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Osaka is Japan’s third-largest city and a popular stop on the tourist trail for first-time visitors to Japan. Located just one hour away from Kyoto, we opted to spend one night and one day in Osaka.
Despite being a huge city, Osaka is extremely well connected by public transport, making it quick and easy to get around and explore the main sites. If you are travelling Japan on annual leave and are limited on time for each of your stops, curating an efficient one day Osaka itinerary will be the way to go to ensure you maximise your time and see the main highlights.
Read before you visit: Interesting facts about Japan to help you plan your first trip.
This itinerary was created as part of my 10 days in Japan, therefore if you have a bit more time in Japan be sure to check that post out.
Top places to visit if you only have one day in Osaka
Things to know before visiting Japan:
If you are planning on travelling around Japan then you will need to buy a J Rail Pass in order to use the Shinkansen (bullet train). These 7, 14 or 21-day passes are only available to tourists and you can only purchase this in advance before arriving in Japan. Click here to secure your J Rail Pass.
I also advise downloading the Hyperdia App on your mobile phone. This app will give you access to the train timetable as well as the platform they will be leaving from – train stations in Japan are huge, therefore quickly knowing platforms will save a lot of time.
Card payment is not always available in Japan, aside from large chains, most places only accept cash. Therefore ensure you have Yen before arriving in the country. If you need to withdraw cash while in Japan, most 7/11 stores have international ATMs, however, the majority of these only work with Visa and not Mastercard.
Rent a portable wifi box. Wifi is not readily available across Japan but it is needed, for booking trains, Google Maps, Google Translate, etc. I rented this portable wifi box with unlimited internet access and collected on arrival at Haneda Airport (you can also collect from Narita Airport). At all times the internet was available and fast, you can also connect up to 9 devices at one time meaning if you are travelling as part of a group it is very affordable. Renting a wifi box will work out cheaper than purchasing a sim card in Japan.
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Without a doubt, Dotonbori is the most famous tourist spot in Osaka. Renowned for its bright lights, exciting signage and the canal which runs through the heart, Dotonbori will be one of the first additions to your 1 days Osaka itinerary.
I recommend visiting in the evening to see the area truly lit up. Dotonburi is where you will find plenty of places to eat, many shops as well as a ton of Japan’s signature UFO Catcher and Gashapon Machine arcades. In Dotonburi you will also find the famous Glico running man where he is located above the Ebisubashi Bridge.
This is also one of the best areas in Osaka to buy the famous Japanese dish ‘Kukuru’ – octopus dumplings! You will find a ton of places selling them in this area but look for the stalls with the longest queues full of Japanese locals, here you will find the best ones.
If you want to see the strip from a different angle then book a river cruise to see Dotonburi from the water.
>> Want to learn some Japanese for your trip? Here are some useful Japanese phrases for tourists
Don Quijote Ferris Wheel (Ebisu Tower)
While in Dotonbori head to the Don Quijote Ferris Wheel, the world’s largest and only ovular Ferris wheel. This unique Ferris wheel will give you fantastic panoramic views over Osaka for just ¥600 (£4.50) and each ride lasts around 20 minutes.
We rode the Ferris wheel during the day, but I would actually recommend taking a ride in the evening (or sunset) to see the city with the full neon glow.
The Don Quijote Ferris will is enjoyable for all ages, but it should definitely be put on your list if you are looking for the best things to do in Osaka with kids.
If you are looking to buy souvenirs during your day in Osaka, then the Ferris Wheel is attached to a huge Don Quijote Store. Don Quijote is a big supermarket style store in Japan, however, I found it was really great for Japanese souvenirs and toys as well as crazy flavoured KitKats.
You cannot visit Osaka and not see the Osaka Castle, it is beautiful and definitely worth escaping the central city for. The castle is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks and it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
You can get a fantastic view of the Osaka Castle for free and if you are limited on time, then this may be the best option for you, however, if you do want to explore all of the castle, the entrance fee is ¥600 (£4.50) per person.
If you are considering seeing a lot of Osaka’s main attractions then you may want to purchase a one day Osaka pass. The one day pass allows free entrance into Osaka’s top attractions as well as unlimited use of the Osaka subway, tramway, and bus network.
The closest JR station (All JR stations are included within your JRail Pass) to Osaka Castle is Osakajokoen Station.
Pokemon Center and Cafe
All across Japan, you will find Pokemon Centers and if you are a fan of the franchise you will be definitely want to put the Pokemon Center Osaka onto your one-day Osaka itinerary.
We visited various Pokemon stores across Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but agreed the Osaka store was by far the most superior. The Pokemon Centers across Japan are essentially interactive gift shops, anything Pokemon related you can buy there.
The Osaka store is also home to just one of two Pokemon cafes (the other being in Tokyo).
The Osaka Pokemon shop is located on the 9th floor of a department store called ‘Daimaru‘ which is in the area of Umeda. This is located just a 5-minute walk from Osaka Station (located on the JR Line) and a 5-minute walk from Umeda Station.
You can find out everything you need to know about the Pokemon Center DX Osaka here as well as how to make an essential booking for the Pokemon Cafe.
Shitenno-ji is a huge wonderful-looking Buddhist temple. It is sometimes regarded as the first Buddhist and oldest officially administered temple in Japan, although the temple buildings have been rebuilt over the centuries.
It was founded in 593 by Prince Shotoku, who supported the introduction of Buddhism into Japan.
Shitenno- ji is a short walk from Shitennoji Mae-Yuhigaoka Station on the Tanimachi Subway Line. Alternatively, it can be reached in a ten-minute walk from the JR Tennoji Station.
Admission to the Shitenno-ji temple is ¥300 (£2.20)
Shinsaibashi is another shopping district in Osaka, much like Dotonburi. However, as it is under a covered walkway, it is much more contained and can get extremely busy, especially on a weekend.
This shopping arcade a large mix of popular chain stores such as Uniqlo and Daiso as well as independent stores and UFO Catcher arcades. There are many little alleyways leading off of the arcades where you will find great Ramen bars or places to get Okonomiyaki.
I really liked Shinsekai, yes it is a bit worn down compared to the newer areas of Osaka, but I found it really quite charming and quirky.
Shinsekai is an old neighbourhood located next to south Osaka City’s downtown Minami area. The neighbourhood was created in 1912 with New York as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half. The northern half has the Tsutenkaku Tower, a nod to Paris’ Eiffel Tower.
The area today is still quite touristy but a lot less than central Osaka and you will find a lot more Japanese locals in Shinsekai.
Shinseki is also the place to go for Chef knives. If you are interested in purchasing a hand-crafted chef knife then go to Tower Knives. Tower Knives has a fantastic reputation globally and is, essentially, an Olivander’s Wand Shop for knives.
Shinsekai is a short walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Loop Line.
Umeda Sky Building
The Umeda Sky Building is the 19th tallest building in Osaka as well as one of the most recognisable.
Predominately an office block, the building in the Kita District also boasts a sky deck observatory and sky gardens. Although it may not be as impressive as Shibuya Sky in Tokyo, it still offers quite the view.
The current admission price is ¥1500 (£10.50) and the closest train station is Umeda Station.
If you are considering seeing a lot of Osaka’s main attractions then you may want to purchase a one day Osaka pass. The one day pass allows free entrance into Osaka’s top attractions as well as unlimited use of the Osaka subway, tramway, and bus network. The Umeda Sky Building is one of the forty attractions included within the one day Osaka pass.
Where to avoid in Osaka
I wrote a whole post on the types of animal cafes in Tokyo to avoid (which I hope you will take the time to read) and unfortunately I found these cafes to be present in Osaka as well.
Please avoid all bird and wild animal cafes in Japan. Due to the rise in popularity of these cafes, highly complex and often unsocial species are becoming tangled up in the exotic pet trade for the benefit of someone’s photo opportunity.
I would strongly advise you not to visit the wild animal cafes in Osaka and across the rest of Japan.
The Osaka Aquarium
The Osaka Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in Osaka, however, it is definitely not for me.
The Aquarium is sadly home to a large number of captive cetaceans such as Dolphins as well as Whale Sharks. Sadly, it is common knowledge that a large amount of aquatic life on display at the aquarium were taken from the wild for tourism purposes.
Like the animal cafes, I would ask you not to support this trade.
Where to stay in Osaka for one night
To make the most of your 1 day in Osaka I would recommend arriving late the evening before. Most people opt to arrive on the bullet train after spending 1 or 2 days in Kyoto which is located just 30 minutes away (by train).
We stayed in Book and Bed Shinsaibashi which I fully recommend if you are a literary enthusiast. Book and Bed is a hostel where each of the capsule beds is encased inside a huge bookcase, it is, without doubt, the coolest hostel I have stayed in. I will never normally book a dorm room in a hostel but as soon as I saw the photos I knew I had to stay here.
Not only is it well located it is a really unique experience to have when visiting Japan.
Day trips from Osaka
If you have an additional day after your day in Osaka or even have two days to spend in Osaka, there are a few day trips you can take which I recommend. Transport to all of these are included within your JRail Pass and therefore access will not cost anything additional.
Universal Studios, Japan
Fancy some theme park magic during your Japan trip? Universal Studios Osaka has to make your list.
Like its American counterpart, the Japanese theme park is home to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, where you can take a ride inside a replica of Hogwarts and grab a Butterbeer in Hogsmeade. Other ride areas include Jurassic Park, Jaws and Minions.
If you are travelling to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, then you will want to be sure to make a trip to Universal Studios for the opening of Super Nintendo World, which is due to be completed in time for games.
I recommend purchasing your entrance tickets in advance to take full advantage of skipping the entrance queue.
Nara Deer Park
After spending 1 day in Osaka, the most popular tourist route is to then get the train to Kyoto or Tokyo. However, if you have additional time, I recommend taking a day trip to Nara.
Nara Station can be accessed from Osaka Tennoji Station on the JR line and the journey will take roughly 50 minutes.
Nara is home to the famous Nara Deer Park, a great way to ethically see animals in Japan. Nara Park is home to over 1,000 sacred deer. Though born wild, the deer have become extremely wise to tourists and have chosen to interact if there is food involved (please be sure to only feed the deer food available for purchase in the park).
Deer crackers are available to purchase for ¥200 with all proceeds going towards the care of the deer. After purchasing your deer crackers, the deers will quickly find you and you will be quickly surrounded by many, many deer.
Located inside Nara you will also find the Todaiji Temple, a Buddhist temple complex that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples.
Both the Todaiji Temple and Nara Deer Park are free to visit.
For a great place to eat in Nara, I recommend Monks on the Moon.
I would personally recommend spending two days in Kyoto, however, if you are short on time then head to Kyoto as part of a day trip from Osaka.
If you only have one day in Osaka, I would recommend prioritizing the Gion District along with the Fushimi Inari shrine.
The bullet train to Kyoto can be accessed from Shin-Osaka station and takes roughly 30 minutes.
A day trip from Osaka to Hiroshima will take you slightly longer, but it is still possible. The journey takes around 1 hour 30 minutes with a Shinkansen train (bullet train) from Shin-Osaka Station.
Hiroshima is a place for history enthusiasts. A very different city from Osaka, a beautiful city which was once destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.
Learn about this history of the city at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Dome, then meet the cute deer on Miyajima and see the beautiful floating Itsukushima Shrine (please note the Itsukushima Shrine is currently until a determined date).
Spending only one day in Osaka may not be ideal but with good planning and highlighting the top attractions you can easily see a large amount of the city. Osaka offers a completely different vibe from the other cities along the Japan tourist route and is not one to be missed.