Having lived in Osaka for two years, I’m often asked for my recommendations for those wishing to visit the city. So here goes – my list of 5 things you absolutely have to do in Osaka:
1. Get a bird’s-eye view of Osaka from the Umeda Sky Building
While the Umeda Sky Building is only the 18th tallest building in Japan at 40-storeys high, the experience from its roof-top Floating Garden Observatory is unparalleled. Feel the glorious sensation of the breeze in your hair as you take in a 360-degree panoramic vista of the city, which includes the curious view of a highway going through the middle of building:
The foot of the Umeda Sky Building is also home to a lush garden featuring a waterfall and greenery resembling a natural forest. For a bite to eat, head to the basement, where restaurants are laid out to replicate downtown Osaka in the early Showa period, complete with artefacts from that era.
2. Catch the Dotonburi male hosts in action
Dotonburi is probably better known for being a food haven, where you can choose from a whole range of food including ramen (there are numerous stalls on that street), a Japanese crab dinner, Portuguese egg tarts and puffer fish.
However, the Dotonburi bridge is also (in)famous for the crowd of male hosts who advertise their clubs to passers-by. Easily identified by their outrageous, golden-dyed hairstyles and long pointy shoes, the Dotonburi hosts are the subject of the documentary “The Great Happiness Space: Tales of an Osaka Love Thief”, which won the Best Documentary Feature Award at the 2006 Edinburgh Film Festival. Men-folk, watch and learn as these hosts attempt to charm ladies into visiting their clubs!
3. Munch on Totoro bread
Japanese bakeries are famed for producing soft, fluffy bread, but Narutoya Bakery (鳴門屋製パン) ups the ante with their adorable Totoro and susuwatari (soot ball) buns inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s enchanting animations. The bakery even comes with a café on the second floor where you can dig immediately into their delicious creations.
To get there, take the JR Loop line to Momodani Station and exit onto the covered shopping street towards your left. A few shops later, you will find Narutoya on your right. If you’re there in winter, be sure to get sink your teeth into a Mr Snowman, which has chocolate and custard on the inside.
BONUS: For the best Italian food you’ll ever have outside of Italy, amble down to Pomodoro Fresca, less than 5-min walk from Narutoya, for a taste of their delicious wood-fired pizzas, creamy carbonara or heavenly beef ragu ravioli. Read my post here.
4. Immerse in tradition at the Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farm Houses
Featuring 11 traditional houses from various parts of Japan, the Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farm Houses is rustic and atmospheric. There, you will learn more about the regional variations in building styles between the 17th – 19th centuries, as well as explore the interior of these folk houses. Do also check the events schedule to catch the museum’s special demonstrations of classical folk-story telling, tea-ceremony demonstrations and hands-on sessions!
5. Visit Spa World, an onsen theme park
Spa World is a delightful attraction in Osaka where you can soak in 15 different types of baths from all over the globe. The spas are split into ‘European onsen’, which include Finnish saunas and Roman-style baths, as well as ‘Asian onsen’, which feature Balinese resort-style spas and Japanese cypress baths. In any one month, each gender will have access to either the European or Asian baths, with access alternating the following month.
If you’re in the European section, look out for a bath area inspired by Italy’s legendary Grotta Azzurra!
As you can stay in Spa World for as long as you wish, it’s a great way to recharge those tired bones after a day of shopping and sightseeing. Don’t forget to explore the surrounding Shinsekai area afterwards to fill your empty tummy with delicious kushikatsu, a famous Osaka dish!
What do you think? Do the above make you want to jump on a plane heading for Osaka right now? Have you visited any of these attractions before? What else do you think should be on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
And if you’re looking out for things to eat while in Osaka, check out my post on 5 things you must eat while in the city!