What to Do With One Day in Osaka, Japan

A concrete jungle in the truest sense, Osaka, Japan exerts a strange kind of magnetism, emanating from Osaka Castle in the center of town, vast shopping arcades and entertainment centers in the south, and the bay on the west side of town. The beating heart of the city is the area surrounding the large canal running through Dōtombori, where you’ll find an army of street-food vendors, rowdy bars, and friendly locals who know how to have a good time.

brightly lit buildings and walkways in the Dōtombori shopping arcade at night
Exploring Dōtombori at night is a top experience in Osaka. Photo courtesy of Jonathan DeHart.

Here’s how to spend a perfect day in Osaka:

1. See the city from above:

Before tromping through Osaka’s array of colorful neighborhoods at street level, first behold the city’s vastness from above with a trip to Umeda Sky Building in the city’s Kita (north) side, which opens at 10am.

2. Indulge in a steaming bowl of ramen:

Walk to nearby ramen shop Mitsuka Bose Kamoshi, one of the best bowls of noodles in Osaka, for an early lunch before office workers descend on restaurants throughout the city.

3. Get a feel for local life in Osaka:

Hop on the Midōsuji line at Umeda Station and ride south to Shinsaibashi, the northern gateway to the city’s Minami (south) side. Grab a coffee at Lilo Coffee Roasters, then walk south toward Triangle Park in the heart of youth culture mecca Amerika-mura. Spend your afternoon here and in the stylish nearby Horie district a couple of blocks southwest, people-watching and popping into shops.

4. Snap a selfie in an iconic spot:

Continue south to the Dōtombori-gawa canal. Walk along the river’s northern bank until you reach Ebisu-bashi, the famous bridge at the heart of Dōtombori. Join the throngs taking selfies in front of the famous Glico “running man” billboard.

5. Have a quintessential, neon-soaked Osaka night:

Cross the bridge and enter the famed Dōtombori arcade proper. As dusk sets, this strip becomes a surreal, neon-soaked realm. Also stop by Hōzen-ji, an enigmatic temple in the heart of a consumerist frenzy. If you work up an appetite for a late-night snack, you’re in the right place: For great okonomiyaki right next to the canal, try Chibō. There’s often a queue, but it moves fast. For excellent kushikatsu right on the main strip just a few doors down from Chibō, head to Ganso Kushikatsu Daruma, Dōtombori. For takoyaki (Osaka’s speciality!) along the lively thoroughfare, try Takoyaki Jyuhachiban.

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