Some people like to forge their own path when they go to a new place; others prefer to explore together or with a knowledgeable local. A guided tour is a great way to meet new people and do just that. For those who want an insider’s look into the mega-metropolis that is Osaka, here are the best guided tours for visitors.
Drink Osaka unites travelers with one of the city’s most famous selling points – alcohol. This nightlife tour ushers visitors through many of Osaka’s most interesting and hard-to-find haunts, like traditional izakaya (Japanese pubs), hidden holes-in-the-wall, and a tour of Hozenji Yokocho. You can opt for guided or self-guided tours. The former pairs you up with a bilingual resident, fun-loving and knowledgeable about the best watering holes the south side of the city has to offer.
Run by the same team as Drink Osaka, these bike tours are perfect for those who’d prefer to see the city by the light of day. Cycle Osaka strives to bring tourists to off-the-beaten-track locales at a leisurely pace. They offer tours of various durations and themes, so you can work it into your schedule however you see fit. Tours are affordable and include bicycles, helmets, food, water, and a guide. They offer bike rentals separately as well.
Tonbori River Cruise
See the Dotonbori district from its namesake, the Dotonbori Canal. Hop on a boat and be whisked away from the crowds and onto a unique vantage point, from where you can watch the sights – and the crowds – drift by. The Tonbori River Cruise is led by a rakugo (Japanese stand-up) comedian, so this is sure to be a fun, and very Osaka, experience.
Do you love Mario Kart? Every wanted to experience it in real life? Even if the thought has never occurred to you, this experience is available in the heart of Osaka, so strap in. MariCAR provides costumes, go-carts, a permit, and a guide to help you navigate the city. The streets become your race track during this memorable and exciting sightseeing tour. Just please don’t actually try to race.
Maikoya Tea Ceremony Osaka
While more of an experience than a tour, this guided tea ceremony will take you on a journey through one of Japan’s most well-known and beloved cultural traditions. Choose whether or not to don a kimono, and practice your best seiza (“proper sitting”) while joining an authentic sadou (tea ceremony) led in both English and the native Japanese. Maikoya provides opportunities for sweets-making and meeting a maiko (geisha in training) as well.
Pinpoint Traveler has a number of tour options all over Japan. For Osaka try their Off the Beaten Track tour, which takes travelers through both well-known and hidden sites, or the full-day Temples, Gardens, and Kofun Tombs tour which guides you through many of city’s historic cultural artifacts.
Combine the fun of having a local guide and the intimacy of a private portrait session and treat yourself to this memorable sightseeing experience. Manu is both a professional photographer and tour guide, so you can sightsee and learn about new places without worrying about getting the perfect photo. Photoguider Japan provides a number of affordable packages that can be customized.
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Osaka Free Walking Tour
This tour is perfect for the budget traveler, but the great thing about it is that the price (or absence of) doesn’t subtract from the quality of this tour. Led by a friendly and knowledgeable local guide, this leisurely walk meanders through many of the city’s most famous areas: Dotonbori, Kuromon Market, Nipponbashi, and Shinsekai.
Inside Osaka has multiple unique Osaka tours available at very affordable prices. Try the Osaka Morning Stroll to visit Tenma and explore fascinating places like Tenjinbashisuji and Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. The Osaka Waterfront Cycling tour takes you around the Osaka Bay area, offering panoramic waterfront views and insight into the local culture, as these areas are largely untouched by tourism.
If you’re looking to get out of Osaka (and are for some reason reading this list), you’re in luck! Unbeaten Japan specializes in camping tours around the Kansai region, and they are based in Osaka. Book an excursion based on your desired setting – a cascading waterfall, flowing river, secluded beach, or tranquil onsen – and Unbeaten provides lodging (a tent or ryokan, your choice) and transportation to and from Osaka.
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