The second largest city in Japan (after Tokyo), Osaka lies on a large bay in the southern half of the main Japanese island of Honshu. It has long been a popular tourist destination, but why exactly is that? What is Osaka famous for? Miss nothing if you’re planning a trip to Osaka by letting us do all the hard work and uncovering what Osaka is famous for!
We can’t create a trustworthy list of what Osaka is famous for without starting with the advertising hoardings of Dotonbori. And while it might seem odd to be suggesting you spend your time heading to a display of adverts, you’ll soon discover why we’ve suggested this selfie-obsessed part of the city. The large ‘running man’ neon display for sweet-maker Glico has actually become an unofficial mascot for the city, with the whole riverside area around it becoming a Japanese version of London’s Piccadilly Circus, with food and entertainment nearby once you’ve had your fill of photographs.
2. Kuromon Ichiba Market
Hailed by those in the know as ‘Japan’s kitchen’, Osaka has a great reputation when it comes to food. A fantastic place to get to grips with all those unique Japanese foodstuffs is the city’s Kuromon Ichiba Market. Just under 200 different stores vie for your attention within the market precincts, with everything from the country’s famed Wagyu beef to freshly-landed octopus to try and then buy, sure of the quality – most of the city’s chefs come here to purchase their ingredients.
3. Osaka Castle
Reminding every visitor that Osaka is famous for its history and traditions as well as its more modern cultures is Osaka Castle. Ringed by moats and situated in the middle of beautiful greenery, which includes some 3000 or so cherry trees, a castle was first erected on its site at the end of the sixteenth century by the leader who brought Japan into a single unified state, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. After several fires (a fate that affects many of Japan’s ancient wooden structures), the present castle was completed to traditional design in the 1930s, while losing none of its immense historic importance.
4. Tsutenkaku Tower
Another structure that definitely answers the brief of what Osaka is famous for is Tsutenkaku Tower, which like the Glico running man has become a symbol of the city and appears on all manner of branding as a result. First built in 1912 in a nod to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the current version of the tower rises 103 metres, and offers spectacular views across the city from the observation decks on its fourth and fifth floors. Don’t miss the action of the amusements and souvenir stores on your way up or down.
The area immediately around Tsutenkaku Tower is known as Shinsekai, or New World, since the district was only built upon in the early 1900s. Created as an entertainment district, the area has lost none of its sense of fun in the past century. Its shop and restaurant fronts are particularly colourful and eye-catching, with many offering up fugu (or pufferfish). Potentially deadly if the fish isn’t prepared correctly, it takes up to 11 years for a chef to receive the licence they need to be unleashed on the paying public!
6. Tempozan Harbour Village
A newer version of Shinsekai, in that it is primarily an entertainment district, Tempozan Harbour Village sits on the waterfront and is an ideal destination to head to due to its combination of attractions, shops, and restaurants. Among its attractions you probably won’t want to miss Kaiyukan, the world’s largest aquarium (so large it is home to whale shark – the world’s biggest fish), as well as the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, which rises 112 metres above the ground.
7. Shitennoji Temple
The very first Buddhist temple founded in Japan, way back in 593 AD, the Shitennoji Temple is a wonderful introduction to the centuries-old traditions and architecture that remain the bedrock of Japanese society even today, from the various structures of the temple itself, to the stylised Gokuraku-jodo Garden, which is supposed to appear just as paradise does!
8. Minoo National Park
Head out to Osaka’s Minoo National Park, just 30 minutes away by train, and you’ll probably think you’ve already reached paradise! A popular hiking trail runs from the train station a short three kilometres to the attractive 33-metre-high Minoo Waterfall, where picnic benches allow you to stop for some lunch within sight of the falls. Along the way you’ll pass several temple buildings, including Ryuanji Temple, while head to the area in the fall and you’ll not only see a spectacular display of natural colour from the changing leaves, but also be able to tuck into deep-fried maple leaf, a snack prevalent at this time of year.
9. CupNoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda
Still wondering what Osaka is famous for? Have no fear, we haven’t completed our round-up yet! Ramen, and its convenient instant variety, is such an important part of the Japanese psyche that when a museum opened to the foodstuff a few years ago it became an instant hit (excuse the pun!). Thankfully this museum never takes itself to seriously, meaning this quirky take on a traditional museum is a lot of fun. What’s more, you can even design (and eat) your own choice of instant noodle too!
10. Tenjin Matsuri
If you’re lucky enough to be in the city in July, be sure not to miss Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri festival. Lasting just a couple of days (July 24/25) it sees shrines paraded through the streets on the shoulders of volunteers wearing traditional attire, in honour of the god Sugawara Michizane, before being celebrated up and down the River Okawa by boat as the sun goes down. The evenings of the festival also boast an excellent fireworks display.
What is Osaka famous for?
What is Osaka famous for? An eclectic blend of events and attractions that dig right into the soul of what makes modern Japan tick. A city of contrasts, with more to be discovered around every corner, its no wonder so many people have started to ask what Osaka is famous for!