In Japan’s second city, weekends (okay, this is Osaka, so weekdays, too) are all about doing things to excess – shopping, eating, drinking, and partying. If you’re only in Osaka for a couple of days, regardless of the day of the week, rest assured that there is plenty to see and do. Good luck keeping up with the locals, though.
Start your trip off in the most well-known district in town, Dotonbori. This beloved entertainment hub, historically filled with markets and theaters, has retained much of its original charm. However, it’s now also filled with street stalls, bars, international brand shops, and towering neon lights reminiscent of Times Square. This is truly the Japan you’ve always imagined.
Stand on Ebisu Bridge and take a picture with the famous Glico Man sign, an Osaka right of passage. Then, go down the steps and stroll along the Tonbori River Walk, located alongside the area’s namesake canal. If you’re up for it, hop on one of the river cruises.
Next, walk down one of the streets adjacent to the riverwalk, where you can find the street food for which Osaka is known: takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushikatsu.
After your meal, stroll down Shinsaibashisuji, one of Osaka’s longest shotengai, or covered shopping streets. This arcade is packed with shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, karaoke booths, and more.
Head back towards the canal and take a break in the backstreets at Hozenji, a moss covered temple in a secluded haven right in the middle of downtown. Pay your respects then stroll down adjacent Hozenji Yokocho, a traditional-looking street lined with local restaurants and bars.
Once the sun goes down, head back to the canal one last time and behold the spectacle of Dotonbori at night. Grab a beer at a konbini (convenience store) and go to Amemura, Osaka’s hip hangout for the local counterculture. Sit and drink in Triangle Park, where you can mingle and people-watch with the locals and expats.
After that, check out some of the bars and clubs in the area, or head to Shinsaibashi for a night you’ll never forget (assuming you don’t drink too much). If that’s not your thing, go bowling or grab something to read and a coffee at Standard Bookstore.
After that, pick the Umeda area to wander through based on your interests – there’s artsy Nakazakicho, an area filled with independent galleries, coffee shops, and even great ramen; the packed shopping centers around the station itself like Lucua, Grand Front, and Osaka Station City; and Umeda Sky Building, from where you can see sweeping views of the city as well as enjoy a more traditional shopping and dining experience on the basement floor.
Once you’ve had your fill of fast-paced, ultra-modern Umeda, take a train to Osaka Castle. The historic structure is surrounded by an enormous park, so take your time frolicking around the grounds before taking in the impressive moat, turrets, and castle walls, all of which have survived for centuries. The castle itself has been destroyed many times, but rebuilt to resemble its former glory.
After leaving the castle, head to nearby Tenma, an eclectic area that offers a glimpse into a more authentic and traditional side of Osaka. Walk down Tenjinbashisuji, Japan’s longest shotengai, and get a feel for Osaka’s roots as a merchant city. Then head to Osaka Tenmangu, the city’s most famous and important shrine. Finally, wander the backstreets around JR Tenma Station, where there are countless tiny restaurants and bars where you can enjoy your last night.