During my trip to Japan, a few years ago, I spent most of the time in Tokyo but I did manage to go on a very short weekend in Osaka, as a quick getaway, and to see a bit more of this amazing country.
Osaka is Japan’s third largest city and offers a large variety of sights and things to explore for tourists. One of its most famous landmarks is the Osaka Castle, which we sadly didn’t have time to visit. We did however thoroughly enjoy our stay there and took in all the wonders the city has to offer.
In this post I will quickly mention the main things that we saw and did, and how we decided to spent this great weekend away from the capital!
Also called “Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine”, this is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, and its architecture is considered as “purely” Japanese, meaning without influence from Asia’s mainland. It is like a huge temple complex, with a lot of different buildings that you can explore for a few hours easily.
We took a cute little tram to get there, amazed by how cute all the streets looked, then arrived in front of the main entrance. After “purifying” ourselves according to the dedicated ritual, we saw the beautiful Sorihashi bridge, creating a wonderful (and steep!) arch over a small pond. This definitely set the tone for the rest of the visit.
Once you get in, there are countless places to explore and visit, cute shrines, bigger ones, some small shops too, etc. On some places you can also ask to have a goshuin done: it is a red seal with calligraphy that include the name of the shrine and the date of your visit. They are different for every shrine and temple in Japan and a unique souvenir from your visit!
Walking around in Sumiyoshi Taisha was just wonderful, and we were taking pictures all the time, of almost every building, statue or pond that we saw. Even though we visited some shrines and temples in Tokyo too, this complex was definitely the most magnificent, and it also offered a nice overview of traditions. I highly recommend everyone to visit it in Osaka!
Dotombori is Osaka’s most vibrant district, lined with hundreds of shops and restaurant. The main street is parallel to the canal, and both are equally famous and lit by an enormous amount of neon lights and extravagant billboards.
The most famous one is the Glico running man, a 20-metre tall and 10-metre wide sign, whose very first version was installed in 1935. It is now a popular photo spot for tourists and a perfect meeting spot in the extremely crowded street.
The district is said to embody the expression kuidaore, which means “eat till you drop” (or spend so much money on food that you are ruined), because of all the restaurants, street food stalls and food shops that sell everything you could wish for and more.
When we arrived in Dotombori, we couldn’t believe our eyes: it was even more crowded than Tokyo! At some points, we could barely walk and it actually felt like we were in the crowd of a concert. This however gave us enough time to admire everything around us, trying to take in everything around us.
After some time of exploring, we stopped at a nice restaurant along the canal to eat a delicious okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake typical from Osaka’s region. It was absolutely delicious! We also had eaten another typical dish for lunch: takoyaki, which are “meat”balls made with octopus, so we were happy to have also experienced the region from a gastronomic point of view!
As you may or may not know, Osaka is located on the sea, and even though it really doesn’t feel like a seaside town when you are in the centre, you can also very easily go take a look at the harbour with a train.
That’s what we did in the late afternoon of our first day, which was also a great time to see the sunset. There is not much to see or visit there, but the area around it definitely had this cute “seaside town” vibe, and it felt amazing to breathe the fresh marine air.
The Cupnoodles Museum:
Japan is very well-known in the whole world for bringing the typical “broke-student” dish to life: instant noodles. Even though real ramen is of course much better, there is something really delicious and satisfying in just pouring boiling hot water in a cup and having a delicious meal after 5 minutes!
Cupnoodles are also a big part of the Japanese culture, of really busy “salary men”, having only a few minutes to eat before going back to work. So, they dedicated a museum for it! There is one a bit further away from the centre of Osaka, and it was the last stop of our trip!
In this museum, you can learn everything about the history of cupnoodles, and also create your own cupnoodle to go, and maybe bring back to Europe! Poor timing or bad organisation, we only had time for the last part, but we enjoyed it so much!
The first thing that you do is select your cup size then, with some coloured pens made especially for this, you can decorate it as you like! Then, you go through a sort of buffet where you select your type of noodles and, especially the toppings that you like. Then, a machine will seal everything for you, put it in an inflated bag to protect it, and you’re good to go!
This was such a fun and unusual activity to do and, needless to say, something great for kids too – but also adults! We could eat our noodles back in Europe and keep the cup as a nice souvenir!
Even though we didn’t spend much time in Osaka, I’m super happy of the glimpse that I’ve had of this incredible city, and it makes me want to go there again to explore it more in depths – and se the Osaka Castle of course! Even though both are very big and dynamic Japanese cities, I still feel like they were widely different and wonderful in their own way.
Have you ever been to Osaka or Japan?
Other posts about Japan:10 Days in Japan: Tokyo and Osaka