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How To Spend Three Days In Osaka (Japan Itinerary)

Osaka and Tokyo have a friendly sibling rivalry about which major city embodies the true heart of Japan. Pay a visit to both and decide for yourself!

Osaka, Japan is a vibrant, energetic city famous for its street food, nightlife, and historic structures. The city is the commercial center of the Kansai region and known in Japan for its generally more rambunctious and open spirit. Compared with the more polished Tokyo, Osaka is a great place to get a different flavor of Japanese city life.

Spend an incredible three days exploring Osaka’s biggest temples, maze of street food, and Universal Studios Japan, one of the best amusement parks in the world.

In this guide, I’ll share my recommendations about how to have an incredible three days in Osaka.

What is the best Osaka itinerary?

How To Get There

An egg, rice, and fish bento box and a bottle of tea

Enjoy a bento lunch on the Shinkansen


From Tokyo, the most common way to travel to Osaka is via the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train). The Shinkansen takes about 2.5 hours and has departure points from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station (via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line). The end destination is Osaka Station and a one-way ticket will cost you about ¥15,000 (consider the Japan Rail Pass if you plan to travel to multiple cities in the country). The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka departs around every 20 minutes. This same Shinkansen passes through Kyoto Station.

Pro Tip: Book a reserved seat on the Shinkansen Even with departures every 20 minutes, the Shinkansen route from Tokyo to Osaka is one of the most highly frequented lines in Japan. As a result, the trains can be quite crowded. When you buy your ticket at the window, you can elect to either book a “reserved” or “non-reserved” seat. If you are traveling as a couple or in a group and care to sit together, I strongly suggest booking a “reserved” seat.

The Shinkansen ride is the perfect amount of time to enjoy a bento lunch. You can buy a bento box at Tokyo or Shinagawa Station before you board the train (these bento boxes are called ekibens – literally translates to “station bentos” and are specifically designed to be eaten on a train).

If you prefer, you can also fly into Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) to reach the city.

Where To Stay In Osaka

Osaka is a large city, so carefully choose a central and convenient location so that you can easily get around.

I generally recommend staying in the following areas (in order of preference): Kita, Minami, Honmachi, and Shin-Osaka. However, the most important consideration is whether the place you will stay is near the Midosuji subway line or not. The Midosuji subway line is the main line in the city and will easily take you most places.

For specific hotel suggestions, check out:

What To Do In Osaka

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle on a cloudy day

Osaka Castle on a cloudy day


Osaka Castle has a long and battered history in the city. The castle’s construction originally began in 1583, but it was later destroyed in 1615 during an attack. The castle was rebuilt in the following decade, but in 1665 the main tower was struck by lightening and burnt down. Finally, in 1931, the main tower was reconstructed. Thankfully, the castle survived the city-wide air raids of WWII and today is visited by millions of people a year.

Osaka Castle is surrounded by Nishinomaru Garden, a large park with hundreds of cherry trees. This park is one of the best places to view sakura blossoms in the country.

Shitennoji

Shitennoji was founded in 593 and is one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples. The temple’s buildings burned down several times over the centuries, but the complex was carefully reconstructed each time to maintain the original 6th century designs.

The temple grounds are free to enter, but some of the buildings and specific sub-areas require a small fee of a few hundred yen.

Gokurakujodo Garden, a lovely garden with a pond and many cherry trees that blossom beautifully in the spring, surrounds Shitennoji and is a great addition to your temple visit.

Dotonbori

Dotonbori in Osaka

Dotonbori is an iconic canal and neighboring street running through the heart of Osaka. The area is famous for its bright, eclectic signs and many food stalls. Dotonbori is one of the biggest tourist draws in the city and is the focal point for many local food and nightlife tours.

I recommend it as an excellent place to sample a variety of street food dishes and to get a feel for the vibrant, lively energy of Osaka.

Katsuo-ji

Hundreds of Daruma dolls at Katsuo-ji

Katsuo-ji is the most popular Buddhist temple in Osaka and is dedicated to prayers for “victor’s luck”. Many people hoping to triumph over an upcoming academic test, new job interview, or sports match come to this temple to pray for victory.

Founded as a Buddhist temple in 765, Katsuo-ji is one of the oldest temples in the Kansai region. Today, the temple is particularly famous for its thousands of Daruma dolls that dot the temple grounds.

Daruma dolls in Katsuo-ji

A few of the countless Daruma dolls at Katsuo-ji

An orange temple corner at Katsuo-ji

Katsuo-ji’s main hall


I visited Katsuo-ji in the autumn, which is arguably the best time of year to see the temple. The surrounding temple grounds erupt in color and provide an incredible mountainside backdrop. Since Osaka and the Kansai Region are a bit south, visit in November for the most intense fall colors.

Pond in front of Katsuo-ji in Osaka in the autumn

The pond area at the front of Katsuo-ji in the autumn

A large blossom of pink flowers with autumn trees in the background

Fall is the best time of year to see Katsuo-ji


I suggest allocating a half day to visit Katsuo-ji since it takes 1-1.5 hours by train and bus to reach it from Osaka Station.

Admission to the temple is ¥400.

Shinsekai

Shinsekai is a bustling district developed in the early 20th century to expand’s Japan’s international image. The northern half of the district was inspired by Paris while the southern half was inspired by Coney Island in New York.

Unfortunately, the Shinsekai area was heavily bombed and damaged in WWII so became one of the poorest areas in city. However, in the decades since, Shinsekai revived itself as a cultural center of old Osaka. Today, the district is known for its incredible street food and nostalgic atmosphere.

While in Shinsekai, I suggest visiting two major attractions:

Tsutenkaku Tower is a tall tower in the heart of Shinsekai that was loosely modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I recommend going to the tower’s observation view for an incredible view of Osaka.

Spa World is a massive onsen and swimming complex where you and your family can spend several hours. The complex has several sauna and heated baths, a water park, its own restaurants, a gym, and even a connected hotel.

Universal Studios Japan

NintendoWorld in Osaka at night

Super Nintendo World

A crowd at Harry Potter World in Osaka

Harry Potter World


Universal Studios Japan is a massive amusement park in Osaka with special sections dedicated to Harry Potter, Nintendo, Jurassic Park, Jaws, and much more.

For me, the biggest highlights were definitely Super Nintendo World and Harry Potter World. Both parks accounted for every detail and provided fully immersive experiences. The parks integrate the physical and digital world by allowing you to purchase either a wristband (Super Nintendo World) or wand (Harry Potter World) that lets you get points or perform spells by going to specific locations.

I suggest buying park tickets in advance so you save time when you get to the park. You can buy tickets here on Klook.

What To Eat In Osaka

Osaka is often lovingly referred to as “the kitchen of Japan”. The city is famous for its bold flavors and wide variety of street food options.

Two Okonomiyaki on a griddle

Okonomiyaki (left) and yakisoba (right) at Chibo Okonomiyaki


During your visit in Osaka, I strongly suggest trying the city’s specialty dishes, like:

  1. Okonomiyaki – a savory pancake made from eggs, shredded cabbage, flour, grated yam, and a often a topping of seafood, meat, vegetables, or cheese. Okonomiyaki is typically served with a brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried bonito (fish) flakes, or dried seaweed.

  2. Takoyaki – a simple snack of batter, sliced octopus, ginger, and spring onions formed together into small dumplings. Takoyaki is also often served with a brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried bonito (fish) flakes, or dried seaweed.

  3. Kitsune udon – kitsune udon was invented in a shop in Osaka in the Meiji era and has since become a staple dish in the city. Udon is a thick, soft noodle popular in Japan. When a thin slice of fried tofu in a sweet sauce is laid on top of the udon, then it becomes “kitsune udon”.

  4. Yakisoba – stir-fried noodles in a sweet and savory brown sauce mixed typically with various vegetables and seafood or meat.

Specifically, I suggest visiting one of the following restaurants during your stay in Osaka:

  1. Peak Roast Coffee (cafe)

  2. はた坊 北新地 (okonomiyaki)

  3. Tomoe (okonomiyaki)

  4. Chibo Okonomiyaki (okonomiyaki)

  5. Takonotetsu (takoyaki)

  6. Hanadako (takoyaki)

  7. Sakae Sushi (sushi)

Another option is to book an Osaka food tour (like this one) for a guided exploration of the city’s food scene.

Three Day Osaka Itinerary

Day 1: Osaka Castle, Shitennoji, Dotonbori

Once you arrive in Osaka, drop off your luggage either at your hotel or in a coin locker in Osaka Station. Afterwards, visit Osaka Castle as your first stop in the city.

Next, take the train south for about 30 minutes to Shitennoji to round our an afternoon of seeing two of Osaka’s most famous historic spots.

In the evening, enjoy dinner in Dotonbori. Try okonomiyaki as your first introduction to Kansai flavors.

Day 2: Katsuo-ji & Shinsekai

On your second day, take the train north from Osaka for about an hour to Katsuo-ji, a stunning temple nestled in the mountains. Enjoy the thousands of Daruma dolls sprinkled throughout the temple grounds.

In the afternoon, return to the city and visit the Shinsekai district. Go to the top of Tsutenkaku Tower for an incredible view of the city. Afterwards, relax your tired muscles in one of the many onsens and saunas at Spa World before having a delicious dinner in Shinsekai.

Day 3: Universal Studios Japan

Spend your third and final day in Osaka with a trip to Universal Studios Japan. Buy your tickets in advance and arrive in the morning to beat the rush. If you can, visit the amusement park on a weekday when it may be slightly less crowded.

I particularly recommend visiting Super Nintendo World and Harry Potter World.

Safe Travels!

I hope you have some new ideas for an amazing trip to Osaka! Between the historical temples, modern downtown areas, and delicious food, the city has a lot to offer.

I’m curious to know – do you prefer Tokyo or Osaka?

Looking to extend your visit in the Kansai region? Check out my guide about Kyoto and Nara.

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