First built in 1583 by order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Osaka Castle is one of the most characteristic monuments of Osaka. However, with his death in 1598, Tokugawa Ieyasu, while ambitiously trying to become the new Shogun, attacked the castle and virtually destroyed it. Thankfully, Tokugawa Hideata commissioned to have it rebuilt in 1620. The 1665 fire badly damaged the castle after it was hit by lightning. In 1931, its iron-based reconstruction was begun and since 1997 there has been major restoration work which is not yet completed. I recommend visiting in April so you can see the sakura that grows around the moat surrounding the castle. If you pass through Osaka, a stop here is a must. It is next to the JR station Morinomiya (the metro station has the same name). Personally I think it is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan (after the Himeji).
This surprisingly-large aquarium is busy 365 days a year with visiting groups of students and a mix of Japanese and international tourists. It's famous for being the largest aquarium in the world and it's full of sea creatures that are as interesting as they are bizarre. If you're visiting Osaka, it's worth spending one morning here checking out the enormous sharks, crabs with 6-foot long legs, hypnotic jellyfish, or the world's largest rodent (it's terrifyingly big!). It was pretty incredible! My only tip is to have patience with the crowds: it's a common occurrence throughout Japan.
Osaka station is the oldest station in the Kansai region, and it belongs to the JR Group and was first officially opened in May, 1874. The same year, the Kobe station was officially opened, leading the route between the two stations, the first and only performed by those then JR West. The station then became a crucial center for the city, around which the commercial life began developing more than in other areas. In 1934, the electric railway was modernized and soon became a stop on the Tokaido station, now linking Osaka with Tokyo. Currently, it remains one of the main train stations in Japan, where besides JR, connect other subway lines, buses and private companies, and all the while moving around the 500 thousand people per day. Inside the station you can find the hustle and bustle of business especially in the area of hotels and personal services. Also in summer, you see several groups of different disciplines playing live music around the station.
The Umeda Sky Building is a symbol of the city. It is 173 meters tall and was built by the Takenaka Corporation in 1993. It is shaped like an inverted "U", with two 40-story towers each joined at the top. It is famous for having an observatory on the roof, which is considered a very romantic place, especially at night, and the floor shines as if it had tiny stars in it. You can see the beautiful city skyline from here. The architect, Hiroshi Hara, wanted to give a sense of floatation to the building so the crystals themselves reflect the sky very clearly, while the highest observatory is almost opaque.
Dotonbori is a neighborhood in downtown Oasaka that was built in the 17th century when the local government decided to channel the Umezu river and create what is today known as the Dotonbori River. The area is filled with shops, lights, restaurants, and karaoke bars and it's one of the most popular areas to go out at night in Osaka. Given its history, there is a lot of cultural identity tied up in Dotonbori which makes for an interesting contrast as traditional Osakan customs and architecture mix with underground trends and youth culture. You can get there from the Namba, Nippombashi, and Dtonbori stations. It's a must! Try to go in the evening when the lights begin to come one.
Yodobashi Camera is one of Japan's biggest stores for electronics and appliances. Umeda is the name given to the central district of Osaka, Yodobashi Umeda, therefore, refers to the building of this chain in its location in the heart of Osaka, although it doesn't all belong to Yodobashi Camera, but most of it does.The rest is shared with other stores like Comme Ca Store (clothing, leather and textile) and several restaurants. From the basement to the seventh floor there are mostly electronics and appliances stores, the eighth floor is the restoration from the rest of the park. Ideal if you are "geeks" for electronics, because there is everything!
The Kuromon Market is the ancient Emmeji market, used to be named after a temple of the same name in the vicinity, but since the Meiji period it changed its name to what it is today, Kuromon, which means "black doors" relating to the doors between the shopping street and this temple. The market is an indoor market that keeps the charm of traditional Japanese markets, with over 600m of street and 170 stalls with fresh products such as fish, vegetables, livestock products and vegetables. Traditionally, women from all the restaurants in Osaka came here to buy products for the restaurants and taverns that their husbands ran. Although this has changed, there are market stalls that look like they haven't changed in years. You can walk 2 blocks to get here from Nipponbashi station.
The Tsutenkaku is one of the symbols of the Japanese city of Osaka. Its name means something like "the tower that touches the sky" because though its 103 meters does not draw a lot of attention today compared with other places in Japan, like the Tokyo Tower, when it was built in 1912, it was fairly popular nationwide and many people came to its observation deck at a little over 90 metres. When erected, it was part of an amusement park and was connected by a kind of cable car that ran to the observation deck. When the amusement park closed it was decided that the tower would remain as an observatory for the city. However, its metal was needed during WWII so it was dismantled in 1943. The tower was rebuilt in the 50's and Hitachi acquired some publicity rights, which he still holds. Since then the neon signs of this ancient tower have never stopped advertising the brand, except between 1974 and 1976, when the tower was turned off during the oil crisis. Today it is a symbol of Osaka, despite not being aesthetically spectacular and being situated in a quite humble neighbourhood of the city.
The Hep Five is a popular shopping centre in Osaka dedicated almost entirely to fashion-forward women and accessories, although it has some unisex sports shops, fashion shops for men, jewellery etc.. It is one of the meccas of "Shopping" in Japan. The design of the building itself is striking from the outside, as it has a wheel that goes through the middle. It is in Kita-ku and is accessible from the Umeda subway or walking from JR Osaka station, which is beside it.
Namba and Dotombori function as the hub of life in Osaka. They are a set of streets where both tourists and locals gather and engage or dedicate themselves in sampling the cuisine of Osaka. This is the place that serves as the central point of the life of the city even commercially, because there are great galleries that cross the streets, with a mixture of shops with restaurants. The river serves as the focal point and a center is Ebisu Bridge. The avant-garde pass though this part of the city, in fashion and in image and you will see the extraordinary local style dress, sometimes too freaky for a European sense, but it's all just for show. It is a perfect place to see urban Japan, with its people, to get just get off at the Namba metro station, the line is M20 and connects to the red Midosuji line.
The Namba Hips is a fairly new building that is close to the Dotombori neighborhood. It's an entertainment center where there are bowling alleys, restaurants, pachinko and other indoor recreational activities. The name comes from the shape it has on the outside, where a platform is dropped for a moment from 74 meters high, as if it were in an amusement park . The entrance to the building is free, but the ride on the platform costs about 6 Euros.
The Namba Walk is an underground pedestrian street in the Osaka subway - using passages that connect Namba station and Nipponbashi station. There are different exits used as shopping areas. In this way we find dozens of establishments of all kinds in these halls, and restaurants, fountains, boutiques, etc ... It is accessible from stations Nippombashi and Namba on the Osaka subway or from some in between.
The poster Glico has become one of the many symbols of Osaka and the soul of Dotonbori. This poster is located on the banks of the river. It represents an athlete with his arms in triumph and a T-shirt that reads the Glico brand name in katakana. In the background there are four figures representing the four most emblematic buildings of the city: Osaka Castle, the Osaka Aquarium, the Osaka Dome, and Tsutenkaku. The Glico brand became famous internationally for its Pocky (called Mikado in Spain and distributed by Lu). The Glico logo is a man running because when it was designed, they were beginning to sell a candybar of 15Kcal that, according to researchers, was just what the average person burns running 300m. The most famous Glico sign is in Dotonbori in Osaka and it has been there since 1919, but it has gone through quite a few changes since then.
The Kyocera Dome Osaka, often just called Dome Osaka, is a famous baseball stadium opened in March 1997 with capacity for 48,000 people. It is an almost legendary place among the citizens of Osaka as it has hosted a lot of the biggest events and concerts that have passed through the city. The current name was given in 2006 when the Kyocera Corportation (based in Kyoto) acquired the naming rights. To access the Dome, go to Kujo Station (Chuo Line) on the Osaka Metro.
The Banpaku koen (万博 公园) is where the Expo was held in Osaka in 1970, and it's now a memorial park whose symbol is the Tower of the Sun, which was the centerpiece of the exhibition. It's just north of downtown Osaka, Suita, about 15 Kilometros from Umeda and is a common destination for couples and families with children, especially in the fall and spring seasons when the leaves change and the trees are painted a thousand different colors. Admission to the exhibition costs 250 yenes, it may seem odd to many of you to pay to enter a park, but the incentive is that admission also includes access to a huge Japanese garden just north of the main hall worth seeing. There is also a small pond in the park where you can rent a pedal boat and paddle around for 20 minutes (those with many different shapes, generally very childish). This may not be a key point to visit if you come to sight see, but I think it's an ideal place to spend a relaxing day or just to take a walk on the weekend.
The street called Midosuji is one of Osaka's main streets that runs from north to south. It reminds me of Avenida De La Castellana in Madrid. There is also a metro line with its name, as it follows the same route as this spacious avenue just underground passing though the city as if it were a vertical artery. It passes through several areas. You can see anything from official buildings, up to luxury shops, passing by small shops and temples. Similarly, you find all kinds of people. Interestingly, this is the only street in Osaka in which smoking is prohibited under penalty, although only in some specified areas, including the most central area.
Sakurabashi is actually a street that runs perpendicular to the famous Midosuji street, but the name applies to the whole area, not just the street itself. The district is famous for its high-end restaurants, luxury stores, and towering skyscrapers. The station closest to the area is Kitashinchi. You can also get there via Osaka and Umeda stations.
You're going to Osaka? Awesome! Now all that's left if to find exactly what to do in Osaka. Lucky for you, it's the third largest city in Japan and one of the country's essential tourist destinations, so there's no shortage of amazing stuff to do in Osaka!
If you are looking for things to do in Osaka, the first stop is Osaka Castle. Rebuilt several times throughout its history, the castle houses a museum with replicas of the original decorations and a gazebo on the top floor offering one of the best views of the city. Another of the essential places to visit in Osaka is the National Bunraku Theater. This traditional art of puppetry was born in Osaka in the seventeenth century and today still retains much of its popularity.
There are also many family-friendly Osaka activities to enjoy. The Kaiyukan Aquarium, with 30,000 specimens of 620 different species, is one of the largest in the world. But to really understand the city's rhythm, you'll have to go to the Minami district, home to some of the most interesting Osaka attractions. At night, the bright billboards on Dotonbori Street light up the city's the main artery with giant crabs, dragons, fugu fish and the giant pictures of a Glico athletes, one of the most emblematic symbols of the city for decades.
If you're still curious about the top attractions in Osaka, have a look on minube and find trips and reviews from real travelers who'll help you discover all of the best things to see in Osaka.