Osaka castle rising above the surrounding compound's walls.

Depending how you look at it, Osaka is Japan’s second or third largest city. That means there’s got to be lots to cover! We’ve compiled some of the best walking tour sights for you, with the majority coming straight from our Private Osaka Walking Tour. Read on and find out what makes Osaka special! You might just want to shave off some of that Tokyo or Kyoto time to enjoy this very historical, boisterous, and delicious city.

An Osaka walking tour with Osaka Castle? We think not.

Osaka Castle, pictured at top, dates back to the 1580s, but various tragedies have resulted in numerous reconstructions. The current castle is built completely out of concrete, and comes complete with elevators! But don’t let that dismay you. In our opinion, it’s not really worth it to go inside the castle anyway.

Instead of paying to go in the castle, enjoy the grand, quite accurate look of the structure from the outside. There’s meaning to be found in the chrysanthemum crests, the golden koi (carp), and the Shinto presence nearby. Plus, the castle is in the middle of a beautiful park! During cherry blossom season, the splendor is particularly stunning. There’s also a very lovely plum blossom grove. Be sure to check that area out too if you’re in town in late February to early March.

There’s a lot of history behind Osaka Castle, but you’ve got to be ready to go down the rabbit hole.

Getting gritty with it

Shopping street in the Tsuruhashi district of Osaka.
Wait, what year is it?

Just a few minutes along Osaka’s Kanjo (Loop) Line is Tsuruhashi. Here, leaving the train station is like entering a time long ago. The streets are narrow (presumably people only dreamed about automobiles when life boomed here) and chock full of people, which is exactly how it should be for an Osaka walking tour. You’re going to get lost (unless we’re guiding you 😊), so just be ready for it. Our hint is to always go north when in doubt, and you will eventually hit the main boulevard under which the subway is running.

Come for the food…

Tsuruhashi is well known as a place to eat yakiniku and a place for all sorts of Korean goodies. In fact, when the train doors open at this station, the smell of grilling meat will often immediately hit you. But wait, there’s more! Kim chee, the magical chili picklage of cabbage and more, has spread its tentacles both literally (to octopus) and figuratively, to all kinds of vegetables, seafoods, and mysteries. Why not buy some for later? It tastes great, and the worst that could happen is your room stinking like a beast.

Assuming you aren’t too lost, in good time you will find the fresh fish market. It’s so fresh it’ll smack you in the face. Definitely not for squeamish. There’s also a meat district of the market which has all those lovely bits from the cow that end up in horumon. We don’t even know where to start.

..and maybe stay for the fashion. Or maybe not.

Tsuruhashi is also a haven for fashionistas of a certain age. A slightly older age. And a heavily more Osaka persona. There’s really no reason or true way to explain what this means, so you’ll have to just get lost in it all. That said, there is a pocket of the clothing district with a number of stores geared towards younger men. And that is a temporal non-sequitur if you’ll ever see one.

Phew, it’s been an adventure, and we’re not even half done.

No Osaka walking tour is complete without a view from above

View of Osaka from the 19th floor of the Harukas building.
It ain’t Tokyo, but there’s still a whole bunch of people here!

The most well known observation deck is at the Umeda Sky Building, located in the northern part of the city. It’s nice, and the building is a monument to early 1990s architecture. It’s got an escalator that crosses the abyss between the twin towers. This is an escalator you probably wouldn’t want to be in during an earthquake.

Our choice for great views across Osaka city and beyond is the Harukas 300 Observatory. Being at the top of a 300m building, the expanse in front of you is much more vast than that of a comparatively stubby Umeda Sky Building. It’s also a much more recently contructed building, with a modern, pleasing design. The building itself has 60 stories chock full of restaurants, a big market, a department store, a very nice hotel, and offices too. With multiple trains stopping either below or adjacent to it, it’s also very convenient. To the Umeda Sky Building you must hoof it, my friends. And even though we’re talking about an Osaka walking tour, there’s not need to walk more than you already are.

Here’s the trick

At the time of this writing, it costs 1,500 yen to head up to the observatory. But guess what? You can get a view that’s pretty darn awesome from the 19th floor. That’s the view pictured above, and that’s where we’ll take you on our Private Osaka Walking Tour or even on another one of our Osaka tours.

Shinsekai for the quirk

Picture looking across the Shinsekai shopping district towards Tsutenkaku tower.
Oh, the generations we will enjoy.

As opposed to the Tsuruhashi and Harukas areas which are a bit more fringe-y for most visitors, Shinsekai is solidly mainstream. Not quite Dotonbori level, but pretty close. Which is about where it should be.

The deeper you delve into Shinsekai, the more rewarding your adventure will become. But ask yourself first: How deep do I want to go? You may be satisfied with roaming the main shopping street that leads up to Tsutenkaku tower, as pictured above. The tower is, after all, truly historic, if 500m shorter than Harukas.

The locals that frequent the area tend to be older people perhaps partying more than they should be. (One counter service restaurant servies a “morning set” that consists of an egg, seaweed, and a beer.) On weekends, you get a more balanced crowd, many coming for the famous kushi katsu (fried things on sticks – very popular in Osaka). There’s nothing dangerous going on here though, so there’s no need to worry.

Get off the beaten path and you’ll find boisterous eateries, slightly sketchy entertainment venues, and other peculiar indulgences which should not be uttered here. Of course, if you choose to do a private tour with us, we’ll utter as much or as little as you want.

What are we missing here on this Osaka walking tour?

Oh yeah, Namba and Dotonbori. These are worthwhile sights, and we cover them on our tours as well, but oh so much has already been written about them. To be honest, the Dotonbori area has evolved into a Times Square in New York kinda thing. You will want to see this spectacle, but you will find it filled with visitors and chain restaurants. Still, give it a walk through.

There are a few other things we could cover, but this is a very good start to an Osaka walking tour, either self guided or with us. We hope you’ve enjoyed the read!

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