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Solo Traveller’s Guide to Osaka, Japan

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As the third largest city in Japan, Osaka is a vibrant city packed with fun and excitement. It was once the ancient capital city before the Nara Period. But today, Osaka is a modern city with an abundance of history and undeniable good food.

I love Osaka! I fell in love with the city the minute I arrived. Perhaps it is the beauty of the city or the ease of getting around. I have to say, though, that Osakan people are the friendliest people I’ve met in Japan. And most of all, I love the big city feel but small-town charm.

So if you are travelling alone to Japan, make sure to include a few days in Osaka in your itinerary.

 

 

Why Osaka is great for a solo female traveller

As a solo female traveller myself, I want to travel to a city where I feel safe. Like other parts of Japan, Osaka is absolutely a safe place. I didn’t have any issues in busy and touristy areas, nor did I fear walking around at night. I spent a lot of time wandering at night because the summer heat is quite brutal in Osaka.

Another priority for a solo traveller is the ease of transportation especially in a country where most people do not speak English. In Osaka, there are many English signs for the subway and trains. Also, smartphone apps and websites helped with navigating around the city without actually understanding the confusing train system. Moving around Osaka wasn’t an issue at all.

And finally, being mindful of my budget is an important aspect especially for a solo traveller. Since I am not sharing accommodation costs, I am limited to the type of places I can stay while being budget conscious. One of the most significant advantages of travelling to Osaka is the affordability in single accommodation. There are many modern and clean hostels options all around the city and not to mention quite a few options for Airbnb as well. I had no issues finding accommodation that was within my frugal budget.

 

 

 

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Osaka Transportation

 

How to get to Osaka

If you are flying to Osaka, you will be arriving at Kansai International Airport which is just about 50km south of Osaka. Or if you are already in Japan and will be coming from the west (Kobe, Hiroshima, etc.) or coming from the east (Nagoya, Tokyo, etc.), you will be arriving in Shin-Osaka Station.

 

From Kansai International Airport to Osaka

It depends where you want to go to (i.e. depends where your accommodation is), you may want to select a specific train to get into the city. All the train options will take you to either Tennoji Station or Namba Station. And at that point, you can transfer to other JR lines or subway lines to arrive at your destination. Check Hyperdia for exact schedule and cost.

  • JR Haruka Airport Limited Express Train
    • to Tennoji Station (34 minutes, ¥2,230)
    • to Shin-Osaka Station (51 minutes, ¥2,850)
    • covered by Japan Rail Pass
  • Nankai Airport Express Train
    • to Namba Station (54 minutes, ¥920)
  • JR Kansaikuko Express Train
    • to Tennoji Station (52 minutes, ¥1,060)
    • covered by Japan Rail Pass
  • Limousine Bus 

 

From other cities to Osaka via train

 

From other cities to Osaka via bus

 

 

 

How to get around Osaka

Get an IC card when you arrive at Kansai International Airport or any JR Station in Osaka. The IC card is a rechargeable card where you can put in money and take public transportation (including train, subway, and bus).

Icoca is the rechargeable IC card for Kansai region including Osaka.

If you already have a Pasmo or Suica card from Tokyo or other IC cards from different regions in Japan, top up your card and use it in Osaka.

You can visit most attractions in Osaka with the subway and JR trains. Between subway and train stations, plan on doing a bit of walking in between because many neighbourhoods are worth exploring.

 

 

Things to do in Osaka

I’ve always been fascinated by Japan and enjoy exploring different cities. After visiting Tokyo, I knew I had to see Osaka. I’m amazed by all the things you can do in Osaka, the friendly people and just the city overall. Genuinely love every bit of Osaka!

 

All the top things to do in Osaka are pinned in the interactive map. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.

 

Must-see attractions in Osaka

Here are some of my favourite Osaka tourist attractions. Everyone has different sets of criteria when it comes to site seeing. Mine mainly focuses on cultural and historical sites, being in nature, anything that is artsy and contemporary, and food-oriented. Ha!

Join one of the free walking tours in Osaka or see these attractions on your own. 

 

Osaka Castle

An iconic landmark in Osaka that you must visit. Since the 16th century, the castle has been destroyed many times throughout history. Through reconstruction and restoration, the castle has modern interior facilities for accessibility.

For a small entrance fee of ¥600, you can see the museum displays of the castle’s history and climb to the top floor where you can see the city from above.

On the outside, the castle is surrounding by a moat, tall, gorgeous stone walls and nestled within the beautiful Nishinomaru Garden. The garden is a favourite spot for visitors especially during the sakura season (late March to early April) when all of the 600 cherry trees are in full bloom.  Many locals and tourists come here for hanami (flower viewing) where they set up space in the park with blankets, food and drinks. Spending an afternoon in a park filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees is one of the highlights during spring in Japan.

 

Namba

As Osaka’s most famous city centre, Namba is full of bright lights and excitement. You will find Dōtonbori in Namba, Osaka’s most popular street full of neon lights, animated signages, and delicious Dōtonbori street food. Don’t forget to take a photo with the Glico Running Man sign!

 

 

Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade

Also part of Namba, Shinsaibashi is a popular shōtengai (traditional Japanese covered shopping street) in Osaka. From trendy clothing stores, drug stores selling cosmetics, department stores, coffee shops and restaurants, whatever you are hoping to find, you will most likely find it at Shinsaibashi. It can get pretty crowded during the weekend. Actually, it is pretty busy most of the time.

 

 

 

Shinsekai

Shinsekai is Osaka is another district where it has the old world charm. The area is full of nostalgic restaurants and also the birthplace of kushikatsu, one of Osaka’s food specialty where skewers of food are battered and deep-fried. The area indeed comes alive after dark where bright lights and signs cover every street and corner.

 

Orange Street

As for upscale fashion, chic and trendy shops and cute cafes, you can find them all along Orange Street. I’m not particularly a great shopper when it comes to fashion, but I love all the modern and contemporary interior stores. There are quite a few if you are into finding furniture and knick-knacks for your home.

 

Nakazakicho

Consider as Osaka’s hipster area, Nakazakicho has many gift stores and modern coffee shops hidden in small alleys. It is not a mainstream attraction but if like the off-the-beaten-path type of places, this may be worth checking out. Nakazakicho is similar to Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa and Koenji neighbourhoods.

 

Hozenji Temple

Hozenji Temple is a small temple off the busy area of Namba. Hidden in the quiet alley, the temple has a moss-covered deity and a peaceful setting. The temple is exceptionally beautiful and peaceful at night as the lanterns subtly light up the temple.

 

Osaka Tenmangū

As Osaka’s most famous shrine, Osaka Tenmangū has one of the biggest annual festivals, the Tenjin Matsuri, where the festival honours its principal deity, Sugawara Michizane, the god of scholarship. It is one of Japan’s top three festivals. It is a fun-filled festival during summer where many people participate, and onlookers enjoy watching.

 

 

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Other attractions in Osaka

If you have seen all the must-see attractions, check out some other worthwhile attractions in Osaka:

 

Umeda Sky Building

For ¥1500, you can visit the “Floating Garden Observatory” between the two 40-story buildings. Located on the 39th floor of Umeda Sky Building, the observatory space is connected by a tunnelled escalator, and you can see Osaka in an unobstructed 360-degree view.

 

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

It is of the largest aquariums in the world! There are giant tanks with whale sharks and all kinds of marine animals. There are also interactive exhibits where you can get up-close and personal with some of the cutest sea habitats like penguins and sting-rays.

 

 

 

Universal Studios Japan

USJ is the first Universal Studios theme park in Asia. The park features attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and more. Plan your day efficiently so you can see all your favourite shows and go on as many rides as possible.

 

Abeno Harukas

Currently, Abenos Harukas is the tallest building in Osaka. The Harukas 300, a three-floor observation deck and open atrium to provide a magnificent view of the city for a small price tag of ¥1500. Otherwise, check out the garden terrace on the 16th floor for free. The building also has a department store, art museum, hotel and a train station.

 

Shitenno-ji

As one of Japan’s oldest temples, Shitenno-ji was destroyed many times but the reconstruction of the temple is very close to the original state. For a minimal fee, you can visit the interior where the five-storied pagoda resides. Otherwise, walking around the exterior of the temple is just as enjoyable especially around the Gokuraku-jodo Garden

 

Namba Yasaka Shrine

One of the more interesting temple you will find in Osaka. The unique part about the shrine is a 12-meter tall lion head surrounding the shrine itself where the lion’s mouth is part of the actual shrine. It is said that the lion’s mouth swallows evil spirits.

 

If you want to experience Osaka with a tour guide, check out some of these tours:

 

Art & culture in Osaka

Museums are great places to learn something new and fun. There are a few good ones in Osaka:

 

National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMOA)

Situated on Nakanoshima Island, NMOA showcases Japanese and other contemporary art. The design of the building is quite unusual when compared to buildings in the vicinity. The exterior is supposed to represent a bamboo plant and how it grows while the space of the museum is submerged into the ground. Check NMOA’s website for their upcoming exhibits.

 

Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum

A unique museum is showcasing ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints). The private museum displays prints from the Bunka and Bunsei eras.

 

 

 

 

Osaka day trips

If you have a lot of time to explore the Kansai region, consider doing a few excursions from Osaka. Day trips from Osaka are super easy because of the accessibility of transportation. So make Osaka your home base and explore other areas in Japan.

 

Minoo Park

Just outside of Osaka, Minoo Park has easy hiking trails, waterfall, temples and gardens. Definitely, visit the park during the autumn season to see the changing colours of the maple trees. Oh, and did I mention Minoh Beer Warehouse is nearby?

From Umeda Station, take the Hankyu-Takarazaka Line for Minoo Station. You have to switch trains at Ishibashi Station. The trail starts right when you exit the station.

 

Koyasan

Koyasan is a sleepy little town but full of charm. It is known for its hundreds of sacred temples and Japan’s biggest graveyard. It is one of the most spiritual town in Japan.

From Namba Station, take the Nankai Koya Line for Gokurakubashi Station. From the station, take the Nankai Koyasan Cable car towards Koyasan.

 

Kyoto

With just a half-hour of a train ride, you can transport yourself into Kyoto where you can experience an abundance of historical temples and culinary delights. If you can only spend one day in Kyoto, check out Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari. I have a suggested one-day itinerary in my Solo Traveller’s Guide to Kyoto, Japan.

The journey from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station is just less than 30 minutes on JR Kyoto Line. Or if you have a JR Rail Pass, just hop on a Shinkansen and get to Kyoto in 15 minutes.

 

Kobe

As the sixth biggest city in Japan, Kobe is a beautiful port city with great scenery and delicious food. You can spend a day walking through Kitano-cho area to see various museums, take in the view at the Kobe Harbour and enjoy world-class grilled Kobe beef.

Hop on JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line bound for Kobe and disembark at Sannomiya Station and start your day in Kobe.

 

 

 

Himeji

Himeji is known for the glorious Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the castle certainly does not disappoint. And make sure to visit Engyoji Temple in Mount Shosha. It is one of the most peaceful temples I’ve ever been to.

The fastest way is taking the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station. You will arrive at Himeji Station in just 40 minutes. Otherwise, the express train on Tokaido-Sanyo Line will get you to Himeji in an hour for a cheaper price tag.

 

Nara

Spend the day roaming Nara Park, have a close encounter with the wild deer, and getting lost in the small streets of Naramachi (Old Nara City). And check out the famous Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara as it is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Japan.

From Namba Station, take the JR Yamatoji Line bound for Nara. Once you disembark at Nara Station, you are right at the edge of the town.

 

 

Where to eat in Osaka

Osaka is a food lover’s paradise! Many cafes and restaurants are in Dōtonbori, Namba, Umeda, Shinsekai areas but you can almost find food anywhere in Osaka.

Aside from the usual sushi, sashimi, ramen and soba noodles, there are a few specific foods you must try in Osaka:

  • Takoyaki – made with flour, eggs, octopus and topped with takoyaki sauce and dried bonito flakes. It is formed in a metal ball-shaped pan where each takoyaki is made into a perfect sphere. Takoyaki is the quintessential snack in Osaka!
  • Okonomiyaki – Japanese savoury pancake made with noodles, shredded cabbage, flour batter and various toppings including seafood and meat. Then a copious amount of sauce is drizzled directly on top of the pancake. Okonomiyaki is made on a hot plate right in front of you at your table. So you get to eat a delicious meal and watch a show at the same time!
  • Kushikatsu – skewered and deep-fried meat, seafood and vegetables on a stick. Eaten with cabbage and a ponzu-type sauce where you can only dip once (no double-dipping!) Kushikatsu is originated in Shinsekai, but you can find a kushikatsu restaurant almost anywhere in Osaka.
  • Kitsune Udon – a bowl of delicious udon noodles with soup topped with a big piece of fried tofu. This dish is originated in Osaka.
  • Yakiniku – Japanese barbeque where you grill meat over a charcoal grill at your table. Osaka has a great selection of beef including Kobe wagyu beef and Matsusaka beef.

 

 

 

You can find more information about each location in the attached google map by clicking on the individual pin (see interactive map above).

 

Budget restaurants

  • Kuromon Ichiba Market (Black Gate Market) – a covered street full of vendors selling all kinds of seafood dishes. From fresh sashimi right from the sea to grilled scallops, fried tempura, and everything type of seafood you can imagine, you will find it here. There are other Japanese food if seafood isn’t your game.
  • Osaka Ohsho – come here for delicious gyoza and cheap beer. There are many locations, but the main location is on Dōtonbori, right underneath the giant gyozas at the storefront
  • RedRock Americamura – serving sliced tender Kobe beef over rice. Various locations in Osaka
  • Dōtonbori Konamon Museum – one of the best places to get takoyaki. You know its good base on the long queue. Just look for the giant octopus above the storefront.
  • Pablo Cheese Tart – freshly baked cheese tarts and cakes. Super popular in Osaka!

 

Mid-range restaurants

  • Hozenji Yokocho Alley – a narrow street in the Dōtonbori area filled with okonomiyaki restaurants and kushikatsu restaurants
  • Kushikatsu Janjan Dōtonbori  – you can order one skewer at a time or a set of five or ten mix skewers. Remember to dip your skewer in the sauce only once!
  • Botejyu – they serve okonomiyaki in traditional ingredients and fusion ingredients. And they also serve “modern-yaki,” a specialty of Osaka that combines okonomiyaki and yakisoba

 

High-end restaurants

  • Kodan – a small traditional Japanese restaurant where the chef serves a fantastic array of sushi. The omakase menu is different each day as the chef will only serve the freshest seafood and the best of the best. If you want to experience high-end sushi (and willing to part with a bit of money), you must eat at Kodan. Reservation is highly recommended.

 

Coffee shops

  • Brooklyn Roasting Company Kitahama – is there anything better than sipping the best coffee while enjoying the view of the river from the patio? And it is an excellent spot for any digital nomad who wants to get some solid work done.
  • Takamura Wine and Coffee Roasters – serving wine and coffee in a cozy two-level warehouse space. You may want to spend a few hours here at one of the comfortable lounge chairs. The question is: is it going to be coffee or wine?  

 

Other food options

  • Daimaru Osaka – both Shinsaibashi and Umeda locations have a grocery store and prepared food in the basement level (very typical of all Japanese department stores).
  • Takashimaya Osaka – conveniently located at Namba Station, the department store food section has endless options for food.
  • 7-Eleven / Family Mart / Lawson – Japanese convenience stores are great options for picking up a quick snack or an entire meal

 

Where to stay in Osaka

Finding accommodation in Osaka is not a difficult task especially if you are a budget-conscious solo traveller. You can easily find a dorm bed or single room for less than ¥5,000 per day in accessible locations. And if you want to splurge on something fancier, there are plenty of mid-range accommodations and squanky boutique hotel options.

 

The best place to stay in Osaka is either in Namba or Shinsaibashi area because they are both central to most attractions and is well connected by subway and trains.

 

Budget accommodation

  • Cost: up to ¥5,000 per day
  • Bon Hostel
    • A minimalistic design hostel with modern dorm beds. They have small rooms (i.e. six bed per room) options for an all-female or mixed dorm. Located in Namba
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Hostel Mitsuwaya Osaka
    • A simple hostel with private dorm beds, great common areas, and a rooftop. I particularly like the common areas as it is a great place to meet other travellers and do a bit of work as well. Close to Namba and Shinsaibashi
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Ark Hostel and Cafe Dining
    • Comfortable dorm rooms, great restaurant, front patio and nice rooftop. Located just south of Osaka Station and Umeda
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

 

Mid-range accommodation

  • Cost: from ¥5,000 – 10,000 per day
  • Superhotel Lohas Honmachi Subway Yotsubashi Line
    • You can get everything in a compact single room including a desk and private bathroom. Near Honmachi Station
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Grandi Nihonbashi Park Hotel 
    • Colourful, simple rooms with clean bathroom. And there’s a washing machine and kitchenette in your room. Close to Namba
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Hotel WBF Art Stay Namba
    • A popular chain hotel in Japan with modern rooms and clean bathrooms. Near Namba
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

 

 

 

High-end accommodation

  • Cost: over ¥10,000 per day
  • Moxy Osaka Honmachi by Marriott
    • A hip boutique hotel with bold, contemporary finishes in each room. The lobby and other public areas have a retro feel but in a modern interior. It has a fitness centre, bar and lounge. Near Hommachi Station and south of Umeda
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • hotel androoms Osaka Hommachi
    • A clean and simple boutique hotel with small modern rooms. Near Hommachi Station.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Remm Shin-Osaka
    • Monochromatic rooms in this new boutique hotel at Osaka Station. Travellers love the location of this hotel.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

 

Long-term accommodation

  • Cost: up to ¥4,000 per day
  • Budget accommodation is better suited if you are travelling for more than a few weeks
  • If you are slow travelling through Japan, Osaka is a wonderful option as the city has many attractions and also a great jump-off point for day trips.
  • I stayed at an Airbnb apartment near Shinsaibashi. The apartment has a comfortable bed, kitchenette, and bathroom. It had everything I needed for a few weeks. However, this listing is no longer available.
  • Since June 2018, The Japan Housing Law requires Airbnb to have a registered license. There are fewer options than before, but the options that are available are still really great. Check the Airbnb website for up-to-date listings.
  • And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended itineraries for Osaka

Whether you stay for one week in Japan or up to a few weeks, you have to include Osaka on your Japan trip itinerary. Take a look at my one-day and two-day itineraries for Osaka below:

 

 

If you only have one day in Osaka

Take advantage of your entire day in Osaka by waking up early and visit the following places:

  • take the subway or walk to Osaka Castle (opens at 9:00 am) and Nishinomaru Garden first thing in the morning
  • hop back on the subway and go to Osaka Tenmangū to see the beautiful temple
  • either get back on the subway or walk over to the north end of Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and walk south toward Dōtonbori
  • try takoyaki at Dōtonbori Konamon Museum 
  • peek into Hozenji Temple in Namba
  • check out Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum 
  • for lunch, try various types of food at Kuromon Ichiba Market
  • walk over to Orange Street to do some window shopping and sip coffee at one of the cafes or take a subway to Nakazakicho to check out the hipster neighbourhood
  • take the subway to Shinsekai and end the day with a kushikatsu dinner
  • stay in Namba area

 

 

 

 

 

If you have two days in Osaka

Day 1 (blue pins)

  • take the subway or walk to Osaka Castle (opens at 9:00 am) and Nishinomaru Garden first thing in the morning
  • hop back on the subway and go to Osaka Tenmangū to see the beautiful temple
  • take a subway or walk to Nakazakicho to check out the hipster neighbourhood
  • have lunch in Umeda
  • visit the “Floating Garden Observatory” at Umeda Sky Building 
  • take the subway and head to The National Museum of Art, Osaka for some cultural fun
  • by now you deserve a break – choose either wine or coffee at Takamura Wine & Coffee Roasters 
  • either get back on the subway or walk over to the north end of Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and walk south toward Dōtonbori
  • try takoyaki at Dōtonbori Konamon Museum 
  • peek into Hozenji Temple in Namba
  • check out Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum 
  • and finally, for dinner, try okonomiyaki at Botejyu
  • stay in Namba area

 

Day 2 (purple pins)

  • start your day by eating! head over to Kuromon Ichiba Market and try some new food
  • take the subway to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (opens at 10:00 am)
  • hop back onto the subway and head to Orange Street to do some window shopping
  • have lunch at one of the restaurants in Hoeznji Yokocho
  • take the subway to Abenos Harukas to either visit the Harukas 300 or browse through the department store and visit the museum
  • walk over to Shitennoji to see the temple and Gokuraku-jodo Garden
  • for lunch, try various types of food at Kuromon Ichiba Market
  • then walk to Shinsekai and end the day with a kushikatsu dinner
  • on your way back to your accommodation, peak in Namba Yasaka Shrine to see the lion and the temple
  • stay in Namba area

 

 

 

If you have three (or more) days in Osaka

Follow the two-day itinerary and do the following for the third day:

day 3 options

  1. Plan ahead and visit Universal Studios Japan for the entire day
  2. Take the subway to Minoo Park and spend a wonderful morning and early afternoon hiking and being outdoors. Then visit Minoh Beer Warehouse
  3. Make a day trip from Osaka to either Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji or Nara

 

Hope you are not overwhelmed by all the information. I hope you find the post useful for planning your trip to Osaka.

 

 

For more travel planning resources, check out my Amazon picks:

 

 

 

 

Where to go in Japan

Check out my guides to the best cities to visit in Japan, including:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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last update: April 11, 2019

About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 16+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

2 Comments

  • albert teh
    March 26, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Hopping from one place to another at Osaka as advice by you is simple as ABC. But your blog somehow never benefit any travelers at all.

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      March 26, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      Hi Albert, thank you for your feedback. I’m wondering if you can give me any further feedback so I can improve. Was there something that you feel missing? Or perhaps I didn’t explain enough? Anyway, I’d appreciate your honest feedback. Thanks again!

      Reply

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