Looking for ways to merge education with enjoyment during your stay in Osaka? What better way to do this than by visiting the best museums the city has to offer. Whether your passions include food, science or history, Osaka’s museums are bound to fascinate.
Home to a 16th-century castle and the foodie hub that is Dotonbori, Osaka is proud to be the birthplace and guardian of many different aspects of Japanese culture. There are many ways for visitors to engage with the rich culture of this city, but to experience the full breadth of what Osaka has to offer, head to a few of its top museums.
Just remember to check the museum’s website before embarking on your adventures, as many are closed one day per week for maintenance.
Cup Noodles were invented in Osaka in 1971, giving instant ramen its humble beginnings in the city. To experience the interactive history of a food that has travelled beyond borders, and has even defied gravity (a version was made that could be eaten in space), visit the Cup Noodles Museum. Here, you can learn about Momofuku Ando, the man behind the snack, and make your very own noodles and packaging. Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the tasting room to stock up on limited-edition instant ramen products. While admission to the museum itself is free, entrance to the Chicken Ramen Factory and the My Cup Noodles Factory require a small fee. Some of the signs don’t have English translations, but there is an English audio guide app that you can download before your visit. The app provides translations for everything and gives additional information about the history of Cup Noodles.
Immerse yourself in historic Osaka at the Museum of Housing and Living, which highlights what life was like in Osaka during the Edo period (1603–1868). This engaging museum showcases reconstructed life-size streets, homes and shops from Edo-period Osaka. During your visit, the museum’s interior lighting will slowly change from morning to afternoon to night, giving you the chance to experience what a day would have looked like at the time. Enjoy peeking into traditional Osakan homes and interacting with numerous props, including Japanese theatre masks and tables set for supper on tatami floors. There is a small admission cost, but it’s well worth it. A lot of the signage in the museum lacks English translations, but there are audio guides available and most of the staff speak excellent English.
Offering four floors of play areas for children of all ages, Kids Plaza is the perfect museum for families visiting Osaka. The child-oriented museum is designed to encourage kids to learn while they play, offering engaging art and food education programmes on the Creativity Floor and interactive science exhibitions on the Discovery Floor. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, stop by the Pump Playground and Soap Bubble Supreme exhibits on the Discovery Floor. One of Kids Plaza’s most popular exhibits is Kids Town, where children can dress up as different workers (police officer, grocer, postman, chef, vet etc) and play at their job in a miniature city. While some activities lack English translations, Kids Plaza is primarily a hands-on museum, so it’s easy to figure things out without instructions. The attraction is closed the second and third Monday of each month.
If you’re travelling with kids, a trip to the Osaka Science Museum is a great way to entertain them in an educational way. This large facility is tailored to children and nearly every exhibit is hands-on. Popular exhibits include the Rubik’s cube-solving robot, astronaut space suits and a room full of tiny houses from different parts of the world. Children will love all the opportunities to touch, pull, push, test, jump and explore the exhibits. For a more relaxed experience, visit the museum’s planetarium, which is the first and largest of its kind in Japan. Although the planetarium’s shows are in Japanese, even if you don’t understand the language, the gorgeous night sky visuals make the show well worth the small entrance fee. In general, English translations are limited at the Science Museum, but the interactive nature of the displays means they are easy to use anyway.
From its magnificent location, the Osaka Museum of History offers scenic views of the majestic Osaka Castle and grounds. And inside, the museum displays equally aesthetically pleasing exhibits. As you work your way through the venue, the exhibits progress from ancient times to the modern day, showcasing Osaka’s development into the third-largest city in Japan. The story of Osaka’s past is told through artefacts, model streets and period-dressed mannequins. Stroll through 10 storeys of Osaka’s history before arriving at the top floor where views of Osaka Castle await you. The museum also offers helpful audio guides in your language of choice that make for a great crash course on the city’s intriguing past. If you have time to see everything, buy the Osaka Castle and Osaka Museum of History ticket package for a reduced rate on entry to both sights. You can also get into the Museum of History for free if you’ve purchased the Osaka Amazing Pass.
The Glico Museum allows for a behind-the-scenes look at Osaka’s very own Willy Wonka factory. Discover how some of the confectionery brand’s most popular products are made and then head to the interactive quiz room where you can compete with others to see who knows the most about snacks such as Pocky and Pretz. And of course, the museum shop stocks all the best Glico sweets to take home with you. The Glico Museum is perfect for tourists with some level of Japanese comprehension, as there are no English displays and guided tours are conducted in Japanese. Admission is free, but since the only way to visit the factory is on a guided tour, you do need to make a reservation over the phone in advance.