Planning a solo trip to Osaka, Japan? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The third largest city in Japan by population, Osaka has more than 19 million residents (metro Osaka area).
- Together with Kyoto and Kobe, the city is part of Keihanshin, one of the largest urban areas in the world (over 19 million people). Osaka is situated in Japan’s Kansai region.
- Osaka is well known for its vast underground shopping malls, its varied and magnificent food, and its friendly people.
- Nicknames: City of Water, City of Business, The Venice of Japan.
- Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY). Symbols: ¥, 円 or 圓.
- Spoken languages: Japanese (English is also widely spoken).
- Best time to visit: from April to May (mild temperatures and little rain). This is also a perfect time to witness the cherry blossom, and is definitely high season for tourism (with many hotels booked far in advance). Visiting in autumn is also a great time.
- Arriving via airport:
1. Osaka (Itami) International Airport, 10km north of Osaka, using limousine bus:
a) Osaka/Umeda, Namba/Shinsaibashi, and Tennoji (approximately 600 yen, 30 min.)
b) Shin-Osaka (approximately 500 yen, 30 min.)
2. The Kansai International Airport (KIX), 50km south of Osaka, using limousine bus:
a) Osaka Itami Airport (1700 yen, 1 hour)
b) Uehonmachi, Osaka [between Umeda & Namba] (1300 yen, 1 hour 30 minutes)
c) Universal Studios Japan-USJ (1300 yen, 1 hour 30 minutes)
WHERE TO STAY
- Best Osaka hostel for solo travelers: Guesthouse U-En. Built as a traditional Japanese wooden frame-house, this is the perfect base to explore and meet other travelers. Safe, clean. Book in advance!
- Some of the best hotel rates are available in the Kamagasaki district (though this district has a seedy reputation among locals).
- Keep in mind that Japan is a very expensive country.
- The train system is the preferred means of transport for both visitors and locals, providing the quickest, easiest and inexpensive way to arrive to all destinations. The Nankai Railway is the best train line to get to Namba, famous for its shopping facilities and nightlife.
- Note: navigating public spaces can be challenging for the inexperienced visitor. Umeda Station is especially confusing. Try to follow the signs and ask for directions, if necessary.
- Trains and subway system close at midnight, and reopen early in the morning.
- The drinking age is 20 years old.
- The nightlife is concentrated in the areas of Namba (South) and Umeda (North). There are a multitude of bars in both.
- Most establishments can be divided into two categories:
1. Bars / pubs frequented by tourists and foreigners.
2. Japanese establishments, which generally take a table charge.
- Looking to catch the game? Head to Coolabah Sports Cafe.
- Not sure where to begin your night? Head to The Blarney Stone (Irish pub near Shinsaibashi) or Murphy’s Irish Pub. Both excellent venues for meeting people and getting the lay of the land.
- Looking for a good night club? Head straight to Club Piccadilly Umeda Osaka.
- Want to try one of the most unique bars in Japan? Check out Deepening Submarine Bar (especially if you like Gin).
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Shitennoji is one of the older Buddhist temples in Japan. It is very stunning, being one of the most beautiful attractions of the city. Truly a must see.
- Temmangu is a shrine dedicated to the Shinto deity of scholarship. Very well known due to the famous Tenjin Festival, one of Japan’s most popular celebrations (held every July).
- Osaka Castle is a beautiful sight, and contains a museum that describes the castle’s history. The Osaka Castle Park is an incredible space where visitors can enjoy cherry trees and other natural attractions.
- Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of Japan’s oldest shrines, offering breathtaking views of the scenery surrounding Sorihashi Bridge.
- Walk around Nakanoshima, taking in the beautiful sights: monuments, buildings (e.g. Osaka City Hall, Science Museum) and green spaces. Situated between the Tosabori and Dojima rivers, Nakanoshima Park offers tourists a beautiful green space full of trees.
- Take a stroll around Osaka Castle. Check out the Peach Tree Grove, where Peach trees bloom every March, and the Otemon Gate, the castle’s front gate.
- The area between the Osaka Aquarium and the Tempozan Ferris Wheel is great for a scenic walk. Great photo opportunities, especially at sunset!
- The people of Osaka are well known all over Japan for their friendliness and hospitality.
- Feeling lost in translation? Craving an authentic American breakfast in Osaka? Check out West Wood Bakers. For authentic croissants and other baked goods: La Fournee.
- Where to find good cheap eats: check out Shinsekai. Cheap and delicious food is available in food stalls and charming restaurants in this part of the city. Osaka is considered Japan’s capital for street food. There are plenty of options: vegan and vegetarian restaurants, chain restaurants, fast food establishments, convenience stores (where you can enjoy snacks, ramen, lunch boxes, drinks, etc), and even 24-hour restaurants.
- Dangerous areas: for the most part, Osaka is very safe. Locals tend to avoid Kamagasaki, as it has a high homeless population (as well as being the area of choice for many members of organized crime). At night, exercise caution when walking alone in Shinsekai (known as one of the most dangerous areas in the city).
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days