Osaka City Guide

Those looking for the‘real’ Japan will find it in Osaka. This colourful city, located on an inland sea in the centre of Honshu Island, pairs rich history with a unique working-class culture – a combination that makes it both a distinctive and supremely authentic place to visit.

Founded in the 5th century, Osaka has long been heralded as the gateway to Japan, and this is reflected in the city’s diversity and cosmopolitan feel.

The city’s unique culture means it’s earned more nicknames than most over the centuries – from ‘Manchester of the East’, a nod to its industrial heritage, to ‘the kitchen of the nation’, stemming from its long association with the rice trade.

From Buddhist culture to fine food, there is a lot to love about Osaka, and you can discover all of its highlights with Scenic. Many of our unforgettable Japanese touring itineraries feature a two-night luxury stay in the heart of Osaka – so you can immerse in the colour and heritage of this wonderful city.

Architectural Highlights

The old and the new meld together in Osaka, gifting the city a skyline of massive contrast. From ancient Buddhist shrines to neck-craning modern skyscrapers, discover some of the city’s most stunning structures.

Floating Garden Observatory

Umeda Sky Building, Osaka

While Osaka is home to plenty of historic architecture, you mustn’t overlook the city’s modern, sky-grazing buildings, particularly those in Umeda. One of the most distinctive and breath-taking buildings in the city is the Umeda Sky Building, whose roof is home to arguably the world’s best sky observatory. Nicknamed the ‘floating garden’, the tower’s exterior viewing platform is built in a doughnut shape, allowing for a 360°, uninterrupted view across the city and beyond to the distant Awaji Island. The observatory is 170m above ground level and is exposed to the elements, so wrap-up.

Experience the thrill of the Floating Garden Observatory on our North Asian Odyssey luxury escorted tour.


Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

Standing 55 metres tall and featuring five tiers and eight interior floors, Osaka Castle is one of the great shogunate castles of Japan. Built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583 as part of a defensive citadel, the castle was burnt to the ground by the Toyotomi clan in 1615, and was destroyed again by a lightning strike in 1665. Following this misfortune, the castle was rebuilt and restored to its former glory, complete with dazzling gold ornamentation which runs throughout its exterior design. The castle is one of the great heritage highlights of Osaka, and is surrounded by one of the city’s best-loved gardens – the perfect place to grab a photo of this iconic Japanese monument.

Explore Osaka Castle during a guided city tour on our Essential Japan itinerary.


Shitennoji Temple

Shitennoji Temple

Established over 1,400 years ago, Osaka’s Shitennoji Temple is considered to be Japan’s first Buddhist temple, and is designated as one of the country’s great Important Cultural Properties. The temple complex was founded in 593 by Prince Shotoku; it was the first of its kind to receive financial support from the state to aid its construction. The building is a showcase of ancient Japanese architecture, and despite damage from several wars and natural disasters over the centuries, the complex hasn’t changed a great deal since its completion. Today, it plays host to a range of important Buddhist festivals, and is also home to many authentic Japanese antique shops.

Discover the heritage of the Shitennoji Temple on our unforgettable Japan Highlights tour.


Cultural Features

When it comes to culture, customs and traditions, Osaka has a unique, indefinable feel. The city has been hugely influenced by other nations over the centuries, and this is reflected in its charming and diverse cultural make-up. 

Tondabayashi Jinaimachi Heritage Experience

Nakazaki Cho Street, Osaka
Travel back in time in Tondabayashi Jinaimachi, one of the best-preserved community districts in all of Japan. This ancient commune was built around the historic Koshoji Betsuin Temple, and features six streets lined with over 600 traditional townhouses and businesses. Offering a glimpse into the history and traditional way of life of Japan, the entire site is protected and maintained by the national government – such is its cultural significance
Explore the historic highlights of Tondabayashi District as you travel through Japan's island of Honshu on a luxury escorted tour with Scenic. Learn more.

Highlight

Escorted Tour of Honshu

Minami District

Dotonbori Canal
Spectacular food and glittering neon – Osaka’s Minami district characterises the bustle of modern Japan. This sprawling neighbourhood, close to the centre of the city, is a popular destination for those seeking the very best in food, drink and entertainment in Osaka. From Dotonburi with its prestigious restaurants and beloved street food, to the refined shopping district of Horie, Minami offers so much to see, do and taste. There’s culture here, too, with the sculpture-dotted Namba Park offering a peaceful break from the hubbub of Minami’s streets.
Delve into Minami’s cultural treasures on a Scenic Freechoice guided walking tour. Learn more about Scenic Freechoice.

Highlight

Walking Tour of Minami

Historic Festivals and Events

Osaka Castle Cherry Blossom Festival

With its multitude of historic temples and shrines, Osaka plays host to a packed programme of festivals and events, many of which have been observed for centuries and are rooted in local culture. Among the most popular events in Osaka is Matsunae-shinji, a Shinto ritual which takes place at the beautiful Sumiyoshitaisha Shrine, to the south of the city centre. This important ceremony sees Shinto monks planting pine seedlings in the grounds of the shrine whilst reciting spiritual haikus, a ritual which has been observed since the Edo Period. It’s just one of the many inspiring festivals, rituals and events which take place in Osaka each year.

Culinary Delights

Food is a serious business in Osaka, a fact reflected in the city’s most popular nickname, ‘the kitchen of the nation’. Wherever you go across the city, the local passion for cuisine is evident, making it a must-visit destination for aspiring foodies in love with the flavours of Japan.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki
Takoyaki is a delicacy, unique to Osaka, that literally translates as ‘grilled octopus’. It has long been eaten in the city thanks to its location on the Seto Inland Sea, which is revered for its fresh seafood. The dish is made using a flour and egg-based batter, with slices of octopus paired with a filling of pickled ginger and green onion, and then deep fried. Needless to say, it’s one of the city’s best-loved street eats, and well worth seeking out if you love all things seafood.
The Dotonbori neighbourhood in Minami is awash with takoyaki vendors, so you should have no trouble finding it on your walk through this exciting district of the city.

Where to find it

Dotonbori Neighbourhood, Minami

Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki
Teppanyaki is really popular in Osaka, perhaps due to the city’s enduring love affair for fresh seafood. There are few greater culinary experiences than authentic Japanese teppanyaki, and Osaka has many highly-celebrated restaurants specialising in this type of cuisine. If you’ve never experienced teppanyaki, it involves sitting at a counter and watching the chef cook your meal before your eyes. Basically, it’s the closest food comes to theatre.
Osaka has many teppanyaki restaurants, but if you want the most authentic, head to the Shinsekai district, whose historic buildings add to the atmosphere and complement a truly ‘Japanese’ experience.

Where to find it

Shikensai District

Asahi Japanese Beer

Asahi Beer Factory, Osaka

Kyoto has its sake, Osaka has its beer. Japan’s most popular beer, Asahi, has been brewed in Osaka for 110 years, and it all happens within the historic Asahi Beer Suita Factory, one of the city’s great industrial flagships. Asahi’s famous Super “Dry” beer is the most popular variety made here, but the brewery makes countless others which are yet to make it to the UK. A visit to the Asahi brewery promises a fascinating look at both Japanese industry and the country’s age-old brewing practices, and there’s also the opportunity to sample the wares.



Where to try it:
Scenic Freechoice gives you the option to tour the Asahi Beer Suita Factory during your visit to Osaka, helping you immerse in the heritage of Japanese beer. 

Experience the Beauty of Osaka with Scenic

If our guide to Osaka’s cultural and culinary highlights has piqued your interest, why not download our latest Asia and the Far East escorted tours brochure and start planning your own visit? If you’d like more help and advice, call us today on 0808 278 7429.