It’s been 16 years since I’ve last visited the the third largest city in Japan, Osaka. Home to almost 2.7 million people, Osaka is a bustling metropolis that is sure to impress. At the time that I was visiting I crossed paths with Typhoon Jebi, so instead of staying for a day, I had to stay an extra day in Osaka until it was safe to travel on. In that time I learned of other activities that I should try next time, so with that combined, I’ve created my ultimate 24-hour Osaka itinerary.
8:30am: Make your way by taxi to the famous Osaka Castle Park. Over 430 years old and surrounded by a 3-meter deep moat, the formidable castle houses a number of artefacts such as samurai swords, elaborate paintings and folding screens. Wander through the serene gardens and stone fences that once protected the city and immerse yourself in its history. Admissions to the castle museum costs 600 Yen (JPY) per adult, and if the queues for the elevators are long, use the stairs to reach the top of the castle to take in stunning views of the park and Osaka.
10:30am: Satiate your hunger by hailing a cab to arrive at Kuromon Ichiba Market (Black Gate Market), Osaka’s oldest and biggest fresh food market. It supplies fresh seafood to professional chefs and restaurants in Osaka, so be assured that the variety and quality of the food will satisfy even the pickiest gourmand. Seat yourself down in a Yatai (eating stall) and order up some must-try delicacies like Otoro sashimi (raw fatty tuna belly slices), fugu sashimi (raw puffer fish slices) and Unagi (grilled eel).
12:00pm: Clear your mind as you gaze at the mesmerising ocean life at one of the largest public aquariums in the world, just 20 minutes away by car. The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan offers you a unique chance to explore the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire’ through vivid representations of the natural environment found at different ocean levels. Get up close and personal with the largest fish in the ocean, the graceful whale shark, as well as over 380 species of rays, fish and other beautiful underwater creatures. Feeding time for the whale shark is at 10:30am and 3:00pm, but do check the website for other feeding sessions.
3:30pm: Take a 15-minute taxi ride back to Osaka’s best known shopping area, Shinsaibashi–Suji Shopping Street. Established in the 16th century, the street is filled with kimono tailors, fast food restaurants and hip fashion boutiques that still pay homage to its historical past. Shopping lovers and foodies can walk on the same cobbled pathways and wander down the same alleys as samurais and market goers once did, as you experience what this vibrant city has to offer today.
05:00pm: Begin your day with a walk to the two towered Umeda Sky Building. Towering 173 metres over Osaka, it is an architectural icon with its dramatic sci-fi structure and metallic exterior. Visit the floating garden observatory balanced in the middle of the towers and enjoy the fresh air and panoramic views of the city.
Head to Takimi-kōji Alley at the tower’s basement, which brings to life a Shōwa-era (1926-1989) market street filled with cafes and eateries waiting to be discovered. Indulge in authentic Japanese fare at Okonomiyaki Kiji. Tucked in the corner of the food area and identified by its red noren (traditional fabric divider) at its door, the traditional and charming eatery serves one of the best okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) in town.
Some of Osaka’s gastronomic delights can also be found here, and must-tries for dinner include:
Okoyomiyaki, a savoury pancake filled with an abundance of lettuce and meat, topped with sweet brown sauce and fluffy bonito flakes
Takoyaki, grilled batter balls filled with octopus and topped with sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes
Kitsune Udon, thick wheat noodles in savoury broth accompanied by a piece of fried tofu
06:00pm: DenDen Town
Whether or not you’re a fan of anime, you’ll love wandering through Den Den Town. Geek out with store upon store of arcade games, video games, anime, manga and cosplay. Even if you’re not a gamer, witnessing the buzz of this fascinating sub-culture is something every tourist should experience.
8:00pm: Time to catch a glimpse of Japanese nightlife. Take a 10 minute walk to Dotonbori, a lively street along the river with an exciting array of bars, restaurants, eye-catching neon signs and moving displays. The serene river reflects all the neon lights, creating an enigmatic and colourful atmosphere. The stone-paved alley is lined with Osaka’s best street food and drinks, bringing to life the iconic Osaka phrase kuidaore, which roughly means, ‘to extravagantly ruin oneself by indulging in food’. Treat yourself to one of Osaka’s most popular version of takoyaki at Takoyaki Kukuru, which attracts long queues of tourists and locals for its generous fillings and fluffy texture.