Osaka is one of the country’s largest and most economically-successful cities, a legacy carried forth over many centuries. Formerly known as Naniwa, it was Japan’s first documented capital before the title shifted with the reign of a new emperor. Today, Osaka is a highly-frequented tourist destination, prized for its immaculately-preserved historic sites and world-class entertainment centres.
What to see and do
Universal Studios Japan is possibly the crowning glory of Osaka’s tourism industry, as it is Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park. Greeting visitors with its manicured streets and cheery archway, USJ is the pinnacle of Japanese hospitality. Have the time of your life interacting with your favourite film worlds of Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, and Universal Wonderland. This award-winning fairy tale getaway is a treat for everybody’s inner kid.
If you’re travelling to Japan in the middle of spring, you’re just in time to catch the wondrous cherry blossoms in full bloom. Osaka Castle (Ōsakajō) is the perfect spot to picnic beneath the pretty pastel trees. The Castle itself is a monument to behold; dating as far back as 1583, it has been through a tumultuous history of siege and fire, and now stands proudly as a modernised museum.
For an unorthodox experience of Osaka, sign up with this unique tour: Osaka Bob’s Osaka in 60 Seconds. You will join Osaka Bob, Café de Osaka's local foreign resident, who introduces the main roads and secreted corners of Osaka from a foreigner’s perspective. Discover Osaka’s well-hidden bars and restaurants and find out the city’s best-kept secrets!
Should you require a little more professional assistance, the city has five Sightseeing Information Centres you can approach for help. The staff are fluently multilingual, and will provide you with all the maps and pamphlets you need to plan your own trip and accommodation in Osaka. These centres are located at Umeda/Osaka, Shin-Osaka, Tennoji, and Namba Stations, and at Kansai International Airport.
Osaka is well-serviced with a highly advanced transport network. The city’s main terminal is Shin-Osaka Station, which serves its world-acclaimed shinkansen (bullet trains). A number of routes to the central areas of Umeda and Namba branch out from here. If you’re planning to travel by public transport, the city has a range of excursion and tourist passes to help you save on your travel fare.
As an “aqua metropolis”, Osaka provides travel by way of water as well. Hop on a water bus or river cruise for a different view. Or join the scores of Osaka’s cyclists – a number of English-speaking bike rental services will hook you up with a ride, and even recommend some cycle tours! Sightseeing taxis can also be hired if you prefer to kick back and have a personal guided tour.
Getting to Osaka
Osaka’s international flights are handled by Kansai International Airport. Carriers fly here from across major regions around the globe, including the Americas, Europe, Oceania, and Asia. Domestic flights from more than 30 cities around Japan are served by Itami Airport.
If you’re landing in Kansai Airport, you can reach Osaka City by JR Haruka limited express train, JR airport rapid train, Nankai Railway’s Rap:t limited express train, and limousine bus. For transport from Itami Airport, you can take an airport bus, or ride the Osaka Monorail and make a transfer at the Hankyu Takarazuka Line for Umeda Station.
Another option for domestic travel to Osaka by ferry, which can berth at Osaka Port International Ferry Terminal, Osaka Nanko Ferry Terminal, or Osaka Nanko Kamome Ferry Terminal. These jetties are less than an hour by the Osaka Municipal Subway to the city.
By car, Osaka is accessible by Meishin Expressway, Chugoku Expressway, and Nishi-Meihan Expressway. For a more effortless journey, highway buses can also zip you to Osaka – just remember to reserve your seat and confirm your boarding location before your trip.