Osaka is one of Japan’s liveliest cities, with wonderful street food, wild nightlife and endless shopping. Visiting during the rainy season, which takes place every June, can seem like a downer, but on dreary days there is still plenty to do in this incredible metropolis.
Take on the sports challenge at Round One
Building, Amusement Park, Sports Center
Try out Japan’s indoor amusement craze, ‘spocha’. Short for ‘sports challenge’, spocha incorporates many activities, and Round One has them all. In this multistorey building, which is located near Namba, guests can enjoy a variety of indoor sports, such as bubble football, roller skating, basketball and darts, as well as karaoke and arcade games. Even better (if not slightly reckless) is the fact that Round One is open 24-hours a day, and they serve alcohol in addition to food. It’s an incredibly fun way to spend an evening sheltering from the rain with friends.
Tenjinbashisuji is the longest shotengai (shopping street), in Japan. Spanning multiple kilometres and neighbourhoods, Tenjinbashisuji offers a wealth of shops, restaurants, cafes and bookshops. But best of all, it’s a fascinating insight into the daily hustle and bustle of Japanese business owners and patrons. Stroll along the shopping street no matter what the weather, and enjoy all the delicious food, souvenirs and other goods Osaka has to offer.
This fabulous museum is located at the end of Tenjinbashisuji and among Osaka’s best museums, thanks to its interactive exhibits. Walk through a life-sized replica of Edo-period Japan, which includes traditional homes, buildings and streets. You can also pay a little extra to dress in a kimono while you wander through. Day and night are simulated in the village as you stroll, but luckily, the rain never is.
At the Osaka Science Museum, which is located on a spectacular stretch of river in Nakanoshima, visitors are immersed in space and energy. The museum is home to a planetarium, daily science shows featuring experiments and lectures, special exhibits about topics such as electricity and the universe, a shop and a restaurant. Most of the information is in Japanese, but the displays are fascinating even if you can’t understand the language. It’s also right next to the Osaka National Museum of Art if you want to make a cultural day of it.
Located on the shores of Osaka Bay is Kaiyukan, one of the largest aquariums in the world. Many marine animals from habitats that stretch across the Pacific Ocean are on display here, including an enormous whale shark. There is also an interactive exhibit where visitors can get up close to penguins, seals and rays in rooms that recreate the animals’ natural environments.
Osaka’s massive Shochikuza Theatre puts on performances of the traditional Japanese dance drama, kabuki. As well as attending a show, it’s worth visiting Shochikuza for its on-site craft beer brewery. Dotonbori Beer was one of the first beers to be brewed in Osaka, and Shochikuza Theatre houses Tachibana, one of only a few places to have it on tap. It also serves an excellent selection of Japanese food to try, so if you’re planning to watch some kabuki, don’t miss the chance to head down to the brewery, too.
The Umeda Sky Building rewards visitors in two ways – with the sight of the sleek structure itself from below, and by offering incredible views of downtown Osaka from the top. The two 40-storey towers are connected at the top by a floating observatory, and visitors enter the space via a tunnel-like escalator surrounded by glass. There is an underground market in the basement that recreates the atmosphere of early 20th-century Osaka.
Check out EXPOCITY, Osaka Prefecture's largest amusement complex
Amusement Park, Aquarium, Shopping Mall
This immense complex holds enough activities to keep you busy for a whole day, if not several. Located adjacent to Expo ’70 Commemorative Park, EXPOCITY contains a massive shopping centre with Japanese and international shops and restaurants; a large aquarium that houses tropical fish, reptiles and even a tiger; an amusement park; an IMAX cinema; and the highest ferris wheel in Japan, the Redhorse Osaka Wheel.
If combining the relaxation of taking an onsen bath with the heart-stopping excitement of a water park sounds like your idea of a great time, then pay a visit to Spa World – the place that does both. Inside you’ll find a variety of themed baths, a lazy floating river playground and a mega water slide. Equally rejuvenating, bizarre and adorably kitsch, it’s definitely worth a visit for those wanting a more unique bathing experience.
Abeno Harukas is the tallest building in Japan. It contains a train station, shopping centre, art museum, hotel, office space and more, but the most exciting feature is the three-floor observation deck and open-air atrium Harukas 300, which provides sweeping views of the impressive urban sprawl that seems to stretch forever outward. Brave souls can try Edge the Hurukas, the obstacle-less observation experience at the top of the tower.
The world’s first instant noodles were invented in Ikeda, Osaka in 1958 by Momofuku Ando. In 1971, Ando thought up Cup Noodles, the precursor of today’s Pot Noodles, and they became a global phenomenon. Visitors to Osaka can learn more about the story of instant noodles by visiting the Cup Noodles Museum. Inside the museum, there’s a chicken ramen factory, where guests can make ramen by hand; a Cup Noodles factory, where you can design your own Cup Noodles packaging and many more interactive activities.
Kawaii is a Japanese term for describing food that looks cute. At Pom Pom Purin, pancakes, rice, takoyaki (octopus balls) and other Osakan dishes are designed to look like the character, Pom Pom Purin; with crockery, place settings and seats all inspired by the golden retriever cartoon with its famous beret. Character cafes aren’t nearly as common in Osaka as they are in Tokyo, but it’s worth visiting one for the unique dining experience.
Right by Umeda Station, on the 13th floor of the Umeda Daimaru Department Store, is Osaka Pokémon Center. Here, there’s everything Pokémon lovers could dream of, with stuffed toys, figurines, Pokémon statues and more merchandise than you could throw a Pokéball at. They also hold Pokémon events and there’s a Pokémon card station.
Ukiyo-e, or Japanese woodblock printing, defined the country’s national aesthetic in the past, with prints such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa now internationally recognised. When modern printing techniques were introduced to Japan, the art started to decline, but there are still some artists who practise printing in this style. Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum is the place to go in Osaka to learn about all things ukiyo-e, as it houses a fascinating selection of woodblock prints from Osaka that date back to the Edo period. The collection largely displays ukiyo-e that feature popular kabuki (Japanese dance-drama) actors from the time.
Bunraku is a traditional Japanese style of puppetry that comes from Kamigata, the region that’s known as Kansai today (and which includes Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe). You can catch a performance of the historic art form at Osaka’s National Bunraku Theatre. Alongside bunraku shows, there is an exhibition hall that displays arts exhibitions.