banana-flavored popcorn, and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, a computer-animated simulation ride that plunges riders into the air and back down for a fun, thrill of a time with no shortage of minion-led mayhem. 

Escape the ordinary: plan your trip to Osaka today 

Getting to this hub city is simple.  

Travelers can arrive in Osaka by way of the centrally located Kansai International Airport, located just off the coast in Osaka Bay. Also called Osaka International Airport, this travel hub made headlines when it opened in the early 90s for being the world’s first offshore airport to be built on a man-made island. Today, Kansai International Airport operates 24/7 and offers convenient connections to ground transportation options. 

Arriving in Tokyo? Offering access to more than 30 cities across the country, including Osaka, Japan Explorer Pass can streamline your travels. A trip from Tokyo to Osaka is just an hour away. And you can enjoy benefits like award-winning economy seating and free Wi-Fi on all your domestic flights. For an experience of a lifetime, start your trip with Japan Airlines — Osaka is waiting. 

Getting There